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More data on this iPod Touch/iPhone “requirement”

If you followed the Twitterverse yesterday, you probably heard a lot of tweets about the new requirement for Mizzou journalism students to buy an iPhone or an iPod Touch. The original story from the Maneater (sorry, their site is down) accurately said that entering freshmen would be required to have one or the other, and also said that there was a strong likelihood that the iPod Touch would be free with their laptop bundle. However, it was the “students will be required to buy an iPhone” piece that the Twitterverse focused on, with predictable results.

I spent a lot of time yesterday tweeting responses to people, but I finally got disgusted and gave up. For the record, though, here’s some background from Jen Reeves, the chair of our tech committee. She sent this out in a Jour-All e-mail earlier and gave me permission to repost it here:

Hi everyone,
As the chair of the technology committee, I wanted to give you more insight in the new iTouch/iPhone requirement that is on the TigerTech website. It reads:

“New this year, School of Journalism will require students to have an iPod Touch or iPhone for use in the classroom and academics, along with the Apple MacBook computer and required software.”

I want to apologize for not bringing this up to the full faculty because I did not understand the need for this verbage in the TigerTech site.

Let me explain the reasoning. Brian Brooks has worked with Apple and learned there is a 99.9% change students will get a free iTouch with their MacBook purchase. But adding the word “required” will make sure the iTouch expense can be included in financial aid expenditures.

I apologize for not understanding the need for the wording and not talking to the full faculty about it. Your technology committee agreed it was a great idea to use the iTouch/iPhone product as a teaching and learning tool. Coming in the next month, there will be a freshman-focused iTunesU site with content the freshmen will be able to use to learn more about Mizzou and the J-School. That will be a great launching point for future uses of the iTunesU product. It also gives us more reason to start recording audio/video of our classes for the iTunesU site.

Thanks,
Jen Reeves

The added emphasis was mine — to repeat, “adding the word “required” will make sure the iTouch expense can be included in financial aid expenditures.” So not only is the iPod Touch free to students, the expense (if there is any) can be paid for through scholarships or other financial aid that the student has.

Now, aside from the “recorded lectures” thing, there are other ways students could use an iPhone or iPod Touch — for mobile newsgathering, for application development, to read news, etc. And teaching students to use an iPhone for newsgathering doesn’t lock them into that API any more than teaching InDesign means you have to use that for design. But both of those are another post for another time.

So, please, if you’re reading this and were previously outraged, chill out a little. I promise, it’s not our intention to lock anyone to a particular API or piece of software.

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11 Responses

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  1. Amber says

    I think a lot of us have a problem with requiring us to buy a laptop at all! Especially this love affair with Apple that is completely unfounded. There is nothing that my MacBook has aided me in my four years at the J-school that a much cheaper laptop couldn’t have done.

    Also, I like my financial aid to go toward the outrageous out-of-state tuition and textbooks I have to buy. Adding a laptop/iPod/iPhone in there doesn’t change anything. I’ll just have to pay it somewhere else.

    And the iPhone is simply an absurd expense for any student. Also, it’s AT&T only! If a student has a BlackBerry or other smart phone can that not do the same thing? Other MP3 players can also do the same thing.

  2. Rebekah Heil says

    Good post! It makes a lot more sense this way.

  3. Rob says

    Thanks, but all the credit goes to Jen Reeves.

  4. Justin Myers says

    The Maneater’s site’s back up. Here’s the link to that article you mentioned: http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2009/5/4/j-school-requires-ipod-touch-or-iphone/

  5. Steve Cusumano says

    Sounds like a good idea to me, mostly because I don’t see the J-School actually going down the line, student by student, and checking for iPhones/iPod Touches…I read “required” to actually mean “required”. Instead, I see it as “strongly reccomended and we’re making it easier for you to get it.”

    Students could certainly choose to get a different type of smartphone, or go with a blackberry, but they wouldn’t be able to get it through the J-School, nor could they use financial aid to pay for it.

    My big question is, how far does the “required” wording go? By including it, that means students can use financial aid to pay for the actual iPhone device, similar to buying a textbook or lab materials. But can the student also use financial aid to pay for the iPhone service and data plan? Is AT&T accepting financial aid payment? I would argue they should, though since they’re offering an iPod touch (which wouldn’t need a data plan), that might be their way around that issue.

  6. Rob says

    Thanks, Justin. I updated the post to reflect the site being back.

  7. Rob says

    Steve: I think the “required” wording works for books and hardware that are used in class. I’m unsure if it would cover a data plan. My gut feeling says no, but I don’t have actual data on that. I do know that students can pay for hardware (laptops, etc) over the course of four semesters, which lessens the financial impact on any single semester.

