Duke Sees Growth in Classroom iPod Use

Since last year, students using iPods in the classroom has quadrupled and the number of courses incorporating the devices has doubled

The number of Duke University students using iPods in the classroom has quadrupled and the number of courses incorporating the devices has doubled in the second year of an effort to mesh digital technology with academics.

According to the university's Center for Instructional Technology (CIT), 1,200 students are expected to use iPods to enhance classroom materials, lectures or assignments in 42 spring 2006 courses. Last spring, 280 students in 19 courses used iPods as part of the Duke iPod First-Year Experience, which has grown into the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI). Duke distributed free iPods to all first-year students in 2004; for the current academic year, it modified to program to provide free iPods only to undergraduates who enrolled in a course that required the device.

Simultaneously, the university has broadened the focus of the program beyond iPods to a much broader effort to promote the effective use of new technology in higher education. The DDI is a university-wide program that is facilitating the experimentation, development and implementation of digital technology - “ such as digital audio and video, online collaboration tools and tablet PCs -- for instruction and learning.

"So many students today own personal computing devices like iPods that the increase in use of digital audio in courses, and now images and video, has expanded rapidly," said Lynne O'Brien, director of CIT.

A list of spring 2006 DDI courses is available online at <http://cit.duke.edu/about/ipod_faculty_projects_spring06.do>.

"The total number of courses utilizing iPods may in fact be larger; we only know definitively about the courses coordinated through CIT," O'Brien said, adding that anecdotal evidence suggests instructors are experimenting with using the devices outside of the formal DDI program.

The increase in courses is matched by a growth in the breadth of distinct subject areas, with the use of digital technologies expanding beyond foreign languages and computer science to engineering, dance, medical physics, biomedical engineering and math.

O'Brien said the increased familiarity with iPods and MP3 players on campus has allowed CIT to switch its focus from introducing the tools to faculty and students to developing and delivering content for the devices.

An improved comfort level with personal computing devices like the iPod has allowed students such as Duke senior Gisselle Molinar to take her learning experience outside the classroom. "I definitely think students would be able to adapt to additional digital technology," she said.

Molinar's instructor, Mark Williams, used a photo iPod this fall in his "Functional Anatomy of the Human Brain" course to house a visual glossary of 500 human neuro-anatomical structures and terms comprising text descriptions, images and corresponding audio pronunciations. Although Williams said the device interface isn't yet perfectly suited for complex learning applications, "the students adapted pretty quickly."

"There is always a risk associated with introducing a program nobody had ever tried before," said Tracy Futhey, Duke's vice president for Information Technology and CIO. "The increased use we've seen has been a direct result of faculty and student innovation. We expected we'd have this kind of interest, and it's exactly the success we thought, but couldn't be certain, it would be."

According to Futhey, the university is committed to continuing to support a broad range of technology uses.

Both fourth-generation photo iPods and fifth-generation video iPods will be distributed to students enrolled in spring 2006 DDI courses, depending upon specific course requirements. Students enrolled in spring 2006 DDI courses using iPods will pick them up from the university Help Desk, and will be responsible for their care throughout their time at Duke. Students who have already been given an iPod by the university will not be given new ones; however, in some cases, students who previously received an iPod may be eligible to trade in their old model for a newer one if the course they are enrolled in requires functionality not available on their original model.

For more information on the DDI, visit <www.duke.edu/ddi>.