Audio-based Education


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In the 19th century, factory workers would listen to a lector de tabaquería, who read aloud to them while their eyes and hands were busy at their labor. And for decades, radio has been a means to educate people, including illiterates in poor nations. Audio recording technology later made it practical to "time-shift" (and repetitively study) such content - as well as even publish things of which the powerful (who can control radio stations) disapproved. For better or worse, supposedly Ayatollah Khomeini built his following by recording speeches on audio-tape cassettes that were smuggled into Iran and passed from person to person.


In summer 2005 I taught a free course
introducing digital technology at a library on the edge of
Appalachia, where many adults still effectively lack even basic
reading skills. I demonstrated a digital audio player (DAP) retailed
at $10 (without flash memory) and my notes evangelized their utility
as a means to educate people whose eyes and hands are preoccupied
with work.

With the advent of the OLPC project, my December 2006 critique at
Teaching, Institutional and Professional Barriers on challenges
facing laptop use in education included remarks on DAPs (noting the
practical advantages which make them much superior to moving-tape
players), and used these punch lines: 

It could be that audio e-books and "MP3" players might help
chore-bound kids in poor countries more than the world's best
notebook PC they never have time to use. Maybe the magic is in
flash memory, rather than processors or displays... If you can
make a whole laptop computer stuffed with goodies for $150, how
cheap then might you make a digital audio player?

Everyone who shares such sentiments is naturally cheered to see
the creation of a project which turns such ideas into actions.
I would be surprised if Literacy Bridge
fails to do a lot of good and think coordinating content with
OLPC is a good idea. (See also Literacy.)

- Docdtv

- Docdtv 07:04, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

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