I discovered the Novel Effect app this past February while attending the TCEA conference in San Antonio. As an Ed Tech Specialist, we are charged with bringing our newly gained conference knowledge back and sharing with our coworkers and district teachers. The instant I learned about the existence of Novel Effect, I claimed it as my ‘one cool thing’ that I wanted to share when we returned, and I’ve been both an avid fan and cheerleader ever since! Even though my job is all about technology, the main thing I love about Novel Effect is that the focus isn’t on the technology—it remains on the book! The Novel Effect sound effects just add multiple layers to the reading experience.
The weekend after the conference, I asked my 21 year old son if I could show him something really cool that I was doing at work. With no explanation whatsoever, I opened the Novel Effect app, turned on my Bluetooth speaker, and started reciting my all-time favorite book, Where the Wild Things Are (I have it memorized after all these years!), which just so happened to be his favorite book when he was a child. The look of pure wonder and astonishment on his face went straight to my heart, and I knew that something magical had just happened! When I finished reading, he stood up and paced the floor, swinging his arms and exhaling heavily. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was fine, that he had just been taken totally by surprise because he wasn’t expecting to feel that way again. I apologized and said, “Maybe I should have told you what I was about to do,” and he walked up to hug me and replied, “No, Mama, it was perfect just the way it was!”
I was so impressed with what had happened, I just had to sit down and write a thank you email to Matt and Melissa Hammersley, the founders of Novel Effect. As I choked back tears, I wrote that I know that their children are still very small so they may not realize this yet, but as our children grow up and away from us, there does come a time when they won’t climb into your lap for a snuggle anymore, or need to hold your hand while you cross a street, or ask for us to read their favorite book for the thousandth time, and that they as parents will miss all those things terribly.
I told them that I believe that their app is a gift is to all children everywhere, but specifically, I wanted to thank them for their gift to me, for letting me be just a mom reading her little boy’s favorite book to him one more time.
Matt emailed back that afternoon and thanked me, saying that he’d read my letter to the entire team, and that I’d had seventeen people in Seattle crying, even the college kids!
As a former language arts teacher, I am a strong proponent of reading to kids, anytime, anywhere, no matter their age. When I taught science and social studies, I always found ways to slip a read-aloud in, because they just enjoyed it so much! Even after I got into the technology side of education, I took part in Read Across America Day activities in my district, reading Where the Wild Things Are to junior high students for several years in a row. In fact, after the first year, those students actually requested me as a guest reader because they enjoyed it so immensely!
Since February, I’ve demonstrated Novel Effect to different educator groups several times in Pearland ISD, used it in multiple classrooms with students, and formally presented it to a packed house at the Elementary Technology conference in Galveston this past June. I will again be formally presenting Novel Effect at my district’s GT Training day in September, at the TCCA conference in Aldine ISD in October, and then again at the next TCEA conference in Austin next February! Informally, every time I’m in a bookstore, I go to the children’s section and demonstrate it to any parents who will stand still for even five minutes, and have then shown it to store employees when they come to see what all the excitement is about!
This summer, after purchasing a copy of The Wonky Donkey book as a baby gift for a friend, I suggested to Melody Furze, the Director of Educational Development, that the Novel Effect team create a soundscape for it. Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when she contacted me to ask if I would be willing to take part in the soundscape creation process! Of course, I enthusiastically said, “YES!”
In preparation, I received some instruction via email on what I’d need to do. My role in Ed Tech requires me to travel across the district from campus to campus, so I had some alone time in my car to practice my “yeeeeEEEE-HAW’s” and my “heee-haw’s”. As I live in Texas, I was extremely happy that I have decent AC in my car, because even with the windows up I still got some really strange looks from cars next to me at traffic lights! When I felt as if I’d made some acceptable progress I started using the voice recorder on my phone to capture my efforts.
Several people at Novel Effect and I had an online video conference to further refine the expectations. Matt Boerner, the Audio Lead and one of the sound effect geniuses at Novel Effect, and Carmela Orsini, their Director of Client Services, video chatted with me one evening. I played them some of my recordings and got some feedback on my efforts. Carmela even told me “You by far are the BEST ‘yee-haw’ I’ve ever heard!” And near the end of our call, Matt Hammersley walked into the room on their end, and I got to chat with him a bit as well! Over the following days, we communicated back and forth via email about which sounds they’d like me to try again with even more gusto, so I’d go upstairs at my house and record more versions of sounds and email them off to Matt B. As he incorporated my sound effects into the soundscape, he’d send me updates so I could hear them before the final version was released. I think my two dogs, Roux and Mardi, officially thought I was nuts, because they heard sounds coming out of me that they’d never heard before!
Working with the Novel Effect team has been an amazing experience, and it’s definitely one I’d like to repeat in the future!
I hear Novel Effect is working on a studio tool that will soon let everyone have the pleasure of creating hee-haws of their own. Be sure you follow them on social media to stay up to speed on all these exciting developments.
Melinda Louvier is an Educational Technology Specialist for Pearland ISD in Pearland, TX. She has twenty-one years of experience in the field of education at multiple grade levels, and has spent the last eleven years as a tech specialist, assisting teachers who want to incorporate technology into their curriculum. Melinda is a 2013 recipient of a Fund For Teachers grant, which allowed her to spend almost three weeks in Peru, where among a plethora of exciting experiences, she fulfilled a lifelong dream of holding a sloth! Since she couldn’t bring the sloth home, she now expends her love of animals on her two dogs, Roux and Mardi.