iTouch the Future

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday; we rob our children of tomorrow." – John Dewey

Every 3rd grade student in Juliana Pearson and Kent Jacobson's classroom has an iPod touch (iTouch) to use as an integrated classroom learning tool. Travel with them through a typical school day.

TicTacMath8:05 Students begin to enter the classroom. Most head straight to the iTouch cart to get their devices and immediately check for new content. Word spreads quickly that a new math app, Tic Tac Math ($1.99;, has been synced overnight. Many students try the app as they walk toward their desk to begin their morning. The engagement in learning activity is immediate and the excitement is contagious!

Tic Tac Math: We regularly sync new apps with the students' iTouchs for them to try.

8:15 A gentle reminder that the app can be removed just as easily as it was added focuses the children on their morning math page. Many students consult their Math Word Wall reference photos to assist in identifying polygons. The Word Wall is a set of PowerPoint slides saved as jpegs and added as an album to the built-in Photos app. Each slide contains a definition and example of a math term or operation. Others use the Timesby ($0.99; app to help with their computations.

8:30 As students finish, they return to their newest app and several challenge a friend to a quick game of Tic Tac Math to practice math facts. Several other students are working to finish a pen pal writing assignment from the day before. The assignment is e-mailed to both teachers and will be printed and peer edited later in the day.

After peer editing, student pen pal letters are saved in Notes and the final copy is e-mailed to their teachers.

8:40 It is time for the weekly spelling test. Students use earbuds to listen to the recording of their teachers pronouncing the words. The recordings are easily created with iTalk Recorder (free; Each child is able to pause, stop, and start their recording to match their own pace. Spelling words are matched to each child's ability, and the children are unaware when they are not being asked to write the same words.

The differentiation of content is seamless!

Collage-Lite-example9:00 Children move effortlessly to their reading task. Each child reads and/or listens to the recording of a story from their reading series. As a class exercise, they are creating a collage representing the story using
 Collage Lite (free; The collage contains four elements:

  • A retelling/summary of the story created in SimpleMind Xpress – mindmapping (free;,

  • An avatar of the main character created in Avatar Creator 2 ($0.99;;
  • A sticky note focusing on prefix/suffix practice using Stick It – Sticky Notes for iPhone ($1.99;;

  • An Internet photo showing the setting. The final product is e-mailed to both teachers.

The students use Collage Lite to create a collage representing the stories they are reading.

9:50Recess time and it is raining. Students grab their iTouch and head to the upper gym to walk laps and add to their steps on iSteps Pedometer ($2.99; Many children have walked over 10,000 steps already this school year. They excitedly share their totals with each other as they walk. The teachers capitalize on the opportunity to ask students to read the 5 digit numbers aloud.

Storybook-Lite-Example10:15 All that walking leads to DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) and snack time. Students settle in to read books, watch MPBs (Moving Picture Books), create stories with Storybook Lite (free;, and record themselves reading using the iTalk Recorder (free; These recordings are e-mailed to parents, kept as a record of reading progress in the Audiobooks folder, and shared with classmates on the iPods.

Storybook Lite helps guide the students through story creation.

10:30 Math time arrives with energy and enthusiasm. The teachers give the students a "pizza order" (one Canadian bacon pizza with pineapple, etc.) and they use the More Pizza! ($0.99; app to create it. They use a separate pizza menu, created by the teachers in PowerPoint, to price the toppings the teacher ordered to determine the bill. The finished assignment—including screenshots from More Pizza displaying the items ordered and an itemized bill—is pulled together in Omni Note ($2.99; and e-mailed to teachers.

11:45 Students head to Music and PE, with lunch to follow. Many students plug in their iTouch as they leave the classroom. They have learned that it is wise to charge the battery, so they don't miss out on afternoon activities.

1:00 Small teams of students peer edit copies of their pen pal letters. Students mark a rubric to score their writing. Then corrections are made to their letter saved in the built-in Notes app and the final copy is e-mailed to their teachers.

1:30 Students record poetry to be used in a podcast along with original music created in JamStudio (, an online music creation site. It is evident that they take pride in the quality of their work as they record, listen and rerecord until they are satisfied with their poem.

2:00 The earbuds reappear as children watch a science video introducing them to crayfish. Living examples of these invertebrates will be arriving in the next few days and will be the focus of many science lessons. The video is from iTunes U.

2:45 Children enjoy a chapter from the read-aloud book and then answer 5 questions about what they have heard using ResponseWare (free; This app allows students to turn their iPod into a "clicker" and select answers and receive immediate feedback.

3:15 All iPods are placed back in the cart to sync content and charge.

With the students headed home, Pearson and Jacobson have a few moments to reflect on the day's activities, review data, use rubrics to assess assignments and make final preparations for the next school day. Much of the content for the iPods is created by the teachers. Many of the apps are used in creative and innovative ways. The teachers have high expectations for their students and themselves. They strive to make each school day a unique experience filled with student driven learning and real life application.

Integrating the iPod Touch into a 3rd grade classroom
Sept/Oct 2010
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