Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Happens When you Give a 3, 4, 8-Year-Old an iTouch?

When asked what an appropriate age is to integrate cell phones into the classroom, I recommend doing so at the time they exist for most outside of the classroom. According to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project today that means around 12-years-old for cell phones. However, it is at a much earlier age that children become intrigued with iTouches, often commandeering one of a parent, family member or friend when possible. Conversely adults have found that putting one of these devices into the hands of a young child can keep them entertained for quite some time. The beauty of these devices for educational use is that they are functional without cell phone service operating wherever there is an internet connection.

For educators interested in integrating technology into the lower grade classrooms, iTouches might be a tool to explore. Below are a few ways that 3, 4, and 8 year olds have been using iTouches. Each of them addresses different ways in which iTouches have become an engaging tool for students. They all make strong cases about the power of providing tech to students. You'll notice with each of them the appeal of the tactile experience that digital technology provides. When I hear folks reminisce about the "feel of the book" I think about how much richer the experience could be digitally. This first video does a great job of conveying this.

Why an iPhone could actually be good for your 3-year-old

Should a 4-year-old have an iPhone?

Marc Prensky shares how his four-year-old uses his iTouch for reading, writing, drawing and more.

What happens when you give a class of 8 year old children an iPod touch each?

In this video you see students using iTouches devices like it's second nature just like they do outside the classroom. They use the devices for reading, writing research and more using applications that are either free or much less expensive than the traditional textbook.

iPod Touches in our Pre-K Classroom

This video features a Pre-K student who explains how she is using an iPod touch to help her learn to spell better.

Finding apps to use with your students

These are just a few ideas for using iTouches with early elementary students. The best way for educators to determine what's right for their students is to start with learning goals and then partner with students and parents/guardians to determine ways various technologies can help meet them.

A terrific resource for teachers and students engaging in this work is www.appolicious.com, a site where users can find and share the mobile apps they love listed by categories like "kids" and "education." Not only is this a great resource, but encouraging students and their parents to share and review apps for the world is also a powerful learning experience.

The iPhone Mom
Another terrific resource for finding iTouch Apps is www.theiphonemom.com. This site is maintained by the mother of four iPhone/iTouch using kids. This is a great way to bring families into the conversation. Have your student explore apps with their families. Remember, not all students need to use the same apps to accomplish a learning goal. Share with your student's parents/guardians what you're trying to help their children learn and ask them to visit this resource for ideas. Encourage your student's parents to begin establishing their digital footprint by commenting on the blog with feedback they have from using the apps with their children and teachers can do the same with class reviews of apps they find useful.


  1. This has been a post I've been waiting for. Ever since my husband and I got our iPhone, our son has been playing with it. He was about 1 and he was mostly drawing on it with different drawing/painting programs. Now he's 2-1/2 and he knows how to unlock Daddy's and play the games he wants. There has been such a boom of apps for toddlers. I am sure he has learned his alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors, etc from playing on the iPhone. Now he wants to read the stories available to him. One thing I do find funny is that he knows how to trace letters and numbers, but when I give him a crayon or a pencil, he's hesitant on using it.

  2. @Lisa FF, thank you for sharing this. As the cost of digital devices decreases and they become more and more ubiquitous, I wonder how long it will be before paper becomes an outdated tool. While digital immigrants likely cringe at that thought, I haven't used paper in a half decade, and am more effective, efficient, and prolific as a result. And...extra bonus for the environment too!

  3. Lisa FF: that last sentence of your post should give you pause for concern. Your son won't develop proper fine motor skills pecking away at a keyboard or a pad.

  4. Great post! Both my kids are intrigued with the Ipod Touch. My 8 yo just got one for her bday and my almost 6 yo commands my husbands. I heard this quote recently by an educator that is in the process of integrating technology in their classroom: "We are not preparing them for a world that is coming, we are preparing them for a world that IS."

    Steph H

  5. I read the article once more and this remarkable comment made me think about how parenting and overall child rearing has faltered in the last few generation...

    "Conversely adults have found that putting one of these devices into the hands of a young child can keep them entertained for quite some time."

    This mentality began with TV and continues to this day. Let devices influence your children instead of giving them your personal time and attention. This has become an all-too acceptable strategy. There's way too much "fast, easy, and fun." The ability to moderate thinking and behavior has become a lost art.

    It's fine to try and be "innovative" in the proper measure but more reflection needs to take place over what inherent values are being taught to children that have nothing to do with basic academics. How about returning to a basic value like "spend less, save more?" How about reacquainting kids to the word "NO" more often?

    True "innovation" can be arrived at without having to spend money. To find out how takes some work and imagination using the first and BEST computer ... the human mind. It can be done, but it would belie the "Fast and easy" mantra. "Fun" doesn't have to include the intrusion of trendy devices. The basic ones will suffice.

    How about some more consideration for health concerns, such as the research regarding electromagnetic fields and their effect on brain function?

    I know many of my colleagues are environmental advocates and support conclusions that have been refuted by science. Yet, the science behind EM fields does not seem to generate as much concern. This is puzzling, to say the least.