The Harrington School of Communication a

May 15, 2012 by

The Harrington School of Communication and Media is hiring for a young scholar-practitioner in #Latino or #Caribbean #community #media — apply now!

Save the date: We’re screening and disc

March 26, 2012 by

Save the date: We’re screening and discussing “Miss Representation” March 28 in Kirk Center Aud #URI #RI #medialiteracy

Anyone in #RI up for learning more about

February 8, 2012 by

Anyone in #RI up for learning more about #copyright and #fairuse for #digital #learning? We’re scheduling a spring webinar for you to learn more. Call 401-874-4925 to learn more #edtech #medialiteracy Helps Migrant Students Use Audio Content to Learn

May 16, 2007 by

picking while listening

Teacher: Marty Jacobson

Students: Junior High through High School, ages 12-18

Audio Content: Latino USA, and Maestro: Greenspan’s Fed and the American Boom by Bob Woodward


In the summer of 2006, the Montana Migrant Education Program teamed up with to provide a unique opportunity to migrant students to learn even as they were helping their families earn a living in the sugar beet fields and cherry orchards of Montana. I work with migrant students in a 24 foot mobile computer lab that travels all over Montana during the summer. The junior high and high school students travel here from Texas and Washington to work in the sugar beet fields and cherry orchards, and they attend school in the evening. Many are working on finishing up credits because they had to move before the school year ended or are working on courses that they would usually take during summer school in their home district.

A big challenge in completing credits in a migrant summer school program is time. The migrant students typically work from sunrise to 3 or 4 in the afternoon and then come to night school for 3 hours. They are only in the state for a matter of weeks, but we have high expectations that they will finish their credit work (and most do finish at least one credit). But in order to deepen the learning experience and to give students the opportunity to finish more than one credit, it would help if they could work on some things outside of school time. Unfortunately, their work schedule makes that very difficult. With an audio book, however, the students can listen to school material while on the way to and from the work site and while on the bus to and from the school. Some were also able to listen while in the fields hoeing beets or in the orchards picking cherries.



Students complete course curriculum online during night school through a program that is recognized in their home state, and they work on credits that they need in order to graduate from high school. Many of the online courses contain an offline component as well. So that students wouldn’t miss out on any course time, the lessons I used fulfilled the offline course assignments. For an economics course, students needed to read a biography of an economist and write a report about the book. For a computer skills course, students needed to complete a PowerPoint presentation that included narration, audio clips and pictures.

For the economics course, the students listened to Maestro: Greenspan’s Fed and the American Boom by Bob Woodward. This biography was relatively short (4 hours 30 minutes) and it was about a contemporary economist. However, the vocabulary in the book was a little above the student’s level. So to help them along, I had them keep track of how vocabulary terms from an earlier lesson were used in the book. Then in their writing, they needed to use the terms correctly and show their impact on Alan Greenspan’s economics.

In the computer skills course, the students needed to produce a PowerPoint slide show. To give the assignment a cross-curricular component, I had the students create a show that other students could use independently to learn more about current Latino issues. I had them listen to Latino
USA, a National Public Radio program. They listened to several days’ material and then chose a story that they would like to know more about. Then they researched the story on the Internet and inserted additional information, relevant pictures and citations in their PowerPoint show. As an introduction to the issue, they used a clip from the original Latino USA story. To conclude they narrated a slide with their own conclusions they drew from the story and from the research they did.

Use of Technology:

The biggest challenge in the use of Technology was listening to long pieces on the iPod Shuffle. If students accidentally reset the Shuffle or ran it out of batteries, it would reset the position in the book back to the beginning. Then it took a long time to find where they had left off. If using an iPod shuffle, I would recommend listening to short pieces, but I’ve had better luck with the regular iPod for novels.


The students were successful in listening to and understanding some fairly difficult non-fiction material. They produced interesting work that showed that they had understood the non-fiction content and could work within the digital medium. Also, by using the audio books and news programs, I saw that students were less dependent on the structure of the authors when it came time to write a summary themselves. Because they couldn’t go back and copy what the author had written, they had to rely on their own understanding of the material and use their own words. This served as a great jumping off point for a discussion of summary versus plagiarism and how a good summary internalizes the main ideas but restates them in the student’s own voice.

For ESL Students, Audio Books Make Reading a Pleasure

May 6, 2007 by

Teacher: Vania Gulston

Students: Grade 12 History, ages 17 – 18

Audio Content: Momma’s Baby Daddy’s Maybe by Jamise L. Dames

Location: Fairhill Community High School, Philadelphia, PA


Vania Gulston, a high school history teacher, wanted to offer her students something exceptional during their silent reading time. She turned to Audible, and students got to experiment with iPod shuffles to listen to a fast-paced urban novel filled with secrets, facades, lust, sadness, shame and love.