  8. Carrie Brown says

    Good clarification, Rob.

    I think it’s an extremely good idea to require laptops and smart phones. At the University of Memphis, we don’t have this requirement, and relatively few of my students have laptops; quite a few don’t even have their own computers of any kind. Yes, we have labs on campus for that, but honestly, for a journalism student, you need to be able to write and report and maybe even more importantly, read news all of the time, not just at the lab, if you want to put yourself ahead. In fact, I’d put a laptop and broadband access second only to food on my hierarchy of needs, and I just graduated from round three of schooling myself so I know what it’s like to be poor. You need to be able to connect, to stay on top of things, to gather and write at all times, and it needs to become second nature to do so. And at a time when most textbooks cost $100 or more (which I’ll agree is really annoying), it’s actually not per se a massive percentage of your expenses.

    Personally, while I don’t believe the journalism school had in any way nefarious motives, I do think it would have been preferable to be less Apple-centric. To the students that are concerned, I might suggest – hee hee – doing some reporting. Don’t make assumptions. Ask questions. :) Price it out and find out what kind of deal you are getting from Apple vs. getting a PC and, say, a Google Android. Find out what kind of cash Apple is making via deals like this, and weigh that against the educational value. I’d sure read your story. After all, this is what you’ve been trained so well to do :)

  9. Stefanie Zimmerman says

    Oy, this is really stressing me out. People are getting hung up on the required iPhone, paying for the data plan, etc.

    Look, here is the thing with journalism these days: if you want to be successful, if you want a chance at a journalism job someday, if you want to find a job once you get laid off from said journalism job — you MUST KNOW this technology. You MUST be familiar with or fluent in things like facebook, twitter, etc. It sounds trivial, but the only reason I’m getting job interviews right now is because I can a) write, edit, design, etc. and b) because I am up to date with the latest technology. Knowing these things and being able to bust out your iPod Touch or iPhone during the interview to show that old fogey interviewing you what Twitter is — it makes a HUGE difference. (it’s how I got my freelance job at a marketing firm!)

    And quit getting hung up on the iPhone data plan with AT&T. You can get the iPod Touch instead (data plan & AT&T free). And half these kids are dying for an iPhone anyway if they don’t already have one, so some will probably jump at the chance to tell their parents they HAVE to have one now. :) (or at least, I would have been!)

  10. Mary says

    I agree with Amber on the fact that, after 4 years in the journalism school, I have never needed my $1,200 Macbook any more than I would have needed a $400 Acer laptop. When I took design classes I needed to use the campus computer labs to access the Adobe Creative Suite software, so all of the fancy design capabilities on my Macbook have never been used.

    To quote http://www.journalism.missouri.edu/undergraduate/computer-requirements.html#ipod:
    “Q. Will this computer suffice for all four years?
    A. It will… ”
    The original iBook I bought freshman year died after 2 1/2 years. In total, I have spent $2,400 on “required” Apple computers that I now feel I did not need.

    “Yes, the device is a music player, but it is much, much more. TigerTech estimates that 90 percent of Missouri students have iPods.”
    But, like 3 of my 7 past roommates, I have never owned an iPod.

    Technology is important, but in 4 years at the J-school I have only used video editing for one assignment and have never done photo or audio work because I am not in the convergence sequence. So why require the toys if we don’t have an opportunity to play?

  11. Rob says

    Mary, I’m coming to this late, but I have a couple thoughts on your point:

    First off, you’re correct that you could have used an Acer (or other inexpensive laptop) to satisfy your minimum course requirements. We’ve always said that the minimum requirement for students is a laptop with wireless capability. Given that our school has about 90 percent Mac workstations, it makes sense to get a Mac, but any laptop with wireless capability is fine.

    A lot of students seem to be swayed by what our campus bookstore tells them, rather than what the actual J-school requirement is. My advice to entering students is to take their cues from the school, not the store. Given the lifecycle of laptops, I tend to tell freshmen with questions to get something very inexpensive for their first couple years, or keep using whatever they have from home. Once they enter the J-school, they may well want to upgrade.

    As to your second point — only using video editing for one assignment — I have to say, that’s on you. Not being in convergence certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to do video or audio editing. At least one multimedia project is a requirement for my reporting students, and those who are serious about the business are finding that it’s very useful to have more than one under their belts. As Stephanie says above, you have to learn the technology. Even at the stodgy old Missourian, we’re teaching people to edit in all media.