Manhattan, NY — In times past, a student wearing headphones in class, listening to rap music, would receive a one-way ticket to detention. But in certain language classes at the Brearley School, the faculty enthusiastically endorses this behavior. However, instead of traditional headphones, students now sport the sleek, white iPod “buds.” And the rap music, quite often, is in French. Now that iPod has become an integral part of the curriculum at Brearley, learning quite literally has been turned on its ear.


Brearley’s iPod initiative grew out of the generosity of its former students. For the class of 2004’s “senior class gift,” students and their families contributed funds to help support the enhancement of language learning through the use of technology. Thus, says Head of the Brearley School Dr. Stephanie Hull, administrators, faculty, and instructional technology experts from local universities began to consider the construction of a new language lab. But with the physical constraints of the 12-story school building, this plan was deemed unrealistic. However, iPod held great promise for Hull and her team.

“We were already using all of the space we have to the fullest,” Hull notes. “Traditional language labs were becoming outmoded anyway, as schools were introducing other ways of practicing foreign language speaking and listening skills. Clearly, language students feel most proficient when they have some ownership of the process of learning.

The iPod is portable; it offers wonderful clarity of sound. And there are accessories like the Griffin iTalk that allow students to have the speaking as well as the listening function.

— Dr. Stephanie Hull, Head of the School, The Brearley School

“Adult learners, for example, can go out on the Internet and find foreign language movies and music, which makes the learning process very personal,” adds Hull. “Replicating that experience with our students — while keeping their safety in mind, in terms of the web — led us to evaluate technologies that would enable the digital reproduction of sound. And that, of course, led us to the iPod.”

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