Okay, I didn’t create my first app (yet) but I did come up with a way to repurpose an existing app for learning, a much more edupunk approach.
I came across an app called Music Quiz, which recreates a game that came standard on older iPods. Music Quiz plays part of a randomly selected song on your iPod and then asks you to identify the song title, album title or artist. You can set the difficulty (more difficult means more possibilities to choose from) and even choose a subset of songs to form the game (just songs from one album or artist, for example). While it’s fun to sit on the bus and see if I can identify the name of every Sloan song ever released, I also started thinking if this same game could be applied to learning English.
So I recorded some idioms as mp3 files using Audacity, a free audio recorder. The actual sound file is me reading the definition twice in twelve seconds (because Music Quiz can be set to play 12 seconds of each song). Within Audacity, I saved the idiom as the song title. The files are below, if you want to try it out:
A student can add these files to an iPod or iPhone and set Music Quiz to quiz them on these audio files. (From the menu, set Custom Quiz to on to choose specific files for the quiz.) As the recording plays, the student has to choose which idiom matches the definition she hears. I’ve chosen 20 heart-themed idioms, so I’ve used heart as the album title. Three levels of metadata are available within Music Quiz (artist > album > song title) though testing students in higher order information (i.e. whether a given idiom was a heart, food, or animal idiom) may not be worthwhile.
Alternatively, album could be defined as chapters in a vocabulary textbook. I’m not sure it would be much more helpful for students to quiz themselves on which chapter a given idiom was in, but it could be a good way to organize the audio files and make it easy to choose specific chapters for a quiz. Of course, if Music Quiz were used to review other structures (verb tenses, vocabulary, etc.) there might be better ways to take advantage of other levels of metadata.
Clearly an iPod is not going to replace traditional language instruction anytime soon. But, if students are always listening to their iDevices anyway, they might as well use them to practice English. A well-designed activity could really engage them in this kind of helpful practice. If you have ideas for other ways to use Music Quiz or other apps for English practice, leave a comment.