That Special (iPod) Touch

Ashland High School biology teacher Becky DeSalvo plans to have her students use the district's new iPod Touches to take quizzes on mitosis and record data from lab dissections this fall.

Meanwhile, first- and second-grade students at Willow Wind, Bellview and Walker elementary schools will be using the iPod Touches to record themselves reading and to spot their errors.

"It's really our responsibility as a district to teach students to use technology, because they live in an environment where technology is everywhere," said Superintendent Juli Di Chiro. "This is a way for us to put technology into the hands of our students."

Di Chiro added she believes the portable electronic devices will save time and allow for more individualized instruction.

An Apple iPod instructor spent three days in August showing about 25 district teachers how to use the devices. The training cost the district about $4,000, Di Chiro said.

This summer the district spent $50,000 on 150 Apple iPod Touch devices, which will be used in science classes at Ashland High School and in the three elementary schools during reading lessons, she said. About 75 percent of students at the high school are expected to use the devices this coming academic year, along with about 180 elementary school students, district officials said.

Each batch of 32 iPods came with an Apple laptop for the teacher and a portable charging station.

Students and teachers will be able to download educational applications to the handheld computers. District officials haven't yet decided which educational apps the students will use, but there are thousands to choose from, Di Chiro said. The district also hasn't decided whether students will be able to take the iPods home, but the district is considering installing GPS tracking apps on the devices, she said.

The portable Internet devices also can be used to play music, videos and games, but they cannot be used to make phone calls or write text messages.

If the iPods are successful in helping students learn, Di Chiro said the district may purchase more of them.

DeSalvo said she hopes to initially use the iPods once a week in her biology and chemistry classes, but eventually she may use them daily.

"I think the students are really going to like it," she said. "Technology is just a constant in their lives, so it's like second nature for them to use an iPod."

DeSalvo may have her students use the iPods to watch educational video clips, make charts with data from experiments and research science concepts, she said.

The main concern teachers have with using the iPods in the classroom is that the devices may distract students from learning, she said.

"What we're going to do is keep the lesson very short — about 15 minutes — and put them away before they have time to get distracted," DeSalvo said.

Mark Miller, who teaches biology and anatomy at the high school, said some teachers found the iPods difficult to use at first.

"There's definitely a learning curve," he said. "You just have to get used to the technology. I think for kids, it will be easier, because they're surrounded by this kind of technology."

Dana Rensi, a Spanish teacher at the high school and the district's technology mentor to teachers, said the district hopes the iPods will enable students to take learning into their own hands and do more individual projects.

"The goal is to increase learning, not just increase technology," she said.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or

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