iPod program helps school test scores

Oregon third graders' reading and math results benefit from iPod Touch access.

Last month, we had an exceptional panel talking about Mobile in Education at our largest Mobile Portland meeting ever. A report on how iPod Touches are making huge differences in third-grade test scores really stuck with me.

Joe Morelock, the director of technology and innovation for the Canby School District in Oregon, shared with us how Canby started a pilot program of iPod Touch devices in a single third-grade classroom. The pilot’s success led to the district setting a goal of providing every third-grade student with access to an iPod Touch.

Morelock has documented the program in a presentation you can download from the school district’s wiki.

Below, I’ve pulled out a few slides from Morelock’s presentation that illustrate the remarkable improvements. These charts start to explain why the school district got behind the program so quickly.

The charts compare the performance of third graders throughout the Canby school district with those whose classroom used iPod Touches throughout the year. As you can see in the chart below, the number of students that meet or nearly meet the math requirements on a standardized test are much higher for the iPod Touch classroom (left circle).

Pie charts comparing math scores of students with iPod Touches with those throughout the district

The difference in performance is striking when looking at students with disabilities (below, left column):

Migrant and ELL students

The increase in test scores for students with disabilities appears to validate some of the early anecdotal reports that iPhones and iPod Touches were making a difference for children and adults with autism.

The program also had a positive affect on English language learners (below, right column):

Students w/ disabilities, minorities

And it’s not just math scores. Here are reading test results from the same classroom:

Reading test scores

Reading test scores continued

Parents whose children have been exposed to iPod Touches in the classroom don’t like the idea that their children may not have them when they move on to the next school year, so they’re organizing fundraisers to purchase additional devices. Because iPod Touches are relatively inexpensive, five can be purchased for the same price that would have been required to purchase a single laptop.

The Canby School District is extending the iPod program by providing iPod Touches for all third graders district-wide during the 2010-2011 school year. In addition, pilot programs using iPads will run at the elementary-, middle- and high-school levels.

Perhaps most importantly, both students and teachers love using the devices:

You know that little boy who came up to us this morning? He loves the iPod Touches. They have made an incredible difference in his math work. He has Asperger’s, and before the iPods, he could never sit through a math class. The kid absolutely loves math now and gets As. He sits himself up at the front of the room — he likes to be by himself — tucks his foot up, leans on the desk and goes to town on math. It’s simply amazing. — Gale Hipp, sixth-grade math teacher. [Note: Link added.]

And simply:

This is the most fun I have had teaching in the last 25 years. — Deana Calcagno, fifth-grade teacher.

The full panel discussion is available in the following video. Morelock’s segment on the Canby School District and their iPod pilot program starts at 19:20.


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