Blog Post

Using iPods in the Classroom

This semester, my students used iPod Touches to record video interviews with local experts as part of a research project.  They used the iPods to make small edits and upload the videos directly to Youtube, and because the technology was so user-friendly, it required very little in-class training time.  Although we only had two iPods per 40 students, many groups of students were able to check out a device more than once for their project.

As I have looked around in the past few weeks for other examples of using iPods in the classroom, most ideas seem to be based on a study-guide model, where students use it on their own to learn vocabulary, review notes, or listen to tutorials.  Almost all of these suggestions assume that each student has an individual iPod.  While these examples are certainly interesting, I am more interested in learning about interactive, collaborative uses for these devices in situations where not every student, or even every other student, has an iPod.

How might students work in teams to follow or create a self-guided tour?  How can we ask students to use podcasts in a participatory rather than passive way?  How can students share the devices to crowd-source research for a project?  How could iPods help peer workshopping sessions?  Or are iPods just too small to be useful for team-based learning?

Cathy Davidson's January blog post on iPads in schools has been on my mind all semester, and she makes a great argument for why, in her words, the iPod "is not a classroom learning tool unless you restructure the classroom."  I could not agree more.  She makes a great case for not only why we need to be intentional when we integrate technological tools into the classroom, but also why we need to listen to our students to learn how we might take advantage of these technologies, to make it truly student-driven pedagogy.

In the spirit of Cathy's post, I am hoping that I can brainstorm with you about how you have used or hope to use iPods or iPads for team-based projects, to start a discussion thread with concrete classroom strategies.  What has worked?  What hasn't?  I would love to hear examples from your experience!



Anonymous (not verified)

I think one of the issues with iOS devices (iPods, iPads, iPhones) is that they are designed for consuming information. It's not that one can't create content using one of these devices, it's that input -- at least via traditional technologies like keyboards, mice and a large GUI -- isn't the primary design factor. I have limited experience with these tools in an educational setting so my viewpoint primarliy comes from talking and sharing with other educators. I've seen quite a few special and regular education applications using iPods and iPads: an audio interface for listening/recording; a simple, intitive touchscreeen for younger students and those with motor skill shallenges; early versions of digital textbooks, etc. I think we're just scratching the surface.

Fortunately, I belong to a professional group, Apple Distinguished Educators, where many innovative and creative teachers and administrators from around the world are enthusiastically probing questions like this. I can't tell you how many wonderful ideas and discussions come out of this group. 

This is an area of interest for me as well. We're just getting started in my school district; the initial efforts are around increasing awareness and shifting paradigms (a term which always makes me think of an old Joel Barker video). Frankly, it's a struggle. A few teachers "get it" and I'm doing my best to support them but I think it's essential that school administrators are on the front end of this process - easier said than done.

Thank you for a most interesting post!

Jeff Johnson


Technology Coordinator
Glendale-River Hills School District
Glendale, WI 53209



Thanks so much for your reply--I am excited to hear that you have been pondering these possibilities too, and even more excited to hear that Apple Distinguished Educators is providing a space for educators to brainstorm together.  I agree that we are just beginning to scratch the surface!  I would love to hear more about these discussions--do you have a favorite idea or link you could recommend?


A friend recently told me about a school that uses iPads in a writing classroom: students record themselves reading their own papers, then listen to themselves to assess the flow of their writing.  It uses very basic technology--audio recording is, like you suggest, certainly not the fanciest or most creative feature of an iPad.  But, the students have had success in improving their own writing; it seems a stellar example of how this technology might help students to not only learn, but to drive their own learning.  That's exciting!


Thanks again for your post, Jeff!