Grant Brings iPod Into Utah High School Classrooms

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A $1 million federal stimulus grant will put iPods into the hands of some Utah high schools students as a learning tool.

About 1,600 students at Kearns High School will get iPod Touches next school year thanks to the Enhancing Education Through Technology grants. Students will use the devices in class to download applications, take notes, do Internet research and read English textbooks.

Students will be allowed to take the iPods home and keep them after graduation. The grant to fund the iPods will last three years.

"We're very, very serious about making it effective," said John Anderson, Kearns High assistant principal. "We're not putting toys in the kids' hands; we're putting tools in the kids' hands."

Giving students an iPod is almost like giving them a laptop, but without the expense of a computer lab. It also lets each student have Internet access in every class, not just in computer labs.

Teachers will spend the first two months of the school year learning how to use iPods in their instruction. Students will begin using the devices as early as November.

Last school year, Kearns experimented with a couple hundred iPods, and some teachers were trained how to use them in class, Anderson said.

In a Spanish course, a teacher downloaded an application that allowed students to hear the pronunciation of words and conjugations of verbs. Wildlife biology students used an application to see and hear the birds they studied.

"They helped a lot," said Tara Sorensen, who will be a senior this fall. "I think they'll be really useful, and it's better than carrying a ton of books."

Anderson said the iPods are not replacing textbooks. He also notes that while it might hard to keep some students from using the iPods to chat with friends or play games, those challenges aren't new to educators.

"Kids have found ways to hand signal each other and send notes back and forth for generations," Anderson said. "In good classrooms, with good teachers, that can be avoided."

Kearns High is not the first Utah school to bring handheld technology into the classroom. A handful of schools in the Tintic School District already use the iPod Touch.

West Desert School Principal Ed Alder said the devices are synched to school computers. West Desert students — all 14 of them — used the iPods' advanced calculator feature in math classes, downloaded books for English assignments, used them for research and chose songs to play for a guitar class.

"The students do not have to huddle around one computer," Alder said. "They all had a computer in front of them."

He said he allowed students to download music to the iPods, so the students felt invested in them. Not one device was lost all year, Alder said.

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