Breaking the SOUND BARRIER


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A couple weeks back I had the opportunity to meet with Rodney Johnson of Russel County Adult Education (RCAE). Walking into his instructional space one is greeted by “Program of Excellence Banners” awarded by the state of Kentucky for what looked like the past 10 years: it was like walking into Rupp Arena and it was AWESOME.

I had the opportunity to meet the staff and I was given a tour of his space. Let me tell you, RCAE is not lacking on space. What they are lacking on, however, is noise control.

 The center is located in the gym area of a former high school. The gym has been split into multiple rooms. The main space takes half the gym, and is split between a 30 seat computer lab and a 15 chair group study space. On the other half of the court are 3 classrooms. And beyond those three rooms, where a stage would be is another, computer lab holding 20 computers.

Lots of space. Lots of options for students and instruction. The space has monitors and projectors mounted, wireless access points, etc. What is lacking? Ceilings. 

Noise carries throughout the space like flight attendants delivering peanuts.

During our conversation Rodney looks at me point blank and says, “Barry, where should I spend my money? I have money for technology that I won’t have next year, where should I spend it?” And I did not have an immediate response.

As I was driving away, while staring down the Cumberland Parkway and thinking about his space a crazy, hair brained idea came to me. What if one could block sound WITH sound. What if, instead of physical ceilings, we could make ceilings of sound — white noise — that would quiet the instruction space from the testing space?

And then… what if the program could introduce layered sound.  I will get to my idea of layered sound in a moment, but want to share two bits of information that are important to the concept.

 1)Brain Gym – several years ago Kentucky was going through Brain Gym training. Among other things the researcher said that classical music in a 4/4 beat helped the mind and body sync. Moreso, the music could be sub-audible and still be effective.

 2) White noise – we know this center is be noisy, noisier than court rooms. In modern courtrooms when the two sides approach the bench the judge flips a switch that puts out white noise so the sound from the bench does not carry. Thinking of learning centers could one not use white noise to help keep noise from outside the classroom coming in?

 So now, let’s put idea 1 and 2 together. Using a computer one could have classical music playing in one program, with white noise over top it – programs could purchase CD’s, downloadable music or get free apps to deliver content. Let’s say an instructor wanted to watch a video as well? They could! And they could make the video the dominant sound, so that students could readily see and hear the content of the video, white noise would be blocking out distracting, outside noise; and classical music could be played at a sub-audible level – subversively helping students comprehend better the content being delivered.

Now to work on a cheap, replicable model – I want to know if I could use old computer speakers to make the sound system?


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An Elephant’s Memory

Looking into resources that can benefit programs I came across a pay app for the iPad called Doceri. Doceri will allow the presenter to interact with a computer desktop that is projecting to a whiteboard, or smartboard: it is a very cool product. It has many attributes, but that will have to wait for another article.

Doceri was quickly overshadowed by another app, an app that works across multiple platforms (Apple, Microsoft, Android, etc.) and multiple devices (Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, etc.), Evernote. Evernote is a highly versatile product for both students and programs, best of all, it is free.  As quoted from the webpage, “Evernote: Remember Everything”.

I have been searching for a product that will help me keep track of those people I meet, notes from meetings, as well as notes from e-mails and research. My overall goal is to limit the amount of paper I am carrying to 1) help with organization and 2) save my back.  In researching different products out there I kept coming across the name Evernote. I therefore downloaded Evernote to my phone, and there it sat.

Four days later I was sitting in the middle of a meeting with my legal pad of paper, and about 30 minutes in I said to myself, “Why are you writing this down, let’s see what Evernote can do.” I kept my pad of paper in my lap in case I needed it and started using my smart phone to capture notes – and that is where the notes on my legal pad summarily stopped.

What immediately caught my attention? First, I was able to record the meeting while simultaneously typing into the phone. The meeting lasted 1.5 hours from when I started recording, with a five minute break. Therefore I was, secondly, impressed to have sound files in my Evernote account that tie in with my notes for later review (I did not cover the break).  My mind was blown and I knew had to explore the product more.

