iPod Invasion: Energizing Students to Learn!

By Victoria Jasztal on January 20, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

This year, I am incredibly blessed to have five iPods in my advanced fourth grade classroom. However, I never used them before and had absolutely no idea how I would utilize them in the academic setting.

Thinking back to when I attended FETC (the Florida Educator's Technology Conference) in Orlando, Florida four years ago, iPods were starting to become popular in classrooms nationwide and teachers were beginning to share ideas about how they could be used to increase academic achievement. iPods offer music, movies, Podcasts and lots of FREE learning resources that students can use as a tool to enhance your curriculum!


To use an iPod, you have to sync it with a program called iTunes. When you turn on an iPod, categories such as Podcasts, photos, videos, and music come up, as well as, other options like games that are features included on your iPod. When you download new features, they are immediately synced into those categories. Read more about the perks of having an iPod in your classroom and utilizing the best features of iTunes.

What are some of the options when you sync iPods for your classroom?


One student watches a video podcast from Dragonfly TV while sitting in my small group during our reading block.

Option 1: Podcasts

iTunes is a program that offers music, movies, and several other resources you may not be aware of. Podcasts are among the free resources. When you enter iTunes, I recommend that you click on Podcasts in the iTunes Store to see the different types that are offered. Some types of podcasts are either videocasts or audio-only.


Podcast categories show up on the left. Two categories that are of interest are Education and Kids & Family. Society & Culture may also be of interest to students in grades 3-5. The Education category offers video podcasts like CNN Student News, Just Vocabulary, and Dragonfly TV from PBS – my personal favorite. If you cannot locate these podcasts, type the names of them into the search engine at the top right of iTunes. When you find an episode of a podcast you want to download, click on the Get Episode button. 


Podcasts are essential for student iPods because they can be used to enhance what you are already talking about in the classroom. For example, Dragonfly TV has a podcast called "Glaciers". Say most of your students have never seen snow and you are teaching them about regional geography. This specific Podcast gives your students a tour of Juneau, which is home to 38 glaciers flowing from the gigantic Juneau Ice Field. The kids in the video check out a glacier up close at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. There are also several Podcasts explaining how math and science are integral in sports. Podcasts from Dragonfly TV touch upon a variety of subjects and make the studying of many concepts "real" for your students.

Option 2: iPod Flash Cards

Brent Coley, a fifth-grade teacher in Murietta, California, came up with a brilliant idea a few years ago: iPod Flash Cards. Basically, what he did was come up with galleries of pictures using slides from Microsoft PowerPoint that students can click through. On his website, he writes, "Is it possible to use your iPod to study? It is now! Mr. Coley has created specially designed PowerPoint presentations that can serve as color flash cards to help you review some of the concepts studied in class. Using the iPod's "Photos" feature, you can transfer images to your iPod and study on the go!" Some of the different categories of flash cards he includes are: multiplication tables, mathematical vocabulary, fact and opinion, verbs, figurative language, reading comprehension/vocabulary, science, and history. On his website, he provides a descriptive step-by-step tutorial on how to sync photos to your iPod.

Option 3: Nike + iPod: Meet Your New Personal Trainer


With the Presidential Fitness Challenge, the Nike + iPod Sport Kit may greatly impress your students and get them more active. The kit costs $29.00, and I have not personally used it in my classroom yet. It comes with a sensor that can be placed in a Nike + shoe, which has a built-in pocket specifically designed for it under the insole. The receiver is then connected to your iPod Nano, iPod Touch, or iPhone 3GS. The sensor tracks your run and then sends the data to your iPod. When you check out the menu for your Nike + iPod, you can choose how you want to run, choosing custom workout shortcuts, open-ended workouts, or ones with time, distance or calorie goals. Music even comes with the kit, and you can program a power song to play when you need instant motivation. 

Option 4: Record Podcasts with Your Students

Using a free program called Audacity, downloading the Lame encoder to format .mp3 files, you can record podcasts with your students. From there, you can place them in a folder in iTunes and then sync them so students can listen to their recordings around the room. A few excellent Podcasts are: Radio WillowWeb, ColeyCast, and The Wacky, Wonderful World of Math. There are several others as well that you can sync to your iPod and let your students listen to as an example before recording. Here is a list including educational podcast directories.

Students can report what they have learned in various subjects or record a reader's theater presentation in a small group. Additionally, they can discuss important current events, such as the devastating events that are unfolding in Haiti. Besides that, they can record Podcasts for their pen pals and send them digitally. Soon, we will be recording Podcasts and sending well-wishes to our St. Augustine pen pals taking the Florida Writes writing assessment in February. The possibilities are endless.

My Favorite iPod-Related Lesson Plans:

  • Learning Math with Music: "Children need to learn number facts. Many students learn these faster when they can use mnemonics, rhymes, and songs. Students love to create their own memory rhymes and songs, which allows them to personalize math facts. The portability of the iPod can help with developing these math skills by allowing students to listen repetitively to the math facts inside or outside of the classroom. In this lesson, students work in groups to create their own rhymes and songs for an entire family of math facts. Individual students record their math facts creations using an iPod and a voice recorder. The class will then have a complete collection of math rhymes that can be used in class or saved on a CD for students to use at home."
  • Oral Histories: "During the course of study in American history, students investigate the theme of what it means to be American in a pluralistic society. One way students can explore this question is by conducting oral histories with a family member and creating a presentation of the interview. In this way, students begin to develop a better understanding of their own family history as a means for framing a discussion and an understanding of who they are themselves. 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. The final movies are presented to the class."
  • Digital Science Experiments: "Students sometimes find it difficult to conduct science experiments, especially if they are visual learners and have a difficult time with written or oral instructions. By using recordings of the teacher's instructions and student observations combined with photos of an experiment's progress, all students can review and observe what occurred. It's a great way to reinforce student learning and to share experiments with students who weren't there. 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. Students listen to the directions first, then they observe and record their experiment steps and results using a digital camera and an iPod. The images and audio are then combined in an iMovie project or on an iPod to share with others."




  • If you have iPods in your classroom, how did you obtain them? 
  • Is there something you have synced to a classroom iPod that I did not mention?
  • Is there a lesson you have used that may help those who view this post?
  • Is there anything I did not mention at all or I did not elaborate on much that you are unsure about?


iPods are very useful classroom resources that can review concepts you discuss with your students daily. Hopefully you either have the opportunity to use them or you can obtain a few for your classroom.

To learn more about how to use this technology in your classroom, take a moment to watch these informative videos on YouTube: The iSchool Initiative, Digital World: Teachers Today and A Vision of K-12 Students Today.






Thank you so much, Ian. I am excited about the video you mentioned. Have you used iPods in your classroom before? If so, how did you utilize them? The Dragonfly TV podcast has fascinated my students so far, so I am grateful.

Hopefully you will get the teaching job that is meant for you in the near future!


Hi Victoria,

Love what you do and inspire me to continue to research, read, plan, and learn how to become a better despite losing my teaching job last school year. But when the time comes to go back into the classroom I will be ready because of you.

I'm a totally techie buff and love the idea of using iPods in the classroom during center time. Everyone can learn something news even if its not part of the curriculum.

Another YouTube video that I think is powerful is called Pay Attention! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEFKfXiCbLw

A must add to Favorites or Bookmarks to remind us how our students learn today.

Thanks for all that you do!

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