for Inexpensive iPhone & iPod Accessories

Monoprice.comiPod and iPhone accessories can be costly. Apple charges $19 for a syncing cable, $29 for a wall plug, $29 for earbuds with a microphone, and around $25 for a protective case.

I'd like to tell you about a website where you can find equivalent products that are a fraction of the price. It's called According to the website, " eliminates high costs for fancy packaging and middlemen. Also, we are able to purchase in large volume." The site really does have great prices and reasonable shipping rates for many different kinds of products, focusing on cables, adapters, and home theater.

Monoprice offers several products that iPod and iPhone users would find useful. Monoprice has some of the best prices I have seen. It's a great place to order individual items and for schools that might order in bulk (they do accept school and government purchase orders).

These items may interest you...

Wall Charger
iPhone/iPod Wall Charger - $3.42 each
This charger plugs into a wall outlet so you don't need to charge from a USB port on a computer. These are great to send home with students to ensure the iPod they are using doesn't run out of juice.
Sync Cable
USB Sync Cable - $1.53 each
Sync and charge an iPod or iPhone with this cable, which is almost identical to the one that came with the device. Classrooms may need extras to send home with students or to construct a syncing station. I like to carry an extra in my bag, just in case I need it.
Battery Pack
Backup Battery Pack - $8.37 each
Attach this spare battery to the bottom of an iPod or iPhone to extend its charge. I like that this battery pack charges using a standard iPod USB sync cable or wall charger (like the two items above) so there's no need to have yet another cable/charger to worry about.
Earbuds with Mic
Earphones with Mic - $3.30 each
These include an in-line microphone, like the earphones that come with iPhones. Besides iPhones, the mic on these earphones works with 4th generation iPod nanos and 2nd generation iPod touches. The mic can be used with apps like Voice Memos and Skype. Don't need the mic and want to save a dollar? Then get earphones without the mic.
Cases - about $1 each
Protect iPhones and iPods from scratches and drops with a variety of silicone and crystal cases for cheap. Monoprice has a variety of colors, which could be used to color-code a class set of iPods. For added protection, you can pick up protective film for iPhones and iPod touches for $1.27.
USB Hub - about $16.20 each
This USB hub has 7 ports and is self-powered. You can use it to sync and charge multiple iPods at once. Check out how Patrick Ledesma used USB hubs for syncing multiple iPod touches.

iPod Activity and Lesson Ideas

iPodYou can read about how 20 classes at Nova Blanche Forman Elementary School in Florida are using iPods in the newspaper article iPods Hit the Books: Elementary School Embraces the Media Player as Learning Tool. Some of the activities the article mentions include:

  • fourth graders watch a video about the sun's layers
  • third graders play podcasts about solving math problems
  • first graders record video book reviews
  • the principal delivers message and training resources to teachers
  • students work at their own pace by pausing, rewinding, and rewatching math podcasts
  • students are allowed to take home the iPods to do homework
  • teachers use iPod to facilitate parent-teacher conferences

If you're looking for more ideas for using iPods in the classroom, click on over to the Apple Learning Interchange. The Learning Interchange has many resources for teachers that are made by teachers, including lesson plans that use iPods and iTunes. Some of the lesson ideas include:

  • Learning Math with Music: Students work in groups to create their own rhymes and songs for an entire family of math facts. Individual students record their songs using an attachable microphone.
  • Radio Show: After reading and listening to several radio dramas, student groups write and record a radio drama based on an event or period in history.
  • iPod Reporters: Students explore the basics of news reporting and gain an understanding of why news is news and what their responsibilities are as news gatherers. Students then plan a class newspaper.
  • Reading Fluency with iPods and GarageBand: The goal of this lesson is to develop stronger reading fluency and comprehension, and increase language acquisition skills: Using an iPod and a voice recorder.
  • The Lewis and Clark Expedition: Students download and watch videos from United Streaming on iPods. Similarly, check out All Quiet on the Western Front.
  • Oral Histories: After a discussion on what it means to be an American, students use an iPod and a voice recorder to interview a family member. They then combine the interview with old photos of that relative in iMovie, and create a short video history about that person.
  • Digital Science Experiments:This lesson can be applied to any science experiment. The teacher uses an iPod and a voice recorder to provide experiment instructions to small groups of students.
  • Listening to Letter Sounds: Sounds and their corresponding symbols are taught in a series of lessons using various strategies and aided by Lively Letter cards.

Apple's Learning Interchange has a search box where you can specify resources that are tagged iPod and allows you to specify grade levels and academic levels. You just might discover a really cool lesson idea!

Apple Learning Interchange and Search

For more about iPods and learning, go to Learning in Hand's iPods section.

