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« Exploring ICTland at Language Show 2006 | Main | Playing around with PowerPoint and the Drawing toolbar »



I posted some time ago about how the Duke iPod experiment had, for wont of another word, been a failure. In the first two years most students used their iPods to download music and didn't even use the calendar or organiser functions. What the languages department has done is good, but by no means exceptional given the investment Apple and the university had put in to making the hardware ubiquitous.

The same errors have been repeated, unfortunately, elsewhere in the schools sector. Where lots of money appears there sometimes seems to be a disproportionate lack of time and effort spent thinking about how these tools could be genuinely useful.

Am I being pessimistic? I hope so, but haven't yet seen large-scale examples of schools or universities making a success of iPods per se for learning. Now, making podcasts for consumption... that's another question... ;-)

Hi Ewan,

Here are three interviews

you refer to in your blog post 'Podcasting invades Higher Education' which certainly give an insight on the iPod project:

I agree it seems that the students are more interested with the iPods as a way of playing and storing their music collections rather than as a learning tool. The staff on the other hand discuss their intentions of first creating a culture of using iPods to enhance learning and then to target specific courses that have proven benefits of their use.

In the iPod project webcast referred to in my original post, there is a piechart which shows that Languages are the faculty that use the iPods the most.

The point of my article was to give practical examples of how the Spanish department at Duke University are using iPods to enhance language learning and provide food for thought to colleagues interested in following suit.

It is clear there have been setbacks although from the evidence I've come across I wouldn't describe the program as being a failure. On the contrary it appears to highlight the learning benefits of iPods as a way of extending learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom.

As we both know mistakes have to be made for learning to take place. I would argue that this experiment has been very costly and a little unfocused to begin with, yet it has been worthwhile, particularly for the languages faculty.

Best wishes


It comes as no surprise to me that simply making podcasts available to language students is not effective per se. Thinking back to my days as a language centre director, we had a similar experience when satellite TV first became available. “Wow! What a great resource!” we thought. But students, left to their own devices, did not get a lot out of watching TV. So we introduced generic worksheets into the satellite TV viewing room. We had one for recordings of news broadcasts. It was just one sheet of A4, which the students filled in and handed in to language centre staff. On the sheet were a few simple tasks, such as:
1. Write down the headlines of the main news items that you viewed in the broadcast.
2. Write down 10 new words or phrases that you learned. (Students usually borrowed a dictionary from the language centre at the same time as they borrowed the video recording, so they could look up new words and phrases.)
3. Write down a summary of the news item that interested you most and why.
The worksheets were not marked by language teaching staff. They were mainly intended to be a means of focusing students’ attention, but teaching staff would pick completed worksheets at random and offer feedback to students. This resulted in a marked improvement in the way students used satellite TV recordings. Our local comprehensive school has adopted a similar strategy. Students file the completed worksheets in a portfolio which their teachers can view at any time. It's highly motivating!

Hi Graham,

Thanks for your detailed advice. I agree that students need to have a purpose to listen to the recordings made by their teachers or native speakers. Having written support also can help those students who have different learning preferences. For example, in the Duke iPod project, students could access text files to support their learning as well as refer to workbooks, textbooks and other reading material.

For audio or video recordings to be worthwhile learning tools, they need to be clearly targeted for the needs of the listeners. It seems to me that that is what the Spanish department were trying to do at Duke.

Duke has a long-standing reputation in CALL. The WINCALIS authoring package for CALL was produced at Duke.

It's a pity that so little attention is paid to the integration of ICT into the curriculum. This it the theme of EUROCALL 2006 in Granada, Spain, which takes place early next week:
Remember you can join the Virtual Strand online:
Over 100 people from all over the world have already signed up for the Virtual Strand.

Module 2.1 at the ICT for Language Teachers website is all about integration, but it is the least visited module out of the 16 modules, whereas the technical modules dealing with hardware and multimedia are the most visited:

Since I first got involved in ICT in the mid-1970s the "wow!" factor has exercised more of an influence on teachers than thinking seriously about the ways in which ICT could improve on traditional resources and approaches. I just looked back at my first EUROCALL conference presentation in 1987. It was entitled "Integrating CALL into the Languages Curriculum". Interesting, especially in view of this year's conference theme, "Integrating CALLinto Study Programmes". Plus ça change?

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