iPods may change K-12 education with help from TTU

Downloading pieces of Elizabethan music,
practicing stock market skills with pretend money, using interactive maps to
understand colonial settlements — Tennessee Tech University student teachers
equipped with iPods stand ready to make all this and more happen in their
classrooms.

TTU curriculum and instruction instructor Jeremy Wendt is placing iPod Touch
devices, pocket-size, portable media players capable of wireless Internet
connection, into the hands of every student in one section of his
educational technology course each semester.

His immediate goal is to accumulate hundreds of blog entries on how an iPod
Touch can be used in elementary, middle school and high school classrooms.
His ultimate success will be measured in how well this technology, less than
two years old, finds its way into common usage.

"I’ve seen iPod technology used in higher education a little bit, but
thought it would be interesting to see how our students could equip
themselves to use it in public and private schools they’ll be working in,”
said Wendt.

Spanish major Brittney Barker who’s working on a secondary education
certificate says language instruction is a perfect use for the iPod Touch.

“I constantly had ideas that dealt with proper pronunciation or having a
Spanish dictionary on hand with the iPod Touch,” said Barker. “The
instructor could record his or her own voice repeating vocabulary and then
send the students home with iPods to practice efficiently.  Many foreign
language students have trouble with pronunciation and they only receive help
IN the classroom.  With the iPods, they can practice the correct
pronunciations anywhere.”

Joe Harold, a retired U.S. Marine who is working toward a master’s degree
and a position as a middle school science teacher, says the iPod Touch puts
some 25,000 free books, plus educational puzzles, maps and games right into
his pocket.

“It cultivates imagination and intrigues students; that’s what makes them
want to learn,” said Harold.

He envisions doing away with a lot of paper by using the iPod Touch, and
thinks the $229 device is a smart way to spend money.
Barker agrees with Harold’s observation.

“iPods give students new reasons to be interested in their own learning,”
she said. “A challenge that I think we face as teachers with this project is
finding ways for students to use the iPods effectively and integrating its
components into our lessons with fluidity.  I think many technological
elements are easily correlated with everyday lessons, but they are sometimes
distracting rather than productive."

Wendt, who purchased the devices with grant money, picked a
section of his two upper division educational technology classes that had
very little experience with the technology in order to judge the impact on
their classroom teaching. Students carried them for a whole semester in
order to become comfortable.

“All public schools in this area have wi-fi now, so it’s a tool
that gives a teacher many options,” said Wendt. “You have reference tools at
your fingertips like dictionaries, and graphing calculators. There are
thousands of free resources.”

But the resources only make a difference if teachers create
effective ways to use them. Wendt says he encourages students to lead the
way in the educational use of iPods.

“They can be used in contests, as incentives and rewards, as a
basis for learning stations and as collaborative tools,” he explained.

But the key is to let the technology live up to its name.
“If you don’t let the students touch it, it’s not nearly as effective,” said
Wendt.

Wendt says he plans to study the outcomes between the class
sections that used iPods and the sections using more traditional
instruction.