Apple in Education Profiles

Improving Literacy with iPod Touch

iPod touch has transformed the learning experience for fourth-grade students at Central Elementary School in Escondido, California. These students are excited about learning. And they have the test results to prove it.

The inspiration

After using her iPod as a voice recorder for personal use, Kathy Shirley, Technology and Media Services Director of the Escondido Union School District, saw its potential as a learning tool for students to improve their fluency and comprehension. With its large population of English language learners, Central Elementary School was the perfect place for Shirley to introduce these new strategies.

One method teachers use to track students’ progress is to have them read a passage aloud in an allotted period of time. The goal is for students to comfortably read as many words as they can in a minute. The higher their word recognition, the better their reading comprehension. Before the adoption of iPod touch, a teacher would make a tally mark for every word a student read. Besides the inefficiency of having to work separately with each student, the process made it difficult for students to track their own improvement.

So Shirley gathered a small group of reading intervention teachers and provided them with iPod touch devices. With the goal of collecting baseline data, teachers and students integrated iPod touch into their language exercises. After a six-week trial, student progress exceeded six times the rate considered normal for that period of time. Teachers also found that when students were able to record and — for the first time — hear themselves read, they became more engaged, motivated, and invested in their own learning. Students could get instant feedback, and it changed the way they learned.

“Kids are learning at a rate that I didn’t think was possible.”

— Kathy Shirley, Director of Technology and Media Services

The implementation

To fund the pilot program, Shirley used existing technology money in her budget. She then shared the initial results with the school board and invited board members and the superintendent to visit the classes where the program had been implemented. Seeing the results and experiencing firsthand the impact iPod touch was having in the classroom, the board was compelled to make an ongoing financial commitment to the program. Funding was allocated and a line item in the annual budget established “just like electricity,” Shirley says, noting how critical it was to continue the program’s expansion. When the district decided to expand the iPod touch program to Central Elementary School, implementation was very straightforward.

Escondido purchased one iPod touch cart per classroom, providing one device for each student. Each iPod touch would be an individual student’s to use at school for the entire year. Before the school year began, participating teachers trained for a few hours with the district’s technology teachers. This session provided background for the program and a hands-on overview of iPod touch and the cart’s operation. Teachers also participated in demonstrations of learning apps that could be used on iPod touch. With the school year under way, teachers continued their training in monthly follow-up sessions.

From an IT perspective, the program is incredibly easy to maintain. After teachers become familiar with how to use iPod touch and how to maintain the cart, they manage their own classroom’s equipment.

To share ongoing insights, information, and student projects, participating teachers each keep a blog. Students also keep individual blogs to share writing and projects with their teachers, families, and one another. Teachers subscribe to their students’ blogs and receive alerts when assignments are completed and posted. This way teachers can give immediate feedback. And the quicker students receive feedback, the deeper and more engaged their learning becomes. Both the teachers’ and students’ blogs are hosted using Mac OS X Server and servers maintained by the district.

The results

In a six-week period, students’ reading fluency increased at six times the rate considered normal for that period of time. After six months, students gained almost two years of reading comprehension.1

Reading Fluency increases Using iPod touch(2) ITBS Reading Comprehension Growth over Six Months(3)
  1. Results may vary by school district.
  2. Based on a six-week pilot program.
  3. Data from EUSD ITBS Scores.

Products they use

iPod touch iPod touch

This pocket computer is great for learning both inside and outside the classroom. Learn more about iPod touch

iPod touch cart iPod touch cart

A simple and cost-effective way to manage multiple iPod touch devices. Learn more about Apple iPod Learning Labs

Apps they use

Teachers at Central Elementary have chosen a handful of apps as an initial collection to use in the classroom. But as the number of apps available on iTunes continues to grow, teachers and students are always finding new ways to learn with iPod touch.

Ipod Touch App 20100409 Multiplication Battle

Students challenge each other to see who reigns supreme as the ultimate math whiz. View in iTunes

Fourth-grade students use iPod touch and the Mac to produce the morning announcements.

A group of very engaged fourth-grade students at Central Elementary have translated their enthusiasm into a daily routine of writing, producing, recording, and editing the school’s morning announcements. They use an iPod touch to record students and teachers and an iMac and its built-in GarageBand software to edit the recordings, add effects, and create a daily podcast. The podcasts are then posted to a school server using Mac OS X Server.

Listen to sample morning announcements

By creating the morning announcements, students are not only developing their skills on a Mac, they’re learning teamwork, project management, responsibility, and leadership.

Products they use

iPod touch iPod touch

This pocket computer is great for learning both inside and outside the classroom. Learn more about iPod touch

iMac iMac

This powerful all-in-one computer takes up little room on a desk, making it ideal for the classroom.
Learn more about iMac

Mac OS X Server

Podcast Producer in Snow Leopard Server is an easy solution for capturing, encoding, publishing, and distributing podcasts. Learn more about Mac OS X Server

See how medical school students are using iPod touch and iPhone at Ohio State University’s Medical school. Watch the video and read the full story