Mp3 Players and iPods in Education by Haley Mackenzie and Denise Turner


MP3 player is a general term applied to a digital music player that supports **MPEG-3** audio files. In recent times MP3 players have developed into multimedia players that display JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF and PNG images and play MPEG-4 and H.264 video as well as a variety of audio formats including, AAC files, Windows Media Files, AIFF, WAV and MPEG-3 files. An **iPod** is a specific family of MP3 players made by Apple.


A basic history of the development of MP3 players is provided from****
  • 1987 - EUREKA project.
  • January 1988 - Moving Pictures Expert Group or MPEG was established.
  • April 1989 - Fraunhofer received a German patent for MP3.
  • 1992 - MPEG-1
  • 1993 - MPEG-1 standard published
  • 1994 - MPEG-2 developed and published a year later.
  • November 26, 1996 - United States issued for MP3.
  • September 1998 - enforce their patenet rights.
  • February 1999 - A record company called SubPop is the first to distribute music tracks in the MP3 format.
  • 1999 - Portable MP3 players appear.
This You Tube video clip explains the history of iPod development.

Key Features

Memory size: This is the amount of data that the MP3 player can hold. The more capacity a player has means greater amount of songs can be stored. The memory size is usually stated in Megabytes (MB) for multimedia card MP3 players and secure digital MP3 players and in Gigabytes (1 GB = 1024 MB) for hard drive players. Different songs range in size but on average, a song is around 4 megabytes (MB).Compatible audio formats: MP3 music format is most widespread but other include, WMA or AAC. PC Interface: Is the connection between your music player and your computer. The majority of MP3 players use a USB connection. Other connections using USB 2.0 or FireWire are faster than standard USB.
Battery life: the battery life varies depending on the model of MP3 player. It can range from several to 40 hours.
Other functions: the most common auxiliary functions on MP3 players are an FM radio tuner and recording functions. Recent developments enable a mp3 player to play videos, display photos, play games and sync with email contacts.
iPod Features Audio: depending on the size of the iPod, it will determine how many songs can be stored. For example, the 160-GB iPod stores up to 40,000 songs. Formats that are supported are MP3, WAV, AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless and Audible audio files. Songs can be downloaded from iTunes and then loaded onto an iPod. iTunes is the main software an iPod works from, however, other programs can be used.
Video: much the same as audio, video capacity is determined by the size of the iPod. The 80-GB version holds up to 100 hours of video. It supports H.264 and MPEG-4 files as well as MOV files which are converted when transferring to an iPod via iTunes software. An iPod allows playing of video podcasts, music videos, feature films and TV shows as well as personal DVDss and home videos.
Photos: an iPod can hold up to 25,000 photos. Photos can be converted from JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PNG AND PSD. Photos can be downloaded from multiple sources. RCA or S-video connection can be used to connect to a TV to watch photo slideshows or videos.
External hard drive: an iPod can function as a portable hard drive, carrying all file typres between computers. Any information can be loaded into an iPod.
Calendar/contacts syncing: an iPod can automatically download all contact/calendar data added to Mac iCal or Microsoft Outlook/Outlook Express.
Games: most iPods come with games already loaded. Games can also de downloaded through iTumes and other sources using the internet. Games can alos be created in relevant programs.
Car integration: an iPod car integration system will allow the iPod to play through the car's stereo system. Some stereos allow controlling of an iPod.

