Last winter 125 Zunes were handed out to students in two U.S. schools – 100 at a New Mexico High School and 25 at a Missouri Junior High. The Zunes were given out in exchange for research data provided by the schools on how helpful the Zunes were in the classroom. Teachers were encouraged to create podcasts for the devices for their students to listen to, and, those that identified 20 podcasts to support their lesson plans as well as create 5 of their own received a $400 bonus. The full results of the case study will be released after this summer’s National Education Computing Conference, but for now, the reaction is somewhat mixed.
Foreign language teachers reported it was really helpful to have their students using the devices to help with vocabulary and pronunciations, but another teacher cited concerns about the devices not being used for studying at all. The students responded that, of course they were enjoying listening to music and trading songs, but they also insisted that they were using the Zunes to study, too.
Personally, I don’t see why the Zunes can’t be used for both entertainment and education. Just because a Zune lets you watch TV, listen to music, and listen to podcasts, that doesn’t mean that the academic aspects have no value simply because the devices can be used for fun, too.
I don’t imagine the students were allowed to keep the earplugs in during class, anyway, so who cares if they’re using them in between classes or after school to listen to music? If there are educational benefits to the devices, why not encourage their use?
Today’s students have grown up with technology all around them, so whether teachers like it or not, a lot of their education is already coming from digital media - for example, instead of books, students often use the internet for research and instead of magazines, they surf the web for the latest news. So why not enhance a traditional class with after-hours podcasts? This could be especially helpful for students struggling in a particular area of their studies. By being provided with educational podcasts, they could then play back the course, lecture, or guides created by the teacher at home, on their own time. Maybe the Zunes don’t need to literally be in the classroom…or in the halls either…that’s up the school to decide. But please, keep the podcasts coming!