Using web 2.0 audio to enhance student engagement in literary study

An idea for enhancing student engagement in the material they need to learn via educational technology is using Edmodo, the social network for learning, to alter an old reading/writing assignment. Previously, students were given the assignment to interact with their texts by reading, annotating, and then writing a response to a passage from their reading. They would be graded by the extent to which they were able to write a complex, insightful inference on the passage.

I believe that student engagement in the same material might be enhanced by giving them the opportunity to interact in the virtual learning space of the class social network on Edmodo in at least two ways:

1. The ability to instantly hear a professional-quality audio book recording (via downloadable MP3) of the text they are reading opens up the possibility that the literature can be portable–put on students’ ipods and listened to while the student runs, drives, or relaxes. The portability of a paperback book is high too, but the audio book format functions to free the hands and eyes of the student, who through his ears is interacting with the literature. Interestingly enough, the new mode of audible literature is actually replicating the oldest, most “natural” way in which narratives were told–from one person’s mouth to another’s ears. It may be that a certain percentage of the students who would otherwise not engage with the text will do so via this modality, thus increasing engagement.

2. The ability to go beyond the time and place of the classroom discussion via discussion threads on the live update page of Edmodo represents another enhancement this idea would yield. Now instead of writing his complex, insightful inference for the teacher alone, the student gets to write for his peers, and gets perhaps a mandate to comment on at least two of his peers. Because of his vast acquaintance with the social network posting style, many students will find this sort of interaction extremely “natural” and pay closer attention, perhaps, to what they and their peers are thinking about the text.

At this moment, I the biggest challenge has been producing the mp3 files for students, but there is also getting kids access to the network, but over a period of two weeks, we can almost certainly get 100% of students access online so that they may socially network their study of their current novels.

Watch this space for reports on its success/failure.

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