iPod as an education tool: year one reflections

June 13, 2007

Our school has recently finished the first year of our iPod initiative. This program issues iPods to students for use in classrooms and for educational purposes. I had my perceptions and observations of the program, but felt that it is important to get the perceptions and observations from the students. As the first year of the program we only issued the iPods to Freshman students and during their English classes the Freshman completed a survey I created with the recommendations from others in our technology department. The survey has multiple goals; primary of which is to assess the students ease of use and type of use. This is because the success of the program is for the benefit of the students. The second main goal was to understand the level of use by the various disciplines. After all, the success of the program is dependent on teacher incorporation. In general the results were positive, reassuring, and helpful in planning for next year.

Student previous technology experience and growth of knowledge:

In breaking down the program the first item of my concern is student technology knowledge. Prior to the start of this program my assumption and perception of student technology knowledge is that students already know how to use such technologies and can figure out programs through repeated use. I based part of my assumption on my perceptions of the students in my classroom. I began using podcasting and blogging as a tool for education two years ago. I consider myself a digital native, I grew-up with Apple IIe, Oregon Trail, and the original Nintendo. I taught myself how to use the websites and software commonly included in Web 2.0 applications. When I introduced these applications to my class, it never occurred to me to teach the students how to use the websites. It took a short time for my students to became proficient in these application and shortly after that other teachers became curious about how I my students used such tools. I noticed that with many teachers the first question was how long it took me to teach my students how to use the sites and applications. It was only then I reflected on my assumption and actions, or lack of.

Based on these experience I held the same assumption with the iPods: students know how to use such technology and with time they will figure out more practical uses through experience. The results of the student survey supported my theory. The average student response was in agreement or strong agreement that they previously have used an iPod or MP3 player. While not as high statistically, student response was also between agree and strongly agree for comfortable using various technologies and instant messaging. Students also supported my belief that repeated use allows for comfort in applications. It is no surprise that the viewing and downloading of video and audio files received a high comfort rating. What is encouraging is the increase in comfort in using the flash drive component of the iPod. Previous technology experience identifies flash drive use with a 3.81 rating our of 5. In the growth of technical knowledge category using the iPods as a portable flash drive earned a 4.18 rating out of 5. While this is not a statically substantial increase, it shows that positive growth occurs. As a school that prides itself on the student technology use, the growth of student technical knowledge in the Freshman year is a step in the right direction.

Types of use in the classroom:

More important to me was how students use iPods and in what classes. The top five uses, according to the ratings, are 1) viewing presentations and/or images, 2) portable hard drive, 3) view text or written documents, 4) listen to audio for foreign language classes, and 5) as an audio recording device. All of these scored above 2.75 out of a 5 point scale demonstrating regular use over the course of the grading period. The use of the iPod as a portable hard drive and to view presentations, such as Power Points, scored on a regular monthly use. These results mirror those aspects the students feel are most beneficial. An overwhelming majority felt the using the iPod to view presentations and as a portable hard drive is a benefit. A majority of students also felt listening to educational audio and viewing text is a benefit. Surprising to me, recording audio did not meet a majority level as a benefit, but I feel that is because of the lack of awareness by teachers on how to use this tool rather than anything else.

Year two:

Our school has already taken the steps to prepare for the program next year. While the students demonstrated how they feel an iPod is best used in education and that they are comfortable with the technology, they also relayed to us that not all of the teachers are comfortable. To educate the teachers and increase a comfort level for them our school is offering two training session this summer. I will present the first workshop next week, before NECC, and one after the conference in the middle in July. I feel that summer training sessions are great for several reasons. The first is that excuses are more difficult to form when the stress of lesson planning and grading are absent. Another is that optional, summer sessions allow those willing to take the time to prepare for the success of such programs to demonstrate this desire. I hesitate to require such sessions, because then you often get people who do not care about the program. We will be following up on these summer sessions during our in-service week prior to the start of school and with sessions through out the school year as well.

I have created a wiki, password is education, to aid these workshop and I will keep you updated as to the results of these workshop. I would love to hear your comments on using iPods as an educational tool and invited you to contribute your ideas to the wiki.

New courses and iPods

August 19, 2006

My goal of using this summer to write on a semi-daily basis did not go completely as planned. As per usual I had several projects working at the same time and was not able to complete everything before school started. That said, the school year offers something that summertime lacks, routine. With teaching multiple courses, coaching and graduate school I do not expect to be able to write on a daily basis; however I do plan on several articles a week. The majority of my writing will focus less on new technology that I find and more of my ideas and how these ideas work out with such technology in my courses.

This year I am teaching on freshman level English course. This is a new course at our school as it is specifically paired with AP Human Geography, a first time offering at our school. This is the first time that we have offered an AP course at the freshman level. It is exciting to think about the possibilities that will await these freshman who are challenging themselves by taking a college level course. As Ms. Lipscomb, my social studies counterpart in this pairing of courses, stated to one of the classes this week, “Welcome to your freshman year…in college.” It should be a great year.

Another new program for our freshman is our partnership with Apple. Following the lead of several prominent universities, Bishop Dunne Catholic School is issuing iPods to freshman students for academic use. Last year I explored the use of podcasting in my World History courses and I feel that it went well. My ideas for academic use this year include my podcasts, students created podcasts and interviews.

Personally, I will try to podcast several of my lectures. The idea is that students who are absent can review the discussion and not completely miss out on the class experience. I would say that students could review the lecture on their own time, but the realist in me understands that few students will listen to a discussion a second time. Some of these lectures will be recorded prior to class using Audacity and the $15 microphone I purchased at Fry’s Electronics. If you have questions about how to create a podcast see my previous posting. Also check out Eric Langhorst’s posting from the Midwest Summer Institute. I intended on using Belkin’s new iPod recorder to record in class lectures as I pace a lot when I talk; however this will now be delayed by about a week as FedEx dropped the ball.

