"the iPod iDea": Update

Last year Duke Magazine examined the effects of the university's revolutionary giveaway of iPods to first-year students the previous fall. According to administrators, Duke had initiated the experiment--providing a free iPod to each incoming first-year student as part of what would become the Duke Digital Initiative--as a means of enhancing its curriculum using new technologies. The ensuing media coverage raised a number of questions: Was the iPod a legitimate educational device, or simply a public-relations tool? Were the devices used for academic purposes, or mostly for students' entertainment?

Administrators acknowledged that the experiment was a work in progress. They announced that, in the second year, distribution of iPods would happen on a course-specific basis. Those students enrolled in courses that required the devices received one free of charge.

Now moving into its third year, the initiative has been further refined. This year, students who enroll in courses that make use of iPods will be allowed to purchase the devices from Duke at a deeply discounted price of $99. The university will also loan iPods to individuals not interested in buying them.

Administrators continue to be excited about the program, and with good reason. The number of courses that used the devices last semester was forty-seven, up from nineteen the previous spring.

"We're revolutionizing the concept of portable media recorders/players such as iPods and other portable computing devices as essential pieces of student equipment, just like textbooks," says Julian Lombardi, assistant vice president of academic services and technology support. He adds that the university is working to deliver content that is compatible with a range of digital devices, not just iPods.

National media coverage of the digital initiative may have died down for now, but the message on campus is still the same: Make way for emerging technologies.

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