90-Minutes About Podcasting & iPods

Last month I co-presented a webinar about podcasting and handhelds for the Texas High School Project. It was recorded and is archived on the THSP Webinar Series page. The best part of the 90-minute webinar is when Marcy Voss and fellow teachers at the Boerne ISD talk about their iPod project. They discuss the logistics and challenges associated with giving high schoolers iPods. Boerne ISD also shared their iPod User Contract.

Click to launch the Podcasting: Placing Learning in the Students' Hands webinar.
The webinar was presented and recorded using Adobe Connect.

Podcasting Webinar

Kick YouTube

Clipart from Juniper ImagesYouTube does not provide a way to directly download videos from their site. That's probably because they want you to visit their ad-supported webpages.

Why would you want to download videos from YouTube? Well, there are lots of great educational videos there. YouTube is blocked in most schools, so teachers who want to use these videos in their classrooms have to download them from home and bring them to school. Also, in order to view a YouTube video on an iPod or other portable player, you'll need to have it downloaded.

The videos on YouTube are in Flash format (those are videos that end with the .flv extension). So, even if you manage to save the .flv movie file, you have to either convert it to a different format or find software that will play it. After a video is downloaded and converted to the proper format, you can sync it onto an iPod or put it in PowerPoint slide shows or edit/remix it using video editing software like iMovie or MovieMaker.

I often use to download videos from YouTube and convert them into the MPEG-4 format that iPods and QuickTime love so much. In four easy steps you paste the YouTube URL into, select the video format (likely .mp4), and input your email address. After clicking Convert, Zamzar will put your request in a queue. Once it has processed your request (usually between 15 minutes and 2 hours), Zamzar will email you with a link to download the converted movie.

Zamzar's 4 Steps

Another way to download videos from YouTube is using software. Some are free and some are pay and you can find software for both Mac and Windows computers. There is freely available software that you might already have on your computer that can download YouTube videos and that's RealPlayer. You might already have RealPlayer installed--you'll need version 11 and it's free. RealPlayer 11 actually enables you to download videos from websites, including YouTube. Unfortunately, when used to download YouTube videos, RealPlayer does not convert it from the .flv format, so you'll need to convert the file if you want to use it in other places other than RealPlayer. (As a Mac user, I've installed Perian which enables QuickTime to play those Flash videos.)

RealPlayer 11 on YouTube

Now there's a new site that is even simpler than Zamzar. It's called You don't need to copy and paste the video's URL, install any software, or wait for an email. Here's how it works.

1. Find the video you want to download on YouTube. Many videos on YouTube are now in High Definition. If the video has a "watch in HD" link below it, click it so you'll be downloaded the larger video size.

Find Video

2. In the address field, type kick in front of and press Enter.

Add Kick

3. You are taken to the KickYouTube site, showing the video from YouTube. Across the top of the page are download options: FLV, MP4, HD, AVI, MPG, 3GP, iPhone, PSP, MP3, OGG, and GIF.

Opens in

4. MP4 is almost always my choice, so I click it. Then I click the Go button where I get this message below. So I just right-click (or Mac users can Control-click) that green Go button and save the video file to wherever you want on your hard drive.

KickYouTube Notice

Now the video on is on the hard drive. It can be put on a flash drive, burned to a DVD, imported into move editing software, put it in a slide show, or whatever you like to do with video files.

Very similar to KickYouTube is Just add pwn in front of when viewing a video and it will take you to a page where you can download that video.

With YouTube in their URLs, I'm guessing that Google (the company that owns YouTube) won't stand for their trademark being used in other web addresses, so and services may not be around for long.

Download LinkYouTube may one day offer downloads directly from their site. In fact, a "Download this video" link can be found on pages for President Obama's videos. When clicked, the link will download an MPEG-4 video to your hard drive. If this becomes an option on all YouTube videos, services like Zamzar and KickYouTube or software like Real Player and TubeSock won't be necessary for downloading videos.

Please note that downloading videos from YouTube may go against YouTube's Terms of Service. Also, the video creator's copyright should be respected and acknowledged at all times.

Is 8GB Sufficient in an iPod?

I'm often asked how much memory should an iPod for classroom use have. In the typical classroom, the 120GB iPod classic is overkill. Whenever I can, I ask to see classroom iPods to check how much storage is actually used. In most cases, it's one or two gigabytes. Now, in classrooms that are using iPods to store dozens of videos from TeacherTube, YouTube, and United Streaming, several gigabytes are used. In almost all cases, 8GB is going to be plenty. The 8GB iPod nano retails for $150.

What about the iPod touch? The lowest-priced touch is $230 with 8GB of storage. Besides storing audio and video, that 8GB also has to have room for all of those wonderful software applications from the App Store. I have my iPod touch loaded up with hundreds of songs (1.7 days worth), several podcasts, 1.9 hours of high quality video, and 571 photos. Besides all that media, I have 89 apps installed.

