Treatise on Audio Books

One of my all time favorite bloggers, Pernille Ripp, wrote about audio books, a pet topic for me: “Why Audio Books in the Classroom?” (Read this, but read all of her blog. It’s wonderful.)

I cannot believe I haven’t written about audio books before. They have been a huge part of my family’s life for the last 10 years, and is what started me on the path to working in education technology.

boxcarIt all started on a car trip. The kids were little (probably 8 & 5 years old) and antsy. We stopped at a bookstore. I spotted a CD of The Boxcar Children. Aha! Perfect for a car trip. The kids were hooked, and our adventure with audio books began.

My daughter has never liked to read – with her eyes. She was not a natural reader, she has never liked to read. It has always been a struggle. However – as Ms Ripp describes her student doing, my daughter INHALED audio books. We couldn’t keep up – it involved many trips to the library and finding affordable books on CD (and yes, even on cassette!) The arrival of the iPod and downloadable audio books was a game changer.

Yet, we still struggled to get school to accept audio books as books. My daughter’s 4th grade teacher flat out told us they didn’t count. Well, I flat out lied about it on those stupid reading logs we were supposed to do. (This teacher wouldn’t let kids read graphic novels either, but that’s another post.)

Thank goodness for the 5th grade teacher who not only accepted, but encouraged the audio books! Turns out her daughter is legally blind and consumes audio books at an amazing rate. At that point, the audio books were written into the 504, and although we have had to keep fighting for acceptance, we had documentation in our court. My daughter now gets all her college books in an audio version and it’s not an issue.

I get why people struggled to accept audio books as legitimate, but it’s time to change. The skills of listening to a text are just as necessary as reading with your eyes. Just as the world is moving quickly to more visual literacy (meaning learning to “read” images, data visualizations, etc.,) we also need to teach audio skills. We get information in so many ways now that we cannot limit it to reading with our eyes.

It is always expected that my daughter has a print book in front of her while she listens. She can’t do that. She needs to have her fingers busy. While listening, she often does a puzzle, knits or plays sudoku. It’s how she listens deeply. We’ve learned that this is how she learns best — not the way school thinks she should learn. I think the visual decoding is really difficult and distracting for her.

Sometimes, my son does listen to a book with the print book in front of him, if he’s doing heavy reading for school. He takes notes, marks the text. It’s how he learns. For him, using both audio and visual works.

One of my recent work projects  was producing a digital curriculum. We fought hard to have all the text narrated by professional actors. And guess what — it is probably the biggest selling point of the digital product. When we did early testing, I had the opportunity to test it with all levels of readers. Even the “high” readers – those reading far above grade level – loved the audio. It isn’t just for “special ed” (I HATE that term) or kids with LDs.

Give them a shot — while I love reading the Harry Potter series, I also love listening to Jim Dale read it to me. And how about celebrity bios? Nothing funnier than listening to Ellen DeGeneris reading you her book, or nothing more enjoyable than listening to Rob Lowe read his. Seriously. Try it.

 

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Communication vs. Writing

This blog is a great place to story some of my other writing. Here is another response I wrote for the MOOC, “The Art of Teaching History.” The prompt in this case was, “What are the obstacles to teaching writing?”

Communication isn’t just writing

The prompt this week is about obstacles to helping students become better writers. I certainly support helping our students become better writers, but I feel there is a gaping hole in the conversation in the videos. Our old definition of writing is the obstacle. We must think about communication, not just writing.

The videos solely address formal, academic writing. Journals, when assigned, are still an academic writing exercise. As a few threads here have addressed, the world has shifted, and students are exposed to many different types of communication media: Twitter, blogs, videos, Tumblrs, Instagram, etc. The list is endless and ever changing.

I am glad to see a few threads here addressing the issue I see. Some of the threads here are disturbing, because the blame for students not being able to write is being placed on our students and their use of technology/digital information. That is simply not fair to our students, and shows a lack of being able to think forward. We cannot continue to live in the past and expect students to perform in school the way we, as adults, were taught. We — the adults — need to also learn from where the world is going.

I am not saying students shouldn’t learn to analyze and evaluate. They need to learn to communicate their thoughts and knowledge, including this analysis and evaluation. It is our expectations of how they communicate this that must change. Is the standard 5 paragraph essay still necessary? What about a 90 second video? A powerpoint/prezi or some other presentation? It takes more skills to communicate visually. They must still get their ideas out in an orderly manner. They must make a thesis and support these ideas. Using visuals, doing a presentation, or some other mode of communication is JUST as valuable — and perhaps in our increasingly visual world — MORE important than just being able to write.

