November 17, 2004

iPods at Duke

Writing about web page http://www.duke.edu/ipod/

Duke University in North Carolina has given all 1,650 members of its new first year intake an iPod. They assert that iPods have the potential to become a powerful educational tool; smaller than a laptop and with longer battery life, so that it can be genuinely ubiquitous and pervasive for its users. The iPods come pre-loaded with content such as the orientation schedule and the academic calendar, and there is a Duke Uni page on iTunes where students can download audio files of lectures and other content. Students are also given a microphone so that they can record on to their iPod, for example when out on field classes.

It's an interesting idea, and there's no doubt that Duke were smart to pick a device which for many students will be a desirable object in its own right (the student gets to keep the iPod after they graduate). But I wonder how much value there will turn out to be in an audio-only device? How many lectures turn out to be useful if all you have is the audio, not the slides or the OHPs or the whiteboard? And iPods don't support bookmarking or any other sort of indexing that would let the user do more than just listen from start to end. Perhaps next year they'll go with the iPod Photo so that the PowerPoint slides show up too.

There's also no mention of whether the students get any kind of preferential deal at iTunes as part of the package. Free iPods and cheap iTunes; now that's the way forward…


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