With tablet technologies, the App Store, Android Market and so many technologies dominating the learning discussion these days, I wanted to tell a personal story of how the low-tech Apple iPod gave me insights into what we might be overlooking in a learning strategy: simplicity.
When I received my first iPod, my first chore was figuring out what to do with it. Tell me that some of you didn’t (or don’t) have a iPod somewhere at home gathering dust – especially now that our mobile devices store all our music, which will soon move to the cloud.
The paradigm shift for me came with the discovery of podcasts. What could be more low-tech? Audio recordings are downloaded to your iPod on a scheduled basis. Subscribers automatically get the latest downloads to listen to, when they want.
One of my goals has always been to learn Spanish, but I found it difficult to find classes that fit my schedule. I turned to Rosetta Stone, and while it was effective, I found that being “chained” to my computer was difficult to accommodate in my schedule, as well.
One thing, of course, I could always schedule was my Saturday morning 15 mile bike treks. So I started getting into the habit of strapping on my iPod when I strapped on my bike helmet. Finally, my iPod had a purpose! I’d synch my iPod to download the 80 or so Coffee Break Spanish lessons, then make my way through each one, episode by episode. I started with Lesson 1, three years ago, listening, unabashedly repeating the phrases to the wind, behind my dark sunglasses, babbling away on solitary bike trails in complete anonymity. If something didn’t make sense, I’d simply reach across to my arm-tethered iPod, pause, replay, continue.
How simple and effective can you get? I suppose I must be an aural learner, because after numerous episode replays, I found myself memorizing Mark and Cara’s dialog, verbatim. I was learning.
Why was the iPod so effective? I found out one Saturday morning, when my iPod was dead. So, instead, I brought along my iPhone. Same thing, right? Wrong. Now, when the podcast rattled away beyond my comprehension, I needed to unlock my phone, navigate to iTunes, pause the playback, then touch and drag on the timeline to try and replay what I’d missed. If you’ve ever tried this, you’ll see that not only is it awkward, but on bike at 15 MPH, it’s dangerous.
Shortly after this experience, I worked with my developers to ensure that our eLearning platform automatically created podcast versions of our modules. It captures the audio from PowerPoint recordings and creates a combined audio podcast. Very simple. Very effective, especially for all of us aural learners.
Just recently, after three years, I’ve completed the Coffee Break Spanish series and am on to another series called Showtime Spanish. I’ve augmented my learning with continual evening classes in intensive Spanish and continue to work away at the higher levels on Rosetta Stone.
This post is merely to suggest that sometimes the most effective learning can come from the simplest sources.
This is also my “shout out” to Coffee Break Spanish. The series is free and incredibly well designed and presented.