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03/06/2007

Listen Up!

Somethings happening here but you dont know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?"
-- Bob Dylan

It was only a matter of time...

After a few years of watching pioneer teacher-podcasters experimenting with iPods in their classrooms, we're starting to see mp3 players turning up in all kinds of educational settings. US Today recently ran an article on the use of mp3 players in the classroom. Its on the rise, they say. Students are doing more than listening to music on their iPods; theyre studying Spanish, literature, and poetry, and listening to podcasts based on a plethora of topics. Every day, teachers like you and me are joining the podcasting fever by using the handheld listening devices to give a facelift to an age-old learning tradition -- homework!

Resources

* Companies Mine Growth of MP3 Homework
* Audio Homework
* Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (Walter J. Ong)

Although these changes easily could be chalked up to technology taking another foothold in the classroom, something more is significant going on. The emergence of listening devices is just another example of what academics are referring to as the late age of print. Were witnessing the re-emergence of "listening" to our previously word-dominated society. In short, we're welcoming back aspects of the oral culture of our ancestors.

Educators have some questions to think about. How will we prepare students for a world that is making more and more use of listening skills? What kind of content is appropriate for an aural experience? How will students who have difficulty learning by listening, tap into this new tool? Could vodcasts" (podcasts with images) help involve students who are more visual learners?

US Today cited subtle changes occurring in higher learning. The article reported on mp3 player use at Stanford University and at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), and told how Seton Hall University assigned summer listening -- not reading -- assignments to last years incoming freshmen.

It's important to remember that with the introduction of any new technology, we gain and we lose. The gains look exciting and full of relevance to this generation, but will the focus on listening prompt a nose dive in student reading or will it help teachers address the learning needs of more students than ever before?

Orality and literacy expert, Walter Ong, has some encouraging news: Oral expression can exist and mostly has existed without any writing at all, [however] writing never [exists] without orality." For those of us intent on developing students writing skills, this places new importance on the increased use oflistening. Listening might well be the catalyst that provides students with something to write about.

As for reading, according to US Today, people are buying books like never before. It would be interesting to see the data concerning which age group is buying these books. Are they part of the iPod generation or are they people like you and me?

Who Is Brenda?

Brenda Dyck is a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching preservice teachers, Brenda is the moderator of MiddleTalk, a listserve sponsored by the National Middle School Association (NMSA). Her "HotLinks" column is a regular feature in NMSA's magazine, Middle Ground. Brenda also is a teacher-editor for MidLink magazine.

Author Name: Brenda Dyck
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Updated 10/30/2010