IPods and ITunes: Productive or destructive?

ipodnano.png  Earlier this week Joel (our tech coordinator) and I did one of our weekly “Project Technology” workshops for staff on using iTunes and iPods in the classroom.

Through the generosity of our PTO, we’ve bought six nanos to bring iPod technology into the school for staff and students to use.   The workshop went really well, and one of the best things about it was sharing with teachers how iTunes could be used in the classroom to share free podcasts and video podcasts with students, since all of our teachers’ classrooms are equipped with projectors.

We explored a number of helpful podcasts that could be used at the beginning of class, like the Princeton Review vocabulary song of the day podcast, or some that could become the lesson, like some of the CNET video podcasts or French Ecole podcasts.  While they are available elsewhere on the web, iTunes collects many of the education podcasts in one handy location for easy browsing.   In fact, it was one of those workshops where people didn’t want to leave when time was up, which is always an exciting moment.

Ironically, today Cnn.com featured an article, “Schools Say iPods Becoming Tools for Cheating,” (thanks to David Farhie for sharing it) about how some students may be using iPods themselves for cheating.   Not surprising, I suppose, since almost any technology tool can be used in both positive and negative ways.

The part of the article that most interested me, though, was a quote by Tim Dodd, of the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University, who points out that “trying to fight the technology without a dialogue on values and expectations is a losing battle.”

The issue here is instilling in our students a sense of academic integrity.   I believe it will get more and more difficult to “wall out” the technology as devices get smaller and smaller.   We need to create tests and assignments that are difficult to just “download” the answer to, and we need to talk frequently and honestly with students about their ethics and integrity on many technology related issues.   I’m not pollyanish enough to believe that is a cure, but I do believe it is important to have meaningful classroom relationships with our students, and an environment in our classrooms where cheating isn’t acceptable to students either.  

I also agree with Tim Dodd, that iPods have many invaluable and productive uses for the classroom, as does the content on iTunes.

So here’s to some teachers willing to play with a new tool many of their students are already using!

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Update 4/30:   I just saw a fascinating list of “Ten unexpected uses for an iPod” that the blog Assorted Stuff pointed to today.  Really interesting real life uses….

3 thoughts on “IPods and ITunes: Productive or destructive?

  1. One advantage of teachers using IPods may be that in learning about the technology they can better defend against it’s use for cheating.

  2. Yeah, that headline is unfortunate in that it oversimplifies the issues and presses the fear/hysteria button. Thanks for your thoughtful elaboration on what those issues, and possible solutions, really are. A colleague and I were talking about the “cheating” issue the other day. Her comment was that it’s a red herring: our focus should be on effective teaching structured around essential questions—instruction that can’t be reduced to a downloadable set of answers.

    I like your point about academic integrity and bringing ethics into the conversation. The cheating question has always seemed to me to be related to the question of why we’re in school, intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, etc. If students are motivated to learn for authentic reasons and are acting as advocates of their own learning, cheating becomes reductio ad absurdum. Have to say though: being an advocate for one’s own learning is not the same as being an advocate for one’s academic “career.” So there’s the usual grain of salt.

  3. I remember when I was in school and those calculator watches were banned because they “caused cheating”. I don’t think any electronic device causes cheating. And I think that if our kids are finding ways to cheat with these things; then maybe we need to rethink how we test so they can’t cheat. How about using applied use of vocabulary instead of memorization? What about the idea of updating test banks instead of using the same notes, handouts, quizzes, tests each year? What about using relevant testing methods in a relevant curriculum?

    It just frustrates me that people jump to the conclusion of removing these resources without giving them an adequate chance in the classroom.

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