Help my technophobe mom share individual audio files with her students
September 17, 2015 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I need to set up a dead-simple method for my 75 year old mom to share individual, home-created audio files (tutoring content) with her foreign language students.

Mom is very challenged by technology, so I can't emphasize this enough: the fewer steps, the better.


Mom is a foreign language tutor. She teaches Hebrew for tween-age bar and bat mitzvah students, and regularly records instructions and examples for them. She uses a simple voice recording app on her Mac -- unfortunately, I am blanking on which one -- to record these as individual audio files, unique for each student. She records up to ten or so clips for each student each week. Most of these files are 30 seconds to about three minutes in length. In terms of size, she might be generating 5MB to 10MB of recorded audio files per student per week. She has been using iTunes to organize these, so it's probably easiest to begin with the assumption that the content she wants to share is already in her local iTunes.

Side note: Mom has been a Mac user since the early 1990's and has a current generation iMac running Yosemite. Mom has written three books on this computer and can type an astounding 160 wpm. Despite this background she'd be the first to tell you that she hates computers and only uses them because they are a means to an end. She doesn't understand them and doesn't want to, and she's especially confused about the way computers organize files. She also gets frustrated easily, and has *zero* troubleshooting skills. So there's that.

For years, mom used iTunes to burn her audio files onto CDs, a process that required clear, step-wise instructions and a lot of handholding from me. Of course, she had to abandon this method when her students explained that they no longer had CD players, so a year ago (yeah, I know...) I was finally able to switch her from CDs to thumb drives. Now her students are balking at those as well, and are requesting that she either host the files or email them, and she in turn is asking me how to do this. Email seems very inefficient and problematic, especially since she (still!!) doesn't understand how attachments work, but also because some files could be too large to send as attachments. This whole situation seems perfect for a cloud-based solution. I can think of several different ways that I might do this myself, but none of these are simple enough for her to do without a lot of help from me. I'd like to find the easiest way and most stable way for her to do this on her own, without a lot of ongoing support from me. I'll obviously help her get up and running, but I'd like to put her on the simplest path possible going forward.


1. The process must be simple.

2. The process must preserve these as individual audio files. Each audio file is particular to a given student's lesson(s) for a given week, so whatever model she goes with needs to maintain this many-files-to-one-student model.

3. The files do not need to be password protected or otherwise DRM'd, but she can't switch to something like a one-size-fits-all podcast, either. She also can't post these on YT.

One possibility I've considered is using DropBox or a similar cloud-based sharing site and having her create individual shared directories for each student, into which she could drop that students' files. This would leverage processes with which she's already familiar, and I would only have to add a few more steps to teach her how to create the directories, copy files into them, and share their links with her students. So that's one possibility, although it might still be a bit too complicated for my mom.

Can anyone recommend a better or simpler way to do this?
posted by mosk to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your Dropbox scenario is what I thought of immediately. If you can provide a procedure for locating the files in the Finder and then option-copying them to the students' folders (a standard drag-copy will move the files and iTunes will get hinky), it seems like the the simplest approach.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:58 PM on September 17, 2015

Maybe combine Dropbox with IFTTT? You could do the initial setup, but basically she'd save the file with the name of the student and that would trigger the file being saved to dropbox?
posted by eleanna at 3:20 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: > Maybe combine Dropbox with IFTTT?

Don't mean to threadsit, but Oooohhh! Aaahhhh! I wasn't familiar with IFTTT. That's looks pretty cool! I'm going to keep the question open for a bit to see if some what other cool suggestions MeFites might have, but that looks like a very promising building block. Thanks!
posted by mosk at 3:29 PM on September 17, 2015

Best answer: Dropbox, with a subfolder inside her Dropbox folder for each student. Students each get a link to their own Dropbox subfolder. Can't really make it simpler than that.

she'd be the first to tell you that she hates computers and only uses them because they are a means to an end. She doesn't understand them and doesn't want to, and she's especially confused about the way computers organize files.

My late mother was exactly the same way. I eventually had a conversation with her where I told her I was simply going to refuse to help her with any computer-related stuff whatsoever from that day forward, unless she agreed to sit down at the kitchen table with me for half an hour with a pad of paper and a pencil, and bloody well learn what a file was, what a folder was, and how to read a pathname.

She was a language teacher as well.

I put it to her that by asking for my help without having learned this basic thing, she was putting me in the same position as one of her students who asked for her help while flat refusing to learn the relationship between letters and words.

It ended well. Cut my family tech support workload in half.
posted by flabdablet at 4:04 PM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: By the way, I'd recommend not using more magic behind-the-scenes stuff than Dropbox already provides. The mental model of "here is a folder on my computer, that my student can also see into" is easily teachable; "here is a folder on my computer, where Mysterious Processes happen to files I dump in there" not so much.

If you go with a filename-based IFTTT-like solution, you'll never stop having to deal with failures due to typos. Helping her (forcibly if necessary!) understand that whatever she sees in a given folder is also what the student sharing that folder will see is a much more robust solution.
posted by flabdablet at 4:13 PM on September 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Regarding the Dropbox solution, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure you can give yourself read/write access to her folders (or whatever folder sharing option there is) when you set this up. In case it would help with remote troubleshooting, or simply, "I need a new folder for Michelle!"
posted by Nosmot at 8:47 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone - these are great. I'll go with the DropBox solution, and I'll keep it simple. Mom and her students will be happy.

Eleanna - thanks for pointing me to IFTTT. I hadn't seen that before.
posted by mosk at 2:49 AM on September 18, 2015

The other nice thing about Dropbox shared folders is that having shared a folder, it syncs both ways. So her students can record pronunciation samples, dump them in their own folders, and she can listen to them from hers and record comments in response.

You could even have a crack at teaching her to use Audacity :-)
posted by flabdablet at 3:59 AM on September 18, 2015

« Older Help me get my ducts in a row   |   NRA Bloomberg Attack Ads? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.