I Have to Say it!

IpodyahooLast Friday the mainstream press reported the banning of iPods in some school districts to "beat cheaters."  A ban was enacted in an Idaho district after officials at the school "realized some students were downloading formulas and other material into the players."  A teacher in my own state of California yanked an iPod and discovered "crib notes and a definition list hidden among the teen’s music selection."  Hmmph. We all agree kids need to learn. And we should assess learning.  But, really, isn’t that a fantastic use of iPods!  Kids actually figured out how to encode a definition list and download it to the iPod!  And putting formulas in!  What tremendous ingenuity! We need to get the adults at the school to insert formulas and Picture_7
notes into those iPods. Think of it:  A kid first must copy the definition list or formula into a wordPicture_6
processing program (and therefore eyeball it to some degree).  He or she must have enabled the iPod for disc use (thinking outside the pod).  Then he/she must save the document as .txt (and look at it again), drag it into the Notes folder on the iPod, then, finally, use the iPod like an encyclopedia by flipping past entertainment to find the data needed for a test.  Is this not a great exercise?  These schools are serendipitously training kids to keep meaningful data on the digital media device they will have with them for the rest of their lives.  Others may use it for media, but these kids will use it for facts, formulas, and definitions. That’s a bad thing?  We should be handing media devices out to staffs to learn to do these things.  And, what if–just imagine–kids pick up an iPod from a teacher loaded with instructional media! And prior to–oh, hey, during–the test, the kid watches, deduces, and learns the material.  Sheesh.  Is tech confiscation unprecedented?  Well, no.  There was a time, boys and girls, when we took calculators away from kids in math class. I remember being in a rebel department and handing out class sets we bought with Title I money in the wild ’70s.  Heresy! Original news link herePrediction:  There will be commonplace class sets of hand-held media players (including iPods) within two years. Loaded with unitedstreaming plus videos from Ken Burns, et al.  And do I watch educational videos on my iPod? PowerPoints on a plane?  Guilty!   🙂


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  1. Maryann Molishus said:

    Give them iPods. Teach them/show them responsibility and honesty. That’s the hard part!!

  2. Jennifer Gingerich said:

    Amen, brother. Preach it! I always found making a crib note was a great way to study for a test. You don’t really need it once you make it. Yes, I admit, Spanish I … Junior High… guilty as charged.

    In college I made mini study sheets that I carried around with me to study when I had a few spare minutes between classes. An ipod would be so much more fun and you could listen while walking across campus. Setting formulas to music is a great way to learn or review. Have you seen the Perimeter Rap at Teacher Tube? http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=734fe93831e3fb400ce8

  3. Pat Ruffing said:

    I certainly can see all the great educational potential that iPods hold…and who knows what will open up in the future? But how do we solve the problem of the haves and the have-nots? Some kids will be able to afford them and some will not. And if the school cannot afford to supply them (heck, we struggle to supply computers with the latest operating systems…and I don’t mean Vista!) it is not a level playing field. Until we can do that, how would we allow some students that option in the classroom and not others?
    My daughter is at college in a not so great neighborhood of Philadelphia, and students are constantly being accosted to hand over iPods. Maybe they are being sold to get drug money, or maybe they are being sold to people who just want to pay a “lower price” than retail.
    How do we get this in the hands of all kids so they all have these great learning opportunities?

  4. Karen C. Seddon said:

    Great call Hall! We really do need to educate the educators. I’m on a mission myself. In fact, my last podcast was called, “An iPod for Every Teacher.” I’d like to encourage you to check it out because I’m giving away an iPod shuffle.
    Here are just a few uses to consider for the classroom: listen to music, listen to audiobooks, find/listen to educational podcasts, view photos, view educational videos, record your voice, tell your story, record your lessons and enjoy!

    As always, I am
    Ubiquitously yours,

  5. Hall Davidson said:

    Nice to hear these great comments and agreement. Pat Ruffings level playing field comment is a great discussion point. To mind, we don’t let that consideration get in the way of one-to-one computing–or to iPods. If an entire state can do one to one computers for an entire grade level, think how much further iPods would go. We shouldn’t have to rely on families to buy iPods. In fact, to get curriculum material into those personal iPods means getting access to home computers. (Not a terrible thing, come to think of it. You can’t text message without getting folks’ phone numbers). Classes need portable media devices. Start with cheaper mp3 players to prove the concept, if necessary, then move to video. Of course, we know how kids respond to video, but move gradually if we must. Hardware in schools, training, then engagement! We can do it, we have the technology. And, speaking of mp3s and audio, the teacher rap Jennifer Gingerich referred to above is fun–but I really want to award a Mrs. B a free pass to learn some video tricks that would let the media match the creativity and energy of the rap. How very cool that the lyrics are posted!

  6. Tim Childers said:

    Hall, you’ve made some terrific points (and the comments are right on target). However, let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. We are experiencing problems with middle schoolers who cannot subtract 12 from 14 without reaching for their calculator. High school teachers are deriding middle school teachers because kids can’t multiply or divide fractions in algebra without the fraction key on their calculator. The technology is great as a supplement to, but not a replacement for, learning. I think using iPods to store crib sheets and formulas is a terrific use of the technology, but not if it means the kids don’t actually commit some of this stuff to the greatest computer ever made…their brain. Banning iPods is silly. Teaching their constructive use in a 2.0 society is a must. Keep up the good work!

  7. Steve Dembo said:

    If a student wants to cheat, they will. Period. I don’t care how many rules you make, someone who is determine to cheat will find a way to do it.

