The value of conferences is being undermined by the Internet, but the serendipitous value of wandering the halls, program in hand, and picking the nearest presentation that might yield something, occasionally does. One such drop-in introduced a tool I use a lot now.
The presentation, by Richard Hawking, put together three tools to replace a language lab. Using student smart phones, an account at Dropbox to hold audio files, and a service to send those files to Dropbox easily made the process easy to explain.
98% of my students have smart phones. Taking advantage of the computer in their pocket is a goal of mine this year. No more desktop, no more laptop, I am working to adapt my online content so students can use their smart phones.
Replacing the language lab is one step. Every smart phone has a microphone, and a way to send email. They are usually linked together. I ask the students to check their pronunciation at the beginning of the class and again at the end. This takes them about 12 minutes the first time, and about 8 minutes the second.
I needed to make sure my free Dropbox account was running OK. I then signed up for SendToDropbox, a service that directs email attachments to a folder in my dropbox account. I get an email address, and configure it so students record their own voice, then email it to me, with their name in the subject line. Simple.
For specific instructions, I will yield to the original presenter, and his handout, attached here. The first time students do it, they are a bit nervous, but quickly warm to it. The nice thing is that they have both audio clips on their phones, and can compare them easily to see their progress. This is the beginning of an audio portfolio. But that is for another week.
Note that Hawking goes on about recording software for students to install on their phones. I have encountered that most phones already have good enough software installed as part of the standard.