Of the 514 students who attend Mark Twain Elementary School in Wheeling, Illinois, 427 come from homes in which Spanish is the first language. The school embraces diversity and seeks to help students succeed in an increasingly technological society. As part of that mission, the school chose Rosa Kuhn to fill the position of computer and IT instructor five years ago. Before assuming her new duties, Kuhn served over two decades as a bilingual teacher in the district. She recently invested in an HHB FlashMic that allows students to make recordings of lessons and projects that are easily uploaded to the Internet. Students analyze their speech at home and share their work with family and friends.
No larger than a standard vocal microphone, the HHB FlashMic combines a professional-grade Sennheiser capsule with flawless automatic gain control and easy-to-use flash storage. It has one gigabyte of memory and can record over 18 hours of MPEG audio. A simple interface on the microphone's body controls all internal functions, and plug-and-play connectivity to a standard PC or Mac, coupled with HHB's FlashMic Manager software, makes uploading files to the Internet easy.
"In classrooms around the country, students are regularly given models of fluent speaking, but they're rarely given the opportunity to analyze their own speech," stated Kuhn. "With the FlashMic, our students read a piece of text and then listen back to their pronunciation, intonation, tone, vocabulary, and fluency. Students and teachers can analyze the recordings together to identify both the student's strong points and those that need attention."
The professional quality of the FlashMic, which has been embraced by everyone from special-interest podcasters to the BBC World News, provides tangible and important benefits to Mark Twain students over standard digital or analog recording systems. Explained Kuhn, "The FlashMic provides clarity far beyond that achievable with a standard digital voice recorder, which is crucial in addressing issues of pronunciation."
In addition to language classes, the FlashMic has improved instruction in music classes. The music teacher records student pitch-matching exercises. "Student self-assessment is a powerful way to help them improve," Kuhn said. The chorus makes regular recordings of the projects that they are working on, which are subsequently reviewed to assess progress. "The students are very excited to hear how much better they have become," added Kuhn.
Above a strict improvement to pedagogy, much of the FlashMic's appeal for the students springs from the same love of technology that has catapulted the iPod to the forefront of our cultural lexicon, along with a timeless attraction to hearing one's own voice in a recording. "To motivate students for writing, our teachers often have the final product recorded with the FlashMic," said Kuhn. "The kids love it. Because we all agreed that only quality, polished work would be recorded, the kids work very hard on their stories. They love the technology and hearing their work at home on the Internet. Parents appreciate the connection it provides them."
Importantly, Mark Twain's podcasts provide a connection, not just to parents but, to distant relatives as well. "Most of our students visit family in Mexico and other parts of the world over the holidays," conveyed Kuhn. "We recently recorded the chorus singing their holiday songs with the FlashMic and we will produce a podcast that they can listen to with their families. Overall, using the FlashMic has given students a greater sense of ownership and pride. That has motivated them to improve. The connection with family both immediate and distant has invested them in the work their children do here at Mark Twain."