There has been a lot of news lately about students cheating in the classroom by using an iPod. Enough news, that even my school got on board and just recently has banned the use of iPods. And I am chagrined and saddened.

Below, you will find a copy of the letter I will be giving my administration (which I have a very good relationship with) on Monday and if you have questions, comments, or additions – please feel free to let me know.

Dear (name withheld),

I would like to have a moment of your time to discuss the recent decision to ban iPod at (my school name.)

In the last few weeks and months, the iPod has come under a great deal of scrutiny in the news on the misuse of the iPod within the classroom. I also understand that several students at (school name) have not actually cheated yet, but have made comments that have made the teachers suspect that if opportunity presented itself, they would cheat.

In no way would I ever wish to be an administrator and have to deal with all the issues that you have to, but if I could – can I tell you some benefits of using the ipod and suggest a way that perhaps they can be used more productively in our school?

The iPod is a device that is not only beneficial for listening to music – it is so much more. I know that you yourself have an iPod and we have discussed many times about the podcasts we listen to. So, I think you will understand that if we ban iPod, we are banning the possibility of students (and teachers) benefiting from being able to listen to podcasts.

Also, with the microphone I showed you, we will be banning the opportunity for our students and our teachers to make recordings. Mr. (name withheld) has been using his ipod to record his classes and has made those mp3’s available for students who had missed his class. I also know that the Spanish teacher was also using the ipod to record student conversations. And now with this ban, they will not be able to continue these activities.

The iPod also can be a portable harddrive which allows our students to save their homework assignments to bring from home and you can also download and listen to books, articles (and yes, movies and tv shows!)

I would like to propose the following iPod directives for next year and would love to talk possibilities with you.

#1 – An iPod On or Off option directed COMPLETELY by the teacher. That’s it – simplistic. We won’t make it argumentative by saying “if the teacher isn’t talking – because then they will argue that the chapel speaker isn’t technically a “teacher” – and we can’t say only when the teacher is speaking – because sometimes there is learning to be done when the teacher is not saying a word. The rule would be simple – the teacher decides whether iPods can be be On or Off.

And if necessary – Rule #2 – if you have an iPod with you at school, it will be visible ON YOUR DESK during all tests and exams.

I feel that with these two rules, you will successfully handle the misuse of iPod, yet continue to provide an opportunity for the iPod to be used again at (school name!)

When you have time, I would love to chat with you more about this!

And if I haven’t told you lately, I love working here!

Jennifer Wagner

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On this day..

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9 Responses to It is NOT the iPod’s Fault

  1. Langwitches says:

    Jennifer,

    Thank you so much for sharing your letter.

    It reminded me that I needed to address the issue of banned iPods at my school in a more official manner….and soon…before the beginning of next school year.
    We need to harness the power of those little devices and direct the students’ enthusiasm for “their kind of technology” towards learning.

    Thank you again.
    Silvia

  2. Mrs. Durff says:

    Let us know how it goes! It would be a sad thing. I have to break my school’s rules and have helped our Spanish teacher make podcasts. Our principal has 3 on our school’s website. I podcast with the primary kids on Fridays (one teacher’s name is Clever – so we call it Clever kids!) But we, as well as other schools, have the ultra conservative, uninitiated, web1.0ish faculty and school board members with whom we must work. Thankfully, our principal and superintendent are more tech savvy at the moment.

  3. Dawn Peterson says:

    Perhaps you should also remind your administrators that anything, even the most primitive items such as paper and pen, can be used as a tool for cheating. Students have cheated before schools were even erected, so I doubt that banning ipods will eradicate the problem. In my opinion, a teacher’s best defense against this behavior is to create authentic assessments that make it more difficult for students to copy, duplicate, or plagiarize.

  4. Brett Moller says:

    Great letter Wes, I will be spending some time writing about this issue soon as it is something that is coming up as I enter back into the classroom. As I mentioned on Dave Warlick’s blog this morning, we need to continue to fight this up hill battle by doing exactly what you have done in this letter by helping the community realise how these tools can be used in education. Good luck – Look forward to hearing how it goes….

  5. Peter Rock says:

    I would drop “iPod” and use a generic phrase like “recording and playback devices”. In this case, using a trademark means bringing in the consumerism the device name is trying to elicit by its very nature. Those who are against you are more likely to be open to a generic term as their minds may simply shut off when they hear “iPod”. Plus, there is the fact that the iPod is just one of many choices of possible devices.

    Good luck.

  6. Jennifer W says:

    Hi Peter —

    I agree with you completely —

    right now, though, I am only going to address the iPod banning issue — BUT when we right up the instructions to go to teachers, parents, and students — we will change the wording to recording and playback devices (such as iPods, mp3 players, etc!)

    Good point. You reminded me of the device my friend (who is a coach) wears when she is running with the kids. It looks like sunglasses — but in actuality it is a mp3 player. http://blogs.pcworld.com/staffblog/archives/000176.html

    Thank you to EVERYONE for their kind words, suggestions, and encouragement.

    Thank you to WES for trusting me with your blog.

    Jen

  7. Great letter. We currently have a policy on i-Pods that is almost exactly what you mentioned – it is up to each individual teacher and many do allow the use of i-Pods in class right now. I also use them to create StudyCasts for my students. I did a podcast about it last week: http://speakingofhistory.blogspot.com/2007/04/podcast-80-students-cheating-with-i.html

    Thanks.

    Eric Langhorst

  8. Jennifer says:

    Hi Peter —

    Thanks for your comments.

    For now — since the term iPod was used — I will continue to use that in my letter — but (smiles) when the main directive is rewritten, I will remind them to use the phrase “recording and playback devices” (ie ipod, mp3 player, cell phones, etc!)

    Thanks again!
    Jennifer

  9. Peter Rock says:

    Yes, a “(e.g. 1, 2, 3…)” on top of a generic term is the better way to go.

    What we really want as teachers is to stop the irrational banning of something as useful as a recording and playback device. When they are seen as just that, it’s not as easy to put up a rational argument to ban them.

    Limiting the description to just “music player” is another example I’m intimate with. Unfortunately, in my current school, these devices are referred to as “music players” (i.e. in the official policy) and have been banned from school altogether – a recently redrafted policy and enforced policy as of this year. Students are not to have them in their possession between 7:15 and 3:15 on a school day. The reasoning the director used was “we want students to do things with each other, not listen to music”. Of course, that line of thinking is absurd but the fact that these devices are perceived as things only used to “play music” has worked in favor of those wishing to keep them off campus.

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