Special Report
IT Infrastructure

Educators Embrace iPods for Learning

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — March 16, 2010 5 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students can use their iPod touches in plain sight in Mark Schuler’s World History class at Roswell High School here. The portable devices and the telltale ear buds are also welcome in the hallways, library, and cafeteria.

Roswell officials, unlike most of their counterparts around the country, have changed their view of the MP3 players, seeing them less as contraband and more as educational accessories. Educators at the 2,400-student school in suburban Atlanta are hoping to put more content at students’ fingertips and capture their interest by enlisting the digital tools today’s teenagers have already mastered for social and leisure purposes.

“Five years ago iPods were banned, but we got overwhelmed with trying to discipline kids and fight the technology,” says Edward Spurka, the principal of Roswell High. “Our philosophy here now is let them have it, ... so we’ve allowed all those resources out in the world to be on their person.”

The school’s pilot program, which integrates iPods into Advanced Placement classes and encourages appropriate applications for other lessons and activities across the curriculum, was introduced as part of Georgia’s educational technology plan. The initiative, being rolled out in 60 high schools across the state, uses federal funding for hand-held technologies as a means of expanding access to and success in rigorous high school courses for underrepresented student groups.

“We thought this would be a great way to engage learners and deliver more-rigorous material to them,” says Becky Chambers, who manages the AP program for the Georgia Department of Education. “Oftentimes, kids have technology but they don’t use it for substantive work, only social media or for pleasure such as listening to music. They don’t recognize the power of these devices to improve knowledge and skills.”

The state program provides grants of up to $64,000 to districts—funded primarily from federal Enhancing Education Through Technology, or EETT, grants—to buy the portable devices and provide professional development and support services to teachers in AP courses.

Expanding Learning Time

The touch-screen devices—which are equipped with wireless Internet capability, play high-quality video, and can be equipped with any of thousands of free educational applications, or apps—have found favor in a number of schools across the country. First graders in Orange County, Calif., for example, are using iPods to record themselves reading aloud and retelling a story in their own words to demonstrate comprehension. In Springfield, Ill., teachers can create podcasts, or audio recordings, of lessons and provide links to related online resources that students can access at any time using their hand-held computers. And 3rd graders in Wells, Maine, are using iPods to preview exhibits at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art as they prepare their own podcasts related to a field trip.

At Roswell High, Schuler’s students have round-the-clock access to the class Web site, where there are links to text resources, podcasts and notes from previous lectures, video clips on related topics, and details about assignments and exams. The students often take notes or compose drafts of essays on the miniature keypads using word-processing software and then send them to themselves via e-mail. Schuler gives multiple-choice quizzes on the devices, which then automatically calculate scores and provide data on students’ knowledge of the content.

“With the [iPod] touches, I’m not bound to the 55 minutes of class time,” he says. “They have expanded my time with students, and if they are willing to put in the work, they can learn at their own pace and easily find more information on their own.”

When he sees students hunched over their iPods typing furiously, Schuler sometimes wonders if they are attending to classwork or something unrelated. Ultimately, he’s learned to trust they will do the necessary work, generally a given among his high-achieving students, he says.

Cellphones vs. iPods

The experiment at Roswell is still limited to two classrooms—Schuler’s as well as an English literature class—where students are issued iPods. But other teachers are finding ways to do similar activities using students’ personal devices. Spurka and other administrators use their own iPods to document classroom observations and collect data on teachers’ performance.

The iPod touches are appealing for educators and students alike because of their ease of use, the availability of free educational applications, and ready Internet access, according to Lisa Thumann, a senior specialist in technology education at Rutgers University’s Busch Campus in Piscataway, N.J., where she teaches a class for educators who want to use the devices as teaching or administrative tools.

In Thumann’s view, cellphones or smartphones offer more instructional options for teachers than MP3 players, because large numbers of middle and high school students have their own, and applications are adaptable across brands and types. While many students own MP3 players, it would be harder to coordinate lessons when some students have Apple’s iPods while others have Sony’s Walkman or Dell’s Zune devices, Thumann says.

But the iPods and similar devices don’t require costly data plans and, without telephone and texting capabilities or camera features, they tend to alleviate some of the concerns over cybersafety and inappropriate use that have made many school administrators prohibit cellphones in schools, according to Kathy Politis, the director of technology for the Fulton County school district, which includes Roswell High.

For officials in Georgia, the MP3 players provide the ideal solution for using mobile technology efficiently and effectively in schools.

“We’ve been struggling to move teacher instruction away from some of the more traditional approaches to formats that are more engaging for students,” says Elizabeth Webb, the state’s director of innovative academic programs. “We’re giving them a great tool not only for them to be successful in high school, but when they get out in the real world.”


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


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
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
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
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

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

IT Infrastructure School District Data Systems Are Messed Up. A New Coalition Wants to Help
Organizations representing states and school districts have teamed up with ISTE to help make data systems more user-friendly and secure.
3 min read
Conceptual collage of arrows, icon figures, and locks
Sean Gladwell/Moment/Getty
IT Infrastructure More Families Have Internet Access. So Why Hasn't the Digital Divide Begun to Close?
A new study says low-income families’ access to the internet has soared in the past six years. But there are other barriers to connectivity.
3 min read
Glowing neon Loading icon isolated on brick wall background. Progress bar icon.
Mingirov/iStock/Getty Images Plus
IT Infrastructure Remote and Hybrid Learning Are Declining. But the 'Homework Gap' Will Still Be a Problem
Schools are returning to in-person instruction, but students' connections to the internet at home remain spotty.
2 min read
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advance placement World History Teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays a wifi hot spot that are being handed out to students in Dallas on April 9, 2020. Dallas I.S.D. is handing out the devices along with wifi hotspots to students in need so that they can connect online for their continued education amid the COVID-19 health crisis.
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an Advanced Placement World History Teacher at W.W. Samuell High School in Dallas, displays one of the Wi-Fi hotspots that were given to district students during the pandemic.
Tony Gutierrez/AP
IT Infrastructure 'Big Burden' for Schools Trying to Give Kids Internet Access
A year into the pandemic, millions of students remain without internet because of financial hurdles and logistical difficulties.
5 min read
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after her virtual school hours while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of the computer, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at their residence in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood.
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after her virtual school hours while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of the computer, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at their residence in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood.
Shafkat Anowar/AP