The Academy

The Academy

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Multi-media Learning

Not often do I get motivated to write a blog entry on a single, relatively simple, idea. This is an exception. Around TA there's been lots of technology related discussion lately. Should we start our tablet/laptop program in 5th grade? Should we allow families to purchase their own laptops as long as it meets our specifications? Is the timing right to insist that all classes 7-12 have e-texts? These are valuable questions to ask, and discussions have been provocative.

One idea that has come up in these discussions is that simultaneously reading and listening to text can substantially improve comprehension. The idea of multi-sensory learning of this kind is not new by any stretch of the imagination and has been proven again and again in empirical research to work. So, what's new?

In a word, “Access.” In a few words, “Easy access to digital technology.” Essentially, what I am saying is that most books students read, whether as an e-text or in traditional paper form, are now available as audio books. Most people know this is true of novels. For example, prior to the start of school I went to iTunes and within 10 minutes had purchased and shared audio versions of all my son's required readings for English class. He has read and listened throughout the year and I know, based on the nature of the material and his past performance in English class, that this has had a dramatic, positive impact on his learning, his grade and his enjoyment of the class.

Most people know that's it's easy to get the audio versions of popular novels and non-fiction materials but what most do not know is that there are places to get audio versions of most every high school text book as well. The site www.learningalley.org is a repository for thousands of audio text books. Originally developed, and still primarily used, for learners with reading disabilities, the site is becoming increasingly popular and accessible to learners without a specific deficit because of the simple fact that almost any learner benefits from this type of multi-sensory learning experience. Subscriptions are relatively inexpensive at $99 annually for a family. But if you're thinking about purchasing a subscription, you might want to wait because TA will be purchasing a school license next year.

Sometimes it’s difficult to assess the direct impact of technology on academic performance. In fact, no study that I have ever come across makes the claim that the implementation of a certain technology by itself increases academic performance. Multi-sensory learning, however, made easier in some cases by using technology, has been shown to positively impact academic performance...so the role of technology is more aptly described as a gateway for real improvement.


I would love to read your thoughts.

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