In general the devices were well received. It was my strong feeling that students appreciated having something new and innovative in the classroom. Many of the students expressed that they preferred reading material from the iPods compared to working with a textbook. My senior students quickly adapted to using the verb guide and dictionary apps for their writing and it soon became invaluable although it was simply a lighter easier to search version of reference textbooks. For the grade 8 and 9 curriculum I integrated basic learn to speak French programs using the iPods and students found them engaging. My own evaluation of the software was that it was good for vocabulary acquisition but it was definitely limited in what I would consider a fully rounded and engaging program. If I could go back and reference “Alive in the Swamp’s” Index we were definitely putting technology before pedagogy, but in fairness one of my main goals was to increase engagement and interest and it did inject some excitement and diversity into my program.
After a semester of experimentation we were very happy with the initial experiment. The devices had worked well and all of the units continue to operate without problem, we were also starting to share the devices with other classes (Math and English). Feeling limited with only 15 devices, we presented to the school board, joined a district technology initiative and began looking for ways to raise money to buy another 15 devices to complete a class set. Impressed with our presentation the district granted us funds to purchase 15 more devices. The next set we purchased were 4th generation and included a camera. This feature proved to be invaluable and I continue to have students use the video feature to practice their language and create learning videos which they upload to their online portfolios. While we continued to use the older generation for the more traditional tools and programs, but I found that the video function and video editing apps were much more exciting for the style of learning I was promoting.
After 4 years of using the iPods they are all still running except for one. We have never had issue with theft and we continue to use and share them with other departments. Our school does not have a ban on electronics and generally our staff is much more comfortable with the use of hand held electronics in their classes. Furthermore my involvement with the project and the district tech initiative is what inspired me to enrolling in the OLTD program at VIU. In sum total our iPod project was a success. That said I would not recommend further purchase of iPods, at least on a large scale. While the devices have proven to be reliable, one disturbing pattern has been that our 2nd generation devices are no longer updateable, so they are stuck with the software that is installed on them. For the roughly $2000 that we spent on these devices this is unacceptable to me. As my technology role has expanded in the school and I am now the technology deparment head I would choose to invest school money into district networked laptops that have the ability to access web 2.0 tools. I think the laptop also provides a more universal interface for student output. Ipods do have some unique features but I am continually impressed by the range of programs offered by web 2.0 tools. I also believe that if we allow students the flexibility to use their own devices (BYOD) we can cover the gap between what the laptops have to offer and the unique features of handheld devices and tablets.
When I consider the following statement presented in “The Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning” by Siemens and Tittenberger:
Grassroots innovation frequently encounters organizational barriers.
Adopting a department-level view of elearning is important in creating learning
material, creating a support infrastructure, allocating resources, and building a
“comprehensive program of continuing professional development”.
(Siemens, Tittenberger, p. 35)
It reminds me how far our school and my personal attitudes towards technology have evolved in the last three years. Unfortunately, organizational barriers like the looming school closure that our school and other schools in our district are facing do create roadblock to this process, but overall I think there has been a general attitude shift and acceptance of technology being used in our school’s classrooms and the idea of banning personal electronics is a long forgotten memory.
Donnelly, Katelyn and Fullen, Michael, Alive in the Swamp , Nesta, (July, 2013).
Siemens, George and Tittenberger, Peter, Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning, March, 2009.