CNN Student News: iPods in Class

CNN Student News is one of my favorite educational podcasts. Early in the morning each school day, CNN makes available a 10 minute commercial-free newscast geared for middle and high schoolers. If you subscribe in iTunes, you can have the each episode automatically downloaded and ready to view on a computer or synced to mobile devices.

Recently CNN Student News had a segment called iPods in Class in their episode for October 18, 2010. It features high school math teacher Robert Tang. He he's managed to provide brand new iPod touches for his students. In the segment you can see a student taking advantage of the iPod touch's camera as he records part of Tang's lecture while taking notes. Another student talks about how useful FaceTime is when collaborating on homework. She can call up a classmate and talk face-to-face and even use the camera to show work on math problems.

While the video is no longer available in iTunes, you can still watch the segment online. iPods in Class begins at the 6:30 mark and is two minutes long. Below is part of the transcript. A full transcript of the episode is available too.


STEVE FISCHER, CBC NEWS REPORTER: Christmas came early for students in this grade 11 math class.

ROBERT TANG, LISGAR HIGH SCHOOL MATH TEACHER: Use your iPod Touch and get that out of your way.

FISCHER: Every student has been given one of these: not only to use during class, but to keep for the semester.

TANG: So, as you can see, mine is too small, but just by pinching it...

FISCHER: Five years ago, Robert Tang arranged to get the first SmartBoard in the school. He decided equipping the students with handheld devices was the obvious next step. Tang found a private sponsor to pay for the pilot project.

TANG: When I grew up, it was desktop computers. Then, it went to laptop computers, and now it's the handheld generation. And I think that's something that we can tap into, and the devices such as the iPod Touch is something that really lends itself well to the educational field.

FISCHER: After initially banning cell phones and other handheld technologies, school boards across the province are rethinking their policies. They certainly can be a distraction, but they also offer up a World Wide Web of educational opportunities. It didn't take Tang's students long to embrace the technology.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE STUDENT: It's really helpful, 'cause when he shows stuff on the board, you can look at it on your iPod Touch, and it's easier to see things, and it's interactive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE STUDENT: For example, I can get the math textbook and Mr. Tang's schedule, all on this little device.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE STUDENT: If I have any questions to ask, her screen pops up. I can see her face-to-face, ask her face-to-face, and see her work.

FISCHER: School officials say if the results are positive, they may consider expanding the program to other classes. Steve Fischer, CBC News, Ottawa.


iPod touch, Apps & Wirenode in Fourth Grade

Lauren Haber teaches fourth graders at Sandy Plains Elementary in Maryland. She's got a class set of iPod touches, and her students and she are having a blast learning with them! Lauren shared some of her favorite apps with me (and she assured me that they have many favorites at Sandy Plains).

  • Sticker Shop - Lauren used this as a review of counting money. She wishes it could have different ability levels because it doesn't challenge her students, but they love it.
  • Math Carries - Practice regrouping.
  • Dice - Great for when they play games in class, random number generation, and probability. There's no real dice for students to misplace or leave scattered around the classroom.
  • Multiples - This is another great multiplication game, with expressions represented as arrays.
  • Math Dr. Lite - Lauren loves how it can be customized for the needs of each student (they use it for multiplication and division facts) and she likes the variety of helpful aids while students are in review mode (number line, repeated addition, multiplication table, nearby facts).
Social Studies and Science
  • Discovery News - Read about currently events.
  • NASA - Terrific space resources.
  • Live Moon - Display a picture of what moon looks like on this day and  access a current calendar of moon phases.
Language Arts
  • Make Words - Use root words, prefixes, and suffixes to create words.
  • Dragon Dication - Transcribe what students speak into a microphone with this free speech-to-text app.
  • - Great for word of the day and choosing appropriate definitions.
Lauren has created a mobile website for her students and their parents using the free Wirenode service. It makes it simple for Lauren to share links with students, and it gives her students a place to go on the web related to each of their subject areas. Parents find the page helpful for keeping updated on what's going on in class. The site also guides students when they research topics at home. Check out the mobile site at

Wirenode Miss Hauber Site

Lauren says her students are so much more engaged while using the iPod touches. She can't imagine teaching without them as much as her students can't imagine learning without them!


