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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Innovating with iPods - Learning with Apps - Part 1

An obviously important part of the setup process in our iPod Touch project was to find some great educational apps which we could use effectively in the classroom. We had a few main criteria:

- The apps needed to be easy to use

- They needed to have a genuine educational benefit - not just a fad

- They needed to be cost-effective

Preloaded Apps

The iPod Touch is equipped with some genuinely useful apps. Sadly, it's also burdened with some hopeless ones which you cannot remove. I am yet to find a use for the enforced 'Stocks' app. Answers on a postcard.

However, the following preloaded apps are very useful:

1. Voice Memos 
Voice memos are a really good way to record ideas, stories, character dialogue, etc. right onto the iPod Touch. It's simple to use, with one touch record. There is the option to rename the files created and even share them via email.

Another great way of sharing created voice memos is to sync them to iTunes. There is a setting under the 'Music' tab in iTunes which allows you to automatically sync voice memos. This allows pupils' work to be easily shared with the rest of the class.

Sadly, the current iPod Touch does not come equipped with a microphone. To allow for voice recording, 'Thumb Tac' microphones can be purchased (for £8.95 at the time of writing) at and plenty of other places.

Despite their minute appearance, the sound quality from these microphones is really impressive - I can't recommend them highly enough! You won't need one per device as it's basically impossible for a whole class of pupils to record audio at the same time. We've currently got one mic per table group (i.e. 6 per class).

2. Google Maps

As you would expect from Google, this app is really well made. It requires a wi-fi connection to operate and includes functions to search for a desired location, pinpoint your current location or to find directions from a point A to B. Zooming in and out of the map is as easy as pinching the screen with two fingers.

There is the option to show a conventional road map, a satellite image or a hybrid of the two. You can also drop pins to easily refer to places later or help to plan a route.

Perhaps most impressively, though, is the fact that Google Maps on the iPod Touch supports StreetView. Just type in the name of a town/city, street or postcode and next to the name label there will be a red and white icon if the area has StreetView support (this is now the majority of the UK). Tap this icon and the screen reorientates itself into landscape mode. You can now navigate around your chosen location from the comfort of your classroom.

Note: There will be more info about uses for this app in the classroom in my next post.
3. Calculator

Does what it says on the tin this one. Its great hidden feature is that if you turn it to landscape mode it becomes a scientific calculator. Clever! Also, if you press and hold the 'answer' you have the option to copy it to another app. This could be useful if pupils are using the calculator app to find answers that they are typing into another app.

4. Notes

Again, this app is pretty much as you'd expect, but it's really useful. The main things we've used it for is to copy and paste chunks of information from the internet, or just as a simple way to write whilst on the go. As it does not require an internet connection it is possible to use the app to take notes whilst on school field trips and educational visits, which we've found particularly useful.

5. Clock

Now, quite obviously, this app contains a clock! (I worked that out all by myself). However, it also allows you to add clocks from around the world which could be used as part of work around contrasting localities, for example.

This app is also the place to find the iPod's inbuilt alarm. However, it is the timer and stopwatch functions which make this app really useful. These could be used very effectively for science experiments, etc. The stopwatch feature could also be used to time fastest laps in P.E. or as a way to try and improve speed at mental arithmetic.

Other Preloaded Apps

The other most useful preloaded apps include 'Music' - where you can manage audio content, including educational podcasts. The 'Videos' app works in much the same way.

'Weather' can have its uses, particularly if trying to compare parts of the world, and 'Safari' is the inbuilt web browser for accessing the whole of the world wide web (unless it's made with Flash - naughty Apple)!

Prize for the best suggestion of what to do with 'Stocks.'


  1. Great to see a list that android can provide out of the box :)

  2. This is a list of apps that iPod Touch and iOS can provide right out of the box too. All of the apps above are preloaded.

  3. Thanks again for the sharing! I am looking forward to hearing how it has impacted on student achievement and engagement.
    I have just purchased a new ipod touch with camera etc so I am looking forward to experiencing the usefulness of this device as I am very keen on mlearning in my classroom.

  4. Looking forward to hearing more about how you are using the iPod Touches. I think they're brilliant to have available for the class to use all the time.

    Are you planning on letting yours go home?

  5. We're not planning on allowing the iPods to be taken home. We have such incredibly high mobility in our school - around 27% - that we would inevitably 'lose' an unacceptably high proportion of equipment. We also thought that keeping them in school would help the project to be easily manageable.

    We do, however, recognise the tremendous benefits to providing access to the iPods around the clock.