iPods (not iPads!) in the classroom

Good morning!

This will be my first ever post, so please excuse me if I break any significant protocol or ettiquette!

I am a NQT who has just finished my PGDE (Secondary) year at Moray House. I intend to reflect upon the training year in general, and to outline some of the learning and teaching methods I employed whilst on my placements.  I would like to reflect on which worked, which didn’t, and perhaps why!!

Teaching was not my first career. Prior to returning to study I was a Warfare Officer in the Royal Navy. Basically, my job involved running Ship operations from the bridge, and I was responsible to the Captain for the safe navigation of the Ship, as well as the safety of all sailors and equipment onboard (whilst on watch).  Occasionally I intend to use this past experience to draw comparisons with present day learning and teaching, especially with regard to “training” and leadership/management.

For this post, I would like to examine one method that I used whilst in my final placement at a mixed state school in Edinburgh.

This school had 10 IPods within the Social Subjects department, and I used them on several occasions throughout my placement and they had a consistently positive impact on learning.

How I used them

To use the iPods, I would sync a video or podcast which would form a “text” which would be analysed by learners. This was very simple to do, and I found the instructions online (http://www.bigasoft.com/articles/how-to-add-mp4-to-itunes-ipod.html). This would then be used as a differentiated way of taking notes during class.

Additionally, the department produced some of its own podcasts on certain topics. It did this in conjunction with a speech and language therapist, and they deconstructe the language used so as to ensure that the input was comprehensible and accessible to all learners. These podcasts combined visual images and spoken text. Headings would also appear at key intervals so as to scaffold learners through the learning.

Impact on learning

The most amazing thing happens when students put on a set of earphones to watch a podcast. It was if they became cocooned in their little learning environment. Low level disruptions were reduced (or in most cases eliminated) as students engaged completely with the text. What I discovered was that the iPods were much more kinesthetic than I had initially presumed, with learners being able to choose to stop, start, replay elements of the podcast. It was also delivered on a vehicle with which they were familiar and comfortable. I generally combined a discussion of note-taking skills and metacognition with these lessons, as all learners reflected on what forms of texts they find it easiest to take information from and why.

A specific example

One lesson where I used these was looking at youth groups in Nazi Germany. I produced 4 texts that had to be analysed in pairs. The texts were varied (1 picture, 1 set of timetables, 1 more wordy sheet, and a podcast on an iPod). Learners had to work as a team to get information from 2 sources each, and then share that information with their partner. This would then be used as the “knowledge” to attempt an “evaluation” question (I discuss Bloom’s Taxonomy with learners here).  This involved learner personalisation and choice, and allowed students to pick which sources were more differentiated to their specific needs.

As I walked round seeing students work, I was surprised to see one pupil (who normally struggles in class and so resorts to disruptive behaviour) had taken 2 A4 pages of high quality notes. These were based on the podcast and the picture. When I praised him for his detailed work he said that he much preferred podcasts as he didn’t like doing lots of reading (he phrased it slightly differently!). I could see from his notes and subsequent explanation to his partner that he had a secure understanding of the material examined, and later his written “evaluation” question showed good understanding of the topic.


Using iPods was an effective way to deliver information, and related well to metacognition, reflection on note taking skills and text analysis. It was an enjoyable change to the often word heavy studying of History, and could provide learner personalisation and choice. Overall, I found the use of iPods to be a highly effective tool for learning and teaching, and hope to be lucky enough to be able to use them again in the future! (Maybe I should start saving now!!)

I would love to have feedback on your opinions/experiences so I can continue to improve my practice! Thanks!


5 thoughts on “iPods (not iPads!) in the classroom

  1. Kellie Smith

    Hi euan. I think this is a great idea. I love the creative use of technology and I am hoping to employ creative methods like this during my probation year this year too. It clearly worked well with secondary pupils and got them engaging with it but what do you think the impact would be on primary pupils? I’m going to have a Primary 6 class this year and although I would love to use something like this I wonder if it is as necessary at that age as it may be with secondary pupils. What are your thoughts? (I’m off to check out your link on how to create the podcasts.)

    1. Euan Post author

      I’m far from an expert on primary, but my initial feeling is that it would still have a positive impact. The fundamental elements are the same, and it is still very visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. You can pick the input, so you can ensure the input is comprehensible for the age and stage.

      Obviously as a class you might not have enough devices for all learners simultaneously? Maybe use them on a rotation? Or maybe they could be used to watch something during golden time, or something similar.

      If you do use them, I would love to hear your reflections on impact!

  2. Pingback: iPods (not iPads!) in the classroom | iPad Adoption | Scoop.it

  3. Sally

    Hi Euan,

    I love the idea of putting sources on iPods for students to access – I agree that they engage very well with content they listen to through headphones. I have been trialling something new, where I give students feedback on their assessments as a video on an iPod and they have to write down their next step target and level based on what I’ve said. They really rate this and I think they understand their next steps better as a result.

    Good luck with your next year. History teaching is the best job in the world!

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