Archive for the ‘ipod’ Category

Here is a video of how one teacher (who was fortunate enough to obtain a full class set if iPod Touch devices) is using new technologies with 8 year old children to help them learn.  This video raises a number of questions for me: What lesson can we learn from this?  What is the role of experimentation of new methodologies in the classroom? Who is the ultimate driving force behind initiating such a change?

To play the video, click on the video itself or on the”click to play” link located immediately below the video.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2634277&dest=-1]

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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.

I had a conversation in Twitter about the high costs of photocopying and how these costs consume so much of a school budget.  The waste is so high that it reduces a school’s ability to invest in technology.

Let’s take a look at some rough numbers*. Let’s peg the cost of one photocopy at $0.10 CAD.  This cost includes the cost of toner and photocopier maintenance.  Let’s also say that a school can purchase a laptop for a school for $1000 CAD.  To be fair, there are infrastructure costs to consider such as network costs, switches, cables, etc. Let’s say that infrastructure costs bump up the cost of that laptop to $1500. Using these rough numbers, 15,000 photocopies = one laptop. In a school of 500 students, that works out to 30 copies per child per year!  That’s right.  If in the course of one year 30 copies per student were eliminated, the savings would allow a school to purchase one laptop for it’s students!

If we take this line of thinking a little further, an 8GB iPod touch currently retails at $319 CAD (as of August 29th, 2008). If we increase the cost of each iPod Touch to $400 CAD to include the cost of infrastructure, then eliminating 30 copies per student per year would save enough money to purchase about 4 iPod Touch units.  When I think back, I can easily identify places where I could quite easily save one sheet per student per day.  Multiply that by 195 teaching days for a class of 28 students and that’s 5460 copies or over 1/3 of the cost of one laptop.  That’s just one sheet per student everyday saved by one teacher.  If a school had 20 teachers with similar class ratios saving one sheet per student per day, the savings would allow a school to buy 7 laptops or 27 iPod Touch units (coincidentally, one class set).  Incredible!

So my question is this: Why are we not taking advantage of this opportunity to invest in technology at the local school level?  Why are we consuming all this paper which, inevitably, ends up in the recycling bin.  It appears to me that schools really do have enough resources to make modest investments in technology.  The problem is with how that money is spent.

The sacrifices are minor but the payoffs are quite large.  At the very least, we can make the argument that we are reducing our consumption of paper to reduce energy usage for the good of the environment.  At best, we can make the argument that we are reducing our consumption of paper to give us the flexibility to invest in our schools and in our students.

* Disclaimer – while these numbers are not exact, they help us gauge how photocopying is reducing a school’s ability to invest in technology.

I feeling awfully torn these days.  There are so many devices that allow for so many wonderful learning possibilities.  Researching and publishing on the Internet from anywhere.  Accessings RSS feeds from anywhere.  Communicating and collaborating with one other person or many other people using text or voice or combinations of both.  With so many products and services that allow us to live and learn and work on the go, who can afford not to be connected to the mobile network?  Then again, with the sheer cost that comes with this access, who can afford to stay connected to the mobile network?

Allow me to explain. With the iPhone 3G now available in many countries including my own (Canada), I’ve been investigating the possibilities of ownership. I’ve been salivating at the idea of doing everything from e-mail to Internet browsing to communicating and collaborating to reading ebooks, watching video, listening to music or looking at photographs all on one device. All the wonderful teaching and learning possibilities that I’ve discussed in this blog can be accomplished on an iPhone. However, I still don’t own one and will probably not own one in the near future.  The reason? It costs too much.

There is the upfront cost of the device which, while comparable to the cost of similar devices, is still expensive.  However, it doesn’t end there.  There’s the cost of a voice plan, then a data plan, then system active fees and then taxes.  I figure that if I went out to purchase the iPhone model I want tomorrow, it would cost me $340 CDN (after taxes) immediately for the device and then approximately $70 CDN/month just to be able to communicate with it.  True, $30 CDN of that $70 CDN is for a data plan that allows 6GB per month of data usage.  For a mobile device, 6GB per month is huge but so is $30 CDN per month!  Then there is the fact that I would have to lock in for 3 years!  So that’s $340 CDN (phone) + $840 CDN/year for my data and voice plans + $5 CDN/month for 125 text messag es/month (or $70 CDN/year) x a minimum of 3 years.  That’s over $3000 CDN over a three year period and that doesn’t even include the cost of desired apps!   Even after paying all that money, my iPhone would still be locked so I would have to pay even more if I tried to use it out of my home country (you can read my rant about using mobile devices internationally here). I have only one thing to say to all of this – TOO EXPENSIVE!

