10/01/2007

Using Technology to Boost Kids’ Education

By Edward E. Moody, Jr.

"Irregardless is not a word" my kindergartener said. I responded, "Where did you learn that?" He said, "From my iPod" as if he were surprised that I had to ask. Then he said, "Dad where did you learn that irregardless is not a word?" I had to admit that I learned that in college. I remember the event well. I was sitting in Philosophy 101 when a student used the word in an apparent effort to appear bright and erudite. He failed. The professor responded, "Irregardless is not a word. Think about it. If it were, what would regardless mean?" Oh, the good old days when one had to obtain such information at the hands of their professors. Now there is a wealth of information at our fingertips. While many youth today use an iPod or MP3 player to catch the latest tunes, these items do have some important educational value—even for a kindergartener.

Falling in Love with an iPod

I must admit, I was suspicious when the Dean of my school gave me an iPod to look at ways it could be used for educational purposes. In the training from Apple I learned about iTunes. This free software can be downloaded by going to www.apple.com/itunes/. At the iTunes Store I found everything that everyone else finds. One could buy the latest music, movies or TV shows with ease. But there are also tabs for iTunes U where one can get classes and lectures from various institutions of higher education. There is also a tab for Podcasts. If you select "Podcast" you will find that there are many categories of podcasts that are available. I selected the category education. At the bottom of that tab there were five types of educational podcasts listed: Higher Education, K-12 Education, Educational Technology, Language Courses, and Training. Each category contained a wealth of information. For example, after selecting K-12 education I found a menu of the top K-12 podcasts that were available. When I selected "see all" I found the top one hundred podcasts in that category. All were free!

A Cool Tool

Pretty soon my fifth grader began to ask for an iPod. I suppose everyone else seemed to have an iPod or an MP3 player so it was the cool thing to have. Little did she know that I wanted her to have one, not because it was cool but because it could be used as a tool. We set up a plan for her to earn one. When the time came I gave it to her, preloaded with some selected podcasts. I did the same for my kindergartener. My goal was simple, get them access to valuable information at a very young age.

I wonder how my Spanish would be if I'd had numerous lessons at my disposal. I remembered preparing for the GRE. How neat it would have been to have had the podcast Just Vocabulary or Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day at my disposal. IPods and MP3 players can be used to help with the acquisition of other languages, expansion of vocabulary and several other skills. Many of us work in career counseling settings with youth that need to boost their scores on the GRE or SAT. Interestingly, the podcasts that follow can be used proactively with younger children and remedially with those who are older.

Some Tools You Can Use

Below is an overview of the Podcasts I loaded on my kids' iPods You can find these podcasts in iTunes under the education section. You can also go online and track them there without the iTunes software if you would like. Yes, these tools help the child's education, and think of how happy employers will be if their young workers are better skilled in writing and math!

The Princeton Review Vocab Minute
My absolute favorite vocabulary podcast is the Princeton Review Vocab Minute. It's was in episode nine called "Common Mistakes" that my son learned that irregardless was not a word. Their premise is that you learn what you've heard. Be sure to check out our favorite called "Bene" which is episode fourteen.

Just Vocabulary
The podcast Just Vocabulary involves teaching two words a day. These are short podcasts (around four minutes). This would be a good tool for students learning English as a second language as well as preparation for the verbal sections of aptitude tests.

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day
This is a quick presentation of one word in less than two minutes. This podcast seems to be especially helpful with pronunciation.

Grammar Girl
There are a number of "Quick and Dirty Tip" podcasts out there. One is about grammar. It is Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. This podcast involves tips about writing that would probably help us all.

Is All About Math (video podcast)
So, do you need some help with math? There is a video podcast on iTunes that can help. To watch this you would need to have a player with video capability or watch and listen to it on the computer.

ePrep Who wouldn't want a little extra preparation for the SAT? Check out ePrep. They have audio and video podcasts that can help meet your needs.

Kaplan's College-Bound Podcast
Who wouldn't appreciate some test prep from Kaplan—for free? Check out their brief podcasts (less than fifteen minutes) for the inside track.

Specific Tools for Career Counseling

Suppose you are working with students that need more information about careers to go into. There are many resources for them as well. Check out the career podcasts below. Although these podcasts are largely designed for college students and adults in the "real world," they can help show students what they have to look forward to.

Find Your Ideal Career Podcast
This podcast provides practical advice designed for college students to help them find their ideal career.

Career Center
The Duke University Career Center has provided podcast about topics that include getting a better education tips for networking and career fairs.

Job Dig
This podcast provides tips about job searching and how to get a job (e.g., negotiating salaries, preparing for an interview).

Monster Podcast: Career Advice
This podcast consists of interviews on important topics like networking, interviewing and negotiating.

How can you get an iPod or MP3 player for education purposes?

If you are an educator you can try to purchase an iPod by going to http://store.apple.com/. Look at the bottom of the page and select education discounts. You could also talk to a distributor in your area about a grant possibility. However, you do not have to have an iPod or MP3 player to use podcasts. You could download the podcasts to your computer and save them to a CD to distribute to your students. They could listen to the podcasts on any CD player.


Edward E. Moody, Jr
. is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Counselor Education at North Carolina Central University. He can be reached at emoody@nccu.edu.


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