iPod grants bring high-tech lessons to students of all ages

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

Ann Arbor teachers are discovering that “there’s an app for that” thanks to a technology initiative that distributed 700 iPod Touches this semester for classroom use.

Pattengill Elementary third-graders use iPods to do visual storytelling.

At Pattengill Elementary School, third-grade teacher Dawn Blair is busy finding ways to use 31 Apple iPod Touches awarded to the school for a variety of lessons. Students have accessed Blair’s class “Moodle” Web page, done math projects and digital story-telling with an application called “Storytelling Kit.” The application allows students to draw their own pictures and write their own stories on the iPods.

“The advantage I see so far is they’re excited about it,” said Blair. “They’re excited about learning things in different ways. They’re walking right in and ready to go. It gives them some independence and a sense of responsibility.”

The iPods at Pattengill are part of the district’s technology refresh initiative, which made them available through a grant program, according to Monique Uzelac, the district’s director of instructional technology. Teachers, media specialists and other instructional staff submitted proposals for how they would use the devices and they were awarded earlier this year.

Fifteen projects were approved across grade levels. Plans include using the iPod Touches for data collection, hand-held media viewers for students, supplements for special education services and enhancing language art and math instruction.

Schools and programs include: The Preschool & Family Center; Burns Park, Bryant, Carpenter, Dicken, King, Logan, Pattengill elementaries; Forsythe and Scarlett middle schools; Community, Skyline and Stone high schools; and two programs in self-contained multiple Student Intervention and Support Services rooms in the district’s special education program.
The proposals required staff to specify use, evaluation and how the project would benefit students. Those given the iPods were required to attend one day of training to prepare for use in the classroom.

At Pattengill, Blair and Media Specialist Deb Schreck received the iPod Touches in early February and immediately researched free applications to download. Schreck said using them for a math application, for example, is much different that putting a piece of paper and pencil in front of a student. “You give them an iPod and say ‘do this math application’ and they’re all about it,” she said.

Schreck said what she likes about the technology is that, unlike a laptop computer and a Web site that might have a lot of visual clutter, the iPod applications are focused on one specific application.

Because at Pattengill they number the iPods and assign the same one to individual students, staff can track where students are and how far they’ve progressed.

Schreck said because the iPods will eventually expand to fourth- and fifth-graders and be used across grades as the program is developed.

At Skyline High School, at least a dozen uses are planned for the 100 iPod Touches that were awarded via the technology grant.

The uses will undoubtedly lead to hundreds of future projects, said Pete Pasque, instructional technologist at the school. They are “productivity tools to help manage what students are learning,” he said. “It’s so exciting to have students as creators. That’s what we’re trying to do at Skyline.”

Pasque said he hopes to see the iPod Touches used for everything from recording band practices in order to review music to accelerometers in science class. There’s even talk of putting an iPod in a football helmet, running a play and charting and graphing the impact in Microsoft Excel.

“Teachers come to me and say ‘hey Pete, I want to do this’ … and I say ‘OK let me figure it out,’” Pasque said. “It’s going to make it more real world for the kids.”

Uzelac said she had so many requests for iPod Touch grants from Skyline, that she asked for a combined proposal. Skyline had a dozen teachers ask for 500 as a school; Skyline was given 100 in the grant process.

Pasque said Skyline now has only four laptop cards that can be checked out at the media center, so the 100 iPods will greatly increase student accessibility to the Internet.

The use of such devices in high school becomes even more important with trends at area colleges and universities, Pasque said. “A lot of them are requiring students to have an iPhone or Ipod Touch. They can access maps of campus, how to use the library, walking tours and other important things.”

He said he sees such devices, especially with the recent introduction of Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle electronic readers as the wave of the future. Will these replace textbooks someday? Maybe, he said.

Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-994-2090 ext. 51228.

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