Keyboard-Type Input

In a recent interview with the The Chronicle of Higher Education1, Bill Gates was asked how tablet computers can make a difference in education and responded:

Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. And it’s never going to work on a device where you don’t have a keyboard-type input. Students aren’t there just to read things. They’re actually supposed to be able to write and communicate. And so it’s going to be more in the PC realm—it’s going to be a low-cost PC that lets them be highly interactive.

I agree with the first part of his statement because the curriculum and pedogy need to change to make any technology worthwhile. However, he is wrong about the need for keyboards. My middle school students have done complex work on our iPod Touches, such as creating documents that use desktop publishing skills involving typing, creating charts and inserting images. Due to Apple’s intuitive software design, students are quickly able to get past the lack of hardware keyboard. Moreover, they don’t necessarily see the lack of keyboard of as a limitation. Since a third of their lives have been dominated by touch devices, they don’t see keyboards as a prerequisite for using a computer.

Labeling iPods

For our first day of winter vacation, my wife and I spent some time in my classroom bar-coding and labeling my iPods. We also labeled each slot in the cart.

That process went fairly quickly, but I also wanted to upgrade all of the iPods to iOS 4.2.1. That took much more time because I could only do one device at a time. However, by following these directions from Fraser Speirs on how to save the update file locally, I saved close to 10 minutes each device.

Photo of my iPods in the drawer of my Bretford Cart

Close-up photo of my drawer with labels.

iPods Unboxed

With the help of my super-supportive wife, we managed to finally get the first set of 20 iPods unboxed and into Cart2D2 for charging. I love the look of the LED lights in the drawer while charging.

Photo of my iPods finally placed into my Bretford cart

On the other hand, the look of 20 devices in iTunes for syncing is a little intimidating. I’m not looking forward to upgrading 20 devices to iOS 4.2.

Screenshot of 20 iPods syncing in iTunes

Great Cyber Monday Deal!

I just purchased cases for my iPod Touches thanks to this tip from OS X Daily. This premium black soft gel silicone skin case normally sells for $29.99 but is currently listed at $2.39. I’m a littler worried that the Amazon reviews are so divided. It has roughly the same number of 5 star and 1 star reviews so people must either love it or hate it. Still, this find is a relief because I was starting to worry I wouldn’t find cases in my price range.

FaceTime Call

Screenshot of my dog in FaceTimeI’m starting to make more progress with my initial setup of the iPod Touches. I don’t have my laptop at school yet, so I set up a “classroom” account on my home computer that I’m using to sync a couple of the iPods. Naturally, one of the first things I did was play with FaceTime. To enable FaceTime, I’ve created an email account for each iPod {ipod01, ipod02…} at my classroom domain and set up IMAP accounts in Mail on my computer. The addresses are all in Address Book, so it is easy to call one iPod from another.

To be honest, I don’t see any real educational applications here, and I might end up having to disable FaceTime on the devices if my students mess around with it. Since it is so easy to turn it on and off, it’s worth learning how to set it up. Also, it might be helpful to have the email address for each iPod since so many apps can send content that way.