iPods improving learning experience

Breanne George

Taking a break between classes, Catherine Cunningham, senior sociology and art history major, writes in her journal while listening to her iPod in Risman Plaza. Cunningham hasn’t used her iPod for academic reasons, but she has saved papers to its hard d

Credit: Ben Breier

Kent State students may soon be using their iPods for more than just playing music.

Colleges across the country are implementing iPods in the classroom, and Kent State could be next.

Multimedia developers Deborah Murphy and Valerie Kelly in Moulton Hall are currently researching iPods used for academic purposes.

“This new technology will be adopted whether or not Kent State buys them,” Murphy said. “Professors are becoming interested, so it is only a matter of time before iPods start being used in class.”

Duke University in North Carolina was among the first colleges to take advantage of the popular MP3 player’s academic potential. Last year, Duke freshmen received free iPods.

“With the amount of audio files iPods hold, I think it is a great idea,” business graduate student Michael Gerbick said. “I’m sure students would use them for class if they could. I’m all for it.”

iPods are like handheld computers. Aside from the audio capabilities, students can download text, pictures and record.

“The possibilities are endless for iPods,” Murphy said. “Students can use them for presentations, interviews, even as flashcards for studying.”

Kelly said professors can use them as an interactive tool to enhance the learning experience. Students can record their class lectures, download classroom notes, books and even talk to other students in their class via audio message boards.

“This technology is very easy to use for professors and especially students,” Kelly said. “While iPods are not suitable for every course, they can definitely enhance certain The latest trend in iPods is called podcasting, which can be used for academic purposes. Podcasting allows professors to put audio files on a Web site, including class lectures. Students subscribe to the content which is then downloaded to their iPods.

“I use iTunes to search for podcasts that I am interested in, such as current events and boxing,” Gerbick said. “I think podcasts of class lectures would help students because they wouldn’t have to take notes and everyone would have the same information.”

Professors also can use existing podcasts from various Web sites as supplemental material. There are podcasts for virtually any topic.

“News Web sites such as CNN, Meet the Press and NPR are big in podcasting,” Murphy said. “There (are) even MP3 audio books such as best-seller novels and non-fiction books. Who knows, textbooks could be next.”

This new technology works especially well with distance-learning classes. Students have everything they need for the class, including the lecture, in their iPods.

“A lot of distance-learning students are nontraditional students,” Murphy said. “They are busy raising a family or working, so iPods would allow them to have more time. They could be walking their dog while listening to the class lecture.”

Professors are not relying solely on the new technology, but do use it with other learning materials. According to CIO Magazine, Duke University found that “iPods were most useful for recording class lectures and making research notes.”

While many people are excited about this new technology, there are critics who believe using iPods in class is a waste of time and money.

“Students will simply use them for downloading music,” sophomore psychology major Tina Barr said. “I don’t think Kent State or students should pay for technology that would rarely be used for class.”

According to The Christian Science Monitor, Duke University spent $500,000 giving freshmen free iPods and has since curtailed the use of them. It found that only certain majors and classes benefit.

“I think language classes would benefit the most from using iPods because students could listen to the correct pronunciations,” business graduate student Amy Hager said. “But I’m skeptical about how practical they would be in other classes.”

Kelly and Murphy both agree that iPods are the newest and fastest growing trend in academic technology.

Contact academic technology reporter Breanne George at [email protected].