Educational Value

The educational benefits of using MP3 players or iPods in the classroom are quite extensive. There are the physical and psychological benefits:
  1. They are portable. They have long lasting battery power.
  2. They are small and light so easily transported. They can fit in a pocket.
  3. They have many built-in tools already in use in classrooms.
  4. They make a strong link across the "Digital Divide"as many students already own a mp3 player of some description.
  5. They enable teachers to cater for individual learning stylesand multiple intelligences.
  6. They are relevant to students.
  7. They are multisensory.
Consider the following senarios which use specific features of an mp3 player:
Record observations during a field trip.
Record questions to and responses from a guest speaker.
Record directions for students to follow to develop map reading skills.
Record stories, plays made or being learned by students.
Record the student reading and speaking as an evaluation tool.
Teachers can record interviews with students and parents as well as record staff meetings or PD sessions.
Watching a podcast on how to write a concrete poem.
Playing a movie or podcast the student has made to friends and family. Evidence for learning outcome assessment.
When doing homework the student watches a movie on the maths lesson from on measuring angles - their teacher recorded it as she demonstrated on the interactive whiteboard.
Watching a movie recorded when a student was reading flashcards of words they needed to learn.
View a virtual tour of the pyramids.
View a video of a debate to assist in the planning of one.
Teachers watching Benchmark lessons.
Teachers watching movies/podcasts on how to use specific technologies in their classrooms.
Listen to a podcast on learning Indonesian to assist in meeting LOTE learning outcomes.
Listening to the Mozart Sonata the student's group has to review in class next week.
Listen to an audiobook. just for fun.
Listen to the teacher reading a book whilst reading the book in real time.
Listen to baroque music when studying for an exam. Music and learning.
Musical intelligence learners listen to music whilst completing tasks.
Teachers listen to podcasts on educational theory and practice.
View flashcards of words and sounds being covered in class.
Write a science report from the pictures loaded after the class Science experiment.
View the PowerPoint presentation on frogs that has been loaded as pictures.
Take that quiz missed when the student was absent last week.
Create a quiz for the class to do after your group's PowerPoint presentation.
Young students listen to "I Spy" clues in a letter hunt game.
Unsure of the meaning of a word? Then check the meaning in your pocket dictionary on your MP3 player.
Check information about a topic using Encyclopodia that was loaded onto the MP3 player.
A student's individual learning programme is loaded onto an MP3 player for them to progress through at their own rate.
This You Tube video demonstrates many examples of using iPods in education.
The list is in no way exhaustive.
Our PMI of the use of MP3 players and iPods in education summarises current responses.

Future Learning

Coupled with the educational value of mp3 players and iPods they are very user friendly. The different machines are easy to use and it is easy to upload the different files.
Most MP3 players use the "drag and drop" method of loading files. Just find the music, sound file, movie, pictures, file required, attach the MP3 player via a USB connection to the computer and drag and drop the file into the player.
iPods generally use iTunes software to load files. iTunes is a free download. iTunes can be set to load podcasts, music, pictures, audio files automatically. The files on iTunes can be set to load automatically when the iPod is connected to the computer, or they can be set to be loaded when selected. iTunes can be downloaded from here.
All that is needed to record on an MP3 player containing recording software is a microphone attachment.
Newer MP3 players have built in microphones, an example is this iRiver. Downloading the audio is as simple as drag and drop with most brands of MP3 players whereas iPods sync with iTunes. The audio file is downloaded into iTunes and can be retrieved from there.
ipod_touch_microphone_1.jpgAn iPod with microphone attachment.
When recording audio files the floowing programs can be used. In Windows computers either, Audacity with the lame.exe extension to convert the files to MP3 format or Mediacoder. Both are open source software and free downloads.
Mac users would use Garageband to record.
Podcasts sent to your computer via RSS feeds can be dropped into an MP3 player that is connected to the computer via a USB cable. iTunes automatically stores podcasts downloaded and theyare synced to an iPod when it is connected to the computer.
Instructions on how to load videos onto an iPod can be found here.
You Tube videos can be converted using Keepvid and then loaded onto an MP 3 player by the simple drag and drop method. Once a movie is loaded onto a computer is can be loaded in the same way all files are; "drag and drop or iTunes.
Two applications designed to create quizzes for MP3 players and iPods are Quizzler and iQuiz. The instructions on how to use Quizzler are included in the PowerPoint presentation attached to this wiki entry.
Loading PowerPoint slides onto an MP3 player or iPod is a simple process. Save each slide as a jpeg then drag and drop or load them via iTunes.
Take photographs of individual flashcards and load them the same way.

Future Teaching

The following are links to ideas for using ipods and MP3 players in future teaching. As for developments the iPhone is just the beginning.
- Create podcasts to improve students writing -
Orange Grove Primary School is an excellent example.
- Apple supports the use of iPods in education with lesson plans and ideas
- Create study tools using iwriter
- Find podcasts with iTunes
- Create movies on a Smartboard
- Learning In Hand has a range of strategies and examples
- There are many links on Education World
Exciting isn't it?