What About Them iPods, Eh?

My class are really keen to have iPods in the classroom. Their iPods, that is.

So, when it came up as an issue across our four Upper Primary classrooms, I decided that the best way forward was for the kids to write a Position Statement to inform and persuade their peers and their teachers. As you can read for yourself, many of these Statements had well thought out ideas and make the case for the strategic use of personal iPods in the classroom.

Then Julie, the other coordinator came back yesterday after a Boys Forward conference run by Dr. Ian Lillico, where she posed the question that my teaching team have been asking, "What do you think about iPods in the classroom?"

She said that while he believed that iPods were ideal learning tools for recording and listening to specific educational content, he had concerns about kids using them as a "wall of sound" to block out distractions and improve their on task capabilities. So, I'm wondering what my readership thinks and whether you have kids utilising iPods in your classroom. If you read their Statements, they are mainly arguing for their use in non-instructional time where they have a specific task or assignment to work on, and it is at the teacher's discretion. They consider issues of equity, hygiene, health and appropriate content in the classroom. When I went Googling, I struggled to find many documented examples to inform my own perspective.

Maybe I'm not looking in the right places - what do you think?

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7 thoughts on “What About Them iPods, Eh?

  1. Craig McDonald

    This is an interesting question. Last year I had a few students who, when on the odd occasion I did allow iPods (eg last week of term etc), exhibited an incredible change in productivity in the classroom. Instead of walking around the room looking for distraction it was head-down and focus. Shortly after that we had a team meeting at which the school policy of ‘absolutely no mp3s in class’ was reiterated.

    It’s got to make you wonder though. If someone has their music on an iPod, another is just as likely to have their music on their mobile phone, and that raises another set of issues altogether because they are capable of so many other things and harder to monitor. A great learning tool, potentially, but if the systems and guidelines for appropriate use aren’t already in place, can cause all kinds of problems.

    Perhaps it depends on the task. It can be quite antisocial to block out the world with music in a social context. Haven’t we all had the experience of trying to get someone’s attention who’s absorbed in their music, only to have them eventually pull one earpiece slightly out and look at you like you’re interrupting a private conversation? What we gain in focus and productivity for some might be lost in quality peer interaction and feedback. Hmmm. I’m undecided…

  2. Graham Wegner

    Thanks, Craig. You hit a lot of the same issues that have ran through my own head. We don’t have any sort of iPod policy at our school which has led to a lot of inconsistency across the classrooms. That’s why I thought my students could take the first steps towards a negotiated approach that isn’t just a policy imposed from above. It would be interesting to find out what sort of work is performed in the adult world where personal music players are utilised, and whether there are equivalents in our weekly classroom routines and lessons. You are right in that some kids become less of a distraction to others when encased in their own cocoon of sound – but that doesn’t really help to develop their social interaction skills. It just gives the others a break from their interruptions. The next step is for the students to write a draft policy – that will be interesting to read their solutions to the issues that the teachers raise, including the research based concerns of Dr. Ian Lillico. Thanks for your reflections.

  3. Allanahk

    We have a policy where children have to show their personal iPods to the teacher so we know they’ve got it and we warm them that the school is not responsible if it were to get stolen. I ask if the content on it is suitable for school and if we agree that it is then all is OK. Some kids travel some distance to school on a bus and it must be wonderful to be able to distance yourself from the riff-raff by listening to music.

    I take my iPod to school and let the kids listen/view our podcasts in class and take it home for the night to listen/share with parents. Would love to have a school iPod so I didn’t have to lend mine out.


  4. Bri Brewer

    As a person who often uses her iPod at work to drown out the constant noise of the cubicle environment, I see great value in establishing a time that their use is appropriate – if your school does not have specific prohibitions in place. To Craig’s point, we have all tried to squeeze by the guy at the market who in engrossed in his iPod, it can certainly become a way to tune out. I see that setting guidelines for when to use them and ensuring suitable content could actually help refocus learners who may be easily distracted by something outside the door or other conversations. I would not support constant use to the detriment of social interaction, but for myself, and many others, having music to drown out ambient noise and distraction can increase productivity and focus. It’s also a way to help students personalize their education by using tools that they are likely using at home when they study on their own.

  5. mitchell armour

    I don’t think that schools should allow ipods. First of all it limits interaction with other people thus making everyone unsocial and condemed to their own little world. A lot of people use iPods so that they don’t have to communicate with other people, kids need to be aware of whats going on around them and communicate with the rest of the world.

  6. Kelsi Amen

    I am a student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and although I am not teaching yet, through my observation experience I know how big of a problem iPods are in school. At the school that I go to observe they do not allow iPods or cell phone use in the class rooms. They may use them in the hallways but never during class time. If a student is caught the phone/iPod is confiscated and taken to the assistant principle. I think that although this is not a total solution to the problem, it works. I personally think that students should not be able to listen to their iPods in the classroom. iPods are a distraction and do not promote healthy social interaction between students. Anyway, I just wanted to put my 2 cents in and also let you know that I enjoy reading your blogs. Have a good week!

  7. Rhondda

    I thins that there a case for using ipods and the like in classroom situations. It has great potential as a learning tool but, as Craig mentioned above, there have to be clarly understood systems and guidelines for their appropriate use. Setting up these guidelines should involve the students and when I have discussed such issues with our students they have many very worthy and pracitical suggestions. They understand that there are times when it is not appropriate to be listening to their ipods and are quite prepared to follow guidelines and for consequences given out if they are not followed.
    Some examples from our school:
    There are students who are using audio broadcasts or are listening to books being read. They are on opposite ends of the literacy scale.
    We have been creating podcasts and students have been listening to music, sound effects their own dialogue etc. that they have downloaded onto their laptop computer. The audio tools allow us to tailor learning to the student needs more easily and have been very engaging.
    At present the official line is to ban ipods at school but the use of audio throughout our school, and the unofficial use within the school, really shows this blanket ban as just avoiding the issue. We are at present revisiting our blanket ban and I hope that we will have a workable, clear set of appropriate guidelines. Guideline that will allow our students understand about the appropriate use of the technology tools and the responsibilities that come from having access to them.


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