iPods transform small rural college

At Georgia College & State University, faculty innovate ways to supplement classroom learning with video downloads, museum podcasts, and more.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

When Jim Wolfson, CIO at Georgia College & State University in rural Milledgeville, Ga., started noticing iPods around campus in 2002, he and school president Dorothy Leland resolved to find educational applications for the little white boxes. They took proposals from faculty for how to use iPods and farmed out 50 iPods that first year. Today, there are some 400 college-owned iPods in circulation and 40 to 50 iPod-based education initiatives at the school. AP's Greg Bluestein reports that the school has also created iVillage, a virtual community for incoming freshmen and iDreamers, a team of staff and faculty to keep innovating uses for iPod.

Among GCSU's innovative teachers are history professor Deborah Vess, who has students download and view 39 films to video iPods so classtime isn't wasted screening the films; and Hank Edmondson, who podcasts supplementary material to his lectures.  

During a recent visit to the Prado in Madrid, he recorded a 20-minute lecture on the museum's artwork. Downloading it in advance will let students spend their time at the museum exploring, not listening to Edmondson talk.

"You want to pack everything in, but you've got a lot of travel time," he said.

Vess said having her history students screen films on their iPods allows her to dedicate class time to discussion and analysis. Ditto for the weekly graduate course on historical methods that she teaches.

"Now I can devote my whole three hours to Socratic dialogue," she said with a grin.

And while other schools' idea of innovation is to capture lectures in audio or video for playback later - which potentially weakens in-class attention and attendance (why pay attention when you can always watch it later?) - GCSU exclusively supplements classtime.

"We don't have any project that repeats what's going on in the classroom," Wolfgang said. "All this is value-added."

He said the school's iPod ingenuity is helping promote GCSU's decade-old effort to remake itself as Georgia's only public liberal arts college. Long a school that attracted a regional crowd of students who often left for other schools after a year, Wolfgang believes the focus on iPods is helping retain more students.



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