iPods and English-Language Learners: A Great Combination

By Patten, Kathryn B.; Craig, Dorothy Valcarcel | Teacher Librarian, June 2007 | Go to article overview

iPods and English-Language Learners: A Great Combination


Patten, Kathryn B., Craig, Dorothy Valcarcel, Teacher Librarian


Four action research studies were conducted, focusing on using Apple iPods with English-language learners (ELLs) to promote reading, writing, and listening The action research projects were conducted in two elementary schools and two middle schools in rural and urban locations. The findings indicate that overall writing skills and vocabulary development improved in three studies, and one study reported a significant increase in comprehension skills as measured by standardized tests.

Cummins (2000) suggests that educators acknowledge the fundamental changes that information technology brings to society and seek ways to use its power for transformative purposes. Teacher-librarians are well aware of the positive effect that technology has brought to the library; the iPod is one of those technologies. Considering the large number of immigrant students entering public schools, one cannot overlook the potential value of the iPod in assisting students who are entering a new school environment, learning English as a second language, and becoming familiar with a new cultural environment. The task and challenge of working with ELLs is compounded by the fact that many are not familiar with the structure of U.S. schools, nor are they familiar with the cultural tools that U.S. students typically utilize. Cultural tools are those items and symbol systems that allow people in a society to communicate, think, solve problems, and create knowledge (Vygotsky, 1993; Woolfolk, 2006).

TECHNOLOGY AND ELLS

By empowering ELLs to take control over the direction of their learning, managing the speed of their learning, maintaining their own pace, and developing their own identity as English speakers, they are more easily integrated into academic and social worlds.

In a recent article that appeared in THE Journal, Briggs (2006) poses the question "What makes a particular technology suddenly popular For classroom use?" (p. 1). A convergence of factors creates a product that becomes viable For use in the classroom. These factors include a savvy vendor, a good distribution system, a willing consumer base, and the right technological tool. The iPod is an example of popular technology that has the potential for academic application. Recently, iPods have invaded teaching and learning as digital methods replace traditional methods of delivering information. Podcasting, for example, enables teachers to upload lectures, materials, and presentations to a Podcasting service, where students can then download the information to their own iPod or MP3 player. This format has several advantages, including allowing students to repeat lectures at their convenience, enabling ELLs to replay lectures to assist in increasing comprehension, assisting students with exam and material review, and allowing instructors and faculty to listen to their own lectures to improve practice (Gilroy, 2006).

Teachers are experimenting with integrating iPods into instruction by creating their own Podcasts for student use. In addition, classroom teachers are experimenting with having students create Podcast presentations to share and critique. Other ELL uses in the K- 12 setting include using the iPod as a language lab to record vocabulary, conduct question-and-answer conversations, check pronunciation, and store language exercises for instant replay (Becket & Vento, 2005).

Using an iPod as a delivery method is a natural fit for a teacher-librarian. Because Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (American Association of School Librarians & Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1998) includes technology literacy as a component of information skills, the teacher-librarian employs various technologies in lessons. This tool is a natural fit for a collaborative venture with classroom teachers, providing an enticement to engage teachers with the library skills curriculum. This type of project affects other aspects of school librarianship. …

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iPods and English-Language Learners: A Great Combination
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