The Proof Is in the Podding: iPods Seem to Nicely Align with Students' Natural Behaviors Rather Than Insist They Align Their Behaviors with Uncomfortable Technologies

Article excerpt

LIVE been following the Duke University experiment of providing iPods to all students. It's pretty interesting and a marvel in the law of unintended consequences. The evaluation report on Duke's 2004/ 05 academic uses of iPods initiative is available, and it's free. It's a fairly concise report and worth the read. I've included the link in the sidebar.

It must have been a bit of a success, since they're continuing it in a modified form. What I found most interesting was the surprising and innovative ways (though logical in hindsight) that professors and students found to use the devices. As a lesson-reviewing tool (even while exercising or multitasking), it seems more than adequate. It also seems to nicely align with students' natural behaviors rather than insist they align their behaviors with uncomfortable technologies.

EVERYONE SHOULD LEARN THE WAY I LEARN?

There were the usual shirty comments from lecturers who feared some students would not attend class and just listen to down-loaded lectures while jogging. I have to say that if they're providing so little interactivity or visuals in their lectures and so carefully avoiding any Socratic dialogue with the students, then how is a recording any worse or better than being there? Perhaps the competition will sharpen up those who fear it! Some of the comments I read were classic.

To paraphrase, "Everyone should learn the way I learn."

What I enjoyed most was seeing the usage by music students to play recordings over and over to learn, to record their own works for themselves and others to comment and critique, and to share music in the context of discussion. I liked the stories about language students repeatedly listening to lectures to get all the nuances of the language, to get pronunciations right, and to study and review. There are many stories like this about the power of these MP3 players in an academic context. There are even quite a few library uses.

BELLWETHER TECHNOLOGY

I think that iPods and other more generic MP3 players are a bellwether technology. There are things to learn in these experiments that apply to all types of libraries. As we try to adapt our services to the wide range of multimedia technologies like MP3s and streaming media; the services provided by such companies as Apple, Overdrive, and Audible.com; and even simple things like the streaming media author interviews in SirsiDynix's enhanced OPAC feeds through DataStream, we must remain cognizant of the user experience. A few public libraries are offering audiobooks on iPods to borrow, and others are recording and podcasting teen and user book reviews--pretty cool, and it sure makes these libraries' portals lively. It's a real renaissance right now where creativity is flowering.

I recently attended a Library Leaders Workshop put on by the Newark, N,Y., Board Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). I had the honor of doing a few sessions, but I was particularly impressed with the level of innovation that these folks were attempting. They were doing some pretty good blogging to share insights on a higher level professionally. Christopher Harris' Infomancy blog and Jacquie Henry's Wanderings blog are great examples.

What I was really impressed with was the presentation by Christine Dowd, who has been a teacher librarian and now is a K-20 education consultant with Apple. She blew me away with her expansive talk on the uses of iPods and MP3 technologies in educational settings. And she wasn't just a vendor blueskying; she shared real pilots and implementations. This is a major technology with market penetration and economic potential far outstripping just the Apple brand, and it covers formats and genres beyond music (video, e-books, talking books, documents, and more). Add to this the role played by content-enabled smart phones, Internet-enabled gaming devices, and other combination MP3 players and you see a future world that is different. …