Not to side track too much, but since I have your attention. Apparently FedEx’s policy on obtaining signatures for purchases that require such confirmation of delivery is a waste of time. FedEx delivered my Belkin recorder yesterday, but someone other than myself or my wife signed for the package. Since no one else lives with us I am not sure who that was, but they signed my name. Afterward someone, presumable the same person who signed for the package, opened the box and stole my new recorded. Thankfully they left the boxes and the packing slip for me the throw in the trash. Apple is investigating and I should receive a replacement in a week. After speaking with FedEx’s customer service representatives I doubt high that I will every use FedEx or purchase a product from anyone who uses FedEx again.

Back on track.

I will also use podcasting to distribute exam review sessions. I spent the past eight months listening to several teacher podcasts to gain ideas. Following the lead of some of these podcasts I will included some type of bonus question within the podcast as an incentive for students. Our students, like most, have a commute to school that provides a perfect opportunity to listen to podcasts.

My students will also be creating podcasts. I plan to have students create audio for some of the presentations in our class. While I recognize that students must become comfortable with presenting in front of an audience, I feel that creating a presentation and performing in front of an audience are two different skills. If we as teachers can isolate these skills, then possibly students will understand the differences and be able to excel at both.

Additionally, interviews and field research is another addition to courses that iPods enable. By using recorders such as the Belkin device I purchased both teachers and students can bring into the classroom the expertise of people who normally do not have the time to present within normal school hours. While I have no specific plans for this, I am keeping my mind open and my eyes lurking.

Finally, let me say that I do not believe that those students who are not issued an iPod will be excluded from this program. In addition to the freshman English course, I am teaching a pair of sophomore English classes and an AP Economics course to seniors. Ninety percent of the students in my classes have internet access at their houses and will be able to take advantage of these podcast. Since iTunes does not allow for transferring of files except to iPods, I will outline some of the other podcatchers in future articles.

In addition to my how to posting on podcasting and the Speaking of History blog there are several articles on educational resource. Make sure that you check out Wesley Fryer’s Moving at the Speed of Creativity.
Enjoy your day,


Creating an Audiocast

July 4, 2006

Well my relaxation month of summer concludes with this Fourth of July weekend.  During this month I slacked off considerable from the amount of blog posting I originally set for myself.  I did get the opportunity to subscribe and to listen to several different audiocasts via iTunes.  As I begin to organize my courses for this upcoming fall semester I will include examples of audiocast that I will be creating.  With this on my mind, I realize that not everyone may be familiar with the easy of creating an audiocast.


The first thing that we must do is ensure that we have all the necessary software.  I know that some people think that you must have a Mac to create an audiocast.  I use my Dell laptop, Audacity (open source software), a free subscription to Gcast, and a $15 microphone.  Using these four items I can successfully create an audiocast.  By adding iTunes I can make this audiocast a subscribable channel.


The ease of use is one of the better functions of Audacity.  First you need to download both the installer and the LAME MP3 encoder.  Once you have downloaded the program and the encoder you are ready to create a podcast.  By using the $15 microphone you can begin recording.  Simply depress the (1) record button and the program will start recording your voice.  When you are finished, simply depress (2) stop and your track is ready for editing. 

Editing your recording is as simple as cutting and pasting.  Begin by playing the audio from the start, I would first increase the (1) Gain, it will increase to output volume of you recording.  Audacity allows you to stop the track, (2) highlight the portion you wish to delete and then (3) remove it from the recording.  The simplicity of this action allows you to keep recording when you know you misspeak or misread during your recording.  What I recommend to my students is to pause, allowing a break in the recording increasing the ease of deleting a segment, and then begin rereading from a point where you know you properly spoke.

Once you have concluded your editing, (1) save the project and then after you save the edited version (2) export as an MP3.  If you did not download the LAME MP3 encoder previously, you will have to do so before you can export as an MP3.  Now your audiocast is complete and ready to upload to Gcast.

Gcast is a free service provided by the Garage Band record label.  I have found Gcast to be simply to use and provides several options to distribute audio recordings.  With your one Gcast account you can create several podcast channels with unique XML codes (we will get to this later).  Another cool option is that you can record audiocasts directly to Gcast from you phone.  I have not done this yet, but I am looking forward to this feature.


First of course is that you will need to create account.  Once you have created an account use the table of contents on the left sign to select “Upload new audio.”  On the Upload new audio page type in (1) the title of your audiocast and then a (2) description of the recording.  After you have done this depress the (3) browse button to locate the MP3 you made using Audacity.  Locate the file and depress open.  After you depress the agreement button at the button of the page your audiocast will be uploaded and appear on your master playlist.  Now that you have uploaded your audiocast to the internet, it is time to create a subscribable channel on iTunes.

If you do not have a copy of iTunes you will need to download this program.  iTunes is not the only program that will retrieve audiocasts, it is just the most commonly used.  In the future we will explore the various programs available.  After downloading the program choose the (1) Music Store in the source column on the left side and once on the Music Store page choose (2) podcasts as the genre.


After selecting Submit a Podcast from inside the music store you will need to return to Gcast to retrieve the URL feed you created.  Once on your home page on the Gcast website right click the mouse when the cursor is on the XML button for the channel you wish to upload to iTunes.  This should pop up a new window that contains the URL of your feed.  Copy this URL and return to iTunes to past the requested URL information.  Congratulations.  Once you have submitted this information you now have an audiocast channel to which anyone with an internet connection can subscribe.

Now that you have created your own audiocast channel, subscribe to some of the available podcast and think about some of the ways in which educators can use audiocast for educational purposes.  This will be the topic of our next entry.


Enjoy your day,