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Editorial February 2006
Audio Learning

by Hilary Williamson

Have you heard the recent buzz in education on learning styles? Being a visual learner myself, I like the BBC's explanation best - it has a picture as well as clear explanations of three learning styles (Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic) represented by 65%, 30%, and 5% of the population respectively (if you're curious about your own learning style, they also offer a Questionnaire). Of course the categorization is a bit simplistic as most of us overlap in learning methods.

Columbia University tells us that auditory learners 'have a memory for the spoken word and so remember things in their mind's "ear" as they heard them ... They respond less to written notes and more to the memory of how they heard information and/or repeated it aloud ... Written form may have little meaning until it is heard. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.' The typical classroom is not ideal for them as, according to the Canadian Literacy Enhancement Society 'They are easily distracted by noise'. Sound like perfect candidates for audiotextbooks, don't they?

One of my sons is primarily an auditory learner. How do I know? We've found that reviewing rote material together in question and answer format (for relatively short periods of time) improves his exam results dramatically in subjects like biology. He's also a somewhat reluctant reader who's always been enthusiastic about listening to books and series such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp.

So I was interested to find out what educational material is available for auditory learning and seached the net. Didn't find much! Yes, one can listen to assigned books for English courses rather than reading the paper version, and language courses - like the excellent 10 Minutes a Day series - are available in audio format. But what about all the other subjects? Why isn't more available, especially audio content that ties in to basic curriculum material?

There are some sources. As discussed in Books for the Blind, organizations like Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic have been taping textbooks on request for many years now. And I found homeschooling sites that offer audio material for elementary school learning. But there's not much to be found, given that a third of the population would benefit from audio learning reinforcement. My sons and I have listened to novels and Spanish language CDs in the car together - where are the science, history, geography, social studies etc.? Surely it's a case of: Record them, and they will listen.
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