iPod Touch Initiative - Shepparton High School, AustraliaEdit
Students from Shepparton HS, in Victoria Australia are on the cutting edge of technology in an educational setting as they use iPod Touches to learn everyday. The high school, which is responsible for the education of about 900 students from years 7 to 12, has taken a new approach to learning, referred to as “personalised learning.” [Personalised Learning, 2009]  The school environment lends itself well to supporting technology in the classroom, with large open learning spaces, a multimedia lab, interactive whiteboards, notebook computers, and digital and video cameras available for student use during the school day.
A research study that started in August 2008 and continued through December involved year 8 students collaborating with students from other countries [Mobile Learning, 2009] . During the first section of the study, students primarily used the iPod Touch to share with the students in other countries about what it is like to live in their country. Through StudyWiz the students shared photos and responded to each other’s comments about their work. The second half (from January 2009-June 2009) of the research study focused more on students using different iPod Touch applications to personalize their learning. Having more experience with the iPods, teachers were able to pick more specific applications, to foster the literacy initiative where students from different schools again collaborated.
Now in the continuing stages, Louise Duncan, teacher and coordinator of Personalised Learning for Shepparton High School is working to grow the program at her school and share her successes with others around the world [Expansion Plans, 2009] . Teachers and students use the iPod touch for everything from calendar dates to sharing homework assignments. Not only do the students use their iPod Touches at school, but they also take their iPods home to work on school assignments, submit homework, and access the Internet. Each student’s iPod Touch is customized to meet their needs as a part of the school’s personalised learning program. An active part of learning in every class, students find use for their iPods in a variety of settings. For example, students may choose to review math facts with a math application, listen to an ebook during reading, or study vocabulary from the notes application to prepare for a science test.
Value and Importance of InitiativeEdit
The value and importance of this successful project has allowed students the opportunity to have control of their learning. With a personalized iPod, students are excited about their learning, as are teachers. The attitude of students alone has become more positive towards learning, making students more engaged in their learning. Since students are connected to the Internet via the school’s wifi network, there is constant access to communication. After students go home, teachers can send feedback to students through Study Wiz as well as communicate through e-mail [Study Wiz, 2009] . Teachers now spend their time coming up with innovative ways to involve their students using the iPod Touch in the classroom. An example of an innovative classroom application would be appropriate here
Planning Process - Responsible for Successes and ProblemsEdit
The planning process had a large impact on the success of the iPod initiative at Shepparton HS. Duncan suggests that implementing in stages allows both teachers and students time to adjust to the new instructional tool. When introducing the iPods, it was found effective when guided activities were presented to students as part of whole-group instruction. Another important element that contributed to the successes was that teachers from all subject areas were able to integrate using the iPod into every class period.
Perhaps the most important part of the planning process was the teacher involvement. Having the iPods 6 months before the students is highly recommended by Duncan. When teachers are comfortable with the technology for their own use, they will be more likely to come up with creative ways to use the technology in the classroom. Professional development for teachers to learn to use Apple’s iPod Touch technology may be imperative for the success of the iPod initiative. For teachers to feel comfortable using the technology in the classroom, they need to have professional development and enough time to plan for the change of instructional style.
At Shepparton High School, Duncan quickly learned that having a planned system of file sharing and syncing was crucial to the success of the planned process. Every Wednesday two year 11 students volunteer their time to sync the iPods with any new content, or delete content that is no longer needed [Syncing, 2009] . This puts a lot of demand on teachers as they have to be planning at least a week in advance to ensure that the proper applications are on the iPods in time for students to use them during instruction. The flexibility of adding new applications was also an important factor. When Duncan found that students were interested in a specific topic she might instruct the year 11 students to load a specific application on his or her iPod. In a typical laptop situation this would not be possible, as software applications are far more expensive than applications from the iTunes store. However, at a minimal cost, students are able to have a personalized device where they can control their learning.
Because the implementation of iPods as a one-to-one initiative was a new idea, there were some elements of the process that did not go as planned or needed to be clarified along the way. Originally when students first got their iPods they were allowed to have games on their iPod. However, Duncan quickly found that some students were distracted by the games during class. Games that were not directly related to education and Duncan’s class were removed so students could stay focused on their work. Students were also originally permitted to listen to music in class while working. Again, this was an unforeseen distraction and students were asked to not listen to music in class and save it for after school.
Another issue that evolved from the plan is the need for technical support. While the iPods are wonderful when they are working, when they are not working, problems begin to occur in the classroom. The primary issue Duncan found that affected large groups of students was that the batteries on student’s iPods were not lasting the duration of the school day. Even though students were charging their iPods in the evening, they were listening to music on the way to school as well as heavily using their iPods throughout the school day. Along with iPod batteries not lasting long, some batteries also ended up failing and needed to be replaced, leaving students without an iPod Touch.
A need that arose for Shepparton High School is a better way of syncing and charging all of the iPods at once. Available in the U.S. is a cart system that will charge and sync the iPod Touches. Not only would the year 11 students save time in the syncing process, but the iPods could also easily be stored and charged in a safe place. The lack of USB cords posed a problem because students took their USB cords home to charge their iPods at night, so additional cords needed to be purchased for at school to sync. With the cart syncing and charging at school, this issue would also be eliminated.
Summary of InitiativeEdit
Shepparton High School’s system of personalized learning provides an example of how technology can be used to meet the needs of all students. Louise Duncan has used her talents and vast amounts of resources to allow students the chance to create their own learning [Duncan, 2009] . Through the iPod Touch applications, students have the benefit of a variety of learning applications that are both motivating and engaging. Constant communication allows students, parents, and teachers to collaborate to ensure a successful learning environment. The students and teachers at Shepparton High School are well on their way to leading the rest of the world in the mobile learning device initiative.
- http://www2.shs.vic.edu.au/curriculum/personalised-learning.html accessed on September 29, 2009
- http://louiseduncan.globalteacher.org.au/files/2009/08/Mobile-Learning-Research-Report_Etech2009_Final.pdf accessed on October 5, 2009
- http://louiseduncan.globalteacher.org.au/2009/08/16/expansion-plans/ accessed on October 2, 2009
- http://www.europe.studywiz.com/?cat=42 accessed October 10, 2009
- http://louiseduncan.globalteacher.org.au/2009/08/21/syncing/ accessed on October 2, 2009
- http://louiseduncan.globalteacher.org.au/ accessed on October 2, 2009