Evaluation Rubric for Educational Apps

Harry Walker is the principal of Sandy Plains Elementary School in Baltimore County, Maryland. Fourth and fifth graders at the school are piloting one-to-one computing with iPod touches. In addition, Harry is a doctoral student at John Hopkins University. He's investigating the impact of iPod touch on student achievement.

One of his challenges is wading through the huge number apps available. He's crafted a rubric to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of an app in terms of how it may impact student achievement. His criteria include curriculum connection, authenticity, feedback, differentiation, user friendliness, and student motivation. Click to view the PDF.

Harry is looking for feedback about his rubric. Please offer any suggestions or compliments in the comments below. The feedback will help Harry improve the rubric and make it more useful. You're welcome to use the rubric yourself (just email him for permission).

Don't forget there's a great app review community at where educators review educational apps.

Learning in Hand #24: Project Based Learning

Podcast LogoLearning in Hand Podcast Episode #24: Project Based Learning demonstrates how iPad and iPod touch can can play a role in the the planning, research/investigation, and presentation of projects.

View the 18 minute video on Vimeo, on YouTube (Part 1 and Part 2), or in iTunes (#24) or download the video to learn about practical ways handhelds can fit into learning through projects.

A transcript, resources, and links to apps can be found at This video is part of the 2010 K12 Online Conference where you can also view and discuss the episode.


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Register for Mobile Learning Experience 2011

The website for Mobile Learning Experience 2011 is now online! mobile 2011 is the conference for those interested in the latest in teaching, learning, and mobile computing. It will be held in sunny Phoenix, Arizona April 6-8, 2011. Many sessions will be devoted to iPod touch and iPad. Participants can look forward to an extraordinary keynote by Graham Brown-Martin, founder of Learning Without Frontiers. I'm looking forward to attending and presenting sessions myself.

The launch of also brings the launch of registration. Registration includes two nights at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Phoenix. The conference team, presenters, and the Arizona K12 Center are not making a profit from mobile2011. The event is a volunteer effort and every dollar of registration goes into the venue, catering, materials, and logistics. Registration deadline is March 1, but the conference is expected to sell out before the deadline.

Mobile Learning Experience 2011 already has a great line-up of speakers.  From teachers, to visionaries, to students, those presenting have a passion for mobile learning. Are you interested in sharing your passion? mobile 2011 is accepting proposals to present breakout sessions. If you are interested in presenting, please complete this form. The event’s schedule will be finalized in January, so please complete a proposal before December 1, 2010.

Follow mobile2011 on Twitter and subscribe to mobile 2011 Event News.


iPod touch in Canby School District

iPod touches are making a difference in Oregon. The Canby School District completed a pilot last year and those behind the program are generous about sharing what they've learned. I've been reading the school district's wiki for some time, and a recent article written about their pilot on O'Reilly Radar is impressive.

Joe Morelock, Director of Technology & Innovation for the district, posted slides from his presentation Mobile Devices in Canby SD: Meeting the Needs of Every Student. It details exactly how many devices the district uses and shares achievement data. On Joe's slides you can see that more students in classrooms with iPod touches met math and reading criteria on the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Other slides show an increase in reading fluency and large gains of almost two years on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

The school district was so thrilled with the results of the pilot that they are rolling out iPod touches to each and every third grader this school year. They are also running pilots of iPads in various grade levels.

Joe's slides have some telling quotes from teachers:

"This is the most fun I have had teaching in the last 25 years." -Deana Calcagno, Fifth Grade Teacher

"The best usage was the voice memos to record rough drafts. Students caught errors in their writing and actually revised it when it didn’t ‘sound right.’ Being able to record their voice and use the iPods motivated them to improve their writing skills." -Jacquie Fitch, Fourth Grade Teacher

"The iPods are changing non-readers into readers. It's amazing. Thank you." -Joan Flora, High School Reading Teacher

Joe's presentation for Mobile Portland was recorded and is available online. His presentation begins about 19 minutes into the video.


