Duke University’s Apple iPod project in limbo

“Six months after the Duke University iPod First-Year Experience began, a stack of unopened iPods line Lynne O’Brien’s office. As the director of the Center for Instructional Technology, her office has become the temporary storage room for the leftover devices. She laughs as she recalls the plethora of square boxes that were there earlier in the year. Her horde would be depleted shortly, as CIT had just approved iPod proposals for two more classes,” Steve Veres reports for The Duke Chronicle.

“As the year-long ‘experiment’ of providing 20-gigabyte Apple iPods to all freshmen winds to an end and the media frenzy slowly dies down, administrators have begun to evaluate the future of the project. Critics ask: Have students used them for educational purposes? Did teachers find innovative ways to integrate this technology into their curricula? Was it worth the $500,000? While administrators have no concrete answers—a thorough and systematic evaluation will be finalized within two weeks—the implementation of the program has been as hotly debated as any measurement of its success,” Veres reports.

“‘We weren’t quite ready in some ways for all the things you need to make a project successful,’ O’Brien said, adding that this year was an experiment and if some form of the project is continued, the necessary support would be fully in place,” Veres reports. “While administrators agree that CIT will continue to support faculty who use technology in the classroom, the future of the iPod project is in limbo. Teachers, students and officials admit that the project has had to overcome many difficulties. From technology problems to lack of student academic use, the experiment, just like the unopened boxes, has yet to be fully explored.”

Full article here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Duke University’s iPod program is ‘going very well’ – February 08, 2005
Duke University’s iPod program revolutionizing students’ experiences with language studies – December 04, 2004
This is so cool! Duke freshmen line up to get their Apple iPods – August 20, 2004
ABC News looks at Duke University’s plan to provide Apple iPods to students – July 23, 2004
Duke students’ new 20GB iPods will do more than just play music – July 20, 2004
Duke University to give Apple iPods to all incoming freshman – July 19, 2004


  1. iPods just sitting in boxes, unused? Sacrilege!

    MW= “Either” as in, “either put those to use, or give them to me!” ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”tongue wink” style=”border:0;” />

  2. I wonder if the shuffle or the mini may be a better fit for some of these applications? That might make it cheaper to experiment with the program.

    If they need to record that would rule out the shuffle for now….

    I think they should keep doing it. The program is a “work in progress” and to think they could work all the bugs out in 1 year is unlikely.

    Magic Word: child…as in “When I was a child, I spake as a child and thought as a child…”

  3. Several years ago at CMU they tried using HP Jornadas to try to improve classroom cooperation using the campus-wide 802.11 network. The program was a flop, not due to the technology, but due to the lack of skills of the professors to come up with a way to use the Jornadas in a productive way. It was faster for students to open their laptops and use IM, email, and websites to cooperate on projects than it was to use the tiny screen on the Jornadas to run beta software developed for the program.
    I’m assuming a similar effect could happen with the iPods. Professors and students need to fully understand the technology they have in order to benefit from it. In most cases, professors are not willing to take the time to incorporate technology into the curriculum. This is true from kindergarten to college.
    For a program like this, you need a well defined objective so that you can evaluate its usage/success. In most cases, this is not being done. Don’t expect to hand out technology and have everyone discover novel uses for it. It just doesn’t happen that often.

  4. Sounds to me they’re wanting to evaluate a project that has barely even started! give it some time.

    Assuming the main purpose was to put lectures and other material onto them it’s not rocket science – just needs a few iPod savvy users to show the rest and for the lectures to be recorded and uploaded to the servers.

    Whether they then choose to listen to the stuff is another matter!

  5. I would have loved for classroom lectures to be recorded so that I could download them later for review. Imagine walking to class and reviewing the lecture?

    As an architecture student I could have seen using the iPod for transferring large CAD files from home to school.

    Oh the things we didn’t have way back in the 80s. I was just glad I had friends in the meteorology department – they had SE/30s.

  6. The success or failure of the program depends on its design and implementation — nothing to do with the iPod as a dumb tool.

    Nothing here — move on.

  7. Never having seen how this project works it would seem to be a big fat waste of money to me. For these reasons:

    1) making lectures avaliable is a nice idea but Duke would have to put the recording capabilities in place for that to happen. This would be a huge infrastructure outlay. Then what about those classes that do not meet in a classroom each week? Granted these might be few and far between but . . .

    2) students should take their butts (and associated body parts) to class and not rely on some piped in lecture.

    3) this really only seems as if it would be very useful for certain types of materials in certain types of classes. Language classes (having a set of spoken exercises on your iPod would be great). Music classes (having examples of the music being discussed for the day). etc. If this is the case then the university can provide iPod shuffles on a per class basis. Perhaps rent them for the semester to each student.

    4) most profs are luddites and would not know how to integrate these devices into their teaching. Perhaps luddite is to strong. They don’t seek to destroy it (for the most part) but can’t see how it would be useful/would not know how to put it to use in an American history class or an inorganic chem lab (though I guess if you got iPod Photos you could put the models for each chemical composition you are working on on the iPod?)

    5) these kids are not FOR THE MOST PART using this product for educational purposes. They are simply not.

    The money can be better spent!

  8. the idea was that the students would use the voice recorder part of the pod to record the lectures, not that the lectures would be downloaded from the net onto the ipod…

  9. The problem with that idea is that I THOUGHT the voice recorders that were made for the iPod were not designed to record anything further away than a few feet. WHat do you do in a lecture hall? I know the voice is probably amplified but would there not be a bunch of noise? The best way to do that would be to have the iPod under teh profs nose.

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