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Digital Audio in the Classroom

Robert Deming, who earned his Doctor of Education from Teachers College, studies the use of digital audio in the classroom.

THE HEARING/LEARNING CONNECTION

Teacher in Astoria Elementary School Earns Doctorate from Teachers College by Investigating 'Digital Audio' in the Classroom

NEW YORK--Officially, it is called text-to-speech software, but at P.S. 85 in Astoria the children and teachers call it a voice checker. The robotic voice reads back essays children have written.

"Adults are sometimes bothered by that voice," says Robert L. Deming, the computer cluster teacher at the school, "but the kids love the R2D2 effect."

And the robotic voice actually helps the children learn to write better. "Some kids don't like making revisions," Deming said, "but, after they hear their writing read back to them in this way, they are more likely to see ways they can improve their work."

The voice checker is just one example of "digital audio," technology that transmits speech, music and sound effects. Deming wrote about the educational applications of "digital audio" in his dissertation at Teachers College, Columbia University. That dissertation has earned him a Doctor of Education degree in curriculum and teaching.

Deming will ceremonially receive his doctorate at the Teachers College Commencement Convocation on Wednesday, May 15. The convocation, following the Columbia University Commencement, will be held at The Riverside Church and will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Digital audio has been popular for the last decade or so, Deming said. New hardware and new software are being produced regularly, but few people have analyzed the ways that the technology can be used in classrooms. "The educational applications have been the weak link in digital audio research," Deming said.

For six months, Deming studied "digital audio" use at P.S. 85. His dissertation is an analysis of what seems to work and not work in the classroom.

What makes for successful digital audio in the classroom? Deming says the best applications are easy to learn and flexible. "Teachers are very busy," he explained. "They do not have time to deal with a lot of complication in learning to use a new product."

The text-to-speech software is only one of the digital audio applications Deming found effective in the classroom. He also said that musical compact discs can be used, sometimes to set the mood while students are doing other activities and sometimes as part of the central activity in the classroom.

One piece of software called "Kap'n Karaoke" is a sing-along program for children, and Deming found that program was especially good for kindergarten through the second grade when children are learning to read. As they read the words on the screen and sing along with the music, they are adding to their reading vocabulary.

With robotic voices and "Kap'n Karaoke," isn't the digital audio classroom a little noisy?

"We were surprised to find that we didn't get a lot of complaints about the noise," Deming said. "We are moving away from the assumption that we had even when I started teaching that learning occurs best in silence."

Deming is now working with the fifth-graders at the school on a high-tech yearbook project. Students are able to read their own stories and poems or sing their own songs, and those creations will go along with pictures of the students into a multimedia presentation.

The key is that digital audio can motivate the children to study harder and learn more. "The teachers appreciate the motivating quality of digital audio," Deming said, "and the students seemed to enjoy and benefit from the auditory medium."

Digital audio was particularly effective in enriching the language arts curriculum in elementary school, Deming added.

"We could do a lot more with it," he said, "and we should."

A native of Long Island, Deming received a Thomas Watson Fellowship after his graduation from Amherst College in 1980 and used that fellowship to conduct research on children, play and games.

He has been teaching at P.S. 85 since he earned his master's degree at Teachers College in 1987.

Teachers College, a graduate school devoted to education across the lifespan and both in and out of the classroom, is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. Some 4,500 students are currently studying for master's and doctoral degrees. In the 1996 survey by the editors of U.S. News & World Report, Teachers College was ranked as the number-one graduate school of education in America.

Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2001

Digital Audio in the Classroom

THE HEARING/LEARNING CONNECTION

Teacher in Astoria Elementary School Earns Doctorate from Teachers College by Investigating 'Digital Audio' in the Classroom

NEW YORK--Officially, it is called text-to-speech software, but at P.S. 85 in Astoria the children and teachers call it a voice checker. The robotic voice reads back essays children have written.

"Adults are sometimes bothered by that voice," says Robert L. Deming, the computer cluster teacher at the school, "but the kids love the R2D2 effect."

And the robotic voice actually helps the children learn to write better. "Some kids don't like making revisions," Deming said, "but, after they hear their writing read back to them in this way, they are more likely to see ways they can improve their work."

The voice checker is just one example of "digital audio," technology that transmits speech, music and sound effects. Deming wrote about the educational applications of "digital audio" in his dissertation at Teachers College, Columbia University. That dissertation has earned him a Doctor of Education degree in curriculum and teaching.

Deming will ceremonially receive his doctorate at the Teachers College Commencement Convocation on Wednesday, May 15. The convocation, following the Columbia University Commencement, will be held at The Riverside Church and will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Digital audio has been popular for the last decade or so, Deming said. New hardware and new software are being produced regularly, but few people have analyzed the ways that the technology can be used in classrooms. "The educational applications have been the weak link in digital audio research," Deming said.

For six months, Deming studied "digital audio" use at P.S. 85. His dissertation is an analysis of what seems to work and not work in the classroom.

What makes for successful digital audio in the classroom? Deming says the best applications are easy to learn and flexible. "Teachers are very busy," he explained. "They do not have time to deal with a lot of complication in learning to use a new product."

The text-to-speech software is only one of the digital audio applications Deming found effective in the classroom. He also said that musical compact discs can be used, sometimes to set the mood while students are doing other activities and sometimes as part of the central activity in the classroom.

One piece of software called "Kap'n Karaoke" is a sing-along program for children, and Deming found that program was especially good for kindergarten through the second grade when children are learning to read. As they read the words on the screen and sing along with the music, they are adding to their reading vocabulary.

With robotic voices and "Kap'n Karaoke," isn't the digital audio classroom a little noisy?

"We were surprised to find that we didn't get a lot of complaints about the noise," Deming said. "We are moving away from the assumption that we had even when I started teaching that learning occurs best in silence."

Deming is now working with the fifth-graders at the school on a high-tech yearbook project. Students are able to read their own stories and poems or sing their own songs, and those creations will go along with pictures of the students into a multimedia presentation.

The key is that digital audio can motivate the children to study harder and learn more. "The teachers appreciate the motivating quality of digital audio," Deming said, "and the students seemed to enjoy and benefit from the auditory medium."

Digital audio was particularly effective in enriching the language arts curriculum in elementary school, Deming added.

"We could do a lot more with it," he said, "and we should."

A native of Long Island, Deming received a Thomas Watson Fellowship after his graduation from Amherst College in 1980 and used that fellowship to conduct research on children, play and games.

He has been teaching at P.S. 85 since he earned his master's degree at Teachers College in 1987.

Teachers College, a graduate school devoted to education across the lifespan and both in and out of the classroom, is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. Some 4,500 students are currently studying for master's and doctoral degrees. In the 1996 survey by the editors of U.S. News & World Report, Teachers College was ranked as the number-one graduate school of education in America.

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