Use of Technology/ Classroom Lesson

Vania Gulston teaches high school at a charter school with primarily African-American and Latino students. One of her classes is Sustained Silent Reading, where students are encouraged to read quietly for half an hour. She wanted to find a novel to interest her students in reading, and a friend told her that some African American urban dramas were engaging to her daughter. She turned to Audible’s African American fiction section to find a high-interest book for her students. She downloaded Momma’s Baby Daddy’s Maybe by Jamise L. Dames and bought a hard copy of the book to photocopy sections for her students to read along.

Due to technical difficulties, Ms. Gulston was not able to hear an audio sample before downloading the book. When she bought the hard copy, she was surprised to find that the book contained some adult content and she was concerned that it was inappropriate for the classroom. She found a chapter in the book that was suitable and copied it for her students to read along as they listened. Another surprise awaited her in the classroom; the chapter headings in the audio book did not correspond with the chapter headings in the hard copy of the book.

The students were enthralled with the iPod shuffles they were handed, and asked many questions about how the iPod worked, how many songs fit on it, and what else they could do with it. They pushed buttons and searched through the chapters on the device, but could not find the correct entry point into the story that matched with the text they were given. Some students gave up and read their own books, while others listened intently to the audio book. But because Ms. Gulston was not sure which part of the book they were listening to and felt that certain parts of the book should not be part of a classroom experience, she asked them to put the iPods down and stop listening. In spite of the confusion, the students were enthusiastic about the possibilities of the iPod as a learning device and about listening to books in general. One student, Jairo Reyes, said, “For Spanish-speaking people like me, this makes it a lot easier to read English.” Another student, Luis Quevas, was eager to learn more about how to access audio books. “This totally makes sense for students,” he said. “Listening to it catches you up, more than reading or listening to a teacher read. The narrator was really good and dramatic.” A couple of the students were even imagining an audio device where the text would appear on the screen to read along! “It’s great because you can go at your own pace,” Quevas said.


Ms. Gulston was unable to listen to an audio sample in advance, and thus discovered the nature of the material only after having downloaded it. She felt that a coding or rating system would help teachers like her differentiate between materials that were age and subject appropriate. “I would also like there to be a greater selection for Latino and African American teens,” she said, as some of the available young adult material would not appeal to her students.

In spite of the problems Ms. Gulston faced with the content, she still saw the potential in using audio books in the classroom. “Usually I have to keep looking up and telling the kids to read,” she said. “When they were listening to the audio book, I could tell they were really into it, and I wouldn’t have to watch them as closely.” She was also excited about her students’ responses. “They were very mature about it,” she said, “and some of my students really understood the potential of learning from the iPod. One student said the narrator made it easy to listen to the story and understand words. And if they didn’t get the meaning the first time, they could rewind and listen again.”

Teacher Quote

“I think the students can get a lot out of using the audio book, and I was really impressed with their responses to it.”

Student Quotes

“For Spanish-speaking people like me, this makes it a lot easier to read English.”

“Listening to http://books catches you up, more than reading or listening to a teacher read… It’s great because you can go at your own pace.”

Article about the benefits of listening on literacy

May 3, 2007 by

A Scripts Howard article is making the rounds this week with some good info on listening and literacy.  Some highlights:

Has your child listened to a good book lately?

Listening to books — on CD, cassette or downloaded into an MP3 player — not only is fun but also can help kids develop vocabulary and improve their reading fluency, because they can listen to more difficult books than they can read in printed form.

Listening to books is particularly helpful for children whose native language isn’t English or who have reading challenges. And it’s also a great way to spark the interest of reluctant readers, reading experts say.


Could parents make more quality time with kids?

May 2, 2007 by

Riding home on I-95 last weekend, I noticed the glow of a DVD in the SUV to our right. Three small heads appeared to be watching a movie and it made me wonder whether the family could be doing more with their time in the car. I must caveat that without children of my own, I haven’t yet needed the power of TV to calm the natives. Still, I couldn’t help but think that if they were listening to a book, like my husband and I were, they’d be doing something together and the children could be learning more. We always chat about the books we hear when we finish or when we stop for a bit; the family could do the same and expose kids not only to more stories, but how to think about them. As a teacher, I see the impact on children made by time spent and experiences shared with their parents. This time is so hard to find, but maybe there are opportunities like this. Children emulate their parents and the behaviors and attitudes that parents model affect children profoundly. If parents are lifelong learners, children will likely follow their lead.

