At the start Term 2, Year 5 and 6 students in Room 3 at Lakeview School were given an iPod Touch to use in class. Here Tim Nelson explains the thinking behind the initiative and the outcomes so far.
The whole process started as an appraisal discussion between me, the school principal, Ed Hodgkinson, and my appraiser, Tim White. We were looking for a project I could really get my teeth into that was exciting and would have a significant input into teaching and learning at Lakeview School. Literacy has been a focus here for some time and a goal was set to use mobile devices to improve reading outcomes for students.
The next step was to choose a teacher who would like to take on the responsibility of leading the initiative on a day-to-day basis. After discussing the idea with the other school ICT lead teacher, Erin Williams, we decided upon Jo Green. She is passionate about ICT to improve learning outcomes, the perfect choice as far as we were concerned.
From here I made a presentation for the Board of Trustees to get funding approved for the project. I prepared two proposals, one for iPads and the other for iPod touch devices – the latter go the go-ahead.
Apps and curriculum
Now we had to determine exactly how it was going to work. I organised a release day for Jo and me, and we were lucky to have Innes Kennard, an ICT education advisor, give up his morning to offer his ideas. We spent the morning selecting apps that we thought would be effective for supporting literacy programmes, but eventually went further than this, looking at a number of curriculum areas.
I researched a number of providers to discuss bulk purchases for the initiative. The best deal and support offered came from our local Noel Leeming store. We bought 30 iPods, an Apple TV, and a 50-inch flat screen TV (which, along with an iPad, are the most effective and best value interactive whiteboard I’ve come across!).
The total cost was $9,730 (incl GST) and comprised:
· $160 for the Apple TV;
· $800 for the 50-inch TV;
· $570 for the teacher’s iPad;
· $200 for apps;
· $7,700 for the iPods (8GB); and
· $200 for odds and ends (such as cables and wall brackets)
One thing to note is that I was able to do it all myself, with the help of another teacher and a BOT member, but without the need for ICT support. I’m not a technical guy by any stretch of the imagination … so if I can do it, anyone can!
Initially, the biggest challenge that we faced was the fact that we didn’t have a model to follow. There are examples of how iPods have been used to boost reading scores on the web, a prime one being the case study of Central Elementary School that appears on the Apple website (see link at end). However, these are all about programmes that have been set up and established for some time. Jo and I really needed to start from scratch.
We had no idea of how to go about setting up the iPods (and some iPads we had also purchased) on the school network. Fortunately, Richard Oh, one of our BOT members, was able to help here. Once we figured out what to do, it was a matter of putting aside the time to do it, which happened to be the April school holidays.
Charging and security
Another significant challenge has been charging the iPods on a daily basis. We simply couldn’t find an easy (and inexpensive) means of doing so that is practical. A key consideration in the project has been to make the initiative as painless as possible for Jo and her Room 3 students. They simply need to use the device to improve learning outcomes, not worry about issues such as charging and security. What we initially settled on has been to plug them into the USB ports on a set of computers in the suite at the end of each day. Thankfully, this will soon change, with the class set now being charged in my office in a locked cabinet.
I’m looking forward to someone in New Zealand developing a simple, cheap and effective way to charge a class set of iPods! And if anyone knows of one that’s available, I’d certainly be interested to hear about it.
Measuring the outcomes
After only a short time, it’s difficult to gauge the academic impact that the initiative has had on learning outcomes. However, what isn’t difficult to comment on is the level of engagement of the students in Room 3. Feedback from the kids and parents has been so positive. Every time I visit the class (which is often!) the children are focused and on task. The class recently featured in the Wairarapa Times-Age as a two-page feature article.
Plans for the future
The whole initiative has really evolved since the idea was first proposed. It has become far broader than was initially planned, with the class now doing music, Mandarin, photography, maths, Face-time calling, and so much more than just literacy. The device is such a superb tool for teaching and learning, forcing us to think differently than we do when we simply went to the ICT suite for our ‘computer time’. With the iPod touch any time is computer time!
I’m hoping that this project will be extended next year to other classes in a similar format but nothing has been decided yet. Now that we know what to do, setting up new classes will be significantly easier. We also have 28 mentors (the Room 3 class of 2012) to help others new to using an iPod touch.
TIM NELSON IS DEPUTY PRINCIPAL AT LAKEVIEW SCHOOL IN MASTERTON.
© INTERFACE Magazine, November 2012