Capacity - Number of Items

Capacity - Length

Capacity - Gigabytes Used

As you can see from the Capacity Graphs above, I still have plenty of room on my iPod touch. And surprising to me is that although I have it loaded with 7 screens of apps, they only take up 604MB. That's an average of 6.8MB per app. And since you can only load up to 9 screens of apps (for a total of 148), a touch full of apps only needs about 1GB (1,006MB) reserved for that. That leaves 6GB remaining for media, which I think is plenty for classroom use. For personal use, 6GB may not be enough to hold your entire music collection--but I'm talking school use.

Unlike many handhelds and MP3 players, iPods don't have an expansion slot. So when you purchase an iPod, you have to make sure you get the right amount of memory. If you don't get enough gigabytes, you will have to carefully manage what gets put on the iPod through iTunes. If you get too capacity, you end up overpaying (a 16GB iPod touch is $300 and 32GB is $400).

If you want to see how full your iPod is, connect it to your computer. In Tunes, click the iPod in the Devices sidebar. On the Summary tab, scroll down to the bottom of the screen. You'll see a Capacity Graph like mine above. Click the graph to change among number, size, and length of items.

iPods Episode #15: Linking to iTunes

Learning in Hand: iPodsLearning in Hand: iPods Episode #15: Linking to iTunes is the podcast's first video episode and it's is online now. In the video I show different ways to create hyperlinks to items within the iTunes Store, like podcasts and apps.

The episode is particularly relevant for iPod touch and iPhone users, as the same hyperlinks that work with a desktop browser and iTunes also work with mobile Safari, mobile iTunes, and the mobile App Store on the device itself.

I've previously written about linking to items in iTunes, but this video goes into more detail. Watch all 10 minutes of Episode #15 to learn how to link to media and apps in iTunes and see how those links work on an iPod touch.

Click to Play

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This is Learning in Hand: iPods. I'm Tony Vincent and this is the show where I share tips, how-tos, and ideas for iPods in teaching and learning. Episode 15, "Linking to iTunes" recorded December 2008, happens now!

This is the first of many episodes of Learning in Hand: iPods that is video. More and more of what I will share on this show is visual,especially as the focus changes from click-wheel iPods to iPod touch and iPhone. By the way, I'm wearing these earbuds because they are the kind with a microphone--I tested recording video using a desktop mic and it just didn't sound as good--so I'm using these.

Alright. So, you might have noticed an iTunes icon on webpages. When you click it, your browser redirects you to iTunes and opens on the details page for a podcast, musical album, movie, or software in the App Store. When I click the iTunes button on on the Our City Podcast webpage in my web browser, it opens iTunes right up to the podcast's details page in the iTunes Store.

Now, check this out. I have the Our City Podcast page opened in mobile Safari on my iPod touch. Tapping that same iTunes button on my website launches mobile iTunes on the iPod and opens to the Our City Podcast details page where I can download specific episodes right there on the device itself without the help of a desktop computer.

Let me show you the first of two ways to hyperlink to the iTunes Store. You'll need to go to the iTunes Link Maker or just Google "iTunes" and "link maker" and it will be the first search result.

With iTunes Link Maker, you search for the item in the iTunes Store to which you want to link. I type in Our City and choose Podcast as the Media Type. But as you can see, you can also link to other media types, like Music, Movies, TV Shows, Audio Books, Applications, and iTunes U.

After clicking search, I can see a list of search results. I find the one I'm looking for and click the Arrow next to it. Then iTunes Linkmaker gives me give me HTML code to put into my website, wiki, or blog. Because it's HTML, you most likely can't just copy or paste it into a webpage. You'll need to toggle into HTML mode. I use Dreamweaver for my website, so I toggle to Code view and paste the copied HTML code there. Then I switch back to Design view to see what it looks like. Let's preview this in the browser. I click the button, and now iTunes opens to the details page for the Our City Podcast!

Ok, maybe you want to use just a text hyperlink or use your own image for linking. On that iTunes Link Maker page, you can right-click the image next to Link Test and copy the link. Now I can type text and select it to hyperlink with the copied link. I'm going to paste what I copied from the Link Maker just so you can see what the URL looks like. It's pretty long, but you can see that it links to the store and includes a unique Podcast ID so that iTunes can open to that podcast.

If you don't need that iTunes button or you want more control over what you're linking to, then you can use the second method of linking to items in the iTunes Store. Here's how it works.

Go to the details page for what you'd like to link to. Right-click the Artwork and then choose Copy iTunes Store URL. Then you have that same URL you could have gotten from iTunes Link Maker. But, you can also use it to link to specific episodes. I can right-click a specific episode and copy the iTunes Store URL. Now, let me paste that URL into a Google Doc document just for demonstration purposes. Now when I click that link, not only does it open to the podcast page, but the specific episode I link to is highlighted.

