To iPod or Not to iPod?

I have regenerated this post as it is still a raging question in my mind as more and more schools are taking to iPods for various reasons. I regenerate this also to open the question to Mobilemind-ed readers as well as to my fellow educators who are considering iPods as THE solution. As this was a post from another blog… edTech Classroom it may seem dated.

Please comment with your thoughts. – Brian

To iPod or Not to iPod?

That is the question I had after attending a session on the uses of Apple's iPod in education at NYSCATE. Being someone who has experience with using handhelds I found this an interesting topic. Handhelds, as I have come to refer to them, are also known as personal digital assistants (PDA), Pocket PC's, or one of my pet peeves… Palm Pilots. They are, simply, computers that you can hold in your hand (hence, handheld computer). While I think iPods fit this description, I don't feel they are as useful as a handheld computer that runs on the Palm OS or Windows Mobile (a.k.a. – Pocket PC).

The iPod does have features and functions much like a PDA except the ability to input data through the iPod itself. I can use my PocketPC or Palm handheld to do all the things an iPod can do and more. In addition to keeping personal information (i.e.- calendar, contacts, to do, etc.) a handheld can record audio for podcasts, show video, read .pdf documents, create documents, spreadsheets & presentations, and most handhelds can take photos and video with the right accessories. Compare the differences:

Apple iPods vs. Handheld Computers

  iPod Handheld
DigitalMusic Yes Yes
Photos Yes Yes
Video Yes Yes
.pdf Yes Yes
Read/Write Yes/No Yes/Yes
Memory <60GB> <1-2GB>
Phone No Yes
Internet No Yes
Screen Size 2.5" >2.5"

When you compare the functions available on the iPod and on a handheld computer it seems that the handheld makes more sense for classrooms. So why this phenomenon? What is special about the iPod? When the iPod came out 4 years ago there were mp3 players with less than 128 MB of memory. Now Apple offers an iPod comes with 60 GB of memory that plays video. I believe it lies in the marketing. Apple was genius to "rope in" the millenial generation with a cool digital music player with a ton of memory. It seems that the only advantage an iPod has over a "traditional" handheld computer is that it has so much more memory. I don't believe that this kind of memory for a handheld is too far behind. It is cool, it is sleek, the millenials love it and will keep purchasing the next generation iPod. Given the attempt to combine iTunes and a phone [the ROKR] the next generation iPod may look more like a handheld. Only Steve Jobs will tell.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Brian, I agree. In fact, I have been planning to blog about this very same topics for a while. But, I do think that iPod has another thing going for it that handhelds don’t: seemless integration with iTunes. You just connect the iPod and automajically, your digital audio and video files are mirrored on the device from your iTunes library. Very slick.

    Now, for a Palm or Pocket PC computer to do the same, you have to drag and drop the files you want to transfer. In a classroom setting, this can be a pain and a possible deal-breaker. For Mac users, though, there’s SyncTunes ( Just pop in an SD card into your computer and SyncTunes will automatically mirror whichever playlists or podcasts you want on the card. I have looked for a Windows solution like this, but have found none as of yet.

    It’s amazing how cheap SD cards are getting and 2 GB is plenty for student use. And while the student listens to a podcast on a handheld computer from an SD card, he or she can also be drawing an animation, writing a reflection, or answering questions about what they hear on the very same device–all for about the price of an iPod, if not cheaper.

    When it comes down to it, though, I personally listen to audio on my iPod, not my handheld…

  2. Tony, I couldn’t agree more about the slickness of iTunes and the iPod. Actually, I am due to receive one here at work I hear. I have been looking, to no avail, for something similar for Windows, as I don’t sync my handhelds (Palm Tungsten T2 & Dell Axim x30) with my Mac. This is a very interesting and pressing topic up here in NY. A lot of districts and schools are jumping at purchasing iPods without much thought about what handhelds can do for them. Let’s continue the conversation…

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