The Canby School District's has a fantastic wiki to support their handheld-using teachers. It's called the iPod & iPad User Group Wiki and has a wealth of information. It has a blog with classroom ideas, project examples, and lessons. Thanks to those in Canby School District for sharing!

While there isn't a whole lot of research that's specific to iPod touch and iPad on the web, you can browse some research-related sites I've bookmarked on Delicious. There are quite a few wikis devoted to Apple handheld's and I've bookmarked the ones I've come across. If you've got research or a wiki to share, please leave them in the comments. These kinds of resources can certainly be helpful when writing grants and when convincing administration to bring handhelds into classrooms.


A Word About Free iOS Apps

Did you know that once you purchase an app, you can always download that app again for free? This is handy for apps that have been accidentally deleted or you want to download a purchased app onto a second computer or device.

As you might have noticed, an app can change price. Prices often go up and down. For example, in April I bought the student response app eClicker Host for $24.99. In May, the price was reduced to $9.99, and the app continues to be priced at less than half what I paid. Developers have the freedom to change prices at any time.

To tell the truth, you can live happily without ever paying for an app because a large portion of apps are free. In fact, 30% of the apps in the App Store are free of charge. App developers price their apps at $0 for many reasons:

  • the app makes money from advertising
  • the entire app is an advertisement
  • the app is a "lite" version of a paid app
  • the app does not make money for the developer

Another reason an app may be offered for free is that the developer wants to build buzz for the app. Often apps are offered for free for a day or two before returning to the original price. For example, SonicPics is currently priced at $2.99. I happened to have downloaded the app in April when the app was offered for free for one day.

Remember that app downloads, whether they are free or paid, are associated with a single iTunes account. If an app is for classroom use, be sure to download it using the classroom or school iTunes account so that it can be installed on the devices that use that account.

When you download a free app for use on a classroom set of handhelds, I suggest documenting it. If the school is audited by Apple, you then have proof the app was purchased for free.

There are a number of sources that provide timely information on app price reductions:

  • and the AppShopper app provide many search options. I like the Popular Price Changes in Education page. You can limit that page to just iPhone or iPad apps. Education isn't the only app category with great apps for students, so you it might be worth checking out Popular Price Changes in All Categories. AppShopper is nice enough to provide web feeds for these price reduction lists.
  • Twitter users frequently share apps they have found on sale. Even if you don't have a Twitter account, you can search Twitter for #edapp free to see if there are any current deals.
  • iTunes lists Top Free Apps in Education (and top free apps for all other categories). Apps that are on sale often climb to the top of the Top Free Apps lists as users grab them before the price reverts back to paid.
  • FreeAppAlert tracks paid iPhone apps that just became free. You can get their alerts via email if you'd like. Similarly there's Free App a Day, but it focuses mainly on games.

If you have any kind of inkling that you might use a free app, I suggest "purchasing" it while it's on sale. You can immediately delete the app if you don't want the app taking up space on your device or in your iTunes library. Like paid apps, you can always download an app you "purchased" for free again from the App Store. This works even after the app has increased in price. In other words, you can download a free app, delete it, and re-download it for free anytime in the future, even if the app is no longer offered for free.

To re-download an app, you will have to click its price in the App Store. This will make it seem like you are going to have to pay for it. However, after entering your password, the App Store will display a message that you have already purchased the app and kindly informs you that you can re-download free of charge.

Obviously, paying attention to price reductions can save lots of money, especially when it comes to class sets of iOS devices.


Refine Your Twitter #edapp Search

Twitter has become a valuable tool to discover educational apps. I've written about the #edapp keyword tag, and Episode #22 of my podcast features apps I learned about through the Twitter #edapp tag. Since searching Twitter is now a part of my daily routine, I thought I'd share some search tips.

