I dug out my old iPhone, cleared off the content & set it up with some of the audiobook mp3 files. Since it was an old iPhone 3, I was unable to upgrade to the newest operating system, so I moved all of the icons except for the 'music' icon off to the 2nd and 3rd screen (on newer devices, you can 'drag them on top' of each other to put them into other 'folders.') I also went into settings & restricted internet, email & camera access to make the phone less functional - so my kids could only use it for the purpose intended. This is much easier on newer devices and can easily be set under the accessibility menu to only grant access to a single function at a time. I used the internet to add cover art to each of the audio tracks so that my non-reading Prek students could easily figure out which audio file matched the book they wanted to read.
We've experimented with the audio cables for direct input - which has been interesting. Some of the kids like the direct input, while others seem to prefer to hold them up to their 'ear' like a telephone. Some students have even quite accurately named this activity the 'book phone.'
I was a bit surprised by how much my students engaged with this activity! Most of my students are doing very well with it & find it fun - however, I think that it's worth noting that all of the students who have found it enjoyable also have pretty good auditory comprehension & receptive language skills - but not necessarily 'mild' hearing loss; some of the students that like this the most actually have a severe-profound loss & have to work VERY hard to understand what they're hearing! For students who have lower receptive language skills, I think that I will be working on recording alternates with simplified language, no sound effects & integration of learning to listen sounds/simple songs.
I also MUST mention that listening activities like this are absolutely NOT a substitute for having high quality conversations & interactions with young children who have hearing loss. The use of these audiobooks isn't necessarily intended to improve their language skills, but rather provide an interesting opportunity to engage with technology in a way similar to my students' hearing peers. I'd venture to guess that most preschoolers have probably played a game on a caregiver's phone or tablet from time to time - but my students, while they've all likely engaged with technology, have probably missed out on a significant portion of the music and sound effects that go with it. Listening centers are a way for my students who have hearing loss to engage in experience with technology more like their hearing peers do - and if we end up working on language skills - great!
Since setting up the first listening center, I've located two additional older iPhones from family & friends and I'm working on also setting them up for use in my classroom! This is definitely something that we'll continue to explore in the classroom... check back for more of our experiences with these listening centers.