AudioNote App

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My Interest in AT and UDL

Some of my readers are aware of my strong interest in assistive technology and universal design for learning (UDL), but you probably don’t know that several years ago my interest became an urgent need to learn as much as I could. It began when our oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s, and continued when our second son was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. For the next few years after those diagnoses, I read everything I could find on those topics, including assistive technologies to help them communicate and learn. I learned how to create social stories, got trained in the Orton-Gillingham reading method, and experimented with dozens and dozens of programs and mobile apps to find things that would work for us.

This year we reached a critical point. Our second son started fifth grade still struggling with reading at grade level, and based on the previous years’ experience, I knew how difficult science vocabulary would be for him. The school’s textbook did not have an audio version available, so I decided to make audio recordings of every reading assignment. He needs multi-sensory input–audio, visual, and kinesthetic–for complicated vocabulary and ideas to stick. Though we could have read each assignment aloud together, he and I thought the recordings would be a good idea because they are reusable. He listened to each audio recording and followed along in his textbook, which helped his reading and retention. We saved all of the recordings for this school year, and he used them whenever he needed to study for a quiz or test.

Testing

The first thing I decided was that we needed the audio files to live on an iPad so he could take it anywhere. I scoured the web for audio recording apps, and narrowed my list down to about six. My criteria were:

  • The app must be easy to use, both for me and for him. My son should be able to use it autonomously.
  • The app must be free or relatively inexpensive.
  • The app must have good playback. Unclear recordings would not be helpful.

AudioNote_400x281I installed and tested the apps on an iPad 3. For testing purposes, I read aloud the same page from the science textbook into each app and saved the file. After going through my recording phase, I had my son listen to all of the recordings and try using the apps himself. We had to spread it out over several days to accommodate his attention span, but at the end of our testing we had one clear winner: AudioNote from Luminant Software.

AudioNote

To start with, AudioNote met all of my criteria. We found it very easy to use, and my 10-year-old son was able to learn it in just a few minutes. The price for the full version is right, just $4.99. The recordings are clear and easy to understand. The free version of the software limits recordings to five minutes, and there are no limitations on the paid version. The software is available for iPad, Android, Windows, and Mac, and the files can be transferred across platforms using Dropbox.

The software has other features that we like. It lets you type or draw notes on the screen, and time stamps the notes to align with the audio recording. Sometimes my son doodles a picture or writes a word onscreen while listening, and all of those notes are saved with the audio. In the screenshot below, he drew an example of a river created by glacial movement, and added arrows to show water flow.

AudioNote_screenshot

 

We think the notes feature will be extra helpful as he makes the transition to middle school, because he can record explanations by teachers or group interactions and then draw or make notes to go along with the audio.  He can even take photos and embed them in the note. We are very happy that he will use this on his BYOT tablet.

Thanks for reading!

Second Grade Dreams

When I was in second grade, I decided that I would go to college and study to become a teacher. This was not a whimsical notion; I pursued my goals with determination and purpose. I did all the typical things that many teens who were interested in education did in the 1970s and 80s: babysitting, Red Cross training, volunteering with Teens Against Cancer and Young Authors programs. I spent the summer between my junior and senior year at the local college library, where I studied education policy and gathered material that I would use for my high school speech competitions. I don’t remember everything I wrote for my speeches, but I’m certain that some of my conclusions would have benefited from actual teaching experience and a few more years to gain wisdom. Still, it was an excellent project that stoked my interest in educational leadership. After high school, I fulfilled my dream. I went to college and became a teacher.

Currently, I am preparing to return to teaching after some time at home with my children. I am pursuing a graduate degree in instructional technology while volunteering at a local elementary school, and I plan to work as a technology resource teacher/coach at the elementary level. My bachelors degree is in music education, and my first graduate degree is in elementary education. That’s where my education heart is, in K-5 schools. In the years between undergrad and the present, I taught in U.S. schools abroad, earned a certificate in information technology, and gained real-world IT and instructional design experience. Life in education and technology has been very interesting and challenging.

So why am I here?

This is my space to share lesson plans, tips, ideas, inspiration, challenges, and perhaps ruminate on the current and future states of technology in education. I am about the learning first; technology is a tool for learning, a means to the end. I like to geek out as much as anyone, but ultimately the technology must be the right fit for real learning to happen. By real learning, I mean learning that makes the students want to keep going even when lesson time is over, learning that inspires and keeps them talking about it for days, learning that has them tell their parents about it over dinner, learning that challenges and changes their ways of thinking, learning that inspires a second grader to say, “I want to go to college and become a teacher,” or whatever they choose.

I am a parent and an educator, and I look forward to many good conversations with readers.