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Synth

Asynchronous audio response tool encourages all students to speak up

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

3–12

Subjects & Skills

Communication & Collaboration, English-Language Learning

Great for

Assessment, Creating Media, Formative Assessment, Media Literacy

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: Simple design and rerecording options encourage all students to speak up and discuss.

Cons: Lacks customization features for more effective differentiation.

Bottom Line: This tool offers classrooms a space for short, impactful voice-based discussions, but it's lacking some key ways to modify the experience.

Synth isn't intended for pressing questions that need to be answered right away; rather, it's a platform for continuous, asynchronous conversations. Teachers can converse with students, colleagues, and families in order to provide coaching or feedback, plan lessons, advocate for students, or keep communication flowing between school and home. Many students will prefer the audio format over video.

Begin the year with a getting-to-know-you thread for each class, and give yourself and your students a chance to learn about each other. Since many students freeze up when asked or prompted to say something interesting or reflective -- especially if it's recorded -- this is a good way to break the ice. You can also use this introductory lesson to get students to practice some basic speaking skills: volume, pace, inflection, and clarity. As discussions catch on, students might give one another constructive feedback, and engage in some basic check-ins.

After this introductory period, teachers can enhance the quality and complexity of the threads by providing clear instructions and guiding questions that give students something to talk about. Use the platform for threads on literary response, hypothetical questions, or verbal KWL threads at the start of a unit. For instance, if you're an ELA or world languages teacher, perform reading fluency checks by having students read aloud, or ask students to practice vocabulary, pronunciation, and conversation skills. If they mess up, they can just go back to that point in the recording and redo it. In social studies, have students read a linked article and respond to it, or break down a famous historical speech by giving each student specific lines to record. In chorus or band, get students singing or playing an instrument to assess their skills, and give them feedback by adding your own voice or written message to the discussion. Whichever subject you teach, it's easy to use Synth in ways that empower students by making their voices central to the conversation.

Editor's Note: Synth is no longer available.

Synth is a voice recording platform that allows users to create and contribute collaboratively to podcast-like channels. The end result is a conversation with multiple voices (and comments, if added) on a particular theme or topic. Teachers invite their students to contribute to a channel via a link, and there's an optional Moderate feature that allows teachers to see or hear students' posts or responses before others do. The website encourages users to employ Synth as a coaching tool for students, but there are a lot of opportunities to use it for teaching content through guided conversations.

A s a reflection tool, Synth can be powerful for student learning. Asking students to create a short recording to explain what they've learned promotes meta-cognition and helps students process concepts. Hearing their peers explain their learning, too, can be a powerful tool for opening up new perspectives or cementing your students' understanding of content or concepts. Teachers may be surprised to find that students who are reluctant to speak up in class won't mind creating audio clips because they can plan, practice, listen, and rerecord if needed. And for students who enjoy performing, Synth opens up great possibilities for creativity, agency, and empowerment. Whether they speak, sing, read, recite, or rap, there's an element of fun added that more traditional mediums don't capture. 

While Synth is extremely easy to learn, teachers might be disappointed by the lack of customization options. There's a 30-minute limit to each recording, which can make for lengthy responses; it would be nice if teachers could adjust the limits lower or customize that feature. Although most students will not talk for the full time allowed, a class worth of recordings threaded together is a lot to manage. Also, there's room for improvement in terms of accessibility, such as adding in automatic closed-captioning for students who are hearing impaired. Finally, it would be helpful if teachers could see student engagement at a glance. The lack of reporting features might discourage some teachers from using the platform for more rigorous content.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

Students will enjoy the novelty of hearing their own voices and being able to listen to their classmates, but not all content will be stimulating.

Pedagogy

Speaking and listening are vital skills students need to learn. This tool does a good job combining them, but teachers will have to model and explicitly teach students how to do both with intention.

Support

The simple design and uncluttered interface mean students can create within minutes. More accessibility features and educational resources would help.

Common Sense reviewer
Marianne Rogowski
Marianne Rogowski Instructional Technology Facilitator

Privacy Rating

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