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iPods In Schools

Earlier this month I wrote a post here critical of having students use cellphones in the classroom and shared why we banned their used during the school-day at my inner-city school.

In that same post I just briefly mentioned that this year we also banned iPods from the school, though I didn’t go into the reasons why. Jim Peterson, an exceptional Assistant Principal at my school, recently explained the reasons for the ban in an email to staff, and I thought I’d share them in this follow-up post.

One reason, he wrote, was theft. Cellphones and iPods have been the two most frequently stolen items at our school. I can personally attest to the disruption, tension, and fights that can result from this problem.

Another reason for the iPod ban was safety. Jim writes “On a regular basis, administrators and monitors would have to chase down a student in the hall who could not hear them calling because he or she had the music cranked.” I, too, have directly experienced this problem.

Lastly, he writes about “Discipline: Faculty, monitors and admin used to have to spend time giving detentions, Saturday schools and suspensions for iPod-related incidents.” I’m very confident in my ability to engage students, and feel like I have excellent relationships with them. However, even though I never gave any kind of official consequence for a student listening to music when he/she was supposed to be doing classwork, on occasion it did happen. When it did, a quick private conversation worked fine. However, I’ve been pretty lucky in that I have generally either taught all ESL classes (where classroom management is really not an issue) or small double-period classes of mainstream students. If I, as many of our teachers have to do, had to teach five different classes each day with thirty students each, I know I would have quite a few students facing many challenges that even engaging content and good teaching could not solve alone, and being able to avoid one more possible problem by banning iPods would sound good to me.

And, yes, I do understand that iPods could have an effective educational use. When I was a community organizer in my nineteen year career prior to becoming a public school teacher, we would talk about the “world as it is” and “the world as we would like it to be” (Barack Obama has used that contrast in some of his speeches as well). We want to always strive towards “the world as we would like it to be.” In our inner-city high school, though, sometimes we have to make compromises with “the world as it is.”

12 Responses to “iPods In Schools”

  1. [...] Practice, our group blog written by teachers working in low-income communities. It’s called iPods In Schools and explains why we banned iPods at our school this [...]

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  2. A Cleary says:

    I found your article very interesting .At my school of 750 in NZ we have a blanket ban on cellphones/ipods and the like. A inordinate amount of time is spent confiscating, labelling and storing ones that are confiscated. These then have to be collected by parent or held till the end of the term, then issued back to the students. We still have to deal with theft (even though we’renot meant to ‘cos they are not meant to be at school). We deal with irate parents who want to have contact with the students AND have to store, in a secure place (bagged and labelled) those cellphones that are brought to school for after school use.
    The there are the students who take great delight in pretending to be texting under the desk in order to catch you out!!

    I begin the year with a blanket statement – I know that 90% of you are sitting here with cellphones/mp3s in your pockets – if I don’t see or hear them I don’t care – but as soon as I do then I have to do something.
    I make a ‘performance’ of every confiscation – hands in the air cheering in order to make a point!

    Would I rather they weren’t a banned item – you bet!

  3. That does sound like a pain! For us, cellphones can be used before and after school — just not seen during school hours. If they’re seen, they’re confiscated, and then student just serve a short detention and the phones are returned.

    WIth iPods, they can’t be seen before, during, or after school. If they are, then the same thing happens to them.


  4. You know, Larry, I completely understand the struggles of finding the balance between allowing students to use tools that resonate with them and have potential benefits for instruction but that also have the potential to be disruptive to the functioning of the school day.

    And our school has banned cell phones and iPods for all the same reasons that your school has.

    But in my idealistic little mind, I always want to see if I can teach responsible behavior rather than banning irresponsible behavior. I’ve got this resistance to bans because they don’t force kids to act responsibly.

    Now, I’m speaking from the perspective of a guy who works in a school where serious behavior problems aren’t really a recurrent issue…..so my perspective is probably skewed….

    I do wonder, though, if we’re cheating our kids when our reaction is to ban things rather than teach kids to act resonsibly.

    Does any of this make sense?

  5. Bill,

    Your perspective makes perfect sense to me, and one that I work hard at trying to implement in my classroom (and family life) daily.

    I think at an inner-city school, though, with all the challenges facing our students, there are many, many responsible behaviors that they are trying to learn. And many are not going to learn them anywhere else but at our school.

    We’ve got to pick and choose the ones that are most important, and what are potential hindrances to teachers having the energy to help teach, and students to learn, those key lessons.

    Given that perspective, I’m fine with the ban on both iPods and cellphones.


  6. Samantha says:

    Having Ipods in the classroom can be very benefical to helping your students learn because now-a-days you can upload the lecture you missed on it or upload an assignment on it. But they can be misused. If you do allow Ipods in the classroom you might have a student sitting in the backrow with his hood up listening to his Ipod instead of the lesson. I do agree with you not wanting Ipods in your school.

  7. Aaron Callaway says:

    I do believe I-pods should be banned. This way a student needs to listen to the class lesson. I understand that I-pods can be used for educational use, but not all students can afford one.

  8. Tammy says:

    Easy answer to the problem of having students hide ipods under hoods…. We don’t allow hats or hoods. My biggest worry about ipods is what students are listening to. Research clearly shows that music affects behavior… I don’t want to deal with students listening to angry music that promotes violence. We have to hold on to some standards!

  9. Katherine says:

    I have mixed feelings about iPods in the classroom. Podcasts and audiobooks would be great teaching tools but how do we monitor that this is what the students are listening to? I am currently interning in a school district that loans iMacs to all students grades 6-12. The laptops are great for paper writing, research and projects The tech tools that these kids know how to use for presentations amaze me. I am learning along with them because I had not been exposed to some of these programs – such as Inspiration and keynote. On the other hand, there is a lot of misuse as well. From the teacher’s viewpoint the students appear to be working but, from the back of the classroom I can see that this is not the case. Maybe 75% of the students are on task whereas the others are surfing the net or checking their hotmail accounts for messages from their friends (very few sites are blocked, which surprised me). I agree that we need to expose students to as much technology as we can – it’s the world that they are living in – but how do we put that line in the sand between teaching tool and distracting toy?

  10. MrTeach says:

    I completely understand the banning of iPods and cell phones in this situation. Like most people here have stated, they are a distraction (especially with theft) more often than an educational tool. As far as podcasts and audiobooks, mp3 players are fairly cheap anymore. A school can buy them and load them up with any content they wish, that solves the podcast and audiobooks problem.

    On the other hand, it comes back to a classroom management issue as well. If a student is not working because they are off task, it is the teacher’s job to hold that student accountable.

  11. [...] Peterson is a very talented Vice-Principal at my school (whom I’ve quoted before in posts) who suggested a new strategy — one that might have echoes of familiarity with some methods [...]

  12. [...] might also be interested in visiting the post I wrote about our iPod ban, [...]

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