When you use the website, you can save a search. Login and input your search into the box on the right side of the page. On the search results page, click Save this search. The search text will appear on the right side of the page under Saved Searches each time you're logged in. You can click the saved search to see the latest results without having to retype the search.  Your Saved Searches also appear in many Twitter apps for handy access. 

Before you save your search, consider refining it. You can refine the #edapp search to produce results that are more useful. One thing you can do is add more tags to the search. I've added #iear to my search. #iear is the tag used by the I Educational Apps Review community. I've also added #slide2learn. Slide to Learn 2010 was a conference in Australia devoted to Apple's handhelds and the conversion continues on Twitter. To have your search display results from all three tags, enter the following into the search field (be sure to capitalize OR):

#edapp OR #iear OR #slide2learn

Retweets are when someone repeats someone else's Twitter update. Retweets are a way for users to give credit to the original author and to repeat the information to their own followers. Most of the time retweets start with RT. I often look out for RTs because these are the tweets that someone thought were so important that they were worth repeating. However, retweets can be annoying when reading through the results of a Twitter search because you find yourself reading the same tweets over and over. You can omit retweets from your search results by adding -RT to your search string. I've refined my search to:

#edapp OR #iear OR #slide2learn -RT

Just as you can omit retweets, you can use the minus sign to exclude tweets that contain certain words and tweets from specific users. For example, I do not want tweets from the Twitter username _EducationApps_ to appear in my search results. So, I type a minus in front of _EducationApps_ in my search string so that tweets from this user do not clutter my results:

#edapp OR #iear OR #slide2learn -RT -_EducationApps_ -KnowPro

I can, of course, refine my search string even more. As I read through my search results, there will probably be more users I want to remove from my results and perhaps more keyword terms I want to add. 

To sum up, instead of simply saving a search for #edapp, you can refine your search string so that you are one click or tap away from reading tweets that are of interest to you.


Learning in Hand Podcast #23: Collecting & Organizing Voice Memos

Learning in Hand Podcast Episode #23: Collecting & Organizing Voice Memos explains how to sync voice memos from an iPod, iPod touch, or iPhone. Using Smart Playlists in iTunes, see how students and teachers can sync and automatically organize recordings. This process is essential in classrooms where teachers collect reading fluency samples, student reflections, and podcast segments.

Download, watch on YouTube or Vimeo, or view in iTunes all 6 minutes 12 seconds of Episode #23 for tips, how-tos, and ideas for collecting and organizing voice memos.

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Syncing with iTunes Handout
Emailing to Posterous Handout


This is the Learning in Hand Podcast. I'm Tony Vincent and this is the show where I share tips, how-tos, and ideas for handhelds in teaching and learning. Episode 23, “Collecting and Organizing Voice Memos” recorded August 2010, happens now!

iPod, iPod touch, and iPhone have the the ability to record voice memos. If your iPod doesn't have a built-in microphone, you can attach one like the Blue Mikey, Thumbtacks, or earbuds with mic.

I covered lots of information and uses for voice recording in Episode #14. There are many occasions where teachers want students to record audio. Whether it's to assess reading fluency, share reflections, record segments for a podcast, document a field trip, record a musical performance, or archive a discussion or interview, the teacher will most likely want to transfer the recording from the device to computer for listening and sharing.

Voice Memos can be transferred to iTunes by syncing. When synced, a Voice Memos playlist will appear if you don't already have one. All recordings are placed in this folder. By default, recordings are named by the date and time the recording started.

Once copied to iTunes, the recording is in two places: iTunes and the handheld. If you delete a voice memo on the handheld, it isn't deleted from the Voice Memos playlist in iTunes. But, if you delete a voice memo from iTunes, it is deleted from iPod touch the next time you sync.

That Voice Memos playlist isn't well organized. All you is see the date, time, and length of the recording. This is no good for the teacher who is collecting reading fluency samples--or collecting any kind of recordings. I'd like to show you how to use Smart Playlists in iTunes to automatically sort Voice Memos into playlists for each student. This makes it easy for teachers and students to find their own work.