You can use this right-click and copy method in the App Store as well. I can right-click on the icon for Word Warp and Copy iTunes Store URL. Like I would with a podcast episode, I can paste that URL into a webpage or document.

If you read my blog at, you have probably noticed that I use this method to link to iPod touch and iPhone apps I write about. Here's something cool. So I'm on mobile Safari on an iPod touch. I can tap the link for an app that's I've put on my blog. The mobile App Store on my iPod touch launches and takes me to the details page for that app where I can download it. This is super useful when teachers want students to download a specific app. Instead of the student taking the time to find the app, they can tap its link to have it instantly available to them!

Ok, a couple more tips on linking to the iTunes Store. You can actually copy the link to just about anything you can click on in the iTunes Store. I can go to the Podcasts section of iTunes, select Education, and then right-click K-12 to link to that specific category of the iTunes Store, Podcasts - Education - K-12 . When clicked in a desktop browser or on an iPod touch or iPhone, the user to taken to the K-12 Podcasts category.

You can also link to search results. Let me show you how to do this for "math". On the results page, right-click See All in the Applications results and Copy the iTunes URL. When someone follows that URL, they are instantly taken to the iTunes search results that include Math and are in the App Store. Unfortunately, links to search results only works on desktop browsers and won't work on an iPod touch or iPhone. Also, links to iTunes U won't work on an iPod touch or iPhone because iTunes U does not yet appear in the mobile iTunes Store.

On the desktop side, if someone clicks a link to something in the iTunes store, but they don't have iTunes installed, the link will take them to a page where they can download iTunes, which, as you know, is a free download for Windows and Macintosh.

If you're a teacher with a class website, linking to items within the iTunes Store can help your students and parents subscribe to podcasts and watch or listen to specific media in the iTunes Store. If you're a teacher with iPod touches, it's really convenient to use iTunes Store links to direct students to podcasts and apps to download.

That's a wrap for Episode 15. Thank so much for watching. For more about podcasting and iPods, head on over to Stay super everyone!

Student Excitement for iPods

Excited StudentLast week I lead a workshop with a group of teachers from the Cave Creek School Unified School District in Arizona. Cave Creek has been issuing teachers iPod classics for a couple years now. You can view lesson plans written by Cave Creek teachers involved in the iPods in the Classroom project.

Holly Silvestri, a Spanish teacher at Cactus Shadows High School, sent along this email after participating in the workshop:

I came out of training yesterday and some of my students saw me. It happened to be a group of kids that I have had some issues with in class, but they still have a pleasant rapport with me. They yelled, "Hey Dra. S, you're here! Why weren't you in class?

I walked over and responded that I had iPod training.

They said incredulously, "You need training to use an iPod?"

I responded, "No, but in how to use it in class." I then asked, "How would you like to use your iPods to learn in class?"

The kid with whom I have butted heads all year turned around and said, "You're kidding!" His eyes were wide with joy.

I said, "Absolutely not," and he bear hugged me, saying, "I love you, Dr S! When do we start?"

One of the benefits of using iPods for learning is that students are very much drawn to them. Many have their own iPods and would love to use them for learning. If you invite iPods into your classroom, don't expect a bear hug, but do expect excitement!

iPod touch and Microphones

iPod touch with Voice RecordersUnlike iPhone, iPod touch does not sport a built-in microphone. Thanks to a recent software update, the second generation iPod touch (with volume buttons on the left side) can now use add-on microphones like TuneTalk from Belkin and iTalk Pro from Griffin. These microphones attach to iPod's dock connector. iPod touch also supports microphones that use the headphone port like Apple's Earphones with Mic or Incipio's new $18 Lloyd microphone for iPod 4G (which does indeed work with iPod touch, it just doesn't fit nicely).

In order to record audio with iPod touch, you'll need to download an app. Luckily, a search for voice recorder in the App Store reveals over a dozen applications. In that search, you'll come across the free iTalk Recorder. iTalk Recorder is super easy to use. Unlike when you record with click-wheel iPods, you can name the recording and type in notes to go along with it. I like that you can pause a recording, listen to what you have, and then continue that recording. There are three quality settings: Good, Better, and Best. Here's what iTalk Recorder's support page says about the file sizes associated with these settings:

  1. The length of your recordings are only limited by two things: Your disk space and your recording quality.
  2. An hour-long recording will take up 75MB if you're set to Good recording quality, 150MB when set to Better quality, and 300MB when set to Best quality.
  3. Or, to look at it another way, a gigabyte will store 800 minutes if you have your recording quality set to Good, 400 minutes when set to Better, and 200 minutes when set to Best.
iTalk Recorder iTalk Recorder

iTalk Recorder IconEven if iTalk Recorder is set on the best quality, you should have plenty of space on an 8GB iPod touch. Now, what happens when you want to copy the recordings to your computer? First, you should know that iPod touch only syncs some of Apple's built-in app to iTunes. Additional apps you install have to figure out how to get their information and files from the iPod to your desktop without syncing with iTunes. You might recall that for Comic Touch, you can email your comics to yourself or you can send the comic to the Photos app. Since Photos is an original Apple app, it does sync with the desktop. As for iTalk Recorder, to transfer recordings, you must download and install iTalk Sync, free software for Windows and Macintosh.

