There has been a gap of several months since I last shared ideas in the form of a blog post on the topic of using iPods in Education. While the introduction of the iPhone and the iPod Touch has changed the rules in how handheld devices can be used in education, this series has laid dormant as I’ve been in the process of catching up with the technology. I have always been a firm believer that one cannot comment on the techology until one actually uses the technology. As I did not own neither an iPod Touch nor an iPhone, I didn’t feel confident that I could confidently discuss the benefits of using such devices in education.
That is, until now. Approximately one week ago, I activated and began using an iPhone 3G S and feel that while not yet an expert, I can now begin discussing intelligently how such interactive mobile devices can be used to help students learn. Before I begin, I do want mention that I still find merit in using older iPods or a newer iPod classic or iPod Nano for all the same reasons I’ve discussed in this blog. However, there are two main differences in a classic iPod and an iPod Touch/iPhone: the ability to engage in two-way interaction and customizability. In this blog post, I want to focus on customizability.
Personally, I am of the opinion that industrial-age education systems did not focus on educating children based on gheir needs as much as it focused on inculcating predefined industrial skills. The focus was not on meeting the needs learning needs of the child per say, but on meeting the emoyment needs of society. As a result, we saw the development of a compartmentalized system that focused on age categories and specialization. The children had to bend to meet the needs of the program rather than the two forces working together.
In recent years, attitudes in the education system have begun to change. While stabdardized curriculums still exist, there is an understanding that the learning needs of individual children vary and, as a result, the teaching styles of educations need to vary ad well. Hence the pedagogical ideologies of Univeral Design for Learning and Differentiated Instruction. There is a greater understanding that student learning environments need to be customized to meet their learning needs.
This is where the iPod Touch comes in. The power in these devices is not only that they allow connection to the Internet and fir two-way communication, but also in that there are 3rd party applications that have been built for these devices that allow for both extended and customized uses of the device. These apps ( over 50,000 as of this writing) come in both free and paid variations.
The reason why I get so existed over the development of these devices is that the learning potential is huge. In addition the learning benefits already discussed in this blog, using the iPod Touch allows educators to access learning apps for their students based on their individual learning needs. There are so many good free apps that no two students need to have the same set of apps. This sense of customized learning is foreign to industrial-age school settings because these environments were all about providing the same set of resources, learning environments and assessments.
Today’s technology allows for more. It allows students to learn in personalized ways using tools that empower them to learn I’m different ways. With Wi-Fi enabled devices such as the iPod Touch, communication can now be global. Now with the possibility of using apps to customize learning, teachers now have a tool that can allow them to help all their students learn in ways that leverage their strengths and using technology to support their needs.
The ability to take the concept of Differentiated Instruction and apply it using technology is exciting. The future looks bright indeed.