Common Sense Review
Updated December 2012

Audacity

Free online music-maker also a lesson in open-source software quality
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • Specific tutorials are available for almost any instance.
  • Hover over the Project Image to learn details about what each toolbar does.
  • Developed by volunteers, Audacity is all about community involvement.
  • There's a good amount of information about free software and the open-source movement.
Pros
For a free program, it has plenty of content to keep budding recording artists busy and active.
Cons
The site isn't the least bit visually exciting, and it isn't classroom-ready; teachers will have to do a lot of scaffolding to structure in-class activities.
Bottom Line
With tons of quality tutorials and help, this free recording site is a real treat for those who don't have access to the branded software.
Polly Conway
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

The site doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but kids will find everything they need to record and edit sounds. For those who like to make and play with sound, there is endless potential for experimentation and creativity.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 2

Kids can apply their technology skills by downloading the software and using it to digitally create and manipulate audio. They can join in the collaborative process by suggesting modifications and providing feedback.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

The site is simple to navigate and easy to understand. There's an online manual with specialized tutorials, an Audacity wiki, and links to articles that offer tips for using the software.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Audacity isn't just a piece of free audio-manipulating software; it's also a great way to teach a lesson about freedom itself. As the site says, it isn't just that the site doesn't cost anything, but that users are also free to help improve and manipulate the software itself. Teachers can talk to students about the difference between open-source software and licensed software products that cost money. What are the benefits of making things available for free, and what are the drawbacks?

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What's It Like?

Audacity is a website that offers free software that can be downloaded and used to record and edit sounds. It's a cross-platform audio editor that helps students record live audio through a microphone or mixer; it also lets them digitize recordings from cassette tapes, records, or minidiscs. The site itself doesn't have any bells or whistles, which makes it simple to navigate and easy to understand. Kids can download the easy-to-use software for a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, and other operating platforms.

The bells and whistles are reserved for the software, which enables users to record live audio, convert tapes and records into digital recordings, mix sounds together, and more. There's also an open forum to discuss the software. This open-source software is easily downloadable, but it helps if you've already got some digital audio knowledge and tech savvy in order to operate and manipulate the recording device. Kids can make their own ringtones, remove vocals from songs, create podcasts, and transfer tapes and records to a computer, opening up some interesting learning possibilities.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Although not specifically designed for educational use, Audacity may have some potential uses in certain classroom settings. This open-source software can be a great way for students to tinker with audio engineering tools and improve their tech skills. They can use the technology they download to manipulate existing audio and record new pieces, or they can use their creativity to do something unexpected. And because this open-source software is constantly being improved, kids can join in the collaborative process, suggesting modifications and providing feedback. Audacity requires some technological knowledge, but there's lots of potential for experimentation and creativity.

The site provides ample instruction, guidance, and resources to assist general users. However, if you're going to use it in the classroom, you'll probably need to scaffold students' use of the program. The site does have an online manual with specialized tutorials (some in languages other than English), an Audacity wiki, and links to various articles that offer tips for using the software. But the site, and software, on their own, aren't ready-made for learning. The site itself is not particularly engaging, but -- with some structure and scaffolding -- most students will find everything they need here to record and edit sounds of all kinds.

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