Federal

iPods and Cellphones

By Laura Greifner — June 20, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When iPods, the popular MP3 players made by Apple Inc., first burst onto the scene, it wasn’t long before their audio capabilities were harnessed for educational purposes. College professors, for example, recorded lectures into an audio format that students could download, known as podcasts.

But K-12 education has been much slower in harnessing the learning powers of iPods and other portable devices, such as cellphones.

Marc Prensky, a New York City-based education consultant and the author of Don’t Bother Me MomI’m Learning!, says the use of such popular gadgets in K-12 classrooms is “very sporadic.”

—Dale Taylor/Stockphoto

BRIC ARCHIVE

One curriculum area that seems to be using iPods more and more, however, is foreign-language instruction. Because microphones can be attached to the devices, students can use them not only to listen to the teacher speak in a target language, but also to record themselves speaking alone or in conversations with others.

The same uses for iPods are being applied in classes for English-language learners and for special-needs students.

ELL students at Ross Elementary School in Pittsburgh, for instance, use iPods to listen to stories recorded in English by their teacher. And at Louisa-Muscatine Elementary School in Letts, Iowa, special-needs students use the devices to hear test questions spoken to them as they read the questions on paper.

Other schools are also putting the devices to use in practical ways.

In a language arts class at Mountainside Middle School in Scottsdale, Ariz., for example, students hook up their iPods to speakers and project the lyrics of favorite songs onto a screen during a unit on poetry. They find poetic devices in the lyrics and explain them to their classmates.

Teachers are also using podcasts to offer high school students audio study guides for tests that students can listen to at home.

Classroom Cellphones

Although the use of cellphones to cheat on tests has raised worries among educators and garnered media attention, Prensky advocates “open-phone tests.” Like open-book tests, open-phone tests allow students to use all the resources available to them on their cellphones to answer test questions. But the questions must be difficult, Prensky says.

“The teachers who do that say you can ask better questions, bigger questions,” he says, pointing out that the students then use their cellphones to begin researching possible answers.

Technical features on some cellphones also help make them potentially valuable learning devices.

For instance, some cellular telephones use a global-positioning system, or GPS, which can be a boon in geoscience classes. Students can use the GPS features to learn how to map coordinates for locations around the world, or for “geocaching,” a sort of treasure hunt in which searchers use the coordinates and a GPS unit to find the location of hidden items.

Learning Tool or Nuisance?

But the use of iPods and cellphones in most school classrooms remains limited, experts say, and not just because schools do not have the money to buy the devices for students. Most educators simply don’t know enough about how to use iPods and cellphones effectively in lessons.

Teachers are reluctant, moreover, to incorporate devices into their teaching that remain controversial in schools, which often bar students’ possession of cellphones and MP3 players as distractions or nuisances.

What complicates matters even more is that not every student has a cellphone, and the ones who have them don’t always own models with the same technical features.

“Until every student has one, you’re not going to find schools putting money into it,” says Timothy D. Wilson, the director of technology for the 5,500-student Buffalo-Montrose-Hanover school system in New York. “They’re more likely to buy other electronics,” such as software and even laptop computers, he says.

Laura Greifner is a reporter-researcher for Education Week.
A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2007 edition of Digital Directions as iPods and Cellphones

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal What Is a School Shooting? Members of Congress Seek a Federal Definition, Reliable Data
A new bill would direct federal departments to track data related to school shootings, a term for which there is no federal definition.
Daniela Altimari, Hartford Courant
4 min read
Police respond to the scene of a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News, Va., on Saturday Sept. 20, 2021. Newport News police Chief Steve Drew said two students were shot and taken to the hospital and neither injury was thought to be life-threatening. The chief said authorities believe the suspect and victims knew one another but did not provide details.
Police respond to the scene of a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News, Va., on Saturday Sept. 20, 2021.
John C. Clark/AP Photo
Federal Is the Justice Dept. Silencing Parents or Stepping Up to Protect Educators?
Merrick Garland's move to use the FBI to help protect school officials from violence and harassment has drawn anger and praise.
5 min read
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas's abortion law, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas's abortion law, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Tom Williams/Pool via AP
Federal Don't Use Federal COVID Aid to Undermine School Mask Rules, U.S. Treasury Tells Governor
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey violated the intent of COVID aid programs by using them to discourage school mask mandates, an agency letter says.
2 min read
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Nov. 30, 2020. A program announced by Arizona's Republican governor last month to give private school vouchers to students whose parents object to school mask requirements has seen a surge of applications, with twice as many either completed or started than can be funded with the $10 million in federal coronavirus relief cash he earmarked for the program.
A program announced by Arizona's Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in September earmarks federal money to give private school vouchers to students whose parents object to public school mask requirements.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
Federal Districts Would Have to Show Equity for High-Poverty Schools Under Proposed Biden Rule
The U.S. Department of Education says the move would promote transparency and accountability for schools getting COVID-19 aid.
4 min read
Illustration of a helping hand with dollar bill bridging economy gap during coronavirus pandemic, assisting business people to overcome financial difficulties.
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty Images Plus