Despite its name, you do not actually sync to use iTalk Sync. Instead, the iPod touch and computer need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. iTalk Sync must be running on the desktop and iTalk Recorder must be launched on the iPod touch. iTalk Sync will display a list of iPod touches and iPhones on the network that have iTalk Recorder running. Choose a device and once Yes is tapped on the iPod touch, iTalk Sync will display all of the iPod's recordings. You can drag and drop the recordings or click the iTunes button to copy them to your iTunes Music Library. If any notes have been input with the recording, they are copied to the desktop as a text file.

iTalk Sync

The audio file itself is in AIFF format. Most audio editing software can import AIFF. AIFF audio files are quite large compared to MP3, so you'll want to use iTunes or Audacity to export the audio as MP3. But first, you can certainly edit the audio with software like GarageBand or Audacity.

iTalk Recorder works really well and is free. But, the free app will display small banner ads along the bottom of the screen. If you want to remove the ads, you can pay $4.99 for iTalk Recorder Premium. The only different between the free app and the $4.99 app is that the premium app does not display advertisements.

There are so many ways to use a mobile voice recorder in the classroom. Apple has some interesting lesson plans listed on their iPod in the Classroom page. A use I have for a voice recorder is for making podcasts. Have a listen to the first half of Learning in Hand: iPods #14: Voice Recording for voice recording examples and ideas.

There are other apps besides voice recorders that you can use with an attachable iPod touch microphone. For example, check out the interesting Agile Lie Detector, a Heart Monitor that really works, a virtual recorder instrument, and a musical note tuner.

12 Days of iPod touch continues tomorrow when I share some games that are fit for a classroom.

iPod Flash Cards

Flash CardsLots of teachers have tapped into the power of flash cards on iPods and other mobile devices. That's because students likely have something portable that can display images: cell phones, PSPs, Zunes, and iPods (to name a few). It's easy to make flash cards for these devices because you can use PowerPoint, a tool most everyone is familiar with.

Brent Coley is a teacher at Tovashal Elementary School and he has posted over a dozen flash card sets. His flash cards are perfect for viewing on iPods because he has used a large font. He's also already exported the PowerPoint as a series of JPEG images. You simply download a zip file and unzip it. You'll then have a folder of images you can sync to an iPod. Brent's sets are well done and can serve as great examples for teachers and students who want to make their own flash card sets.

Learning in Hand's iPod section has directions for putting PowerPoint slideshows on iPods. There's also the Gallery of Educational Image Sets where you can download more sets of JPEGs for use on iPods and other devices. If you want more details for using images on iPods, listen to Learning in Hand: iPods #9: Photos Part 1 and #10: Photos Part 2.

What's new with the nano?

iPod NanosApple has updated the iPod nano for the fourth time. The new "4th generation" iPod nano has more similarities than differences from the 3rd generation iPod it is replacing. The most noticeable difference is that the screen is taller and skinnier. However, the screen is the same one from the 3rd generation nano, only turned 90 degrees.

Apple doubled the storage capacity at the same price points as the previous nano. That means for $150 you can now get an 8GB nano. For most everyone, that's plenty of memory. Eight gigabytes will hold hours of video and days of audio. Like all iPods with click wheels, you can enable disk use for transporting, storing, and backing up computer files to that 8GB of memory.

There are two new accessibility features added to the new nano. First, in the settings menu, users can increase the font size from Standard to Large. The Large settings appears to be about 150% larger. However, only the menu font is changed. The text displayed while playing audio and Notes fonts are not affected by this setting. That's a shame because the font used for Notes is quite small. Another accessibility feature allows listeners to hear the names of menus, settings, titles, podcast episodes, and almost everything that appears in the menus. Unfortunately, the Spoken Menus option will not speak anything in the Notes section. That would have been way cool. (By the way, if you ever do want spoken text on your iPod, check out SpokenText.)

