Two years ago when I bought a netbook — an Asus EEE, about the size of hardcover novel — I thought that I had finally acquired the perfect technology: it was small enough that I could slip it into a little satchel that I carry, but big enough that it had a full-size qwerty keyboard that I could easily type on. It also had enough CPU power to meet 95% my needs: word processing, browsing the Internet, sending email, and watching videos. I was so pleased with my netbook that when Apple came out with its palm-sized iPod Touch, I wasn’t even interested. What, I opined, could it do for me that my netbook couldn’t do?
Well, eventually I did acquire an iPod Touch, because I thought that I should — as my university’s Senior Instructional Developer in Emerging Technologies — at least have some familiarity with that device. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been wrong in underestimating the iPod Touch: it’s a very useful device, both in terms of one’s personal productivity and in terms of the educational opportunities it affords. There are thousands of applications available for the iPod Touch (and iPhone), and most of them free or cost less than a dollar. I’ve installed, for example, an app that works with my online to-do-list service (Toodledo), an app that allows me to listen to CBC radio online, an app that allows me to record voice memos, map apps, and many more. Additionally, there are apps that are intended to assist learners in specific areas — for instance, the apps available for second-language learning are superb. As well, there are apps that render 3D images of molecules (which you can rotate in space, to view from different angles), apps that help you understand different musical scales, apps that turn equations into graphs, apps that help you explore art history, apps that let you watch university lectures from iTunes U, and — you get the idea. I will, though, mention one more: there’s an app that allows you to use your iPod Touch as a remote, so that you can control a PowerPoint slideshow — in other words, you can stroll around your classroom or lecture hall while giving a presentation, rather than being tied to the PC or laptop on the podium.
I recently gave a workshop called “The Educational Potential of the iPod Touch.” If you’d like to access the PowerPoint, you can do so here.