Using iPods for more than entertainment

It was time to take a test, so special education major Allison Papke handed out iPods to her eighth-grade class.

Serving her practicum at Dr. John Long Middle School in Hillsborough County last semester, Papke went above and beyond standard participation and brought the revolutionary idea of using everyday technology into her classroom.

The class Papke taught was composed of special education students who struggle with learning disabilities and general education students. Traditionally, the special education students require a paraprofessional to administer their tests. Thanks to Papke’s iPod idea, several problems have been solved.

Now students can remain in class but have the freedom of going at their own pace.

The special education students are tested without the distraction of being separated from their peers, which can lead to alienation and self-esteem issues.

The video capability on the iPod offers the students the combination of a hard copy paper test, text on the screen and audio from the headphones. The multimedia approach has been shown to speed up gains by learning-challenged students, Papke said.

“One of the students said it was like he had his own assistant right there,” Papke said. “If he wanted a question repeated, he just hit the button. When he wanted to go on, he would go on.”

“When you find something that good that’s easy to do, keep doing it,” Director of Contemporary Literacies Integration and Laptop Initiative Project Coordinator James Welsh said.

Papke discovered the technique via an Apple Computers article sent to the Education Department by Welsh.

The Laptop Lounge on the second floor of the College of Education provided the tools and technological skill. The Lounge offered 10 iPods, and Papke learned to code software.

Luis Perez, training specialist for the Lounge, walked Papke through the steps to make the idea a reality. There was a learning curve on Papke’s part, but Perez said, “By the second day she came to code, Allison was doing it herself.”

This program involved both special and general education students in Papke’s class. Students thought that those allowed to use an iPod were chosen at random.

“The students thought the iPods were a privilege,” Papke said. “Everyone wanted one.”

“You don’t usually get a coolness factor from taking a test,” Welsh said. “But when you get to use an iPod to take the test, that is cool.

“What I was hoping for with the experience with Allison was to get our feet wet. So, that when we get ready to do this on a larger scale, we know what the obstacles are.”

Special education professors are supportive of expanding this program into their student’s practicums. “The technology is readily available,” Welsh said. “It is easy to replicate because it is only audio and text.”