Teaching other modes of communication also allow us to differentiate the classroom, and perhaps allow students to shine in different ways. We cannot limit our world to text. Students with certain learning disabilities or those who are creative/artisitic may show you a different side of themselves when presented with the opportunity to use other modes of communication. Students who are well versed in writing are done a disservice if they are not encouraged to explore other modes of communication.

Writing is merely the beginning. By limiting ourselves in teaching history to this mode of communication, we limit our students.

Video

Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context – YouTube

I love John Green. He talks so fast, I think he gets in twice as much info as anyone else….

I cannot evaluate the content in this video, as I know next to nothing about the situation in Ukraine.

I do know, however, that John Green has nailed how students – and adults – learn. I learned more about the situation in this 6 minute video (which I watched twice) than I have in the last few weeks.

Green makes great use of using history to understand a current situation. There is really no way to understand what’s going on there without knowing the history, but he does a great job moving through the essentials, and demonstrating how history, geography and politics all contribute to the current situation.

Wouldn’t it be great if students were empowered to do this type of assignment? Not only does video production require writing (like a paper), it also requires visual literacy skills. Yeah! 21st century skills!

Professionally, I would love to be able to produce content out this quickly as it relates to current events. I’m not keeping my fingers crossed….

My Case For Social Media and Technology Use In School

This is a great post about why schools should use social media and tech. The points made here are excellent — and to me, it’s a no brainer. I’m really not sure why my kids’ schools find this so difficult.
I was even more excited to find another parent blogging about these topics! The parent voice is not very present in most of these discussions, except on the Twitter chat #ptchat (this blogger is a big part of that chat.) George Couros advocated for increased parent voice/presence in a presentation at the #TIES13 conference in Minneapolis in December. I agree, and am happy to find other parents in the conversation.

ParentSchoolPartners

www.sxc.hu hand_on_keyboard

Today, yet again, I have heard people question if and why we should be using various pieces of technology and social media in school. It has been almost 40 years since personal computers were successfully marketed and sold to the general public. It has been over 20 years since the “world wide web” (www) was launched. It has been 10 years since the launch of Facebook and 7 years since the first iPhone was released. These things will continue to evolve in capabilities and how they are used – but they are not going away.

Besides the fact that we are supposed to be educating our children for tomorrow’s world, here are the reasons I can  think of off the top of my head as to why social media  is of importance in our schools (some of it relates to tech – but honestly, I think it’s a no-brainer as to…

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TIES Day 2, Many Days Later

Over a week later, here are the highlights of TIES#13, Day 2:

Session 1

Great session on “The STEM of Social Studies” by Elk River teacher Ron Hustvedt. Ron teaches 6th grade social studies in a STEM school, and I was overjoyed to watch him compare the work of historians to the scientific method! Ron said, “Inquiry is the scientific method” and showed how doing the work of a historian mimics the work of a scientist. It is an important perspective to share in this world that values tested subjects over the humanities.

My session

I presented a poster along with Craig Roble on our favorite topic, digital primary sources. Here’s our poster description:

A win-win situation: museum curators + creative educators = great digital content for your classroom. Learn how collaborating with local history organizations can benefit you and your students.

This is my second poster session, and I think I’ll stick with that format for awhile. It is tons of fun to talk with people, rather than talk at them. We had 15 people or so stop by, and had some really good conversations.

One teacher asked if MNHS will translate primary source documents into other languages. This is not something we can do, for a variety of reasons. (It’s expensive, way too many documents, and then the document is no longer actually a primary source!) We suggested she use visual primary sources with her students learning English. There are many powerful activities you could do with students using photographs or objects that don’t rely on strong English reading skills. For many native English speakers younger than high school, reading primary source written documents is a challenge. Use visuals! This seemed to be a new idea to many of the teachers who were talking with us. Hopefully they’ll try it! We definitely see teachers focusing on written primary sources.

Image

Pinterest Board with links to Digital Primary Source resources

We know teachers want new sources and places to find digital primary sources. Craig and I started a Pinterest board linking to various resources. It’s not a perfect solution, but we really liked the visual nature of Pinterest vs. a Google doc with a list of links.

 

Parent Session

George Couros presented a session, “Involving Parents in the Process of Learning.” See next post for a more detailed discussion of this powerful and motivating talk.

Writing with New Tools

A recent study by Pew Research (summary article by MindShift) finds teachers of higher level students feel that the opportunities offered by using technology in writing improves students writing. Students (and adults) need to learn how to write in formal as well as informal voices. Teaching writing with technology tools allows for sharing, an authentic audience, teaching of voice, as well as copyright.

HT to Jennifer Carey for this study. I’ll be referencing this in a letter I’m about to send to the superintendant of my local school. This type of writing is not only not happening in the school my daughter attends, but it is actively discouraged.