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CANA — Turning the 21st Century's most popular music and media device into an interactive textbook?
There are several apps for that, teachers at St. Paul School are learning.
Kellie Worrell's advanced math class for seventh graders and Melissa Ogle's civics class incorporate the school's 20 iPods into the lessons and lab days.
So students tapping the little touch screen and wearing earbuds aren't doing the modern equivalent of sneaking in some comic book reading in class — they are following instructions.
Last Thursday, in Worrell's lab time, she gave the students several short projects to figure out on their own.
One involved activating an application's demo to learn about the Pythagorean theorem and to work practice problems.
Worrell told the students to run the program, do the problems and give her a review of how well the application teaches about solving the equations and how it could be better.
This is the way to challenge and engage the students, the teacher explained.
Manipulating the iPod gets through to the students better than a worksheet, she said.
"First of all, the kids are already familiar with these," Worrell said about the iPods. "That's what they got for Christmas. It's the language they already speak. It's what they're used to."
With a wireless network in the school for the iPods to connect with, the students follow current events in real time — a valuable tool for a civics teacher, Ogle said.
That way, Cody Hawks and Trevor Thompson can read about the recent referendum in Sudan on whitehouse.gov, an example of the political upheaval in eastern Africa.
Textbooks? The class has them, but they seem outmoded and old-fashioned.
"Students really enjoy anything that's electronic," Ogle said.
A great deal of convenience comes along with studying with the devices, the teachers said.
All civics class notes are recorded, and Ogle can, with a press of a button, send them directly to the students to review.
Online resources from YouTube can come in handy, too. Ogle's students know the Schoolhouse Rock songs from the 1970s from playing them on their iPods and they sing along.
They can also learn while playing games, like the one where the youth match capitols to their states.
"It saves a lot of paper and it's a whole lot funner," Hawks said about the iPod.
All teachers have websites hosted by Google, and Ogle's students can access homework, study guides and worksheets there.
"I cannot wait until I don't have to go to the copy machine any more," the civics teacher said. "Everything's electronic for me — I send it to the kids and they do it and send it back to me the same way."
The library of online resources geared specifically to her teaching specialty grows constantly, Ogle noted.
"They're getting more social studies apps every day," she noted. "I'm excited about that."
The iPods are a teaching tool, and Worrell finds it increasingly indispensable.
"Once you get used to them, it's hard to plan a lesson without them," she said.
Worrell credited Ogle for staying on top of the technological teaching options.
The iPods allow students to tackle lessons at their own speeds, the math teacher said. Students who need to go back and review can do that on their own while others move on.
Plus, iPods are much easier to tote around than textbooks.
"We hear a lot about students with back problems because they're trying to carry everything they need in their backpacks," Worrell said.
Instead of being bored on the bus, the kids will take out their iPod and do homework.
Franklin Snow works with special needs students, and teachers have iPads to help their kids develop motor skills and verbalize.
Autistic children can sometimes focus better while the iPad plays music.
Snow said that, on Martin Luther King Day, they watched videos of the civil rights leader's speeches.
Shapes and color recognition, telling time — it's all there.
"It's pretty much endless," he said. "There's thousands of apps out there."