Recordable Talking devices


Recordable talking devices have really come of age in the last few years, largely due to advances in technology and cheaper manufacturing methods. These devices are now cheap enough to be bought in bulk by schools, enabling creative practitioners to use them to support teaching and learning throughout the school and right across the curriculum. Not only can talking devices be used by practitioners to support individuals, but in the hands of learners they become a collaborative tool where talk becomes central to the task at hand and users take control of their own learning.

The emphasis on speaking and listening can particularly benefit some pupils/students with additional educational needs such as those with SEN or who are learning English as an additional language (EAL). These devices are also perfect for supporting language learning in general.

Oral cues make meaning more explicit for many learners and a recording facility offers pupils/students an alternative method of demonstrating understanding other than through written outcomes. Recording offers a user the opportunity to rehearse and repeat language and adopt 'talk for writing approaches'. There is also the opportunity for bilingual learners to record in their first language. Many devices enable recordings to be stored for later use and have a significant role to play in assessment for learning.


Talking Photo Albums

Talking Photo Albums allow practitioners and learners to insert pictures and writing into double-sided plastic sleeves. Using simple controls a user can record and playback sound files linked to each page.

These albums are perfect for producing storyboards, talking stories, diaries, non-fiction texts and sound-enabled scrap-books. The mobile nature of Talking Photo Albums means that they can be used outside of the classroom.

For example, they can be sent home overnight to support a pupil's homework task, and parents who are away from home for long periods have successfully used them to record a bedtime story for their children. They can also be used by learners to capture information and narration on a field trip. Albums can even be loaned out for longer periods, such as when learners make an extended visit back to their country of origin.

Recordings are saved to an internal memory card so that they can be backed-up to a computer or exchanged for an alternative set of audio files. This is a flexible system as higher quality audio can be captured away from the album, named appropriately and then copied onto the memory card.

Being able to revisit recordings, whether ad-hoc conversations, contextualised narration or more formal presentational talk, can powerfully support assessment for learning and show an individual's progression in use of oral language across the curriculum.


Talking Tins and Pegs

Talking Tins provide a simple way of recording and playing back short audio recordings. There are a number of different kinds on the market. For example, Talking Products produce two versions - yellow tins have a maximum recording time of 10 seconds, whereas red tins can record for up to 40 seconds. Accessories for holding the tins are also available - magnetic backs, straps and plastic holders

At their simplest, Talking Tins can be used by practitioners to record instructions or scaffolded support for key tasks. They can also be used to send messages back and forth between school and the home, using whatever language is required. Learners can use them to record curriculum-based information, for practising pronunciation and preparation for oral presentations. Talking Tins have multiple uses within early years' settings, such as for play-based recording activities within continuous provision.

The portability and easy recording/playback of Talking Tins is perfect for encouraging exploratory talk through collaborative learning activities. Sets of tins enable practitioners to develop sorting, matching, ranking and sequencing tasks, within any curriculum area. For example, matching the names of planets (yellow tins) to information about each planet (red tins), followed by an activity to sequence the planets (yellow tins) in order from the sun outwards.

Talking Pegs have similar functionality to Talking Tins and are perfect for showcasing work. Learners can attach a work sample to the peg and make a 10 second audio recording - perhaps a reading of a short poem/story or commentary about a piece of art work.


TalkingPEN technology - PENpal

PENpal, Mantra Lingua's ground-breaking recordable TalkingPEN, is an audio player that can store and play audio files. It has a tip that can read tiny microdots impregnated into paper. Books and charts deliver audio content to the user via 'hotspots' on the printed surface. Of course, audio can take many forms, including sound effects, music, songs and spoken text in any language. Interactivity can also be 'programmed' into resources such as topic questions and answers. Content on the 4 Gigabyte hard disk can be backed-up via a computer USB interface.

Most significantly, PENpal can also record audio content using its internal microphone and then play it back to a user whenever required. The microphone records speech in clear quality and is sensitive enough to record ambient sounds as well. The recorded audio content can be played back when a user touches 'hotspots' on books and charts or specially prepared sticky labels.

PENpal interfaces with Mantra's bilingual books, bringing texts alive in a variety of languages. EAL learners and those learning new languages can particularly benefit from the multi-modal nature of the kit, bringing together familiar texts, audio and kinaesthetic learning.

Users can play around inside the story by recording onto hotspots within each page, for example, retelling the story in any language. Pupils could add sound effects or a character's thoughts, a soliloquy or an imagined conversation between two or more characters. A learner could even leave a question for another pupil on each page.

PENpal also interfaces with a wide variety of learning charts. There are bilingual charts to support the induction of new arrival EAL learners, phonics materials, literacy packs and curriculum-related materials such as a comprehensive science series.

When combined with recordable sticky labels the PENpal becomes incredibly versatile. Practitioners and learners can link recorded audio content to sticky labels and affix them to any surface. Recordings linked to any particular label will remain until overwritten. Audio recordings on the pen can be backed-up onto a computer via a USB link, so any individual pen's setup can be restored later if required.

Essentially use of this technology falls into two distinct categories:

  • practitioners use the sticky labels to create or personalise resources for learners and their families
  • learners create resources for themselves or their peers.

Practitioners can prepare audio-enabled support materials for their learners as well developing longer-term resources such as translated documents and family learning booklets. Working in groups, pupils/students can be given a pen and a set of labels and encouraged to produce audio-enabled resources, e.g., talking books, book reviews, interactive displays, treasure trails, board/card games, amongst many other ideas. The possibilities are endless!