The iPad has managed to replace a bunch of old teaching and learning resources. Like a wrecking-ball it’s gone in there and cleaned out my classroom. Dictionaries – GONE. Atlases – GONE. Tables charts – GONE. Stopwatches – GONE. Calculators – GONE. You get the picture.

The latest causality is the audio book reading station. You know the one; the stereo linked to a massive unit with a bunch of tangled, oversized headphones plugged into the side. Cassette tapes, scratched CDs, limited catalogue, that kind of thing.

We’ve recently been listening to audiobooks via the iPad and boy oh boy, do I love it. The first book we’re tackling is Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. Great story, amazing story actually and the kids are right into to it also. I synced a copy of the book to each iPad so every kid has access to their own copy so if they fall behind they can catch up easily without having to hinder anyone else. It’s a much more convenient model than the old share-station. At our school, we’ve added headphones to the students’ booklist, so every kid has their own set and they take them out whenever they need to use the iPads. It has been great to see the kids grab their iPad, their headphones and find a quiet spot in our open-learning environment and tune-out everything else that’s going on around them.

The only negative with the audiobooks that I can identify is when an iPad is shared and their place in the story is lost. The student MUST note down where they are up to in the story. They’ll have to develop a new set of habits to stay organised, but that’s alright, that’s life and we learn to adjust to new things.

As with any sort of reading, you’re going to witness kids lose focus. With an audiobook, this doesn’t change. Instead of using their eyes for the book, they use their ears so their eyes are vulnerable to wandering. I’ve attempted to address this problem a couple of ways. I gave the students an activity to do while they were listening to the book. The activity needs to be basic so as not to take away too much of their concentration. They’ve been keeping a mind-map on the Popplet app, tracking the personality traits of all the characters in the story, so if they observe a character showing courage, they’ll flick over to Popplet and add that to the mind-map. It’s simple, but it’s enough to keep them focused on the book, it also has merit as a reading or discussion activity later on. Another activity might see them open an app like Penultimate and have a free scribble time where they can illustrate the part of the story they’re presently listening to. You should also try having the students move to a part of the classroom where visual distractions are at a minimum.

So where is the best place to get audiobooks? Well the easiest and most convenient option is iTunes, but this is not always the best option. The other main option out there is Audible which is owned by Amazon so you know they’re going to have a half-decent library (85,000+ books). iTunes is convenient obviously because it’s connected to your iPad library and there’s pretty much nothing to do once the download has been transacted. Audible on the other hand requires a subscription which is roughly $15 each month. If the subscription model isn’t an issue, then by all means, go for it and start building an audiobook library. If you signed up for a year for around $200, you’d get something like 20 books. I’m using crude figures here, I apologise but there are a lot of variables to take into account. iTunes has no subscription model and you pay for what you want.

I did a little price comparison on a couple of titles…

Of course, the prices vary from titles within the series and often you can pick up sales. It’s also worth noting that you can sign up to a free Audible account and get your first two books free, then cancel if you’re unhappy with it; this may be your best avenue in to the audiobook world.

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