Slashdot reported today that Duke University is planning to distribute over 1650 iPods, free of charge, to this year’s freshman class. While iPods are known mostly as digital music players, this initiative has much less to do with digital music than the Napster deals signed at universities such as Penn State. Regarding the deal, the Duke news service reports the following:
“This iPod pilot program is an exciting new component of Duke’s strategic plan, which seeks to use information technology in innovative ways within the classroom and across the campus. We’re approaching this as an experiment, one we hope will motivate our faculty and students to think creatively about using digital audio content and a mobile computing environment to advance educational goals in the same way that iPods and similar devices have had such a big impact on music distribution.”
I would love to see how, ideally, this could work in the classroom. It would be wonderful if more professors and students could realize the possibilities of digital media playback, recording and storage. Of course, pedagogy and classroom management (yes even for undergraduate students) is still going to be more important than ever. “Hardware dropping” has been done time and time again in educational institutions with often dismal results. I would love to see the longterm results of this initiative, but for now, I am specifically interested to see what types of professional and pedagogical development Duke will provide to ensure the success of this project.