March 20th 2009
I sit here in the peace and tranquility of a Friday evening, knowing that a very satisfying week of iPodding lies behind and at last I have a chance to tell you all we have been busily engaged in over the last few weeks.
Embarking on the deployment of a class of iPods for a second time brings with it a new sense of experience and gathered wisdom on which to base your plans. From a practical point of view, restoring the iPods and establishing new EDUPass certificates took little time and effort this year.
With our research focus based on literacy and collaboration with schools in the US and UK, I look forward to extending the learning capability built into the iPods. I decided to pre-load all of the iPods with a selection of free literacy based apps from the iTunes Apps store. There were more than enough to satisfy my needs and I had to draw a line and stop searching for more. I have used my notebook as the iTunes mothership to sync these Apps for all students. So I have 22 iPods Apps synced to my notebook. I know this will cause issues when students add their own Apps at home, as my lovely collection will be lost, but last year, it was impossible to get the whole class to download the Apps I wanted to use with them.
The acceptable use policy from 2008 has been updated with a few changes. Firstly, I have decided to request that the devices not be used for listening to music during class time. I teach senior and junior classes. Sometimes, the seniors benefit from listening to music, as they seem to block out ambient distractions and focus more consistently on the task at hand. In my personal learning (Year classes last year, the iPod music became a social tool, sharing and comparing playlists, ‘one earbud for you and one for me’ scenarios and gatherings in the classroom based on the collection of album covers.
I believe I might try it again later, but I need the students to see the iPods as tool to help them learn, and it was important that the introduction this year did not depart from this in any way. I have also added a few other guidlines in the attempt to box off the likely repeats of last years little iPod aggravations….such as no motion sensitive bowling games and no passcodes(amazing how easy it is for a 13 year old to permanently forget a four digit number!).
We have decided upon a self insurance model for the iPods this year. Last year, students who destroyed their iPods were asked to pay $200 towards replacing them. There were four of these, so we are looking to bring in about $1000 dollars this year to put aside for anticipated losses. To this end, we are asking all families to pay a $45.00 non-refundable bond to create this funding pool. This approach was one of the suggestions offered by Bruce Dixon at his ’21 steps to 1-to-1 success’ presentation I recently attended. (referring to Netbooks, not iPods).
Two more teachers are on board with the project this year, with strong interest already from other teachers of 8A. We have a new SOSE / PL teacher at the school, who happens to have her desk next to mine and she teaches 8A. There was no way I could inflict the anticipated iPod traffic in our office on her without giving her an iPod and inviting her to join in! The 8A English teacher also has an iPod. With our literacy focus, the sharing of curriculum between PL and English and his obvious enthusiasm for technology, there was going to be no way to keep him out.
So, with all the required elements in place, we were ready for our parent evening on Wednesday March 18th, and the date was set. Unbeknown to me, lost in my iPod bubble, there were also free tickets handed out to many of my class for a cricket match in Shepparton between ex-Australian and Victorian cricket players on this same evening, not to be missed on any account. And so the loyalties were divided, and pained decisions were made regarding which event to attend. Not to seem cruel or devisive to my new flock, I fell on the blade of self-sacrifice and offered to hold the mobile research project introduction to parents on two evenings, that is twice, two times over, repeated for some crusty old cricketers…
This opened Pandora’s box when it came to iPod deployment. We had previously arranged to be filmed on the Thursday afternoon by the DEECD Hume Region eLearning co-ordinator who is putting together a presentation for an up-coming regional directors day. Brave enough already to film your first iPod class, but when only half the kids have their devices and the rest boxed up with battery life unknown, I could only hope for divine intervention to make it all go smoothly.
Thankfully, I have been blessed in 8A this year with some incredibly responsible, clever and organised boys who I entrusted with the task of unboxing and charging all of the undelivered iPods. We have a small multi-media lab in our PL Centre, with many available USB ports. There were boxes, cables, leather covers and iPods everywhere within seconds. So I closed my eyes and walked away from this scene to organise my lesson and visitors. (I also had a teacher visiting from a nearby school to see what was going on)
The boys did not let me down, and the iPods were handed out without a hitch. Our lesson was quite structured compared to a more relaxed, exploratory style last year. There were a few tips and tricks to start with, followed by ‘getting to know and love your iPod Calendar’. Then a worksheet directing students to use a range of Applications previously loaded. They absolutely loved every second of it. Their Maths teacher (who is also the Year 8 co-ordinator) dropped in for a visit and he would not leave. He was so pleased to be working with the kids in such a positive environment, when he has to deal with so many Year 8 problems.
The filming continued, and the students were asked at the end of the lesson what they thought. Like music to the ears, completely unprompted, my most challenging student shot up his hand and said it was the most fun he had ever had at school. He had proved to be a great iPod typist and had recorded the fastest speed in the ‘Idle Hands Typing Tournament’. He also discovered, that if playing the wrong kind of game (catch-a-mouse for instance) that after an ignored gentle warning, it was a breeze for me to pick up his iPod, hold my finger on the icon and banish forever the distraction. Now, that can’t be done so easily or vividly on a PC, and evoked the most amazing look of disbelief! So, overall a resounding success.
There was not enough time to answer all the student questions in one lesson. I think I might set up an iPod question box in my class so I can answer questions more thoroughly and at my leisure. Maybe we should move this into a Studywiz mobile discussion…..
To see a copy of the worksheet, the updated acceptable use policy and the parent presentation, please look in the mobile research project in the GC.
I am sorry to bore you all with such a long blog, but quite frankly, I am pleased to have it all off my chest
My link suggestion for today is the amazing Apple Learning Interchange. Join up straight away if you haven’t already.