As an Apple fanboy — man I hate labels (or is that a tag) — I was interested in the release of the new iPods last week. It seems strange to me that the new stuff hasn’t made waves with people like some of the other iPod updates in the past … especially given that at least one of these new devices has stepped into all new territory as it relates to features and usability. Lots of people got jacked up when Apple released the iPhone and were crying that the iPod didn’t do the things the iPhone did — full screen, wifi, touch controls, and more. Well, with the release of the Touch, it is all there. I think it represents a change that in the next 12-24 months will signify a radical change in the whole portable space for teaching and learning.
I was hanging out in my office for the 30 minutes I had there today and one of my students (who happens to work in ETS now) stopped in to tell me he had purchased a new Touch. I asked him if he thought it would be big on campus. He immediately told me that most students wouldn’t get it … I can see that, today. He went on to tell me until it could connect to universal wireless and posses massive storage it wouldn’t be a hot device on campus. I begged to differ — now keep in mind that I value his opinion and I certainly feel like he has the pulse of the student population much more within his reach, but there are some factors at play here that may make this device something to prepare for.
First of all the Touch is expensive, but not all that more than other devices that let you get online to work your FaceBook profile, check your email, respond to questions in ANGEL, browse ESPN, and just about everything else you can do in a browser — did I mention it fits in a pocket? See we know some stuff about our students … they do very specific things with technology. Here is a brief summary of what we know … somewhere around 80% of them own laptops and nearly all of them have wireless access … we also know that under 20% actually carry them to campus and the number one reason they tell us they don’t is because they report they are too big! Sure the VPN on our campus is not yet compatible with the Apple offering of the iPhone, but honestly how long can that last? With the price drop on the iPhone we will see all sorts of new touch sensitive devices show up this year (even before the Holiday season) in the hands of faculty, staff, and students. That in and of itself could provide a tipping point. What will happen over the next 12 months will change the game — the iPod Touch v1 will give way to a faster more powerful V2 device with a lot more storage, better VPN, and more tools than ever to access all the stuff they do. Did I mention that close to 85% of our students are on the FB and that 25% of them spend more than 5 hours a week there? Having access to all that in the palm of their hands will drive change.
We’ve been thinking and looking at the role mobility plays in education for quite some time now … I was the PI on an HP grant several years ago (maybe 5) that asked us to look at this exact topic. The tools were lame then and didn’t allow us to do the things we envisioned — they aren’t now. Couple that with the close to 250 sections of courses with an iTunes U space and it is easy to see that the time is right for a portable access device to an ever-increasing sea of digital academic content. I am going to argue that the iPod Touch will be the first mobile device that will actually make it to classrooms and live with students like only their iPods and cell phones do now … wait a second, they already carry this stuff. Jeez, I wonder how many of them own iPods now? Let’s call it about 50% of the PSU student population (and the number of MP3 ownership is at about 87%) … I wonder if they’ll refresh and buy new ones? I wonder if the new students showing up will come with them (did I mention our freshman own MP3 players at a higher percentage than our seniors)? But they don’t own cell phones do they? Yeah, 93% of them do … again, imagine if the devices they carry let them hit the network to do the things they stop into our labs for. Another little insight — most of them spend less than 10 minutes on our machines … know what they do? Yep check email, update profiles on FB, and check ANGEL. What the hell did Bob Dylan sing?
I wonder if the WIFI enabled iPods will change the way students do stuff? I’ll let someone else answer that. Thoughts?