In an email I received this week, I was directed to a story about a New Mexico school trying to connect to its students by putting classroom material in podcast from and letting them listen to it on Zunes that the students are given.
The students of Fort Sumner High School have been given Microsoft Zunes to help them with their school work. Students are encouraged to use the devices during class, on the bus and during school trips. Teachers are given a $400 bonus to find 20 downloadable lectures that go along with their lessons as well as creating 5 of their own. This is a pilot program where the schools received donated Zunes in exchange for test score information to see if they have any effect on learning.
The school is utilizing podcasts as teaching tools, something I have advocated for a long time being a podcaster myself. I find it a great tool for picking up on something in a lecture that you didn’t the first time or to distribute information in addition to the actual class lecture.
When I was going to school in Utah, since they didn’t have any way to download and listen to lectures, I started recording all of the class lectures myself for review and to let other people review lectures when they needed it. It came in handy when I didn’t remember something from a lecture that I needed to know for homework or a test. It really came in handy when studying for finals.
Being able to learn on your own time and repeat things as many times as you need is one of the biggest keys to retention. If you have some free time or just want something to listen to during your commute, educational podcasts are a great way to fill that need and learn something interesting at the same time. If you can learn things on your own time when you aren’t worried about being distracted, you will pay more attention to what you are learning and will have an easier time retaining the information you are learning. The ability to listen to something over and over again is also a major key to retention. As studies have shown, repetition is great for remembering facts and seeing details that you would often miss on only one encounter. Podcasting brings these possibilities students or anybody wishing to increase their knowledge on a particular subject.
Of course such a program has potential for abuse. Students are likely to increase the time they spend listening to music, watching videos, or viewing photos with a device such as the Zune. While this may be a problem with some students, I don’t really think it matters. If a student is dedicated to learning and wants to succeed, they won’t let things distract them. If a student doesn’t care about their education, they will always find some kind of distraction to occupy their time even if its just counting the pimples on the kids neck that sits in front of them. At least with something like this, it can help those who care to have a higher level of understanding about what they are being taught.
I hope this program is a success and gets adopted across the country to help the students learn more as well as cut down on the number of books they need. If you think this idea has merit, suggest it to your local schools and see what kind of impact you can have on the lives of children in your community!