Texas A&M Education Students Explore Podcasts as Learning Tools

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Texas A&M faculty member Robin Rackley recently challenged her students to create podcasts for use in the classroom.

I heard a lot of feedback like 'we're never going to use that,' 'that's not even being done,' or 'who has time for that?'

Who doesn't like using an iPod? They're fun, sleek and trendy.

They also fit easily into a kindergartner's small hand and serve as a learning tool.

That's right--a learning tool.

Recently, Robin Rackley, clinical assistant professor in early childhood education in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture (TLAC) in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University, challenged education students in her language-arts methods class to create a podcast based on a piece of literature appropriate to the grade level they will be teaching.

"I heard a lot of feedback like 'we're never going to use that,' 'that's not even being done,' or 'who has time for that?'" Rackley recalled.

Rackley did some investigation and discovered a teacher in the College Station Independent School District who uses podcasts and iPods in her kindergarten classroom.

Pam Beard, a teacher at Forest Ridge Elementary School, has been using iPods as a learning tool for her students since the beginning of this school year. Last February, she attended a technology convention where she got the idea.

"I wrote a grant for the Education Foundation here in College Station and was awarded $1,000 to buy four iPods for the classroom. I spent all summer making video and podcasts for use in the classroom," Beard said.

The kindergarteners were excited to have the iPods in their classroom.

"I think they feel very grown up using them," Beard said.

Rackley arranged for her education students to take a "virtual" field trip to Beard's classroom, so that Beard could demonstrate how she uses the iPods with her kindergarteners. Via webcam and Skype, an Internet program that allows users to speak with each other, the students could watch Beard in action and ask questions.

"At first I was very apprehensive," said senior education major Bethany Snyder. "I thought creating a podcast would be very time-consuming and difficult, but once a classmate showed me how to use Audacity [a software program for recording podcasts], my fears were eliminated."

Students produced 57 podcasts, some of which have sound effects, featuring different children's stories. The podcasts include a range of learning activities, such as telling time to working with manipulatives.

The students' finished podcasts will be put to good use.

"Not only did the project benefit our students, who got to see this technology being used in a classroom, but it also benefited the teacher, who will get the use of these podcasts in her classroom," Rackley said.

In addition to iPods, Beard has also shown Rackley's students how she utilizes other technologies, such as The Flip digital video camera, in her classroom.

Senior education majors Allison Flores and Sara McDaniel were so impressed with the classroom possibilities of The Flip camera, they wrote and submitted a grant proposal to TLAC Department Head Dennie Smith. They were awarded the grant money to purchase two cameras to practice using the technology.

"Once we were able to practice with the camera, I was able to see just how easy it is to record and transfer to the computer," Flores said. "Flip cameras can come into use for all grade levels, whether it is recording a child reading or recording a group presenting a project."

Experience with the technologies sold McDaniel on the idea of using them as learning tools.

"I definitely see myself using Flip cameras as well as podcasts in my classroom," she said.

Writer: Kara Sutton-Jones, 979.845.1823

Contact: Robin Rackley, 979.862.6444

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Kara Sutton-Jones

Robin Rackley
Texas A&M University System
979.862.6444
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