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I am from poetry and machines [updated]

November 14, 2012

As I plan my spring multimedia course each year, I try to refine the activities my students do in class and for homework. The first major project in the course is an edited audio interview, so I want them to quickly get the hang of making sound recordings. Last time around, their first homework assignment was to record themselves reading a poem they liked — this year I’m going to have them write an original poem! I thought I’d share this activity as an example of marrying creative writing and technology.

Some of you may be familiar with George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From. It has become very popular among educators and is the basis for several inspirational activities. I was introduced several years ago and filed it away in my mind until this week, when I decided that my students could write what’s called an “I am from” poem. Here are the basic steps of the assignment:

  1. Write a poem like “Where I’m From” to introduce yourself to your blog readers. Use this template as a starting point, then edit to your heart’s content. There’s help here. The content can be personal or academic/professional. This is not a poetry-writing course; no one’s looking for Pulitzer Prize material here.
  2. Borrow an audio recorder from the OIT or use Audacity and a laptop computer microphone
  3. Record yourself reading the poem, keeping these in mind: Eight Basic Voice Recording Tips
  4. For this assignment – Submit an MP3 file in Sakai. If your original is saved as a WAV file, Audacity can convert it.

After completing the assignment, the students upload their files to SoundCloud. This allows them to use the poem to begin personalizing their blog, which they continue to develop during the semester. This is the first assignment for the course, so listening to the poems helps me get to know the students. You might decide to make one of your own and introduce yourself to your students. Here’s mine:

UPDATE 6/21/13:
Adding a soundtrack in Audacity

Soon after that first assignment the students learn how to edit multiple tracks in Audacity. Music can multiply the emotional impact of the spoken word, so I encourage students to add a soundtrack to their poems. Here’s how that works:

  1. Find a piece of copyright-released music.
    I recommend it be at least 10 seconds longer than the poem. My favorite source is; make sure to click “Show songs available for free non commercial use.” The music for my example is “Hallways – Reprise” by Noah Richardson.
  2. Open the poem file in Audacity.
  3. Import the music file. File > Import > Audio.
    It will appear below the voice track.
  4. Trim the music track.
    Allow for about 5 seconds before the poem and 5-20 seconds at the end. Use the selection tool (F1) to pick a section to remove, then press Delete.
  5. Use the Time Shift tool (F5) to move the poem track over to the 5 second mark (or so) on the time line.
  6. To test your work, rewind (press Home) and then play (space).
  7. When you’re finished, export to an MP3 file.

IMPORTANT: saving an Audacity project creates a .AUP file AND a data folder. If you can’t finish editing in one sitting, you’ll need BOTH items to pick up where you left off.

SoundCloud tip

SoundCloud allows you to add an image to your uploads. It’s another way to personalize your work. I added a photo of my childhood home.

A final note in case you were curious: I do like to write a little poetry now and then. Here are some from the Wakonse Conference.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2012 12:32 am


  2. Chris Clark permalink*
    November 14, 2012 4:34 pm

    Click the “Share” button, then choose the right option. I chose WordPress and copied the shortcode into this article.

  3. November 14, 2012 4:30 pm



  1. Avatars and other introductions | NspireD2: Learning Technology in Higher Ed.

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