The nano knows which way it is being held and will sometimes change what's on the screen to match how you're holding the it. That's because Apple added an accelerometer to iPod nano. But it only works in certain functions like playing videos, browsing audio, and viewing photos. Some games require that you hold the nano sideways in order to play. And speaking of games, I'm really sad that the iQuiz game no longer comes preinstalled on the 4th generation nano. While you can purchase iQuiz for 99 cents, it will not run on the 4th generation nano. I really hope iQuiz is updated to work on the new nano because it is a great quizzing game and makes the iPod a more useful study tool.

iPod Nano Recording ScreenThe new nano supports recording with an external microphone. It can use microphones that connect to the headphone jack (like the microphones that come with iPhones). It can also record using external microphones that connect to the dock connector like the Belkin TuneTalk. The Voice Recorder function is updated and Apple added the ability to add chapters while recording. This is super handy when recordings are long. Another change is that the iPod no longer records in the WAV format. Now it uses Apple Lossless format. While it is similar to WAV, it is not nearly as compatible. You might have to use iTunes to convert recordings to more compatible formats like WAV or MP3 if you're importing into other programs like Audacity. Apple software like GarageBand can certainly use the Apple Lossless format with no problems.

Other than the lack of iQuiz, I really like the new nano. In fact, I would recommend the 8GB nano over the 120GB iPod classic. The only major differences are the storage capacity and screen size. The classic has a slightly larger screen, though that screen has the same resolution as the nano's. Unless you need to carry around an enormous number of videos or need lots of space for disk use, the nano is going to meet your needs for $100 less than the classic.


Josh Mika is working on the iPodject at Beebe Elementary School in Illinois. Besides having a cool name, there are other cool things from the project. There's a website, blog, and wiki. These resources are all about using iPod classics in classrooms.

The wiki has a page devoted to listing schools that are using iPods. The list can be a good thing to show school administrators that your idea to bring iPods into the classroom isn't a crazy one.

The wiki also has several videos about iPods. Josh recently made his own iPods in Education presentation video. The video gives a thorough introduction to what iPod classics can do. I like the point made at the end: Would you like to learn, purchase, carry, move, and store a television, CD player, tape recorder, CDs, documents, and file folders or a single iPod.


iPods Come to Alabama Elementary

iPodThird and fourth graders in Mrs. Adams' class at Albertville Elementary School in Alabama were teased with "The Surprise is Coming" on their classroom website. The surprise was a class set of iPods, a charging cart, and accessories! Diane Adams' gifted classroom is one of the first in her district to be outfitted with technology from $750,000 worth of funds that will be spent on technology over the next three years. I read about Diane Adams' class in the Sand Mountain Reporter.

One of the first things the iPods were used for was sharing enhanced podcasts. As I've commented before on newspaper articles like this one, it seems that the iPods are not necessary for the enriched learning taking place. However, if the iPods weren't there for students to consume each other's great productions, those projects may not have happened at all or may not have been as "cool" and exciting to do. There's extra motivation when students know what they create on a computer will end up on an iPod. But, those same products can certainly be consumed on a computer--teachers don't need thousands of dollars worth of iPods to have their students create podcasts, movies, and slide shows.

As you probably know, iPods can do much more than just play music and videos. Diane Adams' students are discovering just what iPods are capable of. As one Albertville's students explains:

"When we first heard about the iPods, I thought, 'why are we going to listen to music in class?' I never knew you could do stuff like this!"

How to Cheat

Search for "how to cheat" on YouTube and you might be surprised on how many student-produced videos are online that show exactly how to cheat in school. Methods range from dozens of ways to hide cheat sheets to increasing the length of a term paper. There are even multiple videos showing how to remove, scan, and replace text on a Coke bottle's label. Watch some of the videos below to see for yourself.

Learn how to use an innocent-looking Coke bottle for cheating. The label is scanned, information is replaced, and a new label printed out and attached to the bottle.
This student shows how to hide answers in a skirt. She shows how to make your own skirt that can hold many cheat sheets.
This video shows how to stretch out a rubber band to write down answers. When the band is unstretched, you can't tell that answers are written on it.
Lots of advice and techniques are shared in this video, including becoming friends with the professor, writing on the inside label of a water bottle, and more.
Increase the length of a report or paper by replacing periods with larger ones. A nine page paper can turn into a 10+ page paper with this technique.
See how to make a tiny cheat booklet using paper and a stapler.
This video has insights from interviewed cheaters. "The Buddy Method" is demonstrated in the last half of the video.
This "Cheating Documentary" interviews many students who share ways to cheat, including taping answers inside of one's bangs and writing on various body parts.

Yes, we would rather our students not watch these videos. But, the information is out there and easily accessible.

One concern I hear about inviting mobile devices into the classroom is that students will use them to cheat. Perhaps. While many teachers seem to be focused on iPods and cell phones as cheating tools, they may overlook more prevalent methods of cheating. Watching these videos shows you there are lots of ways to cheat nowadays--and barely any of them involve mobile computers.

Of course, it is possible to store cheats on iPods and other electronic devices. There are videos that demonstrate how to do that too. This one uses the Notes function of iPods. Another video encourages students to record their answers and listen to earbuds in their sleeves while leaning on their hands to listen.

