More on iPods in schools

One of the poorest urban school systems in the US, the Union City district in New Jersey, is leading the way in an experiment that is spurring several other New Jersey districts to try the same thing: handing out iPods in school. Mostly they have been used for recent arrivals to this country to sharpen their English vocabulary skills, but they have also been used in some science classes to illustrate chemistry concepts.

More schools districts have been trying to employ new technologies to better connect with students. Some teachers have even designed video games around history lessons and then assigned students to re-enact them on YouTube. The age old saw about passive learning being boring is often true, and if this is a way to get kids more connected and involved, then what’s the harm?

A great example of this is one teacher who convinced the school board to buy 23 iPods. She then uploaded an eclectic mix of songs that she knew the kids liked and typed out all the lyrics. Then she deleted all the nouns and, in turn, all the verbs and adjectives, forcing the students to fill in the missing words and learn their meaning. This enterprising and dedicated teacher had this to say, "A lot of the bilingual kids feel like outsiders. You have kids who never said a word in English, and now they’re singing Black Eyed Peas. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it."

A very positive development

As we have commented in previous posts, education is an important issue for us, and we are developing ways to continue to use technology as a means of widening the playing field and inviting more people to join the conversation.

We were very encouraged to see that iTunes launched iTunesU, a dedicated area within the iTunes store "giving higher education institutions an ingenious way to get audio and video content out to their students. Presentations, performances, lectures, demonstrations, debates, tours, archival footage…iTunes U enables users to extend learning, explore interests, learn more about a school and stay connected with an alma mater."

Participating universities include Stanford, Penn State, UC Berkeley, Arizona State and the University of South Florida, among others.

While some might see this as a great fall back in case you slept through class, we see it is a great application for the technology.