Duke University made headlines in 2004 when it handed out Apple (AAPL) iPods to every incoming freshman. The Durham (N.C.) school began giving away the popular digital music players to see whether it made sense to record lectures and make digital copies available outside the classroom.
The university still provides iPods to students who need them, but in most cases, first-year students already have one when they arrive, says Julian Lombardi, Duke's assistant vice-president for information technology. "Back then, it was still a little bit of an exotic item," Lombardi says. "Now they receive one as a high school graduation gift." In fact, many get their first iPod long before that.
Now Duke is considering a new tech experiment to aid learning. The school may soon dole out handheld video cameras, such as Pure Digital Technologies' Flip Video, to students in courses where creating video can be used as a teaching tool, Lombardi says. The school already has 100 of the easy-to-use Flips and other video cameras that students and faculty can check out—and they're borrowed regularly, he says.Teaching Video News
Far from banning tech from the classroom as potential distractions, colleges across the country are toying with an array of cutting-edge products and services for entering freshmen, who have grown up immersed in technology and rely on all manner of advanced tools to collaborate and learn.
Like Duke, Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., is also experimenting with video as a learning tool. Last year, communications professor Michael Scully added the $150 Flip camera to the requirements for his course on digital journalism. "When I first showed them the camera and how easy it was to put a video on YouTube, they looked like I had just pulled a rabbit out of my hat," Scully says. By the end of the day, students had produced their first video news story and started posting items on a class YouTube page called The Feed.
A later class project shed light on a controversial new campus smoking policy. "A lot of students watched, and we got a lot of feedback from people who were angry about the policy," says Lorin Richardson, 20, one of Scully's students. "A lot of kids told me later they used that video in discussions in other classes."
Richardson and her peers were in kindergarten when e-mail and the Internet started gaining cultural currency. For most of the time they've been able to type, the Web's trove of information has been a mere Google (GOOG) search away. Friends and family have always been as close as an e-mail, instant message, or a text. Many gave presentations using Microsoft's (MSFT) PowerPoint in high school.Like Eating a Meal
By the time they arrive at college, they've already amassed hundreds of friends on their Facebook and MySpace (NWS) accounts. Some have been blogging for years and even experimenting with Twitter and other microblogging tools. Viewing video online is as normal as watching TV. "This is a generation that has never known anything else," says Kenneth Rogerson, a professor of public policy at Duke who teaches a class on technology and politics. "Technology is so much a part of their conversation and their understanding, and they expect people to understand what they're talking about. It's as much a part of their lives as dinnertime."