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How was the Talk to Me audiobook created?

Aug 19, 2014 | By: Stephanie Annessi

How was the Talk to Me audiobook created? thumbnail

“What can we do better to create a more engaging experience for our users?” is the #1 question that is always on the mind of every member of Team Through My Window.  Should we change existing features of the project?  Maybe add new features?  These are not always easy questions to answer, but are necessary to ask nonetheless.  When Greta Stacy and I first stepped into the world of Through My Window, we immediately adopted this method of thinking.  And so we brainstormed.  We had (1) a captivating novel with dynamic characters with whom users could relate; (2) learning journeys where users could practice deep learning and develop a toolkit of skills along the way; and (3) a team of people whose top priority goal was to engage children in engineering in a way that supports deep learning.  What could we possibly be missing?  What would add to the experience in a way that we had not considered before?  Hmm … maybe we could find a way to bring these characters to life ... now that was an interesting idea … 

Greta had been on her high school speech team.  Her experience consisted of performing comedic plays as a “one-woman-show,” meaning she had the ability to change her voice to sound different for and reflect the personality differences in each character in the play.  And then it hit us.  That was it!  An audio version of the Talk To Me novel!  It was perfect!  Greta would be the “voice of Talk to Me”; I would be the sidekick who took care of equipment setup and audio recording, and we would put our heads together to edit the audio files at the end to create the final product.  

We then began to work on the development of each character’s voice to make sure it fit their personality.  Greta presented to the team her idea of each character’s voice to the team and the team provided feedback.  This cycle continued until the character’s true voices were finally found. 

Now it was time to head into the recording booth, which was new territory for us both.  We became immersed in this new world very quickly and comfortable before we knew it.  Greta remained in a completely soundproof room and I was just outside that room with the recording equipment.  Greta had a microphone into which she spoke and read the novel while I monitored volume levels and set up audio inputs on the computer program to ensure the audio recorded as clearly as possible.  I provided Greta feedback in regards to recording quality and together we determined if segments needed to be re-recorded. 

Most of the audio editing happened in a computer lab using a program called Final Cut Pro.  The editing consisted of removing segments within the audio file where a breath was being taken, where one of us coughed, where a sentence had been mixed up with another, etc.  Volume levels were adjusted at different points depending on the quality of the sound.  All of these fragments were stitched together into single files, which became individual chapters from the novel.  And, with all of that, the characters were borne into the world of audio!  

Listen to the Talk to Me audiobook!

 

Note:  Stephanie graduated from Smith College in May 2014 and has launched her professional engineering career.  Team Through My Window misses her terribly, as she was a major contributor to the project and a wonderful colleague.  We wish her the very best of luck in her new endeavors!

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1223868 and 1223460.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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