IPod Goes to School; Colleges Embrace Virtual Teaching Methods

Article excerpt

Byline: Audra Taylor, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The IPod isn't just for entertainment anymore.

The popular MP3 music device also serves a learning tool in high school and college classrooms.

In the world of constant connectivity of today's youths, technologies such as the Apple IPod and IPhone, paired with the vast media capabilities of ITunes, present a constant and powerful influence.

The 13-to-24 demographic is more deeply immersed in "ITechnologies" than ever before as these innovations become increasingly vital to the educational process.

A Feb. 25 press release from Abilene Christian University in Texas announced a campuswide initiative to distribute an IPod touch or IPhone to all freshmen beginning next fall.

Several prominent institutions across the nation have successfully used ITunes University, an extension of the ITunes online store that provides free access to class lectures via downloadable podcasts.

ITunes University essentially transforms the IPod into a portable learning device. A college or university can create a page within ITunes U and include links to course documents, podcast videos of lectures and other class material made accessible to instructors, students and the general public. Students can upload and share their own content.

ITunes U provides an unprecedented level of flexibility, giving students 24/7 access to lectures and the ability to learn at their own pace, any time and anywhere.

University-level institutions also have adopted interactive sites such as Blackboard.com to facilitate classroom communication in a virtual domain. Some professors offer so-called "virtual office hours" to maintain correspondence with students through e-mail, message board discussions and blogs.

Jeremy Michalek, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, constructed for his course a "wiki" - a Web site that users can edit easily. Mr. Michalek said the site, which is comparable to the commonly used reference Web site Wikipedia.com, allows students to "share and access course content, write reports, communicate ideas and contribute content via the Internet."

ITunes U takes this effort one step further, combining audio, video and PDF (portable document format) versions of course material to create an online academic community.

Since ITunes U was introduced in May, the service has gained momentum at schools such as Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, the University of California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. …