Reluctant Readers Become Enthusiastic Participants

April 26, 2007 by

Teacher: Sarah Small

Students: Grade 11 English, ages 16-17

Audio Content: “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Location: Springfield Township High School, Erdenheim, PA



English teacher Sarah Small, an 11th-grade teacher from Springfield Township High School in Pennsylvania, had been teaching Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton’s 1911 novel about a troubled marriage. Ms. Small logged on to and downloaded the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman to immerse her students in turn-of-the-century gender relationships and to allow her more freedom to engage with students’ reading process.

Classroom Observation

As a complement to Ethan Frome, Ms. Small chose Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” about a sickly woman trapped in her marriage and descending into madness. To help students make connections between the short story and the novel, she handed out a copy of the story, a story grid to help students take notes while listening, and a set of discussion questions about the short story and its relationship to the novel.

Ms. Small paused the story every few pages and asked the students questions about the development of the main character and her relationship with her husband. “I knew they weren’t going to be able to just sit through a 26- minute story. I wanted to make sure they picked up on key elements and built on them,” Ms. Small said.

As the students listened, Ms. Small walked around the class and noted her students’ engagement and note-taking process. “I felt freed up in the classroom to do things I would normally not have the attention to do,” she said. When asked, students volunteered answers and traced the shifting relationships of the main character’s growing madness throughout the story. They noticed how the author shaped her characters and their relationships, and detected key moments foreshadowing the main character’s madness before they were exposed to the story’s shocking final scene. By discussing the story as the class listened to it, they could follow the story at the same pace and share their reactions as the tale developed. “It helps everyone stay on task and participate,” said Jimmy Barraclaugh, one of the students. When they listened to the final shocking scene, the room was filled with exclamations of surprise, from “wow!” to “weird!” It took the students a few minutes to adjust to the narration; the narrator had a lisp. As the story progressed, though, the narrator’s voice became an integral part of the character. Listening to the story also helped students with vocabulary words and reading comprehension. One of the students said, “I could almost hear the story playing in my head, which helped me answer some of the questions.”


Ms. Small noticed that her special needs students responded actively and eagerly to the story. They raised their hands more often and were engaged in listening to the story and following the text. The common experience invited everyone into the discussion. Reluctant readers became enthusiastic participants, as one of the barriers to accessing the literature was removed. One student, Anna Haines, told her parents about the experience and said, “My parents thought this was a wonderful aid to help teenagers like me, who may not enjoy reading so much, learn to like it.” As another complementary exercise for Ethan Frome, she showed her students the film version of the book. They immediately were caught up in the actors on screen, what other movies they played in, and other distractions. “They were able to stay more focused with the audio than when watching the movie,” Ms. Small observed. Listening to an audio book in the classroom freed Ms. Small to attend to her students and make sure they were paying attention and taking notes. It allowed her to think on her feet and jot down notes and questions about the story to share with her students. “It gave me the liberty to do more in the classroom,” she said. Ms. Small is continuing to use Audible for her English classes. She hooked students on The Great Gatsby by playing the first chapter in class; now they’re excited to go home and read the rest.

Teacher Quote

“I felt freed up in the classroom to do things I would normally not have the attention to do.”

Student Quote

“My parents thought this was a wonderful aid to help teenagers like me, who may not enjoy reading so much, learn to like it.”

Talking about Audio at the International Reading Association

April 25, 2007 by

Audio is on the agenda at the International Reading Association, the largest conference of literacy educators in the world.

Brian Fitzgerald and I will be presenting a session at the International Reading Association in Toronto on Thursday, May 17 entitled, “Using Audio Books to Promote Critical Literacy.” We’ll be sharing results from our work with teachers’ use of audiobooks— you’re seeing some examples from this work on this blog.

In addition, Kelli Esteves from Acquinas College will be making a presentation on “Audio-Assisted Reading With Audiobooks” on Wednesday, May 16, where she will provide specific techniques for using audio-assisted reading with audiobooks to improve attitudes and increase fluency for struggling readers.

