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What is Audacity?

  • Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds.
  • It can be used to record sound projects, including essays, audio essays, lectures, and notes.
  • Though there is a slight learning curve, compared to other audio-editing software, it is extremely intuitive, user-friendly, and easy to use.
  • In addition to recording, Audacity can be used to edit sound projects, include music, combine tracks, and re-listen to information that was recorded.
  • Here is more information about Audacity taken from the official Audacity site at “Audacity is free software, developed by a group of volunteers and distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Free software is not just free of cost (like “free beer”). It is free as in freedom (like “free speech”). Free software gives you the freedom to use a program, study how it works, improve it and share it with others. For more information, visit the Free Software Foundation. Programs like Audacity are also called open source software, because their source code is available for anyone to study or use. There are thousands of other free and open source programs, including the Firefox web browser, the office suite and entire Linux-based operating systems such as Ubuntu.”

What kinds of projects can be done in the Basic Writing classroom using Audacity?

  • Audacity can be used as a means for students to record and listen to their essays to hear how they sound. This is an especially useful activity in helping students to hear what their essays literally sound like, find spots that don’t work well, find issues (like grammar, punctuation, wrong word use) and ultimately revise their essays.
  • As many composition instructors know, students benefit from reading their work out loud in multiple ways; however, students don’t necessarily always understand this but may come to find the practice useful when they experience it and realize how useful it can be.

What are some benefits of using the radio essay genre in the Basic Writing classroom?

  • As Peter Elbow argues in his latest book, Vernacular Eloquence (Oxford, 2012), the speaking-writing connection is a tool we should strategically employ in writing classrooms, especially in the Basic Writing classroom. Much can be gained by students employing their oral practices in Basic Writing, and Elbow exemplifies that doing so enhances - not detracts - from student writing.
  • In her corpus-based thesis research, Andrea Oyarzabal, one this wiki project’s authors, found that when students wrote an essay that was intended to be heard, they used less nominalizations, less passive verb constructions, and more active verbs.
  • When students hear their “embodied voices,” they seem to become more invested in the writing process, and their understanding of audience improves.

What kind of resources are available to teach the audio essay?

  • A great resource for teaching the audio essay can be found at Dr. Ballenger is a professor, author, and mentor that this wiki project’s authors have worked with extensively in teaching and writing the audio essay.
  • At, instructors can find example essays by students to listen to, sample assignments, and visual guides, as well as advanced technique guides for using Audacity.
  • Other sources that offer useful tools are these sites: This American Life; This I Believe; The Moth. All of these sites have examples of varied audio essays (each of them take many forms), and these can be used as examples for students in classes.

What kind of training do students need to use Audacity?

  • While students will have to experiment with this software, students and instructors can learn the software together.
  • No special training is needed, and as long as students have access to a computer with the software downloaded and a built-in or external microphone, they can use the software.
  • There are tutorials on the Audacity website that help students engage with and use this software. The website offers students resources including manuals, a wiki, and frequently asked questions.

Audacity References

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Page last modified on December 15, 2012, at 05:46 PM