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What are Audemes?

Pronounced "awe deems," they are brief audio collages that combine sound effects, sometimes with music, to form aural symbols that signify various ideas, things, actions and situations. For example, the sound of a dog barking combined with a cat meow can combine to create a 3 to 4 second audeme that signifies the idea "pets." Audemes can be very flexible in their meanings. If we add the rumble of thunder and the splish-splash of raindrops, the "pets" audeme becomes an audeme for "raining cats and dogs." Or, we might start with the splish-splash but add sleigh bells jingling to suggest the idea of "snow."

Although many things or concepts in the world can be immediately associated with a specific sound (like the concept "dog" is clearly signified by the sound of barking), other concepts are basically silent and must be metaphorically suggested (like "snow" can be signified as "precipitation in winter"). This requires some mental agility, and students really enjoy the challenge of figuring out audeme meanings, and suggesting new audemes, and competing in audeme riddle games. For blind and visually impaired students, the opportunity to engage in a sound-based learning activity can be especially gratifying.

Since 2007 we have worked with blind and visually impaired students and their teachers to develop audemes and audeme games. The results have been very encouraging. Students who hear audemes presented with educational materials score significantly better in tests of those materials than students who did not hear the audemes. And when students play audeme riddle games based on chapters from standard science textbooks, they score significantly better in end-of-chapter tests than in tests for chapters learned without audeme games. After a year of audeme game play, students expressed significantly more positive subjective attitudes about science and science learning. These results have helped our work generate grant funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Google Research Awards and the National Science Foundation.

This website offers a basic introduction to the whole idea of audemes and audeme games. We believe we have just begun to explore the possibilities of audemes, audeme games and other applications yet to be developed. We welcome your comments, questions and ideas.

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