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Do we reeeeally need all that stuff? February 27, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Management, Resources, Tools.
Tags: , , , ,

In a given school year, how much ‘stuff’ does a student need to support their learning?  I’m thinking about books (both for writing and reading), equipment they find in their pencil cases, resources used in lessons (equipment used in Science, Music, Art, Geography etc etc), AV equipment and so on.

Well here’s a list, which I certainly wouldn’t claim to be exhaustive, together with some notional costs, taking into account that they wouldn’t necessarily need sole acess to all the items:

Table of costs

Grand total – about £300 . . . or twice the cost of an iPod Touch!

iPod Touch

iPod touch by Mike Rohde, on Flickr

Each of the items listed in the above table could be replaced by the device itself, or an App, a free App at that.  Now I couldn’t claim my knowledge of Apps is that extensive, so I’m sure you could think of other things which could be replaced (perhaps you might make any suggestions in a comment to this post).  We might also be able to find App alternatives for some of the full applications running on the PC?  And let’s not forget all the other free ebooks that an eReader App would provide access to.  It might even be worth . . . dare I say it? . . . buying a few Apps if needed.

So even if we took the computer out of the above list, the Touch would pay for itself in the first year.  Surely that’s a ‘no-brainer’ then?

Post Post:  Wouldn’t normally update a post, but become aware of another couple of apps which could replace physical devices and just had to include them.  There are a few apps which allow you to use the Touch as a remote input device (mouse, keyboard) or better yet, gyromouse or slate – these devices retail at approaching £100, so that’s quite a saving.  The real corker though is an app (iResponse) which turns theTouch into a response device (‘clicker’) . . . which means another £30 saved.  In other words, replacing the items in the list now buys us 3x Touchs!



1. Lois Lindemann - February 28, 2010

Firstly I assume you are trying to stir up a bit of debate here – no one seriously thinks an that using an ipod touch is the same as playing a piano – do they?

We are buying some ipod touches (and also buying some apps) for use in our maths dept & I’m really looking forward to this, but they are just a tool, they are not the Swiss Army knife of teaching resources. There will be many great things we can do with them – and rather a lot that we can’t. There are some things that no touch screen product can do (yet?).

So no, the arrival of a set of ipod touches is not going to consign scientific calculators or any other piece of equipment to the bin; but it will open up some exciting new learning opportunities, which is still a no-brainer, but not for the same reason.

ianinsheffield - February 28, 2010

Moi? Stir things up? Mai non!

You’re right of course Lois, but whilst this post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I do feel we often ignore the potential power of the devices many students already have in their pockets. Could an app replace a real keyboard? Absolutely not. But could it provide introductory access to keyboarding for a student who’d never be seen within a million miles of a music practice room . . . well maybe . . . and if they could be doing that on the bus on the way to school . . .
Is a small form-factor device an adequate replacement for a real book? Again probably not, but if with a couple of clicks a student could download and begin to read a book they’d never consider actually buying or going to a library to borrow, surely that’s a good thing?

I guess what I’m suggesting is that maybe these devices are similar to Swiss Army Knives after all, or like the multitools which are now so common. People carry implements like these to save having to lug around a dozen other devices. Is it too much of a stretch to find the things that a Touch or other mobile device could effectively replace and start from there?

2. Lois Lindemann - February 28, 2010

I totally agree. In fact one of the things I’m looking forward to about using the touch is (hopefully) engaging some of my less enthusiastic learners with a different approach.

At present, my school doesn’t allow students to use their own ipods/phones etc in the classroom, but frankly I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to tell the difference between a school ipod and a student’s own without inspecting it closely.

3. Chris_1974 - March 1, 2010

I too am sceptical! Interestingly we had a family birthday do at the weekend and our niece (Y13) has been given an itouch as part of a school trial. She is able (3A & B prediction), doing double maths Art & physics

I was showing her some cool Apps & sites – including Wolfram|Alpha – how had she not been shown that!, but her comment was that most of her classmates use them for games.

I’m especially not sure about maths on them, and until MyMaths works on them (Flash support please Apple) I’ll remain unconvinced.

Thankyou though for starting the conversation

ianinsheffield - March 1, 2010

I think a healthy scepticism is to be commended with all new technologies Chris and I have to agree that it doesn’t sound like your niece (or rather her classmates?) is making as extensive use of the Touch as might be hoped. But hey, who can say what aspects of the hidden curriculum they’re learning from the games they’re ‘playing.’ (MirandaMod next week – http://bit.ly/a5VBNS)

It’s also difficult to offer much comment when we don’t know the background to the project she’s involved with. Were they really just ‘given’ the devices? Or was there some sort of induction process? Were the students made aware of the project aims and expectations? How are the devices intended to be used?

I do agree about the Flash issue, though reaching a solution doesn’t appear to be too high on Apple’s agenda. And of course if MyMaths is a significant element in your students’ studies, then that’s clearly problematic. Wonder how Lois (previous post) will find them during her project?

I guess my contention is that the devices wouldn’t necessarily be useful for a single, lone subject, but when applied across the whole curriculum, they might just begin to earn their keep.

Lois Lindemann - March 2, 2010

Lack of Flash for mymaths.co.uk is a biggie for us, so our ipods will be an extra, we already have some netbooks for Flash based activities.

There is a possibility of running programs (including Flash) from a server, just using the touches as an access device. However, touch screens aren’t compatible with much Flash programming – e.g. how does the touchscreen recognise a rollover?

For us that’s not really an issue though, because the ipods weren’t intended to replace netbooks, they were chosen as an additional resource instead of going down the DS route. We’ll be keeping our netbooks – mymaths is too rich a resource for us to ditch!

ianinsheffield - March 2, 2010

Thanks for coming back Lois. Good to see that the Flash problem won’t be such a big issue for you, but you and Chris have certainly given me food for thought. I’m hoping in our project, we can view it as an irritation rather than a game-stopper and find workarounds or alternatives where necessary. Maybe our students will be able to help in that respect.

4. whatedsaid - March 2, 2010

Definitely food food for thought. Have just acquired my own ipod touch and enjoying it immensely. (Ian, I dropped my old ipod in water… it WAS an accident, I swear!) Hoping to acquire a set for school soon too. We are keen to have audio-books for reluctant readers, or any readers for that matter, to start with, but have lots of other ideas for how to use them. If every students had their own touch they would have instant access to so many worthwhile resources. It’s not likely to happen for some time at my school though…there is still a set of dictionaries on the shelf in the computer lab, in case anyone needs to look up a word!!!

ianinsheffield - March 2, 2010

Oh now come on Ed – an ‘accident?’ Tsk, tsk. Anway, hope you enjoy using yours as much as I have with mine.

Audio books? Hmm, hadn’t thought of that one, so thanks for the heads-up. It’s encouraging to see so many projects popping up across our network which should ensure the experiences are richer for us all . . . especially our students.

Wonder what would happen if the dictionaries encountered an ‘accident’ like your ipod? Wouldn’t anyone notice? Just sayin’ 😉

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