Monday, 4 July 2011

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Using Soundcloud in an Unplugged One to One Class

Am I an angry cloud or a happy cloud?

Note taking is one of the central tenets of Teaching Unplugged, and the more I try to practice it, the harder I realise it is. This is especially true in a one-to-one setting. I find it's particular tricky because I want to sustain genuine face to face conversation, and having me scribbling away feels like a level of artifice that distracts from the quality of the conversation.

Furthermore, if I'm being honest, I find it difficult to concentrate on both things at the same time. Both the conversation and the note taking suffer, so nobody wins. This is where technology can step in and help out.

Soundcloud is a popular audio sharing platform which was designed to allow musicians to share their music in a quick and convenient fashion. However, as it is essentially an easy way to record and then share audio, I thought I could use it to replace my notebook.

Firstly, you need some hardware (a smart phone running either IOS or Android, or a PC or Mac) and some software (the appropriate Soundcloud app: iPhone, Android or desktop). Then you need to go the website and create an account. Once you've done this, you simply need to start your app and get recording. On the iPhone it's as simple as pushing a big red button.

When you've finished, you can share the file with your student by emailing it to them directly from within the app. It has a really useful function that allows you to comment on precise moments in the recording, so I ask my student to use this to identify any problem areas they think they can hear in their own speech as homework. In the next class we go over those points and clear up any other details I think need some attention.

Here's an example that I recorded with a student last week. I'm posting it here with her permission.

I have also found that the student forgets that there is an recording going on fairly quickly, and so you have the chance to hear the errors that are most like to occur in a natural setting, just to add to the authenticity of the exercise.


  1. That's really interesting, James!! I liked the idea so much, but let me ask u how u embeded the captions of the mistakes into ur recording? and how do u handle it in class after recording? Do u discuss it with ur students or they just re-listen to it and discover their mistakes??Thanks.

  2. Thanks for your comment Ayat. It's very simple to leave comments on the audio file. When you send the link to the student, it sends them to the Soundcloud website. They can then click on the blue bar at the bottom of the file to make a comment at any point they like. However, I think they need to have an account to do this, but that is also very straightforward to set up.

    I hope that answers your question.

  3. Sorry Ayat, I totally missed your second question!

    In the follow up class, I set up the recording on my laptop and go through the comments that the student has made. If there's a pronunciation problem we can practice it. If it's a vocabulary issue, we can look at other more natural ways of expressing the same idea. I will also make a note of any areas that I have noticed in the recording that the student may have missed.

    The great thing about a tool like this is that it is open to your own interpretation as to how you want to use it. There are lots of different ways, I imagine, and this is just one of them.

    Thanks again.

  4. Nice job James, great to see you integrating tech into your classes. I'd like to invite you to use our voice software - we'd appreciate your opinion. Send me an email and I'll sedn you an activation code :

  5. Thanks Robert, I'll be in touch.

  6. Yey - thanks for this example of your use of soundcloud - I used it with whole class once, with each students looking out for a specific expression which they had to label ... that was NOT a particularly successful exercise, because they ended up listening to 10 mins audio just looking out for "their" expression !
    A back-to-the-drawing-board moment which I thought I'd share &-(
    So I was very pleased to read about a more intelligent use of this easy to use, very appealing tool :-)

  7. Thanks Elizabeth for honestly sharing your own experiences with using Soundcloud. Sometimes those experiences are necessary before we get a really good idea, I find. The more we share them, the easier it is for everyone, I think.

  8. Hi James,

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you'd like to check for comments.

    Please feel free to post there when you have anything you'd like to share.



  9. Nice post there. Its interesting to use sound in the education.

  10. I've done quite a few posts and presos about Soundcloud also. I'm glad to see (though I missed it the first time around) another believer! =)

    1. Glad you made it Tyson (eventually)!!

  11. Great idea! I too have always taken notes in class--mainly noting down new and relevant vocab that comes up and then just looking back over it at the en of the lesson, at the beginning of the next lesson, and in revision sessions. While it's good to keep track of the new vocab that comes up, I too have been feeling that it's like I'm taking the notes for the student--probably not the most effectie way to help them commit new words to memory!

    I might try this out, now that I've got your example plus Russell Stannard's video explaining how to use Soundcloud! It'll put more responsibility on the student for theor learning I think!

    Just a question--do you record the whole lesson or just certain parts like role plays?

  12. Thanks Christina. I would only record certain parts of the lesson. For practical reasons of time, it just makes life easier to focus on certain parts. Plus with a free Soundcloud account you can only upload a certain amount. Furthermore, I'd want the student to feel that there is some 'off time', so that they don't have to feel they are being monitored constantly, which I think continuous recording would do.



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