J-school requires iPhone

Why would the University of Missouri’s well-regarded journalism school make an iPhone or iPod Touch a requirement for all incoming students? My first guess was that Mizzou was making a new commitment to multimedia journalism and requiring an iPhone so students could learn to gather and post online news on the fly. But no.

According to the Columbia Missourian, the school has an entirely different motive: 

Brian Brooks, associate dean of the Journalism School, said the idea is to turn the music player into a learning device. “Lectures are the worst possible learning format,” Brooks said. “There’s been some research done that shows if a student can hear that lecture a second time, they retain three times as much of that lecture.”

Mizzou is going to record lectures and make them available free via iTunes  U. But students don’t need an iPod or any other Apple device to view them, so it seems the new requirement is basically bogus. And besides, the idea that students will use a smart phone or music player to review lectures has already been tried, with decidedly mixed results.

Five years ago, Duke University gave iPods free to all of its incoming freshmen to “foster innovative uses of technology in the classroom,” as Wired magazine reported. A year later, Duke scaled back the program.

Requiring J-school students to buy one specific brand of technology that uses proprietary file formats and is more expensive than many alternatives just doesn’t sound like a winning proposition to me. Requiring them to have a device that can capture audio and video for news gathering purposes would seem to make a lot more sense.