First, set up a Smart Playlist for each student:

  1. Choose New Smart Playlist from the File menu.
  2. Set the rule to Artist contains and the student?s name. Click OK.
  3. Complete the steps above for each student.
  4. For each smart playlist, click View Options from the View menu. Remove all checkmarks except Artist, Time, and Comments.
  5. When a voice memo is added and Artist is changed to the student?s name, it will automatically appear in the student?s smart playlist.

So then here's how it works:

  1. A student records using the Voice Memos app on iPod touch. The student should say his or her name at the beginning of the recording.
  2. Connect to the computer. The recording should appear in iTunes? Voice Memos playlist. You may have to click Yes if a dialog box appears asking if you would like to copy voice memos to your iTunes library.
  3. Select the Voice Memos playlist.
  4. Click View Options from iTunes? View menu. Checkmark Artist and Comments and click OK. Also select as List from the View menu. (These actions only have to be done once).
  5. Play the recording and listen for the student?s name. Press Pause and click the recording?s Artist. Change the Artist to the student?s name. Be consistent about spelling and whether you use last names or initials.
  6. Optionally, click under Comments to add any additional information about the recording.
  7. You may delete the items in the Voice Memos playlist after you have added Artist information. This way the Voice Memos playlist shows only recordings that have not yet been tagged with a student?s name.
    You can place your smart playlists into a folder. Create a folder by choosing New Playlist Folder from the File menu. Name the folder. Then drag and drop each student?s playlist onto the folder. This is really handy for computers that are shared among multiple classes.

Having sorted recordings is helpful for collecting portfolio artifacts, grading, and easy access for students to incorporate into their projects.

There are of course variations to the process I've shown you. For example, if only one student uses each iPod, you can name each iPod the same as the student. When synced, the iPod's name is shown in the Artist's field and will automatically sort without you having to listen for a name.

Another way to collect and organize recording is to have student email from their iOS handheld to Posterous. Watch episode #21 for more info. At you'll find a handout with the steps for using Posterous for collecting student-made recordings. You'll also find a handout with the steps for setting up Smart Playlists like I've shown in this episode.

That's it for Episode 23. For a transcript and much more about iPods, iPads, and podcasting, click on over to Thanks for watching!


App Store Volume Purchase Program Explained

Volume Purchase Program IconApple has recently updated the Terms and Conditions for iTunes and the App Store. In addition, the company has announced the App Store Volume Purchase Program. In the past Apple had no mechanism for downloading an app more than once, so schools would purchase an app one time and distribute it to all their iPod touches, iPads, and iPhones. This arrangement made app purchases for class sets of handhelds inexpensive but was not properly compensating app developers.

The new App Store Volume Purchase Program requires schools to follow Terms and Conditions that are different from the Terms and Conditions for individual consumers. Apple even reserves the right to audit purchases to make sure that schools are following all of the usage rules for educational institutions, including purchasing activation codes for each device onto which an app is installed.

In the Terms and Conditions and in the Volume Purchase Program Frequently Asked Questions, Apple describes the process of ordering vouchers which can be used to purchase activation codes. While schools with class sets would buy activation codes for each of their handhelds, only one code would be redeemed if all handhelds are synced to the same computer. The remaining activation codes would not be redeemed, but kept in case of an audit.

Jim Siegl made a useful flowchart that visually explains the process:

Volume Purchase Program Flowchart

  1. Program Facilitator creates a quote for a one or more Volume Vouchers for a set dollar amount in $100 increments.
  2. This request is routed to the district Authorized Purchaser who approves the quote and places the order.
  3. The voucher is sent to the Program Facilitator via mail.
  4. The Authorized Purchaser receives the Voucher and send the voucher to the Program Facilitator via internal mail.
  5. Using a New Apple ID created for this purpose, the Program Facilitator searches for and purchases apps in
    variable quantities, up to the dollar limit of the voucher amount and billed accordingly.
  6. The Program Facilitator will receive an email with a link to a dashboard, now populated with app-­‐specific codes. These codes can be distributed to users for redemption at the App Store.
  7. The Program Facilitator distributes the app specific codes to the individual that requested them.
  8. The requestor redeems the codes in one of three ways (assume 30 iPods)
    • a. One code is redeemed to a single iTunes account, iTunes is activated with that account on up to five 5 computers. The 29 remaining codes are kept on file in the event of an audit.
    • b. 30 codes are distributed and redeemed against 30 school managed iTunes accounts.
    • c. 30 codes are distributed and redeemed against 30 student managed iTunes accounts. App becomes property of the student.

