I recently read about a suite of web-based tools hosted by aviary.com, and I was quickly blown away. Most of the tools are for image editing, but they recently added an audio editor. Each of these tools is web based ,which means they require no downloads, installations or updates. Each time one of these tools comes out (e.g., Google Sites, Weebly, PBWiki, ScreenToaster), I can feel a new life being breathed into my teaching.
When I was teaching ed tech classes, I was always hesitant to show my students applications like Photoshop, Camtasia and Dreamweaver. These programs are powerful and may very well be useful to teachers, but they required a massive leap from what the preservice teachers already knew to what they needed to learn to be successful with them. At different times, I dabbled with the tools, but the focus quickly turned to the tool itself and I would be inundated with e-mails about how to do this or that. I know there are folks who consider the ability to use these tools a necessary literacy for teachers in the 21st Century, but I chose to keep our discussions and projects grounded in pedagogy and the classroom. This makes choosing tools for different projects quite difficult. On top of their complexity, there is the issue of cost and accessibility. If I in fact wanted my students to use these tools and strategies as teachers, it hardly made sense to rely on expensive software that they would a) not have access to once they left the university and b) had to come to the computer lab to use. Using Everett Rogers’ criteria for “adoptable innovations” as my framework, it made sense to me to use tools whose trialability, observability, compatibility, relative advantage and complexity matched the needs of teachers.
It just so happens that in the last few years, as more schools are experimenting with student-created digital media, the tools to create these media have been moving to the Cloud. For example, I was eventually able to replace Dreamweaver with Google Page Creator (now Google Sites), and I noticed immediately that the “how do I make a picture show up on my website” questions vanished. Our conversations shifted to questions about pedagogy and implementation with students in their classes. However, until recently there were no suitable web-based alternatives for editing images and audio, or for creating screencasts. I still had to rely on desktop programs for podcasts, and I got pretty good as using PPT as an omnibus program for all things related to digital images.
Well, I have recently discovered, thanks to TechCrunch, a suite of new tools that may potentially transform (yet again) the way I do things. Aviary has developed a web-based audio editor that allows users to record, mix and download audio files without ever leaving the browser. The interface is extremely easy to use, and you can add up to 10 tracks. Worried about copyright for the audio clips students put in their projects? Myna (the name of the audio editor) provides over 14,500 loops for users to mix into their recordings. Of course, if you are planning on becoming the next Jared Hess or Brian Ibbott, you will need to get permission before using the music loops, distributed by APM Music. Creating an account is free, and you can either save the audio file online or download it to your computer. Needless to say, I am very eager to test this out and see if it’s feasible for my students to use. Here is a screenshot of Myna (captured with Aviary’s screen capture tool … of course).