Friday, January 30, 2009


Audacity is a freeware program typically used to record and manipulate audio files. With Audacity you can take a project from start to finish, and the end result can be quite professional sounding too. Its main features are:

  • Recording of live audio;
  • Converting tapes and records into digital recordings;
  • Editing MP3, WAV, AIFF and other sound files;
  • Cut, copy, splice, and mixing of sounds together;
  • Changing the speed or pitch of a recording.


Recording an audio clip with Audacity is as simple as the click of a button. Upon loading, the basic controls can be seen on top of the page. Simply connect a microphone to your PC, click on the Record Button, get recording, and click on the Stop Button to end the recording. You can hear what has been recorded by pressing the Play Button. If you need to record additional segments – for example, if recording a Play or a Radio Programme - just hit the Record Button again and the new recording will be shown in a new channel underneath the original one.

The clips can be moved along the timeline by clicking on the Time Shift Tool and dragging the clip along.

The clips will be saved by default as .aup files, which are the raw Audacity files. In order to be able to hear them on other PCs or MP3 players, click on File > Export as MP3. When exporting to MP3, the program also lets you add tags and info (for example, the genre) which will be embedded into the saved file.

Importing an existing MP3 into Audacity

Apart from recording audio files, one can also import MP3 or WAV files for editing. Click on Project > Import Audio.

The newly imported file can be used in conjunction with a recorded voice file, for example to create a jingle for a podcast.

Audacity Editing Tools

Below is a list of Audacity's editing tools.  The tools are described in chronological order (according to the way they appear on the toolbar).

  • Selection Tool: Click on this icon to select part or all of the audio file
  • Envelope Tool: Lets you change the pitch (loudness) of a selected clip
  • Draw Tool: Zoom in until you can see the individual samples, and change the frequency of the samples
  • Zoom Tool: Zoom in or out of your clip
  • Time Shift Tool: Move clips along the timeline
  • Multi-Tool Mode: Lets you use more than one tool at the same time.

For more information, and to download Audacity, go to:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Picasa 3

Picasa is a software application for organising, editing and displaying digital photos. It was originally created by Idealab, but in 2004 it was acquired by Google and made available for free download.

The first time you install and load Picasa, it tracks down and organises all the photos in your picture folders. It is important to remember when working with Picasa, that any changes made to the photos within Picasa, will also effect the original photo on your hard drive. However, Picasa creates a backup of your original photo file in a special hidden folder created by the program itself (aptly named ‘Originals’).

Picasa distinguishes between Folders and Albums. Folders in Picasa are basically the original folders containing photos on your PC. Albums on the other hand, are created within Picasa and allow you to work with a specific set of photos while retaining the originals untouched in their folders.

So…What can I do with Picasa?

Editing Pictures: Picasa allows simple yet refined editing on your favourite photos. Simply double click on your desired photo and the program will take you to the Basic Fixes Tab: where you can crop, straighten, re-touch, fix colours and add text to your photos. The Tuning Tab will let you manually fix colours in your photo. The Effects Tab will then let you add special effects, such as B&W, Sepia Tint, Glow, Image Sharpening, etc.

Collages: After you have successful edited your pictures, you can create a ‘Collage’ with the results, either to save as screensaver / desktop or else to print out. Simply click on the ‘Collage’ button, and click on ‘Add’ to add the pictures you wish to use for your collage. There are various collage settings to choose from too – picture borders, picture settings, etc. The collages you create will go into a special album created by Picasa (called ‘Collages’...). Save or print your collage.

Creating a Video with your Pictures: Picasa lets you create a small animated video (if you are familiar with MS Photostory, this is basically the same!). Simply select the photos you wish to work with, and click on the “Create Video” icon. Once again when you save, the video goes into the aptly titled “Videos” album. You can add ‘Title’ slides, which explain what the video is going to be about, and add background music too. It’s a little more limited than MS Photostory in the video-creating stakes, but I’m positive the guys at Google will catch up pretty quickly : ) Also, it has a handy “Upload to YouTube” tool, which lets you upload your creation straight to YouTube.

This article is, of course, just a very slight overview about all the things that can be done with Picasa. For more information about the software, and to download the free updates, simply go to

Friday, January 2, 2009

Using YouTube Videos as a Resource in the Classroom

Most teachers nowadays will be familiar with sites such as YouTube, Metacafe and Dailymotion…That is, sites that offer short videos  for viewing on the PC.  Videos range from educational and instructional videos, to recreational videos, movie clips, etc.

It is relatively easy to search and look for what you want:  just enter a topic, subject, name of movie, song, etc, and hey presto, you will have loads to choose from.  Subject matter include vidoes on topics frequently tackled in the primary classroom, such as The Environment, The Water Cycle, Animals, etc.

There are two ways in which such videos can be accessed and viewed on the computer.  The first is, of course, to look up the video and view it there and then on the computer or laptop.  However, as we all know, the Internet connection in the classroom is not always up to speed…and these kinds of operations need a fast pc or laptop (which we thankfully now have) and a hassle-free connection (which sometimes is, and sometimes is not…).  However there is actually a way of downloading videos or clips onto your pc/laptop and then be able to view them offline (i.e. when one is not connected to the internet).  Here’s how….

How to download videos or clips (so that they can be viewed offline…)

  • First of all you need the page upon which you found the video open.  Go to it and start the video just to be sure it’s the one you want.
  • The video’s URL (Internet Address) will be on your browser’s address bar (i.e., that line on top of the screen where you usually type your URL).  Select it with your mouse, right click on it, and select “copy” to copy the URL.
  • Now open a new window in your Internet browser and enter the following URL:
  • On the top of the page, there will be an different address bar with the word “URL” on one side and the "Download" button on the other.  Click on THIS address bar, right click with the mouse button and click on “paste” to paste the video’s URL you have copied earlier.  Then click on the “Download” button.
  • The website will give you 2 options: to either download the video in .flv format or .mp4 format.  It’s a matter of personal taste; however I prefare the .mp4 format.  It’s a bigger format and takes longer to download, however the results are often nicer looking (especially if you intend to show the video on the class monitor connected to the laptop) and are usually easier to run on the laptop generally.
  • So…choose your format and hit “download”.  The website will prompt you to save the file.  Choose a filename and click on the save button.
  • Sit back while your video downloads.  (It may take some time, especially if the video is over 10MB…it depends on your connection, the speed of your PC, etc)

Some important points to consider…

  1. When selecting a video to download, remember to WATCH IT THROUGH,  and that means, from beginning till the end and also THROUGH THE END CREDITS.  I cannot stress this point enough.  Sometimes people disguise tasteless or indeed bits of pornographic material into completely harmless clips.  So please, PLEASE watch the clip carefully before showing it to the kids!
  2. While it is perfectly legal to download videos from YouTube and other similar sites, and to use KeepVid to do so, however be careful when downloading copyrighted movie clips/music clips etc.  Sometimes people put vidoes on YouTube without the permission of the author.  It is ILLEGAL to download copyrighted material from YouTube without the permission of the author.  Be wary of dowloading large chunks of movies from the site – espeicially if the movie’s just come out – its probably there without the author’s permission.

That said, I am sure you will find a lot of helpful resources on YouTube, Metacafe and Dailymotion…Lots of songs, clips, and helpful resources….But as I said…Use Responsibly!

Sites to Remember: