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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Reaching an Audio Learner with MP3 Files
Nancy Powell

Students have figured out how to download all kinds of music files from the Internet; usually these are in the form of MP3 files. So, as usual, we need to catch up and discover how to utilize this technology to provide another, very exciting opportunity to reach auditory learners. Here is an excellent (but as of yet unused) tool for teachers to motivate another group of students.

MP3 files are a new kind of sound files found on the Internet. These files take what could be very memory-intensive sound files and remove all of the excess noise. For instance, an average song would take 40 MB of storage space. MP3 technology analyzes the sound and filters out what the ear won't pick up or won't miss. The resulting file is approximately 10% of its original size. The 40 MB file is now 4MB, and this has a surprisingly small impact on the quality of the sound. College students invented this way of transferring music files because raw audio files (40 MB files) were too large to transfer easily but 4 MB MP3 files were much more efficient. There are many MP3 sites on the Internet. They are growing in popularity and their archives are flourishing.

So, what does that mean for education? This medium could provide ways for teachers to transfer readings, interviews, and other spoken assignments via e-mail to students. Music can be more accessible to students within and outside of school. Folk music and other cultural conversations could enrich studies of other countries and their customs. MP3.com - the industry's trendsetter - offers many different types of files including selections from National Public Radio's "Radio Tales." To be able to listen to these files, install a media player application that supports the MP3 file format. One such player is Nullsoft's Winamp (It tends to be a favorite in the industry).

What do you do when you've discovered these treasured files and find out that there are more that you could ever have dreamed of?

  1. Make sure that you find reputable commercial sites to download files from. This will reduce your fears of copyright infringement problems.
  2. Make sure to have plenty of room on your hard drive for your downloads. 
  3. Remember that when you start to download, it will still require some time, so plan to be at the computer with the fastest Internet connection to maximize your time.  Time is important and precious!
  4. Decide how you plan to organize the files on your hard drive before you begin.  Decide if you want to organize them by subject, by author, by date, or some other system. This will save you a lot of time when creating your lessons in the future.
  5. Scan all files for viruses BEFORE opening the files.
  6. If you want to have the ability to create your own MP3 files, you'll need a program called a "grabber" or "ripper". This software uses tracks from CD's and converts them into the MP3 format. A highly recommended site is MusicMatch . If you want to make spoken voice files, simply use the microphone that is part of many computers to record your selection. On a PC these files are usually saved as WAV files and can be converted easily with MusicMatch or other software.

With a little creativity, some time, and some file conversions, teachers and students can create multimedia lessons that will have even the best video gamer in your class hooked on learning! Digital audio will dominate the worlds of your students in this decade if it hasn't already! Teachers who harness these skills and explode them in the classroom will be expanding learning opportunities for all students. Let's rock!

 

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