(Wow, is there ever a backlog of overdue blog posts. I’m giving myself demerits for tardiness).

Maybe my favorite media thing to teach is audio editing, because it’s typically fat from most people’s experiences. With an offer from Cori to do a session at the Arts Gala event for the Prairies South School Division, I had the chance to bring this as a workshop to high school students who gathered recently at the school in Gravelbourg.

I came with a back of random objects and way too many things to cover; we ended up doing about 30% of what I had prepped… and it was wonderful at that.

Part of the challenge was not being completely sure of the technology available, but that played out well as the classroom I used had a cabinet of laptops. Because no software could be installed, I had tried out a few different web based HTML5 recording and editing apps– nothing gives all the features of Audacity, but they served us well.

I prepped all the materials in a Google Slide show available at http://bit.ly/arts-gala-sound

What was in there includes:

  • An opening question of what is sound, like physically. I used the metaphor of a rock tossed in a pond (which worked well as the students sat in a semi circle), asking what is the difference between a big rock tossed in, and how water waves travel.
  • I ask them next to take a minute of silence to notice every possible sound, from most to least obvious. The idea is to have them consider how sound is layered, that we never have an absence of sound, and how it subtly gives a suggestion of the setting.
  • What does digitized sound look like? (introduction to waveform), to show them that like words in a document, sound can be edited by the same commands of copy, cut, paste, that we apply formatting to it (by effects). I had them do some recording in TwistedWave Online, a fine simple audio recorder with a few effects. They ended up spending a good chunk of time in this, starting with very simple sounds and applying crazy effects (one of them used my voice, others made seed sounds with finger snaps, and tapping in front of the mic). Here is a montage of the sounds created in both sessions:
Sounds created by high school students, for nearly all, the first time they had done anything like this.
  • I then introduced them to the world of Foley artists with a short overview video. I always love this as most people have no idea that nearly all sounds in movies are added in post production, and while digitally edited, the sounds are all generated by recordings of real objects. I ask the students to do a short version of this by watching the first minute of a Charlie Chaplin silent film clip (from Into the Lion Cage), first asking them to identigy what sounds might be needed, and asking them each to choose to make the sounds (from the box of stuff I brought in, metal things, wood blocks, cloth, etc). We then do a run through to practice, and on the second time I record the audio. I was so impressed with how much the kids got into the creative part of making the sounds and then getting the timing down. I managed to miss the recording of the first session (sorry! operator error) so this re-edit has the foley sounds created by the second group.

And that was pretty much the end of time. They were so into the editing in the first part I did not want to stop them just in the name of an agenda. Quite a few of them managed to import tracks from YouTube and elsewhere without me even explaining how or got inventive by recording from the playback from their smartphones/

What did not get done was the activity I like doing, the old DS106 throwback of the five sound effect story where the challenge is to create a story by editing together five sounds (either downloaded or generated), but no spoken voice. I typically like using this to teach Audacity skills of layering multiple tracks. That would not have been easy in web based editors, but the Bear Audio Editor was good enough for sequencing sounds together- and it had nice features for importing audio from YouTube.

And we did not even get close to playing with a few web-based musical instruments– I imagined hearing a crazy round of sounds from these ones:

This was a ton of fun for me, and it seemed like the kids in the room had a good play at being creative in ways that were new to them.

You can hardly go wrong asking anyone to generate sounds, especially with license to go zany.

Thanks Cori for setting this up for me and thanks to the Arts Gala participants who showed up for a session likely not knowing what they were getting into.

Featured Image by rony michaud from Pixabay

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. Thanks for posting such a full writeup! I’m constantly looking for ways to get in with students and I think this is one idea teachers would go for. That video on foley artists was awesome.

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