Monday, May 02, 2005

iPods and Libraries

Today, I received in the mail the iPod mini that I had ordered as a graduation present for myself. There has been a lot of chat in library land about how iPods (or any portable music device more generally) can be integrated into library services and education more generally.

Perhaps the two most well known iPod experiments in libraries and in higher education are:

1) Duke University last fall give all of its 1,650 incoming first-year students iPods. Duke is currently evaluating its iPod program, but not everyone there is convinced of their value as a teaching and learning tool. According to an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Last month editors of Duke's student newspaper, The Chronicle, urged campus officials to discontinue the iPod program, arguing that the university had not proved that iPods were legitimate classroom tools, and that Duke officials should look for more flexible devices if they want to encourage professors to teach with technology."

2) According to an article in Library Journal, "South Huntington Library, NY, became one of the first public libraries to circulate iPods, specifically the iPod Shuffle. ... Assistant Director Joseph Latini reports that the library purchased ten devices, six 1GB iPod shuffles ($149 each), the equivalent of a 16-hour audiobook, and four 512MB devices ($99 each), with eight-hour capacities. Titles come from the Apple iTunes site via"

For South Huntington, the experiment has been a learning experience: "'Because it's so new we had to figure out how to catalog the audiobook on the Shuffle, get it into the public catalog, and allow people to place reserves,' [Director Ken] Weil says. 'There was no bib record to attach to iPods. We had to learn as we went along.' Getting them into the public catalog is important since 'that's how the public finds out what we have.'"

Besides serving as players for audiobooks, how might iPods and other such devices be used in the library? The Library Journal article mentions a couple of possibilities. First, they can be used for audio materials on reserves. Two, they can be used to provide instruction:
The Duke Divinity School Library, Durham, NC, has launched a project that puts audio instructions for using two electronic tools (Bibleworks and the ATLA Religions Database) and for navigating the print exegesis tools (Bible analysis and interpretation) in the Reference Room. "Since the librarians only work eight to five, Monday through Friday, and the library is open additional hours, we decided to record some instructions,"said Andrew Keck, Duke's electronic services librarian. Librarians like the iPod feature that alters playback speed (when saved in audiobook format), so that time-starved students can listen to a lecture at a faster rate. "Conversely, our students who work with English as a second language can slow things down," says Keck.

The Chronicle article ("Seriously, iPods Are Educational," March 18, 2005) offers other instructional possibilities. Some professors have gotten very creative indeed in using them as teaching and learning tools. For further examples, check out Duke's iPod First-Year Experience page for links to academic and course iPod projects.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

When I first read about the Duke ipod giveaway my first reaction was "oh, puh-leez!" It seems all backward when pedagogy follows technology. Hey guys, here's a cool new gizmo. Let's see how we can adapt our teaching to use it. Instead of "what would help our students learn?" And using technology as a kind of TiVo for lectures is a terrible idea, imo. Why bother going to college if all you're going to do is passively absorb information and regurgitate it? Yeah, you can get a degree, but there are much more interesting ways to do it.

I'm also not convinced that Students Today are visual learners (from all that Sesame Street and video games) so let's teach more like ... Sesame Street and video games. First, Students Today are indivduals who have a variety of different ways of learning, and no one student wants to do one thing all the time. Second, it's important to learn how to grasp complex ideas and that means spending time with texts (whether verbal or visual) and Students Today are more than capable of doing that. They're being sold short when people say they can't handle any message longer than a commercial.

Okay, one last thought: when the first e-book readers came out they were designed for a monopolistic machine-content media meld. And libraries were not only an afterthought, they were somewhat suspect. I mean, "free"? Isn't that a bad thing? Libraries check out DVDs and videos but don't have to purchase the equipment to run them, too. So any time a library is in a position that they have to providing the gadget (not cheap) in order to provide the audiobook or the music I'm somewhat peeved. Full disclosure: I know NOTHING about ipods. Other than what I've seen in the ads. They make you dance a lot.

The Old Curmudgeon
aka Barbara