At the conference on Monday May 14 at 11 am, Renee will offer a book signing for her book, Reading the Media: Media Literacy in High School English (Teachers College Press, 2007) at the TC Booth. She’ll also be on a panel discussion about the new book she co-edited entitled Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Visual and Communicative Arts on Tuesday, May 15 at 1 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Bringing Scientific and Social Issues Alive with Authentic Voices

April 25, 2007 by

Teacher: Meghan Nolan, Grade 6 Math & Science Teacher

Students: Grade 6, ages 11 – 12

Audio Content: Talk of the Nation Science Friday, September 12, 2000

Location: Ethical Cultural Fieldston School, Bronx, NY



As part of a unit on hydrology, Meghan Nolan’s science students ran experiments on model rivers in the science lab, investigating the impact of human manipulation of natural streams. Ms. Nolan wanted students to connect the lab experience with real, current issues in order to strengthen their understanding and sense of purpose. She also wanted to broaden their sense of environmental issues while fostering their developing sense of ethics.

Ms. Nolan has found that, often, written material on science created for this age is too simple to spark real engagement and learning, while the vocabulary of news reports and scientific analysis of natural phenomena is often too sophisticated. Therefore, to achieve her goal of engaging students in a meaningful way, Ms. Nolan chose to use an NPR Talk of the Nation/Science Friday radio debate about the proposed intentional flooding of the Missouri River. Ms. Nolan structured a series of lessons in which students listened, took notes, discussed and debated among themselves. At the end, students produced short public service announcements to state their opinions while referencing their experimental results and notes from the audio program.


Use of Technology

Ms. Nolan downloaded six copies of the Science Friday piece, one to her desktop and five to school laptops. She also downloaded copies to six school-owned mp3 players as well as some of her students’ personal mp3 players. Using computers and mp3 players along with a set of computer speakers, headphones and headphone splitters, she was able to deliver all of her lessons efficiently. Most students were familiar with iTunes and the devices; what would have made the experience even simpler would have been if the program could have been “bookmarked” by the teacher so students could go directly to a particular part.

Classroom Observation

Ms. Nolan split up the Audible content into five separate lessons, each focusing on a segment ranging from 10 to 20 minutes. For the first three lessons, students listened in a group setting as Ms. Nolan played the content through speakers attached to her laptop. This allowed Ms. Nolan to stop, clarify and discuss the program as needed for each group. Ms. Nolan gave students a term bank, a list of speakers in the order in which they appear, and a chart to help students record key points in the debate. During these sessions, it was clear that students were engaged and working to listen to each point. At some points, students needed to stop roughly every couple of minutes to sort out and debate the points being made. Although students needed some clarification on the language of the debate, they were willing to voice their questions, especially those who are often passive during discussion. Listening also leant itself well to discussion after the listening exercises; and students felt comfortable paraphrasing, which showed that they understood these sophisticated arguments. At the end of each of these sessions, students worked in groups to chart the key points. For homework, they were asked to write questions they would have asked the debaters had they been in the room.

For the final two lessons, students listened on their own or with a partner (using a headphone splitter) and were able to stop, start and relisten as they needed. Some students chose to work alone while others preferred to collaborate and make decisions with a partner. Ms. Nolan was unsure about students’ ability to listen on their own to such challenging content, but she was pleasantly surprised overall. Students who were comfortable with the issues and format were able to listen on their own, take meaningful notes and present key points in discussion afterwards. Other students either worked with a partner or checked in with Ms. Nolan to process and clarify. Ms. Nolan checked in on every student and found that she was able to support the students who needed help as others worked independently. A few students had taken such an interest in the issues at hand that several worked outside of class to research how the issues had evolved in the past six years and presented their findings to the class.



Ms. Nolan felt that her 6th graders were deeply engaged in this exercise. She found that, compared to students’ typical level of engagement with classroom activities, students more actively developed an understanding of the scientific principles through their comments and questions about the audio program. The social nature of the subject – the flooding of the Missouri River – allowed students the opportunity to hear real voices and language in context. This mix seemed to lower the barrier to discussion for many kids who often remain quiet. The students took more risks than usual with respect to the vocabulary they chose and concepts they described. Ms. Nolan observed that students showed a deeper concern for the people introduced and issues described in the program compared to when they have been tasked with reading textual material supporting their lab experiments. The combination of the audio program, support material and starting with a group listening exercise created an effective scaffold to allow students to effectively listen to the final two lessons independently.

Teacher Quote:

“In our fall unit we study hurricanes, and students struggle with the language in daily storm updates. This debate also contained challenging language and concepts, but students were willing to discuss it, take risks on repeating words and seek clarification in a way that they weren’t with written text.”

“I am most surprised by how genuinely concerned students are with the issues. My students are from the New York area, have no experience with agricultural life and little awareness of how they rely on rivers, even though they are surrounded by them. Hearing the voices of farmers explain how a simple change to the river could affect their lives so dramatically had a powerful impact and made the issue real to my students.”