iPods used for learning language

Good morning. I just logged into Google Reader and read up on a New York Times article discussing how iPods are being used in one middle school to help bilingual students with limited English skills to sharpen vocabulary and grammar.

One district is even giving out 300 iPods in its schools a part of an experiment to revitalize its underfunded (and one can assume underperforming) urban school system. The funniest part for me (big cynic that I am) is that the district mentioned would seem to be using No Child Left Behind as a rationale for going to this measure, as under NCLB four of the twelve schools in the district have been identified as needing improvement, and the schools argue that it’s largely because not enough bilingual students can pass the state reading and math tests.

At the Games, Learning and Society conference, there was much discussion of co-opting entertainment mediums for educational purposes. James Gee, in his opening keynote, talked about how Pokemon, YuGiOh and Magic have these insanely intricate rules as card games that employ the kind of technical wizardry, lateral-thinking skills and mastery of process to properly execute a custom deck — and these skills are being adopted by six year-olds — but schools struggle to get kids to comprehend knowledge about physical science and mathematics that aren’t nearly as technically complicated as the games kids are playing. Gee posited that the solution was for schools to start subverting these entertainment mediums because they’re teaching more complex and engaging skills than the traditional curriculum.

The iPod use in this article isn’t nearly as complex, but I like that someone is ditching the rules of established paradigm to actually solve a problem. I hope it proves effective as part of a larger strategy.