Brief Talk about Using iPODS to Teach and to Learn

I’m not really covering new territory here–I have written a couple of posts about how I use iPODS in my classes (here and here), but in case someone might find this brief sketch useful, here’s the talk.

Exploring Pedagogies and Tools Series of Faculty Workshops at Middlebury College, June 9 2006

Teaching with Audio, iPODS and More Workshop and Presentation
Deb Ellis, Barbara Ganley, Gloria Gonzales-Zenteno and Jay West

BG’s Bit: Using iPODs to Teach and to Learn

With the digital natives coming to our doors plugged into their iPODS, why not use iPODS to listen to thought-provoking talk and to produce such talk about our subject matter?

A chemistry professor at Bryn Mawr podcasts her lectures and then puts them online on her blog, so students can listen whenever they like, downloading them through iTUNES

Colgate podcasts interviews with professors and administrators about their fields of research.

Many classrooms pull in audio, as Jay does, of music, historical speeches, writers reading from their own work, etc. to bring to life what was once an auditory experience, and to examine the role of sound and voice in expression.

That brings me to reasons to put the iPODS into the hands of the students themselves as a tool for research (as Deb has shown), for language learning (as Gloria has shown) and for developing skills of presentation and discussion, extending the process of generating ideas and critical thinking beyond the written word and group discussion, and for reflection as meta-learning.

Third-graders are podcasting shows and lessons grounded directly in the material they are covering for class, be it spelling lessons, science experiments, first ventures into history.: See Bob Sprankle’s classroom, for example.

Art history classes are going out into the museums and creating their own guided tours of collections.

Other classes are recording birdsongs, or scientific processes, debates, mock trials, all manner of formal and informal presentations.

In my writing classes, each student has an iPOD and iTALK to use however they want during that semester (I am all about integrating all parts of a student’s life instead of separating the formal learning experiences from the rest of life), but also to do specific things that will be embedded onto their blogs:
See this earlier post for an overview :

–Interviews as Research, and interviews of one another about their projects
–Talking about their ideas and listening back (precursor to dictating)
–Reflections on their own work and process (including reflections on their oral presentations)
–Lessons for the class recorded for future classes
–Summaries of the research—oral abstracts as ways to test the clarity of the thinking and the strength of a thesis. I have them do this privately and then publicly, recording both versions so they can see the difference between reading something aloud and having to memorize it or present it on the spot. (Not only does this help them develop their presenting skills, it underscores the importance of really knowing what they’re talking about, using examples, specific details, developing ideas in depth and then articulating them succinctly)
–Reading their work and that of others aloud to listen to how voice influences meaning.

I’m interested in students growing their skills as presenters and discussers; in examining the role of point of view and voice in their learning; in gaining an understanding and appreciation for levels and kinds of discourse; in seeing that learning is both a social act, as John Dewey and Paolo Freire tell us, and a solitary act –and how oral expression can be as helpful as writing to develop arguments.

That all of these files are archived on our course blog means that they can return again and again to their own recordings AND those of others ( the benefits of peer-to-peer learning), and they become archives for future classes to learn from as they prepare their own presentations and interviews and oral reflections. (Knowing that other people will listen to these files makes the learning relevant and real).

Some students have gone on to embed audio files right into their research papers, mostly in the form of digital stories or clips of the interviews as footnotes. My feeling is that students already know how to use iiPODS–all we need to do is tell them that like a pen or a computer, a paintbrush or a piano, this is another tool to use to help the learning process. I find that students will come up with ways more interesting and beneficial than you could have predicted–what you help them do is to dream, to ground the use of the tool within the course, to use it to reflect, and then to connect with one another by listening and responding.


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