Emerging Readers – keeping track of progress

One of the things I love about running (other than keeping fit and being able to make excuses for eating rubbish) is that it gives me time for thinking. On this morning’s run I was thinking about ways I could support teachers at my school this year and this lead me back a few years when I showed a Year 2 teacher how to use Audacity.

For the session we had her students bring a book that they were currently reading.

We showed them where to plug the microphone in (after some frantic changing of settings to get the mics to work – why is this always the case?), how close to have the microphone to their mouths, and where the record and stop buttons are.

After a few test recordings, all the boys seemed to be able to get something recorded. We then showed them how to delete a recording and emphasised that they have just one track in the audacity window. Finally, we asked them to read some of their book and record it.

As each boy finished, we asked them to play it back and we listened in. I then showed the teacher how to increase the recording level for boys who read quietly – rather than asking a boy to have another go (we didn’t want to generate reluctant recorders). We didn’t quite get through checking all boys recordings but they were saved.

I thought that this would be a great way to keep track of each boy’s reading development and would be great to share at parent/teacher interviews. If it was now, keeping them on a blog/wiki/ning would be a great way to share with parents.

The teacher thought the task had merit and seemed quite excited about it. But then, I don’t think it was ever repeated. I think this was partly due to Audacity – while I find it easy, it wasn’t so easy for those who are not digital natives or confident with technology.

After reflecting on this, I then started thinking about alternatives – how would I do it now?

I went through a few web apps – could use VoiceThread (though that can be slightly challenging) – and then decided it was still quite time consuming and then I thought of Photobooth.

What if, when the teacher listened to each boy read (teachers still do that once a week, don’t they?) they happened to have Photobooth running. This would automatically record audio (and video), you can easily save the file and then do what you want with it.

My main problem with this – we don’t have Macs in classrooms. However, I do recall a tweet about the pc version of photobooth and thanks to delicious it’s called ManyCam.

What do you think? Is recording students reading a realistic way to keep a portfolio of reading progress? Is it too hard, too time consuming? What software would you use and how would you store/share it?

Photo: source Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 2.0 Generic license