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Multimodal Mondays: Practicing annotation using SoundCloud

posted: 11.4.13 by Andrea Lunsford

Becoming a good writer often depends on learning to read critically, and in the changing digital landscape, students can benefit from learning how to annotate sources beyond traditional print texts. Here’s an idea for an annotation activity that asks students to be active “readers” of an audio source and to comment as a member of an online community.

Goals and tools

Practice critical reading and annotation with SoundCloud

Background reading before class

Everything’s an Argument, 6th edition: Part 1: “Reading and Understanding Arguments” (choose a reading suited to your course plan that will focus students on annotating to identify claims and appeals)

The St. Martin’s Handbook, 7th edition: Chapter 7b, “Reading and annotating a text”

The Everyday Writer, 5th edition: Chapter 12b, “Read and annotate”

EasyWriter, 4th edition: Chapter 3a, “Reading critically”

In class

SoundCloud is an audio sharing platform that allows users to distribute original audio clips. It also integrates a social networking element: users can comment during the clip and respond directly to other commenters, making it a great tool for initiating class conversations. You can publish your own material or content from the Creative Commons; you can also repost any audio clip on your SoundCloud profile stream.

As part of a class discussion on annotating texts, listen to a SoundCloud clip that has been heavily commented upon: a song, a podcast, a news clip, a recorded story, etc. Choose a clip that is relevant to your course topic, or select one from a popular news or education source that will encourage conversation. Point students’ attention to the comment bar; a quick glance shows the points in the audio clip where users have made the most notes.  If you hover over the user pictures, you can see individual comments. Clicking on those comments allows you to respond directly to the commenter. You can also insert your own comments, notes, questions, and links at any point in the clip.

After listening to the clip, reading the comments, and demonstrating how to use SoundCloud, discuss the usefulness of annotating sources and considering others’ annotations:

  • Are there times during the clip when there are more comments? What does this frequency tell you?
  • What are the benefits of writing notes as you listen rather than waiting until you hear the entire clip? What are the drawbacks?
  • How important is the timing of the comment?
  • What do the comments you see reveal about the audience of this clip?
  • What is the benefit of annotating a sound clip rather than a print article?  What are the drawbacks?

Assignment

Ask students to find a clip that fits with the course topic or one that they could use as a source for their own writing project.  Have them post the clip to the course website, if you have one, or repost it to their own SoundCloud profile stream. (For those who are new to SoundCloud, be sure to guide them to the FAQs and helpful 101 tutorials for how-to advice.) Ask students to listen to and annotate the clip(s) they’ve chosen. You might ask them to complete a few specific tasks:

  • Comment on how the content of the sound clip fits into the course topic or their own essay topic.
  • Ask questions to either the creators of the clip or other classmates.
  • Suggest links that might relate to the clip content.
  • Offer compliments and positive feedback.
  • Respond to another classmate’s or user’s annotation.

(Students will need to create their own accounts to comment on the SoundCloud clip, and you should encourage them to upload profile pictures to make the comment bar easier to read. Accounts are free. As an alternative, you can have students write down or type their annotations with a time stamp and bring it to class.)

Reflection on the activity

Ask students to reflect on the activity, using questions like these as prompts for discussion or writing:

  • Was it difficult to comment while listening? Or did you find it easier to focus when you had to pay attention to the clip?
  • Describe your experience listening to the clip. Do you prefer listening to or reading sources? Or some other type of source? Why?
  • How did your annotations reflect or differ from the comments of other users?
  • Did you find it useful to be able to see and reply to others’ notes? Did it influence your own “reading”?
  • How might the experience with annotations that you learned here transfer to peer review?

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to kvarucene@bedfordstmartins.com for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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