The "Cheating Documentary" above ends with the voiceover, "So students cheat. It is something that will never die. The question is, can teachers keep up in the race against students and their ever-going creativity?" The answer is not keeping up--that will never happen. One answer is creating assessments that students can "cheat" on. Rarely are people without some device that they can use to look up a formula or definition. It doesn't make sense to have school assessments so incredibly focused on memorizing information that is accessible anywhere and anytime. Unfortunately, emphasis in education is on "playing school" instead of learning what's important for today's and tomorrow's society.

The Los Angeles Times recently ran the story Exam Cheating Goes High Tech, But Its Causes are Nothing New. Here's a quote:

There is an increasing body of opinion among educators that cheating may be an expression of the way schools approach teaching and learning. And as schools and teachers come to face more high-stakes standardized testing, the worse it will become, said Gary J. Niels, who has studied cheating behavior and wrote a 2003 paper on honor codes.

Studies found that when teachers were vague in explaining the relevance and importance of curricula, students perceived the lessons as a waste of time and were more likely to cheat. Fact-driven data that had to be "regurgitated," said Niels, also correlated to higher incidents of cheating.

The article also addresses the ethics of cheating:

"It's a mistake to talk about school cheating without referring to society at large," said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonprofit consulting and training firm. "We need to connect these dots and ask what is our attitude toward cheating, because kids are going to absorb that attitude. . . . And cheating learned in school is habit-forming."

As I was writing this post, a great question was posed on Weblogg-ed: When are we going to stop giving kids tests that they can cheat on? Many extremely astute comments have been made about "cheating" in schools.

As an aside, I am completely offended and disappointed in the comments on the YouTube pages for the videos above. YouTube doesn't moderate comments and it certainly shows. I'm actually glad YouTube is blocked in schools, not necessarily because of the video content, but because of the nasty, nasty comments.

iPods Episode #11: Artwork & Lyrics

Learning in Hand: iPodsLearning in Hand: iPods Episode #11: Artwork & Lyrics is online and is all about giving audio files cover art and accompanying text.

Artwork and lyrics are two things you can easily add to an audio file to make it more useful on iPods. While most all references you'll find to artwork and lyrics on iPods deal with music, the audio files do not have to be songs. They can be recordings from a voice recorder, ripped from a CD, podcasts, files from Audacity or GarageBand, or downloaded from the Internet. Wherever you got the audio, we'll explore adding customized artwork and accompanying text to these files.

Listen to all 11 minutes of Episode #11 for tips, how-tos, and ideas for using artwork and lyrics on click wheel and touch iPods.

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iPods Episode #10: Photos Part 2

Learning in Hand: iPodsLearning in Hand: iPods Episode #10: Photos Part 2 is available and focuses on various kinds of educational image sets.

First, learn about commercial sources of image sets, like iPREPpress and Raybook. Explore many different kinds of image sets, including visual books, study aids, flash cards, matching games, math manipulatives, converters, response cards, and more. In fact, you can visit learninginhand's Gallery of Educational Image Sets and download lots of great learning tools and resources for the Photos section of an iPod.

Although teachers and students can download pre made image sets, the real value is using software like PowerPoint or Keynote to make your own image sets. Creating your own study aids really aids your study of a topic!

Listen to all 18 minutes of Episode #10 for great tips for using and making educational image sets. Refer to Photos Part 1 for basic information about Photos on iPods.

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Image Set Examples

Commercial Sources for iPod Image Sets

If you're an iPod user, you're familiar with sources of audio and video content (namely iTunes). But, you can fill your iPod with other media, including images. Viewing images on an iPod doesn't sound all that glamorous. After all, you can view images on just about any mobile device. However, some innovative companies have sets of images they'd love for you to sync to your iPod. The image sets can be surprisingly educational. offers content from a variety of publishers and formats it for iPods. Much of what they offer can be viewed as text files in iPod's Notes. Additionally, iPREPpress has been adding content that you view in iPod's Photos. The company has a section for graphic biographies and histories. Each biography or history is currently on sale for $1.99 each. I bought The First Moon Landing. Once purchased, I downloaded a folder containing 71 jpeg images. At 320 x 240, the images match the resolution of iPod classic and nano. I synced the photo of images to an iPod. The First Moon Landing reads like a comic book. Once done with one frame, I just press the Next button to continue.

Moon Landing Images

Brain Quest also offers image sets. My favorites are Brain Quest. Yes, that Brain Quest--the set of question cards that are often used in classrooms when there's a few minutes to spare. Raybook offers seven different version of Brain Quest, one for each grade up to seventh. Like The First Moon Landing, you view the Brain Quest cards in Photos on your iPod.

Raybook's content is installed differently than how you're used to syncing photos to an iPod. Instead of mucking up your desktop's iPhoto or Photoshop Elements albums with hundreds of images, Raybook has its own installer. The installer works great on Macintosh and Windows computers. I'm pleased to see that the Raybook installer is careful not to interfere with the other images I have stored on my iPod.