As you can gather, the process is complicated. No more can teachers with class sets of Apple handhelds simply purchase an app in iTunes and sync. Now the teacher must work with the school district's Volume Purchase Program Facilitator to acquire a voucher and activation codes. Jim has written more about the intricacies of the Volume Purchase Program and step-by-step instructions on the IEAR wiki.

As part of the program, individual app developers have the option to offer up to 50% discounts on purchases of 20 or more of the same app. You won't see the discount in the App Store itself. You'll have to search for the title of app on the App Store Volume Purchase Program page. For example, when I search for SonicPics, I can see pricing for 1-19 units and for 20+ units.

SonicPics VPP

For a class set of 30, it would cost about $45 to purchase SonicPics for each handheld. In the world of desktop software, that's not bad. However, it's still very pricey compared to the $3 it would cost before the Volume Purchase Program went into effect. The best way to take advantage of the power of Apple's handhelds is to equip them with multiple apps, which will add up very quickly. Not only will the Volume Purchase Program be costly when buying many different apps, but it also requires schools to keep documentation in case Apple decides to do an audit.

I think the extra cost and steps to purchase apps for schools will greatly curtail educational app purchases. Some good news is that the Volume Purchase Program is only for paid apps. Free apps can be downloaded immediately without going through the process outlined in the flowchart. It's reassuring to know that 30% of apps in the App Store are free and you can search the App Store for only free apps by conducting a Power Search.

Power Search for free apps

With nearly 300,000 items in the App Store, there's a good chance you'll find a free alternative to a paid app. For instance, searching for Digital Storytelling gave me a great free alternative to SonicPics called Storyrobe.

Storyrobe Result

Often apps are offered for free for a limited time. You can find out about these deals by searching Twitter for #edapp and using sites like FreeAppAlert and AppShopper. When downloading free apps, educators should document that the app was free. This way if the app does become a paid app in the future, there is proof the app was properly acquired.

Judi Epcke, Scott Meech, and I discuss the Volume Purchase Program in Episode #3 of the IEAR podcast. The three of us were confused and frustrated by Apple's new process. Hopefully as more schools transition to using the App Store Volume Purchase Program, we'll know more about the benefits and limitations of the recently developed rules for purchasing apps.


Hurry! Free eBooks from Kaplan

Kaplan Publishing is offering 100 free eBooks in the iBooks Store. To see what books are available, you first must download the free iBooks app (which requires an iPad or iOS 4).

Launch iBooks, tap Store, tap the Featured tab, and tap the ad for Kaplan's free books, or go to in mobile Safari. You are taken to a page where you can see the free books in the categories of College, Graduate, Law, Medicine, Nursing and Education.

Free books include in the Education category include First Year Teacher, Sharp Vocabulary, Sharp Writing, Kaplan 101 Biology Practice Questions, and SOS: Stressed Out Student' Guide to Handling Peer Pressure.

The books are free until August 30, 2010.

If you'd like to be in the know for timely deals on eBooks and apps, follow me on Twitter (username tonyvincent) and/or search Twitter for the hashtag #edapp.


Mobile Learning Experience 2011: Save the Date!

I'm thrilled to announce the Mobile Learning Experience in Phoenix Arizona April 6-8, 2011! A group of mobile-minded educators and the Arizona K12 Center have come together to offer what I think will be one of the best education and mobile technology conferences in the U.S.

We're still working hard on the program and registration materials, but the planning committee wants to get the dates out there so you can mark them on your calendar. Please download the Save the Date flyer and share with educators who are interested in teaching and learning with mobile technology. I can't wait for passionate educators to gather in the city I call home!

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