This got me thinking.  If Apple and Rogers (my ISP and cell phone provider) have priced me out of an iPhone, then they have also priced cash strapped students and school systems from ownership as well.  If it is a reality that some students are able to tap into revenue sources to purchase devices like the iPhone while others cannot, then are we not entering into the digital divide debate once again?  In the late 1990’s, the debate revolved around advantages afforded to those who were able to access computers and the Internet vs. those who could not.  However, these days, with Internet access so ubiquitous, the debate seems to be moving to whether those who can afford mobile devices, or more specifically, mobile access, will be in an advantageous position over those that cannot afford that access.

I’ve thought about alternatives.  I currently have a Blackberry Pearl and an 5G iPod video.  I really love both of these devices as they allow me to do a lot at literally a fraction of the price.  However, I still had to purchase two seperate devices, I’m still carrying around 2 devices, my mobile access is much more limited than if I had an iPhone and I’m only able to make this work because I am comfortable with the technology and am willing find and to dabble with software such as the Opera Mini mobile browser. Many may find this alternative too much of a hassle.  After reading this article, I thought about replacing my 5G iPod video with an iPod Touch to experience some of the benefits of an iPhone.  However, despite the increased functionality, even this alternative leads to one conclusion: true mobility comes with a steep price tag and alternatives, while they may be a bit cheaper, may be too much hassle.

Despite this, I’m not losing hope.  These are the early days of this technology.  Cell phone prices and voice plans were prohibitive when they first appeared on the scene as was computer hardware, software and Internet access.  As these devices became more and more commonplace, hardware/software quality and connection services all improved significantly while ownership and access became more affordable.  We are now at a point where students have steady access to the Internet at home and come to school with devices that can help them learn.  Surely, the same will happen with these all-in-one mobile communication devices.

What do you get when you mix a multi-touch gadget, music software and a little creativity?  You get the iBand. An iPhone and iPod Touch band – mobile music at the creator level!

The software comes from MooCowMusic @ http://moocowmusic.com/. Not sure I’m thrilled with the song itself, but look at what’s now possible:

Disclaimer: I realize that we don’t need an iPod to utilize and organize educational content in iTunes. However, since iTunes is made to work with an iPod and since this results in the two working very well together, let’s look at the educational value of iTunes within the umbrella of using iPods in education. As a directory for media content, iTunes allows for easy search and organization of various types of multimedia content.

Firstly, lets look at some obvious uses of iTunes in education:

Podcasts – podcasts are all free and are produced by a number of different content providers from large media companies such as Discovery Networks to interested individuals to students in many different subject areas.

iTunesU – Accessing university lectures is no longer as expensive as it used to be.  Many universities are now offering recording of lectures to their students and to the wider global community free of charge.

Secondly, let’s look at some not so obvious uses:

Biographies – Good biographical content of individuals from both past and present are available in iTunes.  True, the biographies are currently restricted to music artists but a music teacher/student clicking on the “Biography” link is provided with good quality biographical information about that artist.

Add Text to Audio Tracks – right-clicking on any sound file allows assess to edit an audio track’s information and one of the editable options is lyrics.  Placing text in the lyrics field allows the teacher to add text to their audio files so that students can read and listen at the same time.

Organzie PDFs – Remember that iTunes is a directory with the ability to organize files into libraries and playlists.  That also includes PDFs! You can organize your PDFs by categories in the same way you organize music – using playlists.  You can use your current library and create a smart playlists for your PDFs or create a PDF specific library.  Use iTunes to organize your files and never search for PDFs on your computer again.  For more detailed information on how to set this up, check out this Lifehacker article.

Sync iTunes with Mp3 Player – Don’t have an iPod and want to use iTunes to organize your audio files and sync with you Mp3 player?  Try iTunes Sync

I must admit that the motivation behind this blog post stems from my upcoming trip to Europe. This self-guided tour will include a lot of travel on public transportation system and, as a result, I need maps to guide my travels. In comes iSubwayMaps.com to the rescue. This small but growing database of maps utilizes the photos feature of all modern iPods to display subway maps of various major cities around the world.

In schools, we can utilize these maps to teach a tool within a tool. Maps are a navigation tool and the development of mapping skills are found in curriculum expectations at the early-mid elementary grades. The ability to download maps from iSubwayMaps to an iPod and to have these maps available wherever one is opens up a whole range of possibilities in teaching students mapping skills using an iPod beyond just subway maps. Any image of any map of anywhere in the world will do and with the ability to add multiple images, a student can scroll through various part of a maps just as it is done with an iSubwayMaps map. A teacher can also utilize this technique by including historical maps in the iPod’s library of maps.

The possibilities of using an iPod for maps extends beyong just static images as this video of the Toronto Subway system clearly demonstrates: