At Their Fingertips

Trailer #1: Zuni Elementary Magnet School - collaborating with our apps

Mrs. Torres's 4/5 grade class
Zuni Elementary Magnet School for Communication and Technology
Albuquerque, New Mexico

iPods Liven Up Classroom

Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal By Hailey Heinz Journal Staff Writer

Reference Article The word problem was fairly standard, except for maybe the level of detail about the car: If the 2006 GT traveled 13 miles roundtrip, twice a week, what was its total weekly mileage?

What also wasn’t standard was that 9-year-old Thomas Starr was reading the problem on his iPod Touch and answered the question electronically. When he initially got it wrong — he answered 27 — the program prompted him to try again.

“It’s so much fun,” Starr said, deftly moving his fingers across the touch screen to show the different themes, pictures and videos available in the iLiveMath application.

Everyone in Starr’s fourth- and fifth-grade class at Zuni Elementary School has an iPod Touch to use in class. Each device is essen- tially a tiny computer, loaded with a variety of educational applications that cover math, science, language arts and social studies.

Teacher Michele Torres uses the iPods for about 45 minutes to an hour each school day, either letting students learn independently or leading group lessons. Torres said students are more engaged in their learning when they use the devices, evidenced by the hushed voices in the classroom Wednesday morning.

The devices were bought with a special legislative appropriation earmarked specifically for technology at Zuni. Zuni is a technology magnet school, which means it is among the first schools to pilot new equipment. A total of about $4,000 was spent on iPod Touches for the school.

Torres said she knows of other Albuquerque classrooms in which students share iPod Touches and iPads, but doesn’t know of others with enough devices for every student. She said next year she hopes to spread the iPods out among other Zuni classrooms.

Students will have to share, but more students will get a chance to try the devices. APS has no immediate plans to purchase more of the iPod Touches.

Touch-screen electronics are making their way into classrooms nationwide, supported by educators who say the touch-screens give students immediate feedback and keep them interested in school.

But the devices also have detractors who say they are a fad. Last year, the purchase of iPod Touches for a Utah high school made a list of “questionable” uses of federal stimulus funds that was compiled by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus at Stanford University who has written books critical of classroom technology, said the devices can be useful but are not a cure-all for what ails education. He said students’ intense interest tends to fade with the novelty of the technology.

“The thing that usually is so attractive to school people is the novelty of the iPad or iPod and how it engages kids,” Cuban said. “What happens over time is that the novelty wears off.”

Cuban said the technology can be useful, but it is not a replacement for good teaching.

Torres’ students have had the iPods since Christmas break, and she said she has not seen any sign of waning interest.

“Actually, I think the more they’ve used them and the more comfortable they’ve gotten with them, the better it is,” Torres said. She said parents have asked about whether the iPods will be available next year, and she plans to look for more applications over the summer. “I think it’s probably going to be a tool we can use for a while,” she said.

Torres said the iPods let students study at their own level so they aren’t bored or confused by lessons that target one ability level.

“They differentiate on their own,” she said, explaining that students tend to find difficulty levels that work for them.

The students’ different abilities were on clear display Wednesday. While many students played “Stack the States,” which quizzed them on domestic geography, Fernando Crespin had moved on to “Stack the Countries.”

“So there will be different questions; it might ask you the capital of Egypt, and you would pick Cairo,” Crespin said casually as he demonstrated the game. Students used atlases to look up facts they did not know, collecting points for correct answers.

For 10-year-old Tanias Jose, it was easy to articulate what he likes about the iPods: “You don’t have to fill in a bubble,” he said.

Reference Article

Zuni Elementary Magnet School using iLiveMath on iPod Touches

We're thrilled to have the opportunity to share iLiveMath with students at Zuni Elementary Magnet School. It is a joy to watch them experience and live math questions. Special thanks to Mrs. Torres who took the initiative to contact us and filmed the kids. Also thanks to the principal and parents for giving us permission to share these special moments of a very bright group of kids. Please come back in mid-May for more movie footage from the students at Zuni Elementary.

Trailer #2: Zuni Elementary Magnet School - Meet the students and Mrs. Torres