published Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Podcasts power up learning in LaFayette

  • photo
    Photo by correspondent Andy Diffenderfer LaFayette High School teachers (standing, from left) Ryan Friend, Kim Woodard and Lisa Hughes watch as ninth grader Chaz Richardson listens to a podcast.

By Andy Diffenderfer, Correspondent

LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the wonderful world of podcasting."

That's what LaFayette High School math teacher Ryan Friend says in an audio recording that introduces a new learning tool in his classroom.

Podcasts are recorded programs, usually of talk or music, made available over the Internet as a file that can be downloaded to a computer or portable device.

Classrooms at high schools in the Walker County system are turning to the technology to aid students' learning.

The Wii and Xbox era means that, "for today's learner, we've got to find a way to their attention," said Lisa Hughes, a co-teacher with Mr. Friend. "It's a way to embrace technology instead of running away from it."

How it works

Podcasts are recorded programs of talk or music made available over the Internet as a file that can be downloaded to a computer or portable device. Classrooms at high schools in the Walker County system are turning to the technology to aid students' learning. Teachers believe the technology will help students enhance their research abilities and better prepare for college.

Mr. Friend and Kim Woodard, another LaFayette High math instructor, started making podcasts in early November and involved their students.

"You can record anything," said Mr. Friend. "Everybody is interconnected. The lesson I prepared, we learned about square roots."

After that, he said, he had his students record a lesson that others could access through a Web site.

"We used it for an entire unit review," Mrs. Woodard said. "I gave them a topic, probability, and they had to develop a lesson on that particular concept. The next day, we listened to everyone's lesson and critiqued each one."

Mr. Friend said tech-based learning brings more focus from his students and added that the podcast has "unlimited potential" in terms of enhancing creativity and learning power.

Mrs. Woodard said podcasts allow students to take ownership of their learning, and each student takes a role in the learning curve of his classmates.

"All we do is give them a Web address, and they can listen to it over and over," she said.

"I might try to use it for every unit review," she said. "They get excited every time you tell them not to pull out a pencil and paper."

The Walker County system's other high school, Ridgeland, has received a grant that will focus on its Honors Academy. With $64,580 from the Georgia Department of Education, the school will buy 120 iPods for advanced placement classes and training for teachers to teach students how to make podcasts.

The devices should arrive in the middle of February, according to Darren Crutcher, an English teacher at Ridgeland.

Mr. Crutcher said the technology will help students enhance their research abilities and better prepare for college.

"We're ready for them to get here so we can get started," he said.

Mr. Friend said his students have adapted very well to the technology, though there is a learning curve.

"We're learning along with them," Mrs. Woodard said. "But you have to incorporate all methods of teaching. You still have to have that human touch."

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