How many times do we as educators look at students with earbuds in as being tuned out? It’s time for a mindshift. As with cellphones, a change in thinking on our part can turn into a change in learning on the part of our students.
Why on earth would we take a tool that they love to use, that engages them for a large part of the day, and tell them to pack it away? Maybe because we can’t monitor it? That seems to be a fear for a large number of teachers- if I use digital audio, I have no way of knowing whether my students are listening to the podcast I have assigned, or the music they’d rather hear.
I’d ask you to think of this from the common sense point of view. How do you know that a student holding a pencil is writing notes about class and not notes to their BFF? That’s right, you don’t. But it doesn’t keep you from asking them to use the pencil.
The missing link here is content. If the content you ask students to listen to is relevant, if it matters to the classroom task at hand, and if it is truly valuable, you will have a better chance of students tuning in. This isn’t just for digital audio- this is best practice for any of your teaching.
Take a poll in class. Ask how many students have an iPod or similar device. You will find that the majority of students value their music and have made it a priority to have a handy device available to carry it around. Time to take advantage! Since they are already used to an audio world, add sources that address your content. This link from Mission to Learn by Jeff Cobb gives you “10 Killer Content Sources for Your iPod Mix.” Take a look at what he offers- in fact, explore his blog! See what works with your content for your classroom.