Authored by Sheena Abboud (February 2011)
Revised by Anne Beaumaster (February, 2013)
The iPod touch is a portable, multimedia device with a multi-touch display and wireless capabilities. It is currently one of many handheld devices, or Personally Owned Devices (POD's), as named by David Truss (2009), being used in K-12 classrooms. These devices are used to support Blended Learning environments, Knowledge Building Communities, as well as the Universal Design for Learning model as outlined by David H. Rose and Anne Meyer (2002).
Hardware and Software
The iPod touch is a thin rectangular shaped handheld, portable device that measures 4.86 inches in height, 2.31 inches wide and 0.22 inches deep.  Weighing a mere 3.10 ounces and with its WiFi mobile platform, the iPod Touch is ideal for portability and anywhere, anytime accessibility to information. The glass, widescreen, multi-touch and multidirectional display allows for direct interaction with the device and easy maneuverability of information displayed.
The iPod touch is fabricated by Apple Inc. and its current model, the 5th generation, was released on October 8th, 2012.The 2nd generation and later models are all compatible to run on the most current Apple operating system, iOS 6, which allow the devices to access the newest tools offered, such as Siri and VoiceOver screen, iCloud and access to the App Store. The 5th generation iPod touch is unique from the previous models in that it comes in many colours, is thinner, has a 4inch screen with retina display and a dual core A5 chip.
Why Use iPod Touch?
The Personalization of Learning
In his theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner (2006) states that people learn and work in a variety of ways. “It is a pluralistic view of mind, recognizing many different and discrete facets of cognition, acknowledging that people have different cognitive strengths and contrasting cognitive styles” (Gardner, 2006, p. 5). This theory gave way to the idea of “individual-centered school” and Rose and Meyer’s (2002) Universal Design for Learning. In both educational platforms, an educator’s pedagogy focuses on drawing on a student’s individual strengths and interests. Working with the iPod touch enables students to explore and utilize the apps that best suit their learning style.
“Mobile devices bring the real world into the classroom, and they bring the classroom into the real world.” (Shuler, 2009, p.19) In her report, Pockets of Potential, Carly Shuler presents the following 5 key opportunities and 5 key challenges in mobile learning.
- Encourage "anywhere, anytime" learning
- Reach underserved children
- Improve 21st-century social interactions
- Fit with learning environments
- Enable personalized learning experiments
- Negative aspects of mobile learning
- Cultural norms and attitudes
- No mobile theory of learning
- Differentiated access and technology
- Limiting physical attributes
(Shuler, 2009, p.16-27)
21st Century learning
Trilling and Fadel (2012) feel that the student of today leads a digital lifestyle. They are completely surrounded by media and are what many have coined a “digital native”. Unlike other generations that have had to learn how to use these devices, individuals between the ages of 11-31 grow up with them already an important part of their lives. Cell phones, World Wide Web, and various Social Media are common place for today’s youth. Using devices that connect students to the web and each other has become a regular part of their day. Trilling and Fadel (2012) also stress the fact that these digital natives have grown up with the ability to multitask. They live in a world where they communicate with friends, listen to music, watch videos and search online. Therefore, devices created for today have the capabilities to do all of these and more. An iPod touch is well suited for these “multitaskers”, as they can do just about everything on this one device. Shuler (2009) also sees the many affordances portable game systems have for the classroom. The iPod touch allows for many of the affordances she mentions which are useful for today's 21st century learner.
Portability- The iPod touch is considerably smaller than a laptop that might be used in a classroom. This makes carrying the device much less cumbersome, therefore, granting students easier access outside of the classroom.
Internet access - With its WiFi mobile platform, students can access web browsers, online resources in blended learning environments and through the App Store. Students can also collaborate in a Knowledge-building community by participating in online discussion forums and by using collaborative apps.
Accessibility - The iPod touch is low in cost compared to a laptop or desktop PC making it more accessible to more students.
Note taking - Various note taking apps allow for students to record information and save content to their device.
Audio and visual production- The built in speaker and cameras, and the microphone attachments offer a variety of ways to record and playback voice memos and video clips.
Content Creation - The multimedia components and the variety of apps allow for students to create, and collaborate on school-based projects.
Sharing and transferring data - Using an available wireless internet connection, students can easily share and transfer data or work stored on their iPod Touch.
Interact with content - The multi-touch screen allows for students to interact and manoeuvre content displayed.
