If Apple’s recent announcements are any indication, technology continues to expand at an incredible rate. Every year new methods of communication are springing up and becoming available to the general public. Many classrooms at Northwestern have already incorporated these new methods into their coursework.
This semester, professor of English Richard Sowienski is teaching Audio Essay: Stories of Service, a special topics course in the English department. Over the course of the semester, students will gradually develop the skills necessary to use digital audio recorders, sound effects, music and oral narration to assemble audio essays.
The final project in the class involves making an essay focusing on a student service opportunity. Many students in the class will be participating in a Spring Service Project (SSP) which will be the subject of their audio essay. Other students will be creating projects about ministry organizations in their hometowns. Along with their work throughout the semester, students will record audio clips from their service sites to make an essay about the organization and the people that it serves.
These projects will benefit both the student and the site. The students will gain something valuable to put in their resume or portfolio, while the site will get more exposure in order to reach a broader audience.
Sowienski’s goal for the project is for students to use a combination of writing and technology to develop real life skills. “Within the next few years, the explosion of digital media will be beyond what we can imagine,” said Sowienski. Many of these essays may end up being broadcast over a local radio station.
To aid in the production of these projects, the English department purchased ten digital audio recorders and several microphones. “We’re using a TASCAM portable digital recorder. They record MP3 files as well as WAV files. It’s slightly smaller than a graphing calculator, so it’s easy enough to carry and handle while interviewing someone ,” said sophomore Emily Gowing, an Audio Essay student. The audio recorders form the backbone of the students’ arsenals in this class.
People don’t need any sort of previous skills to take this course, as everything will be built upon things learned in the class. Sowienski hopes that this course will continue to be offered in the future. “Hopefully we will be able to repeat it on a yearly basis.”