A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Audacity is a website that offers free software that can be downloaded and used to record and edit sounds. The site itself (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) has no bells and whistles, so it's simple to navigate and easy to understand, and 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 itself, which enables users to record live audio, convert tapes and records into digital recordings, mix sounds together, and more. The site has multiple ads, various links to outside websites, and an open, online forum to discuss the software.
What's it about?
For those interested in playing with sound or experimenting with software development, AUDACITY is a free, cross-platform audio editor that helps older kids record live audio through a microphone or mixer, or digitize recordings from cassette tapes, records, or minidiscs. This open-source software is easily downloadable but may require some savvy technology knowledge to operate and manipulate. Kids can make their own ringtones, remove vocals from songs, create podcasts, and transfer tapes and records to a computer.
Is it any good?
Open source software makes it easy -- and inexpensive -- to get, use, and share software without having to incur the cost of purchasing it from a large software development company. Audacity is a tool that enables tech-savvy kids to tinker with audio as much as they'd like, and the site provides ample instruction, guidance, and resources to assist. There's 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. The site itself is not particularly engaging, but kids will find everything they need here to download, use, and create with the software so they can record and edit sounds of all kinds. For those who like to make and play with sound, the potential for experimentation and creativity is endless.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the variety of online tools that exist for being creative with digital media. What are some of the more interesting sites, apps, or software available?
Talk about the concept and benefits of "open source" software. How can sharing digital tools foster a sense of collaboration among strangers? How does it lead to improvements in technology?
Talk about how users of open source materials can contribute to improve the software. What types of rules or guidelines should kids follow when sharing suggestions for improvement? How can you be a good digital citizen when using open source software or when online?
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