An interesting article on using IPods in classrooms.
IPods Fast Becoming New Teacher's Pet
Special Recording Projects Nurture Students' Creativity
By Fern Shen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005; B01
At some schools, the rules are clear: Kids can
chill out to downloaded music on portable
players, but once they're inside, iPods and other
learning distractions must be stowed in backpacks or lockers and kept there.
At Jamestown Elementary School in Arlington,
Camilla Gagliolo took another approach. Rather
than fighting the fad, she's capitalizing on it
by giving students iPods and re-imagining them as a learning tool.
"It just makes so much sense. They are so drawn
to this technology. They are so excited by it.
They're comfortable with it," said Gagliolo, the
school's technology coordinator.
Using little more than an iPod and a school
computer, Gagliolo and her students have been
making podcasts -- online radio shows that can be
downloaded to an iPod or other portable MP3
player. Avidly discussing their favorite iPod
colors and models while they made recordings of
their poems and book reports the other day, the
fifth-graders bubbled with ideas for future subjects.
"We could read parts of books, to show why we
like them. We could do interviews. If there's a
field trip, we could make a recording of it and
post it," said Mohamed El-Sayed, 10. "Kids
anywhere will like to hear about us."
Podcasting is just one of the interactive
technologies, like blogging and hand-held
computers, being used to motivate students
nationwide. It took off across the country last
year, an offshoot of the surging popularity of
iPods. A survey of 470 high school students
released this month by analysts with Piper
Jaffray & Co. found that 61 percent of students
had some kind of MP3 player, up from 40 percent in their spring survey.
"This is the kind of technology they use for
their daily lives. If schools want to reach
today's learners, they can't ignore it," said Don
Knezek, chief executive of the International
Society for Technology in Education.
Colleges were the first to embrace the idea,
giving iPods to freshmen and making podcasts of
lectures. Now, podcasting is moving beyond the
cappuccino crowd to the chocolate milk set.
In a private school near Detroit,
middle-schoolers podcast performances of
student-composed musical works. From East
Oakland, Calif., high-schoolers paint an audio
portrait, in English and Spanish, of their
troubled community: "It's hard to see someone die
in front of you." Gunston Middle School, in
Arlington, has a cheeky student-made podcast that
includes poetic commentary on Virginia's
standardized testing: "SOLs are not your friends;
they'll bring your life to an end."
Teachers say the benefits of making podcasts are
clear: The trendy technology and the possibility
of a wider audience motivate students. "My
students research better, read more, write better
and understand the material," said Beth Sanborn,
a fifth-grade teacher at Willowdale Elementary
School, near Omaha, where students have been making podcasts since last spring.
Podcasts at the school -- on such topics as the
Constitution, Native Americans and electricity --
are not only filled with kid humor and snappy
music, but they are also loaded with facts.
Teachers hope they'll be used as supplementary
curriculum material by future students.
"We want our podcasts to be timeless," said Tony
Vincent, technology specialist at Willowdale. "We
want teachers to play them for their classes."
To make a podcast on the Revolutionary War,
Sanborn had her students spend a couple of weeks
researching their material in books and on the
Internet before shaping it into a script. They
were graded on the written script, but what
really motivated them, Sanborn said, was the hope
that their work would be chosen for the 8 1/2 -minute podcast.
For the vocabulary segment, a boy did the word
"bayonet." For the time-travel feature, another
performed as a town crier, condemning King
George's tyranny. Sanborn was especially
impressed with the way they came up with their
own jokes on such topics as the Constitution.
"You really have to understand the material to
figure out a joke about it," she said.
Teachers are also finding other uses for portable
music players in the classroom. In Carrollton,
Tex., near Dallas, kindergartners are taking
loaner iPods home to practice their vocabulary
words, and English as a Second Language students
are using them to practice English. Another
Virginia school, Long Branch Elementary in
Arlington, also plans a podcast program focused
on its students who are learning to speak English.
Podcasting, it turns out, is also well-suited for
keeping busy parents in touch with the world
their children inhabit all day at school. All
they have to do is program their computers to
capture the broadcasts -- which could range from
school announcements to plays to basketball games
-- and they can then listen to them on their
desktop computer or download them to a portable player.
"This idea is so great: I can hear what my
daughter is doing and we can tell her
grandparents, and they can hear it where they
are," said Alison Pascale of Arlington, whose
daughter Kalyn McNulty, 10, is one of the Jamestown podcasters.
Gagliolo has high hopes that it will flourish at
her school. So far, she has found the technology
easy to master and "simpler and cheaper" than
making student videos. For most of the recordings
she and a half-dozen students made at a recent
session, they used a $40 snap-on microphone
accessory, plugged into the school's iPod. (They
hope to get more iPods so student-podcasters can
make reports from throughout the school.)
The toughest part was getting the best possible
sound quality from the youngsters, which
sometimes meant doing it over and over again.
Dalai Saruul, 10, spoke in a whisper when he
first read his poem: "Calibur stands 1 foot, 1
inch. He is said to be tall for his age. He is as
strong as a rhinoceros beetle and is a kung fu master. . . ."
"You have to speak up," said Mohamed El-Sayed,
holding the microphone out to Dalai. "Quiet on
the set!" Kalyn yelled. (That meant that Frank
Painter, 10, had to stop eating pretzel mix so
loudly.) After a few takes, Dalai's voice grew
stronger, a better match for his poem's subject.
Finally, the students learned how to edit on the
computer, deleting mumbles and dead air. And with
a few clicks of their mouse, they made Dalai's voice stronger still.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
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