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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Innovating with iPods - Accessing the Internet

March 2010

After purchasing the basic equipment for our iPod Touch project, and working out how we would go about syncing content to the iPods, James Langley and I continued to battle away with research which would help answer some of our questions. We had meetings in person and via Skype at all hours to make sure we were getting it right.

We spent an afternoon researching some of the great educational apps that there were available. We were pleased to discover the huge wealth of free content available through Apple's App Store which would be really relevant to our project. The benefits to pupils' learning were just obvious. And even Michael Gove might be pleased. One of the first apps we found was perfect for learning times tables by rote, but as it was on an iPod Touch it seemed somewhat less Dickensian. (I will publish a full list of the apps we have used in a future post).

James and I met, alongside Tim Bleazard, ICT Teacher at Challenge CLC, throughout March to carry out some very important tests to answer the following questions relating to the use of the internet:

  • How easy was it to enter the wireless and proxy settings?
  • Could these settings be copied or synced between iPods or did they need to be entered manually each time?
  • Did our school internet filtering detect the iPods and block the same web addresses as on the netbooks, laptops and desktops?
  • Was there any content that would not be compatible with the iPods?
We found some great answers. And some not so great answers. Here they are.

Internet Settings

Entering web proxy and wireless settings is a piece of cake (although you may need to involve your technical support, if this is not you, to get some of the details you'll need).

The process: On the iPod Touch, open up Settings > Wi-Fi. You should be greeted with this screen:

Make sure that the Wi-Fi is turned on and after a second or two you should see a list of the available wireless networks.

Top Tip: If you have difficulty finding wireless networks which you are sure are available, there may be an issue with your iPod Touch's wireless card. To test this, first try simply heading back to the previous 'Settings' screen and re-selecting the 'Wi-Fi' option. Sometimes all it needs is a good kick up the backside. If this fails, try turning the iPod Touch off and then back on again (can you tell I work with ICT?). Finally, if you're still having trouble, try a hard reset of the device - details of which will be made available in a future post - and give it another go. If it's still not working, but others are, your wireless card is dead and the device needs replacing, which will be done under warranty.

Once the list of Wi-Fi networks is displayed on screen, enter the network's password (presuming that it has one). You should only need to do this once as the settings will save automatically. If your school accesses the internet through a proxy server, you will also need to enter these settings. To do this, tap the blue and white arrow next to your wireless network and scroll to the bottom of the next screen:

Enter the proxy settings and away you go. You'll probably want to test that it's working straight away by launching the iPod's inbuilt web browser, Safari, which looks like this:

Pretty easy, yes? And now for the bad news...

To my knowledge (and trust me I looked hard enough for the info) there is no way to synchronise an iPod's settings with a Windows PC or Mac, meaning that these settings need to be entered manually for each device. We bought 96 iPod Touches. 'Nuff said.

Access to internet content

As our school does access the internet through a proxy server, the iPods were also routed through this server. Therefore, all content which we block in school in line with our e-Safety Policy is inaccessible on  the iPods. This, obviously, was a relieving discovery.

The great thing about the iPod Touch is that you can access the whole of the internet in the palm of your hands. Except that that's a big fat lie. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been forced to explain his reasoning for many times, iPod Touches do not currently include, nor do Apple envisage any plans for them to include, support for Flash or any Flash-based website. The implications of this are at best irritating, at worst lesson-killers.

Top Tip: I know you all would anyway, but... Make sure you test websites you plan to use well in advance of using them in class. This is more important than ever due to the lack of support for Flash.

And that's it for now...

It may appear to make little sense for me to talk about the finer configuration of the devices before explaining the wider process of setting them up first, but I am simply explaining the chronological learning process I underwent during the initial stages of this project. My next post in the 'Innovating with iPods' series will focus on the full setup process.

Keep checking back for updates, or subscribe to be kept fully in the loop.


  1. great info-just gone through the same process in our school for new iPads and macbooks. Now thinking about best wireless router for hanging multiple mobile devices on. Also using the summer break to research ideas for using the hardware within PE-keeping a log on my blog ( Look forward to following the progress of your project and gaining many ideas and insights

  2. Hi thanks for your great posts on your project. I am a ICT lead teacher of a small country school in NZ. My principal has asked me to learn more about mlearning as it seems to be the thing that engages our pupils. If this engagement leads to academic achievement, I am very interested. I have heard lots of positive responses to this but my big concern, as I am not a technician, is how we can manage this. Your post has helped my technically savvy thinking become a bit clearly on how this might look because when I speak to a technician it costs a fortune and I think they leave stuff out so I have to call them in again! Thanks and keep posting I want to know more. @melaniem8

  3. dblain08, we use flip cams really effectively in PE. We get older pupils to make instructional videos for younger pupils. They all absolutely love it!


  4. Mel, it's really good to know that you are finding my blog useful. I will be posting regular updates so do keep checking back.

    I will be spending some time number crunching over the next few weeks to try and see if there has been a measurable impact on attainment.

    If you need to ask any questions (so you don't have to cough up expensive technical fees) then send me an email (in profile) or catch me on Twitter, @chrismayoh


  5. A quick way to apply wifi and other settings (including restrictions) to multiple iPods is to use the iPhone Configuration Utility to apply a custom profile. It is a free download from Apple, and a very handy tool for iPod labs in a K-12 setting.

  6. Thanks for that Caitlin. I will definitely have to look into that as it sounds like it could become a massive time saver. Cheers :)