Skip to content

iPods and Learning and Libraries

I’ve been following the Duke University experiment in 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 here.
It must have been a bit of a success since they’re continuing it in modified form next term. What I found most interesting was the surprising and innovative ways (though logical in hindsight) that professors and students found to use the devices. There were the usual shirty comments from lecturers that feared some students would not attend class and just listen to downloaded lectures while jogging. I have to say that if they’re providing so little interactivity or visuals in their lectures and so carefully avoid any socratic dialogue with the students, then how is a recording any worse or better than being there? As a lesson reviewing tool (even while exercising or multitasking), it seems pretty adequate.
But what I enjoyed was seeing the uses by music students to play recordings over and over to learn; to record their own work; and to share music in context of discussion. I liked the stories about language students repeating lectures to get all the nuances of the language, to get pronunciations right and to study. 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! It’s a fairly concise report and worth the read.
I think that iPods are a bellwether technology. There are things to learn in this experiment that apply to all types of libraries. As we try to adapt our services to the wide range of multi-media technologies like MP3’s and streaming media, the services provided by such companies as iTunes, Overdrive and, and even simple things like the streaming media author interviews in Sirsi’s enhanced OPAC feeds through DataStream. A few public libraries are offering audio-books on iPods to borrow and others are recording and podcasting teen and user book reviews. It’s a real renaissance right now where creativity is flowering. Pretty cool. Sure makes their library’s portals lively

Posted on: July 21, 2005, 11:58 pm Category: Uncategorized

2 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. While I’m generally somewhat of neo-Luddite/technorealist when it comes to new technology in the library, I think MP3 players can and will serve a useful purpose.
    But I am a little surprised at how some of the big boosters for new technology in the library have a brand-name fetish for the iPod. You’d think there were no other media players out there.
    One thing I find a little off-putting about the iPod is its marriage to iTunes and proprietary DRM. There are any number of flash memory players that can record and play generic MP3s. From a reliability standpoint, the hard drives and batteries in iPods are only good for a couple of years.
    From my perspective, the iPods with hard drives are an unnecessarily expensive and delicate medium, and the DRM generates too many IP issues.
    The smaller MP3 flash players are a more practical, economical alternative if you don’t have to have the latest Madison Ave. has to offer.

  2. Dave Errington said

    Nice to see another ILS vendor ‘get’ the corporate blogging opportunity – welcome.