Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My love/hate relationship with audio

Over the past year or two, because I've been learning lots of new things, I've been paying close attention to how my learning happens. Not other people's learning . . . my learning.

I know I'm a print person. I've always been a print person. A perfect day: some clouds, perhaps some rain, a comfy chair, nothing pressing, and a good [trashy] book. Heaven.

When computers came along, I realized I was a text person; it wasn't so much print as it was words and sentences and paragraphs. (I love paragraphs.) I made the transition from paper to pixels pretty easily, although I still have boxes and boxes of print-outs to winnow through and toss. When I'm learning something new, my first impulse is to read the docs or find a book or search the web.

In my writing classes, I produce a lot of text, mostly on web pages: announcements, instructions, assignments, and discussion group entries. I write lots. But I wasn't sure students were reading what I was writing. My web pages were pretty text-dense, so I began to play around with format. I haven't gone over to the dark side yet with bullet-mania, but I'm breaking longer documents into shorter sections, using headings, some indentations, italics and bold. I'm paying closer attention to those pages where I think information and ideas are especially accessible -- looking at them as well as reading them.

I discovered audio not as a listener but as a speaker. I began to pay closer attention to my voice as a writer, and that just led me to recording small snippets of information, mostly as a way of providing additional encouragement to my listeners and conveying enthusiasm for my subject. (Actually, I found I was using too many parentheses, too much elipisis, and way too many exclamation points in my writing, all attempts to make my writing more lively and engaging.) With audio, I explored a wider range of expression and a different register. I still write before I record, but when I know that text will eventually end up as audio, I write differently.

This past week, I learned about "textcasting," tools that that allow a writer to convert text to audio without actually doing any recording. I've seen these links on several blogs I read, but because I'm really a print person, I've never paid them much attention. Today, I created an account at BlueGrind.com to experiment. I suppose it's easy, but something is really "lost in translation." However, it's gotten me thinking about how audio is more than just converting words on the page to something I can hear, and I'm going to add this to my writing toolbox this semester.

I'm sorry. I know textcasting helps those who are visually impaired, but folks-on-the-run are also a big market; I can't imagine listening to anything like this by choice.


Karen C said...

I so agree with your comments both about our students need for audio as well as print and about how context and emphasis gets "lost in translation" with something like BlueGrind.com. I look forward to moving into the world of podcasting to supplement online activities I currently have available for students..

Karen C said...

I don't know if I am an audio or a print person. In school I typically read things I needed to remember out loud; I felt like my learning was reinforced by not only reading the written words but by speaking and hearing them. It also forced me to slow down a little and pay attention. However, I remember as a kid, how difficult it was for me to follow the storyline when a teacher read out loud. I find the same thing to be true today with audio books, talk radio and the lyrics of songs. I enjoy listening only if I am reading the transcript at the same time. But I understand and remember more if I have both sources of input.