    Personally, I say just make the test open book. If you design your questions for an open book format, then its impossible to chat. Yes, it may be more dificult to make questions like that, but they’d be much more organic, authentic and applicable to the real world. How often to do you get a task at work where someone says, “I need you to do this by tomorrow morning. Oh yeah, you aren’t allowed to talk to anyone, use the internet, or look in any books. You may begin…. now.”

  8. Hall Davidson said:

    Excellent point, Steve. Maybe we can advance ed tech by making it part of a status war. “Our kids cheat by writing on their arms with markers” “Yeah? Our kids cheat with iPods.” “Oh, yeah, our kids cheat with video iPods” “Ha! Our kids have GPS devises in their cells that indicate where the answers are hidden around the room.” “Posh! Our kids have earbud avatars they programmed with answers.” or something. Steve is right: They’ll do it however they do. And we would do well to tap into that energy source.

  9. Hall Davidson said:

    Wow! I just saw Tim’s comments. He makes good points, too. As a former math teacher and perpetual learner, let me say that there is a serious case to be made for mental rigor, including rote learning. Multiplication tables are good. Spelling is good. Not so much for their own, technologically replaceable sakes, but for exercise. I have a long decimal for pi over my desk, because there is some gratification in learning that useless string. The mental equivalent of jogging–you go nowhere, but you feel better. Without some mental gatekeeping, calculators, spreadsheets (and the rest) are not as useful, because they are, in the end, dumb machines, and we need to keep a trained eye on them (trained being a key adjective). We’ll all seen smart kids produce unbelievably silly answers because they flipped an order of operation or keystroke. I once saw an email where a development director obviously kept hitting “return” and spell ‘corrected’ all names, creating some very interesting–and embarrassing–sentences. Rigor is required to use these technologies lest they become Loki.

  10. Tim Childers said:

    I’ve just logged back in and saw Steve’s comment about changing the way we test. Can I get an Amen?!? Not only is it silly to suppose that we would ask someone at work to do a task without resources, but it is just as silly to say, “Hey Joe, I need to know which delivery system will get our widgets to Acme, Inc. by Wendesday. Is it A) UPS, B) FedEx, C) USPS, or D) None of the above? If we assess students with higher order thinking questions, then the book (or iPod crib notes) become a useful tool for drawing conclusions and rationalizing responses. Of course, that doesn’t change my opinion that kids need to just “know” some things without cheat sheets. But it would take use a lot closer to authentic assessment than we are now.

  11. Hall Davidson said:

    Tim,I’ll give you an Amen. Authentic assessment is important, and project-based learning is a great way to do it. Mediamaking is a great assessment tool–it requires so much of what kids will need in life: working with teams, mastering technology, gathering and evaluating information, and more. Hint: Watch for a media challenge coming this fall for the DEN!

  12. Tim Childers said:

    Okay, so today I picked up an education magazine (I didn’t pay attention to which one because I was just bored) and read an article on the different ways kids are cheating these days. I’m sorry to say (?) creating txt documents and loading them onto iPods did not make the top 5. However, the a different use of mp3 players did. Kids are narrating(really emphasize that word when you read it!)their notes into tools like audacity and then listening to them during tests! So…they get to hear the lesson more than once, and they taught the second one themselves. Wow!
    Other ways I liked was removing the label from a water bottle, writing notes on the back, and then reattaching it to the bottle. Just look through the water! Perhaps the most ingenious was assigning a different M&M color for A, B, C, and D. Kids leave M&Ms on the desk for the next class in the order of the test answers! Who said kids today weren’t creative? So, are we going to ban water and snacks, too?

  13. Hall Davidson said:

    Tim, I love these! I keep wondering if these are transferable skills with applications in the real world, like a drivers test, with Heath Bars at 10 and 2 o’clock or Hersheys by the rear view. And the M&M trick. I mean, the dog ate my crib notes could be true. Also, it’s clear the NCLB folks need to monitor any large purchase orders for M&Ms prior to testing. Thanks for keeping us “m”formed.

  14. Patricia A. Hawkenson said:

    A good test is not the regurgitation of facts at a recall level, but a thoughtful application of higher level thinking – i.e. analysis, comparision, inference, and evaluation. Let a student have ANY info at their disposal to formulate the answer to questions. If you recall from your own schooling, open book tests were NEVER the easy tests!

  15. Dunagrad said:

    I gotta say though … man that’s a lot of M&M’s. And they sit there without falling off … amazing.

  16. Eric Anderson said:

    Handy tools those I-pods. A teacher I work with used one to run the sound for a musical play. That’s a lot of power in a small package.

    I wish I could agree about the extent of ingenuity, but… too often it’s boiled down to one tech savvy individual, who then becomes a bootlegger.

    True even my teen-age daughter is getting pretty good at manipulating music files, but I wouldn’t overstate the mental processes involved with handing over 20 bucks and an I-pod to somebody to get a cheat sheet loaded.

    Alternatively, somebody burns a CD-R and vends them. Or maybe posts them to a private webpage. Then all that needs to be done is load the data to the I-pod. Sorry for such a negative first post, but I believe it’s reality.

  17. Hall Davidson said:

    In a way, the post is not negative at all. Good to have your comments, in any case! But your point is that this is also an opportunity for entrepreneurship. Web browsers (Netscape, et al) built on the open work of others and created a product -browsers-that changed things very fast and forever. Some of Microsoft’s first products were compilatations of work already out there. When a group of individuals recognizes a technological frontier and acts on it, that action validates that technology as a force. We can ignore it or try to capitalize on it (i.e.,historically, regulate an industry or let bootleggers have it). So, yeah, you point out that a kid using an iPod for nefarious means may not mean that kid is ingenius. But he or she is genius enough to use a tool that works. Lets hope we are at least as smart as that.

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