‘Domesticating’ an iPod

‘Domesticating’ an iPod 


From time to time, technologies appear in our horizon, promising great potential to improve the way we teach and learn. Podcasting is one of those technologies that has attracted the attention of not only the technologists, but also teachers and academic managers. Considering that podcasting is a recent technology (although audio in variety of forms and formats for learning has been around with us for ages) it is remarkable that many teachers and students have taken positively to use podcasting for learning.

At a recent meeting on podcasting, I met some academics who were a little bit disappointed that their students tend to listen to podcasts directly from a computer rather than using their iPod, MP3 player or the mobile phone. There may be many reasons why students use a computer rather than a mobile device. But I think not using a device like an iPod (or any MP3 player, mobile phone etc) for academic learning is also to do with how we develop a relationship with these technologies when we bring them into our lives. We need to understand the complex processes involved.

For me, the concept of ‘domestication’ of technologies is a useful way forward. Roger Silverstone and his collaborators developed the concept of ‘domestication’ of technologies (based on the idea of ‘domesticating’ wild animals) as a way of looking at how people develop a particular relationship(s) with technology. Maybe we domesticate our iPods for entertainment – to listen to music, not for formal learning?

Then, we, as teachers and learning technologists, have a role to play here. We need to give a ‘nudge in the right direction’ to help students to ‘domesticate’ their iPods for learning as well. A possible ‘double life’ for the iPod, maybe, one for entertainment, and another for learning?

Palitha Edirisingha (3 March 2009)

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1 Comment

  1. I’d hazard that the reason it doesn’t happen is ‘replayability’.

    Music is load-once, play-many item. A lecture, or in my experience a audio magazine article is load-once, play-once.

    The grief and hassle of uploading a single file for a single listen typically outweighs the benefit – even if it really is as simple as dragging and dropping (I have a Walkman that syncs easily with WMP and it’s still often too much like hard work). The only time I bother with this sort of thing is if I know I am going to have time I can’t usefully use doing something else (visiting the supermarket or commuting/travelling on public transport).

    Sitting at the machine you can make notes and check thing out.

    The one audio learning tool that does make it worthwhile is language, where play-many is a distinct benefit.

    So the challenge is to find ways of making material replay-worthy.


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