Teachers put iPod to work

By Jonathan Wroble

Since its debut in 2001, the iPod has evolved from just playing music to displaying photos and playing videos.

In more and more college classrooms across the country, it’s taking on yet another role: teaching.

At Tidewater Community College in Virginia, for example, associate professor Kathy O’Connor recently received an $11,000 grant to use iPods in her Spanish classes.

At no cost, her students can rent one of 25 iPod nanos from the campus library.

“I am loading onto the iPod the listening comprehension practice, vocabulary, and pronunciation practice that students need to do,” she said. “I’ve made the language lab mobile.”

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O’Connor also loads Spanish-language podcasts, radio, conversations, and even Latin music onto the iPods for higher-level students.

“You can’t learn language two days a week, (so) I wanted (iPods) for out of class practice,” she said. “The more you listen, the more comfortable you feel with speaking.”

Similar grants at other schools have incorporated iPods into college courses on a much larger scale.

This semester, Faulkner Fox, visiting instructor of English at Duke University, is providing iPods to students in her iPod-approved English 109 course.

The students will use the iPods in order to record interviews of at least two people for a personal reportage project.

At Duke, students enrolled in such iPod-approved courses can rent a fifth-generation video iPod and an accompanying recording device for free.

They can also purchase the package, which has a market value of over $300, for the reduced price of $99.

In fall of 2004, Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology distributed the iPod and recording device to over 1,600 first-year students.

The iPods were used in many ways, from recording lectures to collecting pulse rate data during physical activity.

For Fox, the biggest benefit of the iPod as a recording tool is its ability to create a long-lasting file.

“The main thing is that (the interview) is not going to deteriorate,” she said. “This just seems like a more durable way.”

At the University, there are no formal programs that distribute iPods like at Duke.

Michael Williams, associate director of the office of educational technology within the College of Education, pointed out that Duke is a private university and has more funding for campus-wide initiatives.

Still, some University classes provide similar technology, like Writing with Video, a course within the School of Art and Design that provides laptops to enrolled students.

Robert Croy, Mac and media specialist within the College of Education, also fuses technology with education.

He works to create long-lasting podcasts for waterCAMPWS, a College of Engineering unit that deals with water purification.

Using an Apple program called Final Cut Pro, Croy records videos of PowerPoint presentations on water treatment, usually given by students.

He then cuts out the video footage and syncs the remaining audio with the PowerPoint slides from the presentation.

Still, he explained that these podcasts are a means of review, not an excuse to miss lectures or presentations.

“A podcast (or) an iPod is no different than a pencil,” he said. “It’s just a different tool.”