In a traditional class, a teacher lectures and then assigns practice exercises for homework. In a flipped classroom, students view lectures at home, pausing videos or audio files if they need to re-listen to a section, and then they work collaboratively with classmates during class time.
Teachers who want to try the flipped model need to create accessible and clear learning content. How can we do this? What can we do if we want to send our students something richer than just a link to a basic slide deck?
Flipping a classroom does require effort from teachers. Also, adding audio to Google Slides is a little tricky at first. Unlike PowerPoint, Google Slides does not have a built-in recording feature, but there are numerous options for creating presentations with audio.
Choosing Your Presentation Format
When choosing an audio recording tool, decide whether you would like your students to have separate audio on each slide, or if you would like them to view a screencast of a complete presentation.
Use a screen recorder if you want to create a continuous lecture: Your video will show your screen and play your voice as you advance through your presentation. In this case, you will share a video file with your students.
Alternatively, you can share a slideshow and encourage your students to listen to the audio clips on each slide. Google Slides allows you to choose whether the audio will play automatically when a viewer advances to a slide or whether the viewer will click to listen.
Both screencasts and slideshows with audio clips have their benefits and can be used to prepare students for synchronous face-to-face and remote learning sessions.
Beep is a relatively simple recording addon that users can access from Google Slides and Docs. Once you’ve added it, you can access it again from the Add-ons tab. It will display a microphone icon that you can click to start recording. Once you’ve made a recording, you can just paste the clickable link into your document, but be aware that if a student clicks on it, he or she will navigate away from your slideshow.
A smoother option is to insert an mp3 file into your slide. This does take a few steps. Open the audio link, download the file, and then upload it to your drive (otherwise the file won’t show up as an insert option). Then you are ready to insert it onto a slide.
Learn more: chrome.google.com
Mote is a more robust Chrome extension for making recordings. To get started, go to the Chrome Web Store and search for Mote. After adding Mote, an icon will appear at the top of a Slides file so teachers can easily select the extension and add an audio recording to individual slides.
Unlike PowerPoint, Slides does not have a built-in recording tool, but Mote's streamlined features allow you to add audio in almost the same way that PowerPoint does. You can also use Mote to give your students audio messages on Docs and on Form's feedback boxes. Students will see an audio icon on the file, and they will be able to stay on that file's tab to listen to the sound clip.
If you only plan to use Mote occasionally for one small class, you can probably get away with their free plan. Their yearly paid plan for individuals is $39. If you and other teachers at your school teach foreign languages, presentation skills, theater, or music online, a school plan may make sense.
Both Mote and Beep are useful audio recording tools. Beep has a quicker setup and is currently completely free, but Mote is easier to find and use once you’ve allowed it access to your files. If you also want to use a recording tool to give feedback on students' assignments, Mote is the stronger option.
Learn more: chrome.google.com
Screencasting with Browser Extensions
Screencastify is a popular browser extension that teachers can use to record video lectures. Once you add it from the Google Chrome Web Store, you can access it from the puzzle icon in the top right corner of your browser.
Put your slideshow in present mode and start recording your audio narration. If needed, edit your best takes together. Screencastify’s free version has a five-minute limit, so you may need to create and send several videos. Teachers can get more editing options by paying $29 per year.
Learn more: chrome.google.com
Screencast O'Matic is another browser-based presentation recorder. It also is available for free with basic features or with extra editing features for a modest monthly fee. Its free version allows a longer recording time than Screencastify (fifteen minutes per video), but the editing features are limited. Be prepared to send your students your best take rather than pasting together different clips unless you plan to upgrade your plan. Screencast O'Matic is easy to use and provides drawing tools even with its free version.
Learn more: chrome.google.com
Web and Software Recording Options
It is also possible to make recordings using software or website recorders. If you are already comfortable using preinstalled recording software on your device, you can create sound clips, save them as mp3s, upload them to your drive, and insert the files as you would for Beep.
Another strong option is to use VoiceThread, a recording website. If you dislike using browser extensions, you may find VoiceThread’s recording console easier to find and use. Once you’ve made a recording, download the sound file to your device. VoiceThread does require registration, however, and its links aren’t quite as easy to use as Beep.
Multimedia: Creating the Potential for Efficient and Interactive Assignments
In a flipped classroom, students can hear your lectures at home, and you can use class time for more interactive assignments. With a tech-savvy class, you can also ask your students to make multimedia themselves. Students can show you that they are practicing their oral presentations, and they will be better prepared when they do need to speak in front of the class.
You will have a chance to correct pronunciation or stylistic issues, and this will also help students get a better sense of timing in advance. If you have a big class, students can view and listen to some of each other’s presentations as homework, and you won't need to devote class time for thirty presentations, avoiding the classroom management issues that tend to arise when back-to-back presentations take up multiple days.
Students can also record themselves doing a podcast, performing a monologue, playing a musical instrument, giving an instructional presentation, or having a conversation in a foreign language. Audio recording tools can open up a number of academically rigorous and engaging options for both teachers and students.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are my students viewing my slides? Are they watching my videos? Can I check?
If you have G Suite, Google Classroom, or Google Drive through your district, you will be able to see whether a student has opened a file. To do this, open the file yourself, and then click on the gray lightning symbol - it’s close to the share button. Google's Workspaces Updates Blog explains how to access a file's activity dashboard.
You will not be able to use the activity dashboard to check whether your students have listened to audio clips or video files. Some learning management systems offer this, so ask your LMS administrator to find out whether this type of tracking is possible and enabled. You might even be able to create interactive slide presentations with questions and reflective activities interspersed throughout your slides and videos.
Panopto, a video recording service, also tracks viewers’ behavior. You can make up to five hours of video per month using Panopto’s free plan. Be sure to check with your district about using tracking services outside of your school’s approved LMS.
Are screencasts accessible?
Turn on captioning tools before you hit the record button to make your screencasts accessible to students with hearing impairments. The tool will create your captions using advanced speech recognition, but be aware that some words (especially homophones) may not be transcribed accurately.
You may be able to create and upload your own captions and add them using fancy editing tools. Be descriptive if you include images in your presentations so that students with vision impairments don't miss any parts of your lessons.
How can I share my screencasts?
When you create a screencast, you will save it as a video file. Unfortunately, video files are often too large to email. Upload your presentation to your drive and then make its link shareable. If you think your content would be useful to other teachers or students, you might create a YouTube channel and upload it there, but make sure you haven't included any identifying information about your students in your screencast.
I saved an mp3 to my device, but I can’t find it when I try to insert audio into my Google Slides presentation. Where is my audio file?
When inserting audio files, make sure that you’ve uploaded your files to Google Drive first. Also, some alternative forms of audio files may not show up. An mp3 file is standard. For a detailed look at how to insert and format an audio file, I highly recommend Steven Kwiecinsky’s instructional video: How to Add Voiceover to Google Slides (2019).
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