Monday, April 09, 2007

iPods & Schools

The iPod idea is already starting to make some waves, but this idea though isn't one that should be discarded right away however. Let's not forget where the idea came from, Duke University (and I'm sure there were others but I not sure who they were) began giving iPods to every incoming freshmen.

Right now I am helping a company develop a new training system to get it's new employees up to speed faster and more efficiently. Right now this company gives an mp3 player to all of the new associates for the first few months to help train them, along with what are basically podcasts on their private website that also contain training material in both audio and video formats. These combined resources have helped this expanding company train people quicker, cheaper, better, and the associates come away with a better understanding of the material.

Of course the success of something like this would all depend on how it is implemented. If used correctly it could indeed be a powerful tool to help educate students. The hardest part would be training educators on how to best use the technology and developing lessons to be used on the iPods.

Both MIT and Stanford have their own Podcast on iTunes that contain prominent lectures from some of their classes. Other universities have entire recording available for free download on their websites.

If you buy into the idea that this could have a potential pay-off to our educational system, the question becomes is now the right time to invest in this? The idea arose in a discussion over how to fix the states budget problems, and therefore was immediately under attack since it meant making an investment rather than making a cut. The implementation of this idea of course will not yield results for sometime, and the short term impact to the budget will be the cost of implementing the program. There is no doubt that a program such as this would be a hard sell the the general public. How does one justify the cost of giving students a high tech device that little in the public will see the educational value of during such hard economic times?

I have long thought that education has always been a little behind the times. Schools have always been on the back end of adopting technology, and it would be nice to see schools embrace technology for once; not to mention adopting to the way students intake information now days. It truly is time to schools to evolve beyond text books and chalk boards. I would like to see more computers and technology in the classroom (many classrooms only have one computer in them).

I'm not sure if this is the right idea right now but I'm certainly not opposed to it, nor do I think it is a silly idea. I am actually very encouraged by this idea! This shows that the Democrats are willing to think out side the box, are willing to make long term investments rather than the quick fixes proposed by the Republicans, and that they realize it takes more than mandating higher tests scores to fix education. It's important to remember that without long term investment, any budget “fix” will be only short term.

Quick idea, maybe the idea would be received better if iPods were switched to PDAs. Most PDAs can do just about everything an iPod can (short of sycning with iTunes).

As far as the Detroit News Editoral goes, This is all you need to remember from it:
Democrats are either entirely indifferent to the idea that extreme hard times demand extreme belt tightening, or they are bone stupid. We lean toward the latter.
Stop the stupidity. Michigan can't tax or spend its way out of this economic catastrophe.

Ah, yes. Gotta love that liberal media.


CEW said...

At this critical moment the schools should ask every public student to give something to their communities, to teach empowerment and social engagement--to challenge the youth of Michigan to become agents of change for the future wellbeing of their state, not consumers in search of more novelty, status and distracting entertainment.

An iPod in every backpack?

Jonathan said...

i doubt you could convince me that buying an ipod (which would be obselete in a year or two) for every student would be more valuable to a childs education then hiring a few more teachers and reducing class sizes. really doubt it. don't get me wrong, I'm all for higher ed spending, much higher, like 3 or 4 times higher. But just because you have money doesn't mean you should abandon the idea that priorities are important. Imagine if there were only 7 or 8 kids in each class. now that would be something.

InterrupT said...

I whole heartily agree that more teachers and smaller class sizes would be a much better idea than giving students something like an iPod, but that just isn't going to happen. Spending the kind of money that we are talking about here would not add enough teachers to schools to impact the quality of education much. Putting a few more teachers in schools will help some students, but the question has to be, how do we help the most students. Is iPods the best idea? Probably not, BUT as I said in my post, it shows that legislatures are looking ahead and thinking outside the box. Education has a lot of problems, and it seems clear that it requires new ways of thinking in order to truly improve education.

Jon Koller said...

New ways of thinking? I agree, but not in the classroom. Schools have been doing that for a long time and they do it well. I went to what most people consider a very good high school, and I saw as they tried to force technology into their curriculum at the expense of reading and writing. Now I look back and thank them that I know how to use a laser disk. Too bad my writing still sucks.

The new thinking that needs to be happening at schools isn't about technology, it's how to deal with at-risk kids who have unstable home lives. This money could go to after school mentoring programs, or college scholarship funds for disadvantaged students.

InterrupT said...

Schools more than ever have to make every dollar count. We have to come up with ways to do more with much less money.

Technology is a tool that can be used to teach writing, math, history, and anything that can be taught with a book. You can't tell me that kids wouldn't rather play video games than do their homework, so why can't we figure out a way for students to do both. There are plenty of educational games out there for starters, and if schools (Michigan schools aren't the only schools without computers) began to truly integrate technology into the classroom more and better ones would come. Beyond games, interactive textbooks can include not only more information, but it can be updated by the minute, and include videos, interviews and any number of other resources. We can't continue to keep teaching the way we have been just because that's the way it's always been done. We have to teach the way students learn and take in information; more and more that means turning to some form of technology.