Federal

iPods and Cellphones

By Laura Greifner — June 20, 2007 3 min read

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.

Events

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
Teaching Webinar
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
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
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

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 CDC: Nearly 80 Percent of K-12, Child-Care Workers Have Had at Least One COVID-19 Shot
About four out of five teachers, school staffers, and child-care workers had first COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of March, CDC says.
2 min read
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11, 2021. Teachers received their first vaccine during an all-day event at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP
Federal Ed. Dept. to Review Title IX Rules on Sexual Assault, Gender Equity, LGBTQ Rights
The review could reopen a Trump-era debate on sexual assault in schools, and it could spark legal discord over transgender student rights.
4 min read
Symbols of gender.
iStock/Getty
Federal Q&A EdWeek Q&A: Miguel Cardona Talks Summer Learning, Mental Health, and State Tests
In an interview after a school reopening summit, the education secretary also addressed teachers' union concerns about CDC guidance.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Senators Press Deputy Education Secretary Nominee on School Closures, Lost Learning Time
If confirmed, San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten would be the Education Department's number two as it urges in-person learning.
5 min read
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten speaks at Lincoln High School in San Diego during the State of the District Address on Oct. 20, 2015.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten would be second in command at the U.S. Department of Education if confirmed as deputy secretary.
Misael Virgen/San Diego Union-Tribune