According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Shepparton High School in central Victoria ran a pilot program with a class of year eight students using the iPod Touch in the classroom for a global “mobile learning” project. Results so far seem to indicate that the iPod’s use has increased attendance and enthusiasm for homework; iPods also are being used more than laptops or desktops.
The students employ the hand-helds to search the Internet, download music, do quizzes, research and submit assignments and collaborate with a school in Singapore. Using an online learning program called Studywiz, they and their teachers accessed school-wide emails and students saved their homework to an “elocker”. Shepparton, and in this case Australia, are not the first having used the iPod in classroom teaching; many schools in the US I know of also have been or are making use of it.
I seem to remember similar positive effects on learning being reported when desktops or laptops were introduced at schools; they seem to have evaporated, reading between the lines of the preliminary research results coming from Shepparton High. This would not be surprising; technologies do have their own unique advantages (some of the iPod’s ones are price and improvement of certain usability aspects through miniaturisation). Once we get used to them though, life returns to normal. And in regards to the trial: something we also should not underestimate is the possible buzz factor, generated by belonging to s small ‘privileged’ group that forms the test environment. So, once the ‘elite’ peer and novelty effects have worn off, I bet Shepparton High will face problems similar to the ones it had before.
Having said that: this is not a plug against using the best available technology in the school environment – to the contrary. But technology provides just a kit of learning tools; it is not the answer to low attendance rates, attention spans or lack of willingness to do homework. Those problems need to be addressed through better teachers using better teaching/learning methodologies and better curricula. Problems in educating kids are problems of the education ‘system’, not of a lack technology.