Last year Gray Academy of Jewish Education purchased five iPods and a Bretford PowerSync Cart as a result of a grant we received from the Avi Chai Organization. Primarily one Hebrew teacher, as well as one teacher in the Judaics Department of our school used the iPods. Students used the iPods to record themselves during reading and speaking tests. They used them individually or with a partner. The teacher then played the recordings back in order to assess the students’ facility with Hebrew.
The greatest advantage was the personal aspect of the assessment. Students could record and listen to themselves and then make changes as they deemed necessary. This gave them more control over the outcome and allowed them to feel more successful. The teacher could play the recordings back and really “listen” to the students, rather than having to rush through the evaluation process. It did not just provide more depth to both the students and the teacher, it also saved time. What used to take at least a class and sometimes two was now guaranteed to be finished in one.
We also used the iPods to help create a music CD for our grade six Shabbaton. We used the iPods to record the students’ singing various songs and prayers, and then we created a CD and gave one to each student as a remembrance of their Shabbaton. This was the most ambitious grade six Shabbaton project our school has ever produced, and it was a great success because of the ease of using the iPods.
To build on these successes, we applied for additional grants from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. We asked for 15 additional iPod Classics and 17 iPod Touch. We decided the iPod Touch would be easier to use in terms of voice recording, since the Classic versions required the purchase of additional hardware to convert the iPod into a voice recorder. The Touch has a built-in recorder and does not require ear buds in order to hear the recordings. This has made the process of evaluation even easier and more enjoyable for the students and the teachers. More teachers are now asking to use the iPod Touch, and one teacher is working on recording an entire book on the Touch to create an audio book for students to share. The iPod Classics (we now have 20) are being used to store the Judaic music for our elementary teachers. Each classroom is receiving an iPod, along with a dock/speaker and the teachers are working together to compile a consistent music library from grade to grade.
The cart we purchased makes all of this very easy to achieve. The cart allows 20 iPods to be synced at once to one computer. This means that all of the music on the computer can be downloaded to the iPods in one go, which is a huge time saver for the IT Department Head.
The grant that we received from Avi Chai was the impetus for us to apply for an additional grant in June 2010. The teachers are slowly but surely recognizing the benefit of the iPods for their classrooms. As with any other new technology, it is a steep learning curve for some and not for others. We have learned to be patient and our goal is to help all of the teachers in our school become more comfortable with the newest acquisitions.