At the onset of making the note it had a recommended titled based on the event listing in my computer’s calendar – awesome! After I was finished with the note I was able to “tag” the note, allowing me to use metatagging to quickly search/sort my notes later based off key words I define – awesome! And lastly, did I mention it seamlessly combined an audio recording while I was typing meeting notes… on my phone – AWESOME!

Then those notes made on my phone are automatically available on my work computer, in my online account, on my iPad, home computer, and so on. Heck, I can even send my note to a peer who may need notes from the meeting!

I decided I needed to investigate further, so I’ve been trying other apps that work with Evernote, once again I find the apps highly usable.

Evernote Peek – “Turn your notes, audio and image in Evernote into study materials with Evernote Peek,”  With Peek a person can use their notes in Evernote to become flashcards on their iPad.

If your program is using iPads a student can log-in, and use their notebook’s notes to instantly make flashcards.

Evernote Hello – “Remembering people is hard. Evernote Hello makes it easy by creating a rich, browsable history of individuals, encounters and shared experiences,”

Program Directors, Instructors, country men: are any of you better with names than faces? Have any of you met so many people that all faces and names look familiar? Using Hello you can record people’s contact information into your Evernote account, making it searchable along with any meetings or e-mails you’ve had with that person. Added incentive – after the guest has completed filling in their information they will receive your contact information in their e-mail inbox, seamlessly.

Evernote Penultimate – “Penultimate is the best-selling, easy to use handwriting app for iPad. Lose the paper, keep the handwriting,” does cost $0.99, but it is highly usable and worth every red penny.  As stated above you can write on it using your finger or stylus. The app uses a graph paper background, stock.  You can take pictures with the program, add the picture to your note and then write on the picture… plus you’re able to “tag” it and put it your notebook.

An instructor could easily combine Penultimate to demonstrate math on a projected white board, annotate a graph, etc. Students could quickly do work on the tablet and then “share” it with the instructor – similar to using a whiteboard to do scratch work (2014 GED® skill).

I can’t state it enough; I find that Evernote is a highly versatile app for both students and programs. Not only does the app encourage good note taking, but it encourages people to take and save notes in ways important to them. As always, instructors start using it before you roll it out in class, beyond that cautionary note – Dive In!


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Video as Project Based Learning

In this project “autobiographical digital stories were created by North Lexington [Kentucky] students. Storicraft is a storytelling project that brings artists and youth together to produce and present stories in multimedia form. This initiative is aimed at fostering a connection between participants and media communications experts as a means of training and giving voice to young people.” Click on title to view video.

In the video you will see several youth narrate pictures about their bodies, and how they feel about the use of their bodies. The narrators are softspoken, but their stories have impact when coupled with images: viewers simultaneous relive memories make the videos powerful and fun.

Can this same concept be used in the adult education classroom? I don’t see why not. A class could similarly decide upon a theme (body, architecture). Each person in the class could take images of the theme. Then finally script a narration as to why these images are important to their theme. This step could be completed with a tablet or smartphone.

Afterwards the class could reflect on individual films, as well as the films as a group. From the process of planning, synthesizing, creating, and reflecting larger concepts of critical thinking could be exposed. Similarly the experience of the project could be drawn upon to help students understand outlining inside of writing projects.

—- UPDATE —-

From “The Problem of Student Engagement,” by Shelley Wright of Wright’s Room:

My initial thought is to use a method like Photovoice, which I think authentically gives power to students.  Through photographing the everyday events of their lives and merging these with story, students will share what school is really like.  It is often used among marginalized people, and is intended to give insight into how they conceptualize their circumstances and their hopes for the future.  Photovoice attempts to bring the perspectives of those “who lead lives that are different from those traditionally in control of the means for imaging the world” into the policy-making process.

It is often used among marginalized people… hmm, does that not sound like the adult ed population?

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January 15, 2013 · 12:32 pm

Testing 1-2-3

Download the presentation Georgia Adult Education 2012 here.

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Hello world!

Wow, finally joining the world of blogging! No more vague pages on company worksites… Let’s see how this goes.

The primary purpose of this page is to share my thoughts and presentations concerning technology use in adult education. I have been a participant on the LINCS list serve for near 8 years now, with activity waxing and waning. I hope to make this blog an extension of my thoughts in that arena as well as a space to answer with more detail questions from presentations.

I look forward to reading you!

Barry Burkett


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