June 14th, 2010

Using MP3s as a Teaching Tool for College English Classes

By:

My recent foray into using MP3s to teach college level English classes came out of my need to reach more of my non-traditional students. I saw a trend developing where more adults than ever were seeking a college education or even returning to college to change careers, and it only followed that I had a responsibility as an instructor to try and reach these students. It also became apparent in my classroom that I wanted to not only reach, but to retain these non-traditional students who seemed to become easily frustrated with the more traditional lecture and textbook methods.

I started to work with a variety of teaching methods, which encompasses more of the visual, auditory, and even the kinesthetic learners. I found that most of my younger students had grown up with a computer in their homes and in their classrooms; however, my older students struggled with the whole idea of computer-based learning.

My dilemma was how to reach and retain both the traditional-age and adult students, while adding value to their classroom experience. I needed a method that utilized technology that was readily accessible by my students. What I discovered was that music was the key.

Because almost all of my students listen to music on their iPods® (or even on their computers) I decided to try to use MP3s as an additional teaching tool. After a bit of trial and error with my scripts from my lecture notes, I think I have something that really gets my students excited.

I discovered that by highlighting only the key points, I could condense my podcasts down to about three minutes, which seems to be what my students expect on an MP3. After all, they are accustomed to listening to songs that are about two-to-three minutes in length, and I found going over that was not conducive to the students. So instead of one long lecture, I simply broke it up into three-minute segments. Then, they could “tune in” to the part that they were having trouble with as they were reviewing their writing topics.

Most didn’t need to review the entire class, usually just one or two key concepts. For those students who wanted to review more, the main lecture notes were there, just in “bite-size” pieces. It’s become something that they are not only utilizing for review, but are talking about outside of class as well. I am excited to see how this will develop in the rest of my English classes as well. Who would have ever thought that my teaching preparation would now include a studio session as well?

Vicki E. Phillips is an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Austin, TX.