THE VIRTUAL VOICE: COMPARISON OF TEACHING MODALITIES IN VOICE, SPEECH AND DIALECTS IN THREE BLENDED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

A. Preeshl

Loyola University New Orleans (UNITED STATES)
As the world becomes increasingly virtual, harnessing the technology savvy of students enhances the learning environment. In this paper, I will compare and contrast teaching voice, speech, and dialects live as well as online using three different platforms: Audacity, Skype and Adobe Connect.

Having successfully learned the Italian language through an online class over several semesters, teaching dialects online was a natural outgrowth of this experience. First, students selected acting monologues and assignments posted on Blackboard. Then, the students recorded through Audacity software and emailed their speeches. Corrections were emailed using the International Phonetic Alphabet. The challenges involved in this modality included different time zones (Ukraine, France and two time zones in the United States), and difficulties in changes in symbols which were not consistently supported over email.

In the second case, Fitzmaurice Voicework was taught live and through Skype between India and the United States. Fitzmaurice Voicework involves releasing muscular tension and engaging efficient use of appropriate muscles for speech. Tension is released through a series of exercises which activate the stretch reflex mechanism in antagonistic muscles. Engagement of the Transversus Abdomininus allows for rib swing on the inbreath and air pressure support on the outbreath during speech. Initially, live sessions were conducted through which the specifics of each phase were taught through physical and aural demonstration, verbal instructions and hands-on guidance as needed. Subsequently, online sessions via Skype were conducted between the United States and India. Keen observation of breathing was essential for the efficacy of Fitzmaurice Voicework instruction online. Therefore, the position of the camera and adequate lighting were crucial. Challenges to the online modality included poor online connection which occasionally interrupted the class and impaired vocal quality. Having worked with the client in person, the ability to speak in shorthand, suggesting a named position, allowed for a flow in the class.

In the third case, voice and speech will be taught in a blended setting through live classroom instruction as well as through webinar presentations and discussions through the interface of Adobe Connect during the first month of class. In this new modality, two Voice and Movement classes will have a series of sessions online. Students will be required to attend class virtually. In one case, the students will be in a single room with the instructor connected remotely. In another case, the students will connect individually. In each case, the student will be required to dress in loose, modest clothing and report on time to live and virtual classes. At the end of each session, discussions, opinion polling, and live Q&A will enhance the virtual classroom experience. It is anticipated that initial teaching of skills online will be significantly different than laying a foundation over several months in person prior to teaching online.

To teach in a blended environment, the key rested in keen observation to the visual and aural data is necessary. Patience to overcome momentary problems is critical to the process. After the data is collected through the group sessions of Adobe Connect, conclusions will be drawn about the differences in teaching voice, speech and dialects via email, Skype and Adobe Connect.
keywords: speech, on-line, blended.