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Sonification: Sounds with Meaning Activity

Take a quick glimpse of these charts using your ears.

Sightlings – students with vision – are able to glance at a chart and instantly identify the trend and general information without exploring each data point. Using digital materials, students with vision impairments have the same ability to quickly ‘glance’ – mmm ‘listen’ – to a chart and instantly identify the trend and general information. What? Just how is this possible?

What is Sonification

Let’s take a closer look at sonification. According to Wikipedia, “Sonification is the use of non-speech audio to convey information or perceptualize data. Auditory perception has advantages in temporal, spatial, amplitude, and frequency resolution that open possibilities as an alternative or complement to visualization techniques.” Simply put, sounds have meaning. In the case of sonified charts and graphs, sounds can be used to provide critical information about a chart or graph.

How Does Sonification Work?

You will need to listen to the following samples using stereo headphones, earbuds or speakers. If using headphones or earbuds, be sure that the left headphone or ear bud is in the left ear and the right headphone or earbud is in the right ear. If using speakers, be sure to place the left speaker on the left side of the student and the right speaker on the right side.

Sample #1

Listen to Line Chart Sample #1.

What can you tell me about the sounds in this audio clip? Listen again.

Teacher Hint: Use open ended questions! Only use leading questions if your student does not pick up the important pieces.

What did you notice?

What does this mean?

Sample #1 is a line chart with a straight, diagonal line from the bottom left to the top right.

Sample #2

Listen to Sample #2.

What can you tell me about the sounds in this audio clip? Listen again.

What did you notice?

What does this mean?

The data points in the Sample #2 chart create a straight, diagonal line from the top left to the bottom right.

Sample Chart #3

Listen to Sample #3.

What can you tell me about the sounds in this audio clip? Listen again.

What did you notice?

What does this mean?

The data points in the Sample #3 chart create a curved line starting at the top left, curving down to the X-axis and then curving back up to the top right.

Sample #4

By now, you are getting the hang of how sonification can provide an instant snapshot of chart. Ready for a challenge?

Listen to Sample #4.

What can you tell me about the sounds in this audio clip? Listen again.

What did you notice?

What does this mean?

The data points in the chart create a curved, wavy line that stays in the middle range of the Y-Axis, moving up and down two times.

Sample #5

Let’s change things up. Listen to Sample #5.

What can you tell me about the sounds in this audio clip? Listen again.

What did you notice?

What does this mean?

The data points in the Sample #5 create a jagged, random line – without a trend – with a spike in the middle.

Teacher Note: The corresponding tactile and print graphics depicts a simple bar chart not a line chart. For the purpose of learning to listen to information provided by sonification, the type of chart is not important. In these activities, we have not provided information about the X and Y-axis labels. To learn more about the different types of charts and why one type of chart is chosen over another, see the Chart and Graphs Skills Review post.

Sample #6

Bet sonification makes more sense now with the basic charts we have looked at/listened to. What about more complex charts? Let’s listen to a complex chart which has numerous data points.

Listen to Sample #6a. Whoa! Did you catch that? Let’s listen to this one again!

What can you tell me about the sounds in this audio clip?

What did you notice?

Maybe, if it was slower, it would be easier to hear what is happening in this chart with numerous data points. With SAS Graphics Accelerator, you have the option of five listening speeds and the ability to manually navigate note-note-by-note through your graph. Sample #6a was the fastest speed.

Let’s listen to Sample #6b (Fast Speed)

Still too fast for the amount of data points?

Listen to Sample #6c (Normal Speed)

Bet you can pick out more details at this speed! What can you now tell me about this chart?

Listen to Sample #6d (Slow Speed)

Which speed did you prefer for this chart? Is this the same speed that you used with the other charts?

What did you notice?

After listening to this chart several times at different speeds, what did you notice?

What does this mean?

The data points in the Sample #6 create a jagged, random up and down line with an overall upward (increasing) trend.

Teacher Note: The tactile/print version of this chart depicts a series chart with numerous data points.

Charts: Visual

No cheating! Listen to the audio clips above to determine each chart’s layout before looking at the chart! The charts below can be printed and/or embossed.

SAS Graphics Accelerator

The audio clips used in this post were actual recordings of sonified charts using the SAS Graphics Accelerator, a free, accessible tool that converts data visualizations into accessible charts and graphs. Students can use the Accelerator’s automatic play – at the student’s desired speed – to “glance” at a chart. Students can also manually navigate through a chart to hear the details of a desired data point.

Resources

Learn more about the SAS Graphics Accelerator and how to use the Accelerator for classroom activities.

Other posts in this series:

There are a number of additional Accelerator posts; here are a few to help you get started!

Collage of sonification

Attached File(s)

https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Sample%201_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Sample%202_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Sample%203_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Sample%204_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Gravity%20by%20Planet_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Temperature%20by%20Year%20-%20Fastest_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Temperature%20by%20Year%20-%20Fast_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Temperature%20by%20Year%20-%20Normal_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Temperature%20by%20Year%20-%20Slow_256k.mp3 https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Sample1_0.png https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Sample2.png https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Sample3.png https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Sample4.png https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Bar_chart_showing_Gravity_0.png https://www.perkins.org/sites/elearning.perkinsdev1.org/files/Series_plot_showing_Relative_temperature_by_Year_0.png
By Diane Brauner

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