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CONTACT: Bruce Smith
Public Information Officer
(310) 434-4209
DATE: June 15, 2006


In its continuous effort to use a variety of teaching methods to improve students’ academic performance, Santa Monica College announces it is launching an exciting educational podcasting pilot program Monday, July 3.

Targeting a group of about 25 incoming freshmen in SMC’s “Summer Bridge” program, the college will lend Apple iPods – funded by a federal grant – to the students for the six-week summer session. The students will be able to download video, audio, photos, graphics and text. The downloaded material is for homework, or supplemental assignments, and will not replace in-class instruction.

“We are excited about the potential of podcasting as a supplemental teaching tool,” says Jeff Shimizu, SMC vice president of academic affairs. “We will use this pilot program as a way to see whether this improves learning.”

In starting the pilot program, SMC follows in the path of a growing number of campuses nationwide using podcasting, including Stanford, UCLA and Duke University in North Carolina.

“Everyday, we all witness greater numbers of students listening to their iPods & Mp3 players in between their classes,” said Al DeSalles, SMC’s media and graphic services manager. “We know they’re listening to songs but there’s really no good reason why it can’t be educational content. Our teachers and media development team can create compelling content that students can use to further their learning.”

At SMC, podcasting will be used in the remedial English and college orientation courses that the targeted group of students are taking as they make the transition into higher education. Students will be able to download their assignments onto their iPods using computers set up in the college’s Media Center.

“I want to tap into the media literacy these students already have and use it to foster academic skills and critical thinking,” says Mira Pak, who will teach the English course.

Pak hopes to use music videos, film clips and more to reinforce lessons on such issues as the depiction of minorities in the mass media. She also plans to have students produce their own videos as part of their assignments.

Similarly, counselor Jackie Seiden, who is teaching the college orientation course, is interested in having students watch, for example, portions of the hit TV show “The Office” to highlight ineffective ways of communication. She also hopes to have students produce video podcasts.

“I’ve always loved technology, and the idea of having all these resources at your fingertips that you can download and then watch or listen to at home, or sitting on a bus, is very attractive,” Seiden says. “The iPod is hip. Students will understand that this isn’t just about downloading music but that they can actually learn from this.”

Targeted for the pilot program is a group of low-income students who are often underprepared for college.
“Most have the willingness and drive, but for whatever reason, they don’t yet have the skills needed to be successful in freshman college courses,” Pak says.

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