Most people think of it mainly as a digital music device, but educators at Georgia College & State University (GC&SU) in Milledgeville, Georgia, have found some innovative new uses for Apple’s iPod.
Apple donated approximately 50 iPods and other equipment as part of an experimental iPod project that was launched during the fall of 2002. Using the digital devices and assisted by GC&SU’s Electronic Instructional Services (EIS), two interdisciplinary teams developed and deployed curriculum materials on the iPods. Nearly 50 of the iPods were distributed to students in two classes, including one to each instructor and one to the CCSS.
Randall Thursby, the University System of Georgia’s vice chancellor for system technology, is a member of the Apple Advisor Group. He had been talking with Apple about creative uses for the iPod beyond the traditional use of storing information (especially music). Inspired by those talks, GC&SU wrote a proposal for a project that, once approved, kicked off with Apple’s support and some “seed money” from the University System and GC&SU itself.
“Since we only had 50 iPods, we sent out a request for interviews and brought in interested faculty members,” Dr. Frank Lowney, director of the EIS, told MacCentral. “We interviewed eight to 10 interdisciplinary teams to see who had an approach that was different and innovative. We came up with two teams of faculty members from different departments.”
Two iMacs were placed in separate computer labs to serve as the “mother ship” for student iPods. Each participating professor received an iBook and an iPod. EIS assisted in digitizing the audio portions of a video of a lecture by one of the professors and in digitizing an audio cassette, converting both to MP3s for use with the iPod.
Once all the audio files were gathered and transferred to the faculty member’s iPod, the EIS team transferred the files to iMacs that were deployed to the computer labs. Students came to the lab, connected their iPods to an iMac, and had their contents automatically updated in a few seconds. By logging in to the correct class, they were able to call up the proper iTunes playlist, sync their iPods, and download all the files for the course.
As the professors made changes during the semester, the students could come into the lab, plug in their iPods, sync and update. The result, according to university officials: students took to the iPods with “great enthusiasm and no significant technical problems were encountered at any time during the fall semester.”
One interdisciplinary team was Dr. Rob Viau and Dr. Greg Pepetone who used the iPods in the course, “The Gothic Imagination.” The other team — Dr. Hank Edmonson and Dr. Daniel Fernald — used them in “War, Politics and Shakespeare.”
“The Gothic Imagination” is an interdisciplinary course in literature, music, art and architecture primarily of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The iPod was used to incorporate music into the course, something that had always been difficult before.
“We had looked for appropriate CDs, but we found none that included the broad spectrum of music that we were looking for,” said Viau. “So we put 5GB of music of our choosing on the iPods. The students took them home and listened to the music. Some of it was connected to specific assignments, and some was included to help students foster a lifelong love of serious music.”
Class participants were able to see how the music related to Gothic literature, artwork and more. With the iPod, the disciplinary team was able to make a diverse range of music available that they couldn’t have offered on 10-20 CDs, Viau said.
“The iPod added a wonderful dimension to the course,” Viau added. “It helped students think more critically about music.”
“War, Politics, and Shakespeare” is a political science/philosophy course that was designed especially for use with the iPod. The course takes six plays by Shakespeare that includes important plot elements regarding war and ties them thematically with a variety of war-related music over the centuries. Songs range from Civil War patriotic tunes to 60s protest songs.
“We assigned songs along with the various plays, then left things up to the students and their imaginations,” Edmonson said. “They selected certain songs that they felt illustrated ideas within Shakespeare’s work and certain political philosophies. The student tied all these things together in weekly essays and on tests. The iPods helped evoke their imagination and other parts of the intellect.”
Each student was also assigned a speech or dialog from a play. They had to become intimately acquainted with it, recite it and prepare an oral summary. To do so, they used an iBook and microphone to record their work onto the Apple laptop. The work of all students was transferred to everyone’s iPod.
“When we were done, the students had a collection of their recitations and commentaries on their iPods,” Edmonson said, “This helped students teach each other and made the work more than just a one-time class presentation.”
Both faculty and students were so happy with the results that the decision to offer the courses again during the spring semester was “quickly taken,” notes a GC&SU report on the iPod project prepared by Lowney. “Almost immediately, the classes were enrolled to their limits and students left out were actually proposing to buy their own iPod if only they would be allowed to enroll,” the report notes.
Currently, Viau is using the devices again in the Gothics course. There has been some tweaking and refinement.
“The students bring the iPods to class,” Viau said. “We have them listen to a musical piece and make a posting on WebCT [which lets faculty create an online course or a supplement to a face-to-face course]. We can discuss a musical piece further, play parts of speech or Dr. Pepetone can jump on the piano and emphasize the most important parts of a musical piece.”
Edmonson is now using iPods in “Ethics and Society,” an introductory ethics course. The Apple devices are used to show how students’ music teaches and reflects their ethics.
“Music has a moral point of view,” Edmonson said. “The 60’s was considered a time of revolution and part of that was the music. We use the iPods to show how different music reflects different points of view.”
Viau has submitted a proposal to buy new 20GB iPods and other Mac equipment to be used in the school’s Honors Program. Edmonson is working on an idea to use the iPod for study abroad courses.
“For instance, we take students to Europe for three weeks each summer,” he said. “I’m developing a package that would include indigenous music (Spanish, Irish, Celtic, etc.), travel log narratives and academic lecture materials, all designed to enrich the academic experiences of the students.”
Besides rave reviews for the iPods, faculty and students were also complimentary about the iMacs and iBooks used. Both the desktop and laptop models were all AirPort equipped.
“Our campus was among the first to use secure wireless access from Meetinghouse (the first to offer a Mac OS X solution) so we were able to enjoy that aspect of the iBooks and iMacs, as well,” James Wolfgang, GC&SU chief information officer told MacCentral.
In fact, the school is one of the few 100 percent secured wireless campuses in the U.S.
“The iPod Project has been quite extraordinary,” Lowney said. “The devices have helped students engage material outside the classroom in a way that couldn’t have been done before. They’re spending more time thinking about information rather than acquiring information.”
Details on the iPod Project can be found at the
GC&SU iPod Web site.