Articles for Teachers

IPods in School - Turning Toys Into Tools - Teaching With Technology
By:Kathy Cothran

Everywhere you go in the world today, you see people with iPods connected to them. Do you ever wonder what they are listening to? Maybe you assume they have some crazy music pumping into their brain? What if they are listening to award-winning works of literature? Reading is imperative to becoming a successful and productive citizen.

Students who struggle with reading will struggle in most subject areas in school and in many avenues of life. Using audio books to improve reading fluency with all readers promotes success for students in most areas of life. Intervening early improves student achievement along with self-esteem.

Audio books are an excellent solution for teachers to use when attempting to instruct students of differing ability levels and with different learning challenges such as struggling, reluctant, below-grade readers, bilingual students, special needs children as well as those children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorders or Dyslexia.

The iPods in School program started at DeKeyser Elementary in early 2007 with 25 iPod Shuffles and some audio books. Children in second and third grades check out the book and the iPod for use outside of school. Students document whether they read along with the audio book, or just listen, and whether they discuss the book with their parent after listening. These books and iPods are in great demand within these two grade levels. The excitement for reading is immense and parents and children report pleasure in the project.

In addition to listening to books commonly found in the library, I would like to expand the program to include the textbooks from different classes and grade levels to help those students who need to either hear the text again, or are struggling to read it the first time.

Research (from Boston Public Schools) proves that audio books accelerate reading gains. Data shows that audio books can improve reading comprehension by 34% as it bridges the gap for students attempting to read text above their individual reading level. Listening to oral reading is also proven to help students acquire new vocabulary while stimulating vocabulary development by allowing opportunities for students to hear and see words multiple times. Research tells us that effective fluency instruction begins with modeled reading. Audio-assisted reading can provide unlimited practice for students, while silent independent reading alone has not shown to increase reading fluency. Finally, audio books create motivated readers.

There are at least four ways iPods in school increases student achievement and motivation; independent reading, shared or small-group reading, whole class listening, and lending out the audio books for home use.

"Do you have any brand new audio books?" "Which one is your favorite?" "Have you listened to this one? It has a great person with lots of expression reading!" These are common questions from seven-, eight-, and nine-year old children engaged in our iPods in School program. In addition to improvement in reading scores and motivation for reading, seeing the eager children begging for iPods and audio books to check out of the library makes the program extremely worthwhile.

With the cost of the iPod Shuffle decreasing to just $49, this cost of implementing this program is not extreme. The benefits far outweigh the cost.

Excite your students and have them begging to listen to quality literature!

Kathy Cothran is an elementary media specialist committed to helping teachers turn toys into learning tools. Her vast teaching experience ranges from preschool through Master's level education classes.

Kathy is the author of "Using Webkinz in the Classroom," "My Webkinz Companion Guide," and "How to Publish Online."

For years Kathy has been a "Gadget Girl." She loves technology! Tie that to her extensive teaching background and she has been able to interest, invigorate, and inspire children and teachers to use technology in a rich, exciting manner.

If you are interested in the acceptable use policy that Kathy uses with her students and the other project tips, you can download them free at the following site: http://ipodsinschool.com

Interested in other ways that toys can become learning tools? Visit http://turningtoysintotools.com





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