"It is like having a number of other teachers in the classroom," says Phil Barrett, a PE teacher. He is not talking about an enthusiastic army of new teaching assistants - Mr Barrett has just got hold of a set of iPod touch devices to use in his PE classes at Bodmin College, Cornwall.
He says the iPods he has been using in his PE work at the specialist science college have transformed his teaching and, he believes, the learning of his pupils. One of his colleagues, advanced skills teacher Mark Talbot, is an Apple distinguished educator. He recently acquired a set of iPad tablet computers for English, as well as the iPod touches for PE.
Bodmin College has been an Apple regional training centre for six years, and Mr Talbot wanted to run a small project looking at how mobile technology could affect learning.
"It was our way of putting a toe in the water," he explains. "Our PE department has taken it on board and the iPod touch is ideal for students who are mobile in their work. They can just tuck it into their pocket and use it anywhere. Kids don't want to be sitting in a room doing ICT, they want to be out and about." One of the additional benefits is the wealth of apps available, many of them free. Pupils love to use them because they are cool. "They realise that this is the way computing will be. We are at the start of something that will make major changes across the world," adds Mr Talbot.
"When I first started," says Mr Barrett, "I thought the iPods in PE would be used mainly to download apps and for pupils to use in classes when they are studying theory, such as with muscles and bones. Then we started to see that we could do our own podcasts with video and audio. We also downloaded apps to do brainstorms and PowerPoints. We found that the gcsepod website sells revision podcasts that students can download freely once the school has paid a subscription."
The camera on the iPod touch enables students to create their own videos, he adds. "They have been using this to gather evidence that can go into coursework. It's excellent for students who struggle to get things down onto paper," says Mr Barrett.
For example, pupils looked around the college premises to monitor health and safety, doing voice-over and video. "Work like that enables them to put over what they are feeling and what they want to express. All that work can be viewed on the iPods, or we can project the material on to a large screen for discussion," he says.
Now Mr Barrett is also creating his own podcasts to use in class. "Pupils can have the material on their own machines in the form of a movie. I have created a podcast on the heart and lungs where the student can see the learning objectives of the lesson. There are starter activities, grading criteria and all the things you find in a traditional textbook. You can even put questions in there and the whole thing is overlaid with a voice-over and images."
Demonstrating skills, such as how to use your racquet in badminton, is basic PE work, and lends itself well to being uploaded to an iPod touch. "It is perfectly possible to find examples of good practice in badminton, what we call 'a perfect model', on YouTube," Mr Barrett says. "There are videos of prominent players, such as Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson. I can put the videos on to each of the iPods so students can analyse the techniques and acquire a mental image of what is correct."
Recording data and learning from analysis is an important part of PE, and can easily be done with the iPod. A program called EasyTag, for example, enables pupils to analyse the performance of their peers in any sport. Students create headings for things they want to analyse, tap the squares on the grid in the program to record the event and, once it is complete, they can do the post-match analysis with all the events and the time they occurred.
One big advantage of the iPod touch is that pupils are familiar with the technology already. "We don't have to teach them, so they are independent and can use it to reflect on their own learning," says Mr Barrett. "Pupil engagement is maximised. We are hitting different learning styles - visual-auditory-kinesthetic. You can differentiate the learning." And because pupils work independently, teachers can work with those who need extra attention.
Information technology has long promised that it can transform learning. In the iPod touches, Bodmin has found a tool for analysis, recording, researching and even revision. In this case, at least, that promise seems to have been realised
Easy Tag (dartfish) - analysis of performance (pictured above) http:bit.lyebVgyF
Fitness Pro - good for fitness classes with minimal or no equipment http:bit.lycgFFy8
Nike football+ team edition - analysis of performance http:bit.lyc0DxMD
Simplemind X - great for brainstorming http:bit.ly96oGfV
iBrainstorm - brainstorming ideas www.ibrainstormapp.com
iBrainstorm companion - starters and plenaries with an iPad and iPod http:bit.ly9pVQvX
Prezi - alternative to PowerPoint prezi.com
iMuscle - theory work http:bit.lyeEpFzd
Speed anatomy - explanations of theory speedanatomy.com
Team bleep test - fitness testing http:bit.lyf6HS05
gcsepod - GCSE revision notes www.gcsepod.co.uk
iPod touch: 8GB, 32GB, 64GB (#163;136-#163;336).