Multilingual support - Running on Apple’s iOS 6 operating system allows for content to be accessed and created in various languages. Numerous languages are also recognized in order to support Text-to-Voice and Voice-to-Text programs by using the speaker and microphone components of the device and Siri.
What sets the iPod touch apart from other mobile devices and educational technologies is its access to and compatibility with over 20 000 educational apps . These apps cover countless topics and functions and they can be easily applied to any educational setting. Many of these apps are free of charge or are available for a relatively low cost. Thanks to the App Volume Purchase Program, educators are able to synchronize single apps to multiple devices. The list of educationally significant apps is constantly changing and expanding as new apps are developed. The table below provides a brief summary of the different categories of apps that can be downloaded at the App store and installed on the iPod touch.
|Alphabet||Storytelling||Numbers and Operations||Astronomy||Music Appreciation|
|Phonics||Preparing||Geometry||Earth Sciences||Performance and practice|
|Read Alouds||Publishing||Calculus||Life Sciences||Composition and Notation|
|Books||Spelling and Grammar||Probability and Statistics||Physics||History|
|Reference||Reference||Applied Math||Geography||Video Production|
iTunes U is an app educators can use to create their own course for students, with handouts, quizzes, links, video, etc. These courses can be created for iPod touch with apple's own browser based tool. Students can have access to all course materials and teachers can post updates and send messages to the class. Students can review material, check for class updates, send messages to their classmates and connect to the internet in order to stay on top of their assignments. iTunes U is useful for kindergarten to university level and is available free for download at the App store. 
With access to a wireless internet connection, there are several collaboration tools students can use for creating projects and completing assignments. Two of these tools are already built into the device. FaceTime allows for video calls and iMessage provides students with a way to text message classmates and teachers. In addition, there are a variety of web 2.0 tools that can be used for student collaboration in and out of the classroom and with students from all around the world. Click on the links below to find out about some of the collaboration tools available.
The 5th generation iPod touch includes a variety of assistive technology for people with disabilities.This makes this device more accessible to all learners. For the visually impaired, there is screen magnification and Voice Over technology. For the hearing impaired, there are captioned movies available in iTunes and apps available to enhance media players. The high resolution multi-touch screen and the apps that are available for those having difficulty speaking make this device accessible to those experiencing challenges with physical and motor skills. There are also many different apps available at the app store for helping children with learning disabilities. The Disability network of Northern Michigan has a list of 40 iPad apps that can help children with disabilities. Most of these apps are also available for the iPod touch.
There are some challenges schools are faced with implementing iPods in the classroom. They include:
- Financial cost of purchasing class sets and accessories (cables, adapters, etc.)
- Setting up iPods and synching them requires time
- Limited battery life means that students need to be able to charge their device
- WiFi access is necessary in schools and homes in order for students to benefit from the collaboration aspect
- Teachers need to be trained on how to use iPod touch for educational purposes
Apple has come out with iPod Learning Labs that are portable carts for storing, charging and synching iPods. The lab can store up to 40 iPods and synch 20 devices at one time.The purchase of these labs will assist educators with some of the issues of charging and synching the iPods and at the same time provide a storage area for the devices. Traxler (2012) believes that if these devices are to be used in schools, it must be done in such a way that is, “ensuring equality of opportunity, inclusion and access” (p. 12). The many capabilities of the iPod touch does make them more accessible and various apps do make inclusion possible. However, the opportunity for all to use them is an issue. Although, they are becoming more affordable, ownership of the devices have increased and schools are purchasing class sets, it is necessary that everyone have the opportunity to use them. Schools need to be able to apply for government funding or participate in school fundraising activities so that every child has one they can use at home and school so no one is left behind. Some schools have followed a B.Y.O.D. policy (Bring Your Own Device). This is another way to provide more students with access to the many learning tools that these mobile devices provide. A B.Y.O.D. policy can save on costs and this means that more money could be spent on improving network infrastructure and bandwidth.  If schools follow this policy, it is important that students that do not have their own device get access to one through the school. Therefore, schools will still need to purchase some devices in order to ensure this happens.
- Gardner, H. (2006) Multiple Intelligences: New horizons. New York, NY: Basic Books
- Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002) Teaching Every Students in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes
- Trilling, B., & Fadel, C. (2012). 21st century skills. John Wiley&Sons, Inc.
- Traxler, J. (2010). Will student devices deliver innovation, inclusion and transformation? Journal of theResearch Centre for Educational Technology, Kent State University