School teachers are being encouraged to rethink their objections to allowing distracting gadgets such as iPods and PlayStation Portables into classrooms by encouraging students to use them as learning tools.

Software firm Etech says its Studywiz platform – a portal teachers use to distribute educational material to students – is ideally suited to the iPod, and hopes to encourage children to download learning material to their portable player before listening to it on the bus home.

Etech spokesperson Mike Damiano said that his company, which will exhibit the product during next month’s BETT show for education technology, hopes to encourage students to upload and download content from the portal just as they would using MySpace. He said that adding support for the iPod, and making learning tools the educational equivalent to student’s favoured websites, is the key to increasing usage.

“What we’re trying to do is to tap into demand for things like MySpace and Flickr – sites that children use as soon as they get outside the school gates but aren’t allowed to bring in,” said Damiano. “Using the learning equivalent of social-networking tools and adding support for students’ iPods can add real value in the classroom.”

The product could, for example, allow children to download Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to their iPod following a music lesson, and then post comments on a central portal the following day. It also students to view calendars and deadlines for particular lessons, while teachers can track how much time students have spent using the tool.

The BETT show, which runs from January 10 – 13, plays host to 600 education technology exhibitors and expects to attract 28,000 visitors.