wasting bandwidth since 1999

Learning in Your Pocket

It’s interesting how instructional technology gets into the classroom.

A lot of the choices are made by people other than teachers: principals, IT folks, tech specialists, superintendents.

But in my experience, the stuff that actually sticks around, the tools that actually get used and impact kids, is completely determined by teachers and their students.

Which brings us to our big boss who got an iPod Touch for Christmas (coincidentally so did his boss) and since then has been asking a lot of questions about how the devices could be used for teaching and learning.

As a result, many people in our office are now carrying Touches and a group has been tasked with creating a pilot project to put them in some schools.

While I think the iPod Touch could be an excellent learning tool (my iPhone certainly is), I’m also the resident curmudgeon about such things so naturally I have a few concerns about this initiative.

For one thing, in the discussions about the mechanics of using handheld devices with groups of students, it’s clear that many people around here are looking at the iPod Touch the same way they do our current laptops.

Almost exclusively we use computers as group technologies. We have a bunch of them in a lab and then bring in a bunch of kids to use them for some teacher-designed activity.

Or in schools that have laptop carts, we wheel them into a classroom, pass out the units, and then proceed, again largely with group activities.

However, the iPod Touch, and other pocket computing devices, are intended for personal use. They are designed to be customized, personalizing the user’s experience so, instead of everyone seeing the same desktop, we all see ourselves in the device.

In addition, many people in our group (as well as in the research I’ve done) seems to be trying to transfer our traditional classroom uses for computers onto these new device formats.

Of course, some of those applications may actually be appropriate (please, not the “blaster”-type learning games) but instead I think we need a new approach.

We need to come at this from the angle of how portable communications devices like the iPod Touch might be used to individualize instruction rather than continue to homogenize it.

And then there’s the matter of who we have on this planning group. Or rather, who’s not there: teachers and students.

In this case, that deficiency can be easily fixed.

We just need to find people who are already using these devices in our schools (our IT department sees several thousand a day on the network) and invite them to tell us how they use their iPod Touch.

Undoubtably they, especially the kids, will give us some insight we can’t get any other way.

1 Comment

  1. Brian C. Smith

    You’ve hit on the very same (and important) point I’ve been thinking and promoting for portable devices for years (I used to write my blog about mobile devices). The point is that they are PERSONAL. If the devices reside in the classroom or in a cart while students/educators are away from the classroom what’s the point? 2) Let the users (students/educators) participate.

    We’ve recently been given an iPod Touch and despite the improvements in the technology, I don’t see much difference in how they will be accepted and utilized in classrooms to support the traditional uses of computers. I even heard at a recent workshop by an Apple rep that they could see students sitting at desks with an external keyboard and iPod Touch writing papers. Yes, writing a paper on an iPod Touch. We’ve got some work to do…

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