Raybook has done something special with their image sets. They have manipulated the thumbnails so you can easily skip to a different section of the photo set. The also have unique ways of interacting with the images. For instance, Brain Quest for Grade 5 has a listing of animals on one side of the screen and a listing of their collective names on the other. You go through one by one, trying to mentally match each animal with its collective name. Pressing the next button will draw a line on the screen to the correct answer.

Raybook also offers CliffsNotes on popular literary titles like Beowulf and The Red Badge of Courage. Scrolling farther down the page, you'll see flash cards for math fact. One card has the question and pressing Next will reveal the answer.

Raybook offers demos of Brain Quest, but you'll pay $19.99 for the full version. CliffsNotes and Math Facts cost about $5 each. Contact Raybook for school licenses.

Note that image sets from Raybook and iPREPpress may only work with certain models of iPods. Be sure to check that whatever image set you're interested in works for you before purchasing.

iPREPpress and Raybook are just two of a growing number of companies providing learning materials for iPods. Online Education Database just posted 100 Ways to Use Your iPod to Learn and Study Better. The list includes some familiar resources and many that are new to me. Unfortunately, many of the resources are not free. But, you might just find something worth paying for.

My next episode of Learning in Hand: iPods will be all about image sets and ways that teachers and students can create their own.

iPods Episode #09: Photos Part 1

Learning in Hand: iPodsLearning in Hand: iPods Episode #9: Photos Part 1 is online and gives information about getting images and slide shows on an iPod.

You probably know that you can sync photos to an iPod. After all, it’s an option in iPod’s Main Menu. Photos of your children, pets, and vacations are fun to show off on iPod’s screen. Episode 9 covers the basics of putting photos on an iPod and then tells you about viewing PowerPoint and Keynote slide shows on an iPod.

Listen to all 9 minutes of Episode #9 for a how-to, valuable tips, and useful information. Part 2 will feature surprising and innovative educational uses for iPod's Photos.

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iPods Episode #8: Manage Manually

Learning in Hand: iPodsLearning in Hand: iPods Episode #8: Manage Manually is online and offers help with using one iPod with multiple computers.

An iPod is easy to sync with one computer. In fact, it’s really easy to sync multiple iPods to one computer. But, when you want to sync the same iPod to two or more computers, things get tricky.

You can enable "manually manage music and videos" so you can connect an iPod with more than one computer without having those computers erase the iPod’s content from the other computers. But, it also means that you'll have to hand-pick the audio and video when you want to update the iPod.

Listen to all 8 minutes of Episode #8 for a how-to, valuable tips, and useful information about manually managing iPod content. Listeners may be interested in clicking to transfer media files from their iPods.

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Video Overview of iPod Uses in Education

Besides playing music and video, iPods can display photos, run games, display notes, store data, play podcasts, and more.

Australian teacher Jonathan Nalder shows many uses of an iPod classic in his two-part video, The iPod in Education. The video is a great overview for teachers and is very visual. Jonathan uses one of the newest iPods so you might notice the screens are slightly different than previous generations of iPods.

Part 1 of The iPod in Education covers setting the master volume, coverflow,
audiobooks, iQuiz maker, and exporting quizzes to iPod.

Part 2 shows podcasts, iTunes U, adding your own video, world time, and stopwatch.

Jonathan obviously put lots of time into the video. Thanks Jonathan! I often think that my podcast about iPods should be video. The problem is I don't have the time to produce regular videos, so I stick with audio.

Article: Texas Schools Welcome iPods

iPod ClassicThe Dallas Morning News published the story Grand Prairie Schools Welcome iPods in Classrooms. It features Whitt Elementary in Grand Prairie, Texas where teachers are using 321 iPods "to teach kids about subjects they might otherwise find boring." The iPods have only been in use a couple of weeks at the school, but the media players have inspired teachers to have these ideas:

  • Use GarageBand to produce a song about states of matter. Listen here.
  • Help teach English Language Learners and foreign languages.
  • Video students being revolving planets.
  • Produce a podcast about the American Revolution.
  • View video about season changes.
  • Allow students to take the iPods home (as long as they are returned the next day).
Whitt's principal, Alisha Crumley is quoted, "This is tech generation. So, when we think of instructing students, we have to think of different ways of teaching, To get their attention in class, we have to keep up."

Whitt teachers are embracing change and are doing great things for students. The activities and teacher/student creation of media seem to be the most powerful parts of how teachers are changing instruction. iPods are not necessary to create these products--the content creation is done almost exclusively on desktop computers. But, the mere presence of iPods and the desire to fill them with something engaging is the catalyst for change and that's a good thing and probably worth the $73,114 price tag.

For more iPod uses click on over to learninginhand's iPods in Education page.