Kevin Mc Laughlin discusses his reasons for using four (free!) applications – Audacity, Edmodo, Animoto and Voicethread. In this article, he assesses their usefulness from an educational standpoint.
I have always used technological tools to enhance my teaching, create enthusiasm and raise standards in my classroom and I am constantly reviewing the effectiveness of the tools I find, or am pointed to by followers on Twitter. However I need to ask myself a very important question before using them.
Why would I want to use this tool for teaching?
I will focus my answer on my use of Audacity (open source sound editor) and three online tools - Edmodo, Animoto and Voicethread.
Edmodo is described as ‘a private communication platform built for students and teachers’. With it you can set up a secure, private class account and share files, links and notes, post assignments and send alerts, and grade students’ work. It took me no longer than a few minutes to set up my class and then demonstrate to them how to use it and what we were going to use it for. I use it for posting homework, spellings and details of upcoming school events and my class use it for collaborative project work and sharing ideas and links to resources. I can also respond to their questions and guide them in their learning through the site’s Twitter-like message service.
Using Edmodo has helped raise standards in ICT in my class as I post mainly technology-related assignments such as Science PowerPoint presentations and video animation projects for Literacy. It has also helped my class to practice their English skills as my students will not use their first language (Spanish) to message me or each other.
Edmodo is incredibly useful and another teacher in my school has recently started using it effectively with her class. I have also received a lot of positive feedback from parents who find it helpful as they can see what homework their child has and when it has to be handed in.
Using Animoto with Audacity and Movie editing software
Animoto is a fantastic slideshow presentation tool that I have used with my class during a recent Literacy topic. I wanted to use this for the specific purpose of enhancing creative writing skills through a spoken presentation, the tool itself would provide part of the platform for the children to present their work.
Animoto is quick to set up and within minutes your class can be uploading their images and watching their results. It allows you to use provided background music or if you wish your own music or sounds.
Another tool I use regularly with my class is Audacity, a free sound file editor, and we have used this to create podcasts, and sound effects for school assemblies. It is incredibly useful and no school should be without it. The children in my class are quite adept at using it and after writing and editing their presentations they recorded their ‘voice-overs’ using audacity.
After they had done so and their work was saved I transferred it to a movie editing tool (such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie if you have a Mac) to create their final video presentations.
Voicethread is another tool that I have only recently started using but wished I had discovered earlier in the year. I would describe it as a collaborative documentation tool that has many uses in the classroom. We used it to document a school excursion and I asked my class to create the documented story in Spanish so that the Spanish tutors in school could use it. Again it is easy to set up and takes no time to learn how to use it. There is a growing list for its use in the classroom on this site.
I have mentioned only four tools I use with my class although I use many more. Each tool has a place in my classroom and each achieves a purpose I have thought carefully about. I want my class to learn how to use these tools because I understand the effectiveness each can bring to their learning and creative thinking.
After using them in class I am convinced of their validity in the classroom to enhance learning and teaching.
Kevin has started work in his new school as a Primary Teacher this month. He has a great interest in using technology (tools) to enhance his teaching and the learning of his students. He can be contacted through
This article was originally published in Computers in Classrooms.