Learning with a class set of ipod touches

intro-iphone-cutcopypaste-20090608 I know this isn’t anything terribly new.  Teachers around the world have brought sets of ipod touches into their classrooms.  This isn’t something our District has embraced yet.  I recently received an email from our Apple account rep with details on leasing a class set of ipod touches.  I forwarded the information to a middle and an elementary school principal who have previously expressed to me their interest in trying this approach to supporting student learning.

So what, we buy these, a teacher takes a risk and embraces these devices for their students.  What are the learning opportunities?  How does using these devices compare in terms of learning value to using a netbook or laptop?  Although I’ve seen some great examples of using ipods, touches, and cell phones in classrooms, I’m not sure that any of these devices replace the need for a laptop or some sort.  The small devices seem to me to have too many limitations to be able to replace a laptop.  But, I can see how they can serve as an additional learning device.

Sonya Woloshen is a relatively new teacher in our District who has thoroughly embraced the use of technology including ipods in her classroom.  I sat in on her grade 8 class last year to observe her students using ipods of various types including touches.  The kids brought their own PODs (personally owned devices) from home and shared them with each other.  Sonya had kids gather around ipods, viewing and listening to French phrases.  They also read aloud (in the hallway) French text and podcasted themselves into her ipod touch for her to review and mark later.  Later the kids gathered in groups of four around the seven ipod touches that were available and each group spent 10 minutes researching (on the Internet – it was a wireless classroom) a different topic related to a socials unit they were completing on Medieval times.  Then each group report out their findings to the whole class.  Everything seemed to be quite seamless and natural for the kids and Sonya.  I was quite impressed.  She was interviewed by Dave Truss about her views on PODs for a presentation he gave last year (included here).
I would like to provide good classroom examples to school principals in our District such as the two I mentioned earlier that are considering a 1:1 “project” with ipod touches.  In particular, I’m interested in classroom activities, assessments, methods, etc. that use ipod touches to support student learning connected to curriculum (embedded).  I am also interested in things teachers have tried that didn’t work.  Also, I would like to know what people found to be limiting about these devices when compared to what could be accomplished with laptops.

I know there are hundreds of educators out there that can share their experiences good and bad of trying to integrating the use of ipod touches into their classrooms to support student learning.  I would appreciate you taking a moment to share your learning with me (and others) here.  I’d love to be able to provide some good advice to school principals in my District.


  1. We are currently in the middle of piloting a class set of iPod Touches in a 3rd grade classroom. Check out our site to see some of the things we are doing (including blogs from a variety of perspectives). http://itouchintheclassroom.wikispaces.com/
    We are sharing everything...the good...the bad...and the ugly! There is also video on this site (in the photo gallery) of the launch of this program.

  2. Our fsl / french immersion teacher has a class set we bought through federal french dollars. We also got a syncing cart that charges the ipods and syncs them all. The teacher also uses our podcast producer server (which you could create with a mac mini server but we are using an xserve) to record audio podcasts which then get very easily synced to the ipods. He also saves safari favourites to french videos in youtube (Obelix and Asterix among others) so that the students can listen and watch. A great advantage of these is that the students can go back and forth as much as they need to learn the pieces and respond for assignments. They also use other apps such as dictionaries on the ipods.

    Since they are not laptops they are limited but that suits the needs of the class with a focus on the needed activities rather than time spent on computer troubleshooting. The ipods turn on and work right away! A year and a half of great use with no problems so far.

    It's as easy as possible for the teacher and students are downloading his podcasts onto the PODs as well so they can practice on the bus, at home, anytime, anywhere!

  3. I'm getting ready to read "Three Cups of Tea" with my 6th grade Social Studies class, and I'm using a class set of ipod touches to help my students get more out of the book.

    So far, I plan on having the audiobook (14.95 covers all 40 ipods!) available for my students who need extra reading support. I've also loaded Google Earth on the ipods for the kids to explore the natural geography of the terrain in Pakistan & Afghanistan. We'll also be using Edmodo to discuss events / ask questions while we read.

    The project won't start next week, and I'm sure we'll hit some potholes, but ... I'm sure that using the ipods while reading will make the classroom experience infinitely better for my students. It's exciting!

  4. I have some students who use ipod touches in my class. They use them mostly for instant information or for the word-processing ap they can get. They then take their work home, upload to their home computer and then post to the virtual classroom. The students who use them like them, but, for me, I find them frustrating. However, since most of them have the, why not???

  5. Dani - thanks for sharing out in the open through your wiki - I'll definitely "tune" in be sure to get our principals there too.

    Jarrod - thanks for sharing some examples, I'll pass them along to others to add to their idea kit.

    Mr. Hammond - nice examples - maybe you could come back here and let us know how your project worked out? Thanks!

    Carlan - way to go supporting students even when you find the tool frustrating! Curious, what do you use to provide a "virtual classroom"?

  6. Update to post...

    http://twitter.com/bandlady sent me this link: http://www.slideshare.net/guest59f879/ipod-touch-conf which is a nice view on purpose, setup, ipod touch management, etc.


  7. I have recently acquired 5 ipod tocuhes for my class through a grant, and have found them valuable for teaching a language. Students can film themselves speaking French, upload the video to the ipod, and then watch and assess their literacy skills (almost immediately). Pretty powerful self-assessment.

    Great discussion and ideas. Thanks.

  8. Mr. Henderson - you might want to connect with Sonya Woleshen (see vid in post). She has fairly extensive experience using ipods to teach language (French).

  9. One of the really neat things about what you say regarding Sonya's teaching is, "Everything seemed to be quite seamless and natural for the kids and Sonya." Which is amazing to consider when you are talking about and witnessing a first-year teacher. One of the biggest challenges a new teacher faces is transition time, and Sonya seems to eliminate the transitions between classes and the use of tools (tech or otherwise).

    Something else we need to consider is videotaping teachers doing this kind of stuff to share with others. I'm glad Sonya has you as a support and certainly hope that we invest resources to provide teachers like her with the tools needed to lead the way. On another blog I made this comment about two strikes against these new and early innovators:

    1. We aren’t matching the tech-savvy student teachers and new teachers with tech-savvy mentors.

    2. New teachers get the dog’s breakfast with respect to resources, they aren’t getting the classrooms that are fully decked out, or even an LCD projector for that matter.

    And finally, this isn't quite what you were asking for, but still worth the read. By Ira Socal: http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2010/01/when-rethinking-school-itself.html
    (Once you get past the anti-Apple rant he describes a wonderful school were they seem to be committed to doing things fundamentally different!)

  10. Dave - your idea of videotaping teachers... it's interesting how uncomfortable many (most?) people are being put on video. But, I've videod a number of teachers and principals recently as part of some learning teams I led. I'll be posting them soon along with some slideshares of their learning journeys.

    Thanks for sharing Ira's blog post - there's a lot of good stuff on his blog - I like his ideas for sure - followed his blog as a result of visiting.


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