iPod Touch in the Classroom

I’m sitting in a session at NCTIES about iPod Touches in the classroom.  The presenters represent an exciting project at Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools — using the handheld devices with middle school students.  I met the principal a few months ago at their school district opening, and they were very gong-ho, and I was very interested, because there were just beginning to imagine the possibilities.

They wanted a device, but they didn’t want to phone and they didn’t want to camera.

I’m interested in this, because of a comment that Vicki Davis said yesterday in her keynote, that she would rather have iPod Touches for her students than laptops.  I may well have misunderstood.  But I definitely jerked my knee when I heard it.

Now one of the developers is talking, his company located in RTP.  He says that part of the appeal of the iPod T is that a $200 device makes more sense than a $1000 laptop.  “It’s cheap!  It’s out there.”  Another advantage is development practicality.  Writing applications is much simpler, and it takes much less time than developing for computers.

One of the instructional tech people is talking now,  describing the teachers’ first experiences with the Touches.  She says that they got very excited fairly immediately, talking about the possibilities, which were all aimed at student learning.  They saw very little pushback from the teachers (average age is 47).  Even the community got excited.  Now understand, that this is Chapel Hill — very sophisticated community.

We don’t have to teach the kids how to operate it.  They figure it all out.  They can take their notes on their Touches, but they can’t write a paper.  They are now talking about specific apps.  It reminds me of the handheld thing, where they are listing all of the apps, each very cool, but would all of them serve your classroom.  How many of them apply to your class, your students.

I just asked, “What do you wish it would do?”  Entirely unfair, because they came in prepared to talk about what they are doing.  Here the answer was that it was doing everything they wanted and then some, and then started talking about the near future when they’ll be utilizing podcasting.  This is very exciting.  But I can’t help but be a bit hesitant about anything that does everything.  I know, I’m old and turning into a curmudgeon before my own eyes — and it isn’t pretty.

She said that they still need laptops and desktop computers.  I need to visit their school.  It’s just up the road.  I’d love to have my skepticism satisfied.

I guess my main objection is this — and I may have jotted this down in another conference blog entry, which I haven’t posted yet.  My fear is that people see this and hear all of this enthusiasm, and come back saying, “This is the solution to our 1:1 problem.  Cheaper way to go 1:1.

There are no shortcuts, folks!

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.