By Rebecca A. Hines
When it comes to adding layers of UDL to our classrooms, the tools available are endless. One easy layer to add to support individual students and to increase opportunities for all students is audio responses. Whether used as a layer of UDL so students can respond orally, or as a note-taking support, computers, iPads, iPod Touches, and even cell phones can be used to accomplish this goal.
One simple online tool for those of us who don’t have mobile devices readily available in the classroom but do have an internet connection is Vocaroo, an online voice recording service. When it comes to simplicity, it doesn’t get much easier than Vocaroo. No account is needed, no setup is needed. It’s simply click and record. The tool is basic enough for even young learners and those with limited technology skills. After you’re done recording, the recording is posted online and a weblink is automatically generated. Send the link to anyone, and they can hear the recording.
Sample Uses of Vocaroo
- Students read and play back passages from books to increase fluency.
- Students record a short reading sample and e-mail to parents or grandparents.
- Students submit responses to content questions and e-mail to teacher.
- Students record “think aloud” to supplement math submissions and explain work.
- Students record notes after listening to a lecture or discussion.
- Students with verbal difficulties record audio messages to exchange with audio “penpal” to practice enunciation.
- Students with language difficulties work on increasing word production through oral language.
- Students work on writing skills by reading their own writing passages aloud and listening to playback to check for clarity.
Of course, the opportunities are limited only by your imagination as a teacher. Need more ideas? Check a few from this brief post from the Anderson Technology and Language Center.
This tool, it should be noted, is in the “beta” stages, so it’s hard to tell how long it will be available (for free, at least). The best plan would be to use this simple, free tool while you can to explore the potential of oral assessments. Once you are familiar with the concept and have tried various ways of allowing students to respond verbally, you can always grab other audio tools or online programs later. It’s tough to find an easier tool than Vocaroo to get started!
A tool like Vocaroo can be used to support note-taking if only as a tool for reflection. Perhaps students prepare a brief verbal summary after a lecture and mail it to themselves for later review. Even younger students might practice this idea of remembering three key points they hear, and restating in their own words. Putting it in writing can come later, but at least the skill will be introduced.
Need something more specific for older students who struggle with note-taking and studying? Try any of the note-taking features on most cell phones these days, and be sure students know how to use the features on their own devices. While most have a notes feature, there are inexpensive apps such as Audio Note that provide even more options.
With a teacher’s permission, a student could be recording the lecture in the classroom while adding his/her own written notes on the device. Drawing tools and the ability to use images are included, so a student can take notes visually while still capturing the lecture.
Audio Note is available as a free app, or can be upgraded for $4.99. Both versions allow users to record audio, write text, dictate over images, and highlight key points. The upgrade allows the notes to be sent, however, while the free version does not.
Whether it’s used as a way for students to interact differently with material, reflect on learning, or enhance study skills, student- generated audio through tools such as Vocaroo and Audio Note is an increasingly easy layer to add for every learner.
CEC member Rebecca A. Hines is a faculty member at the University of Central Florida, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in technology in special education and specializes in inclusive practices. She can be reached at email@example.com.