School of Journalism to require iPod touch or iPhone for students

Thursday, May 7, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 3:19 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 8, 2009

COLUMBIA — Books, paper and pens are considered necessary school supplies. Now, so is an iPod touch or an iPhone for incoming freshmen at the MU School of Journalism.

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.”

Freshmen admitted into the School of Journalism and pre-journalism students will be sent a letter notifying them of the change. Students may buy either an iPod touch or iPhone in order to meet the new requirement. The iPod touch retails around $229 and the iPhone starts at $199, according to Apple’s Web site.  

The requirement will not be enforced, however, and there will not be a penalty for students who chose not to buy an iPod touch or iPhone, Brooks said.

“The reason we put required on it is to help the students on financial need,” Brooks said. “If it’s required, it can be included in your financial need estimate. If we had not required it, they wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Brooks said students have the choice of just using their laptops to review lectures.

Brooks also mentioned the iPod rebate Apple has offered in past years as a way of helping students purchase an iPod touch. The rebate is part of laptop bundles the school offers through TigerTech.

TigerTech salesman Johnny Warnke said the technology store has already received several calls from future journalism students asking about the discount, but that Apple has not announced what the rebate, if any, will be this year. Last year, the company offered a rebate for an 8-gigabyte iPod touch.

“We’re anticipating that they will, but until they make their announcement official, we’re just hoping,” Warnke said.

Elizabeth Eberlin, an MU journalism student, started the Facebook group "Rotten Apple" in response to the new requirement.

“I really like my Apple computer, but I don’t think people should be forced to buy one brand of computer or one brand of anything,” she said. The Facebook group’s description calls into question the School of Journalism’s relationship with Apple, citing a possible conflict of interest.

Brooks said the iPod was chosen as the required media player because students are familiar with it.

“There’s a lot of theory out there that says what you want to do is engage students in realms where they are already comfortable, and we know a lot of students are already familiar with iPods and iTunes so we want to get into that space and take advantage of that,” he said.

This summer, Brooks said, the entire MU campus is installing a program called Tegrity which will allow the recording of lectures. Lectures can later be downloaded to media players through iTunes U which offers free content hosted by universities.

Brooks said MU is following other schools such as Stanford and Abilene Christian University in the use of this technology. The success of the new program will be evaluated at the end of the year, at which time Brooks said the program will be changed or scrapped.

“I anticipate it doing very well because it has proven to be very valuable to other universities,” he said.

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Andy Church May 7, 2009 | 9:31 a.m.

My spouse is a guest lecturer at a community college in Ottawa. She noted one class was required to buy an interactive clicker so the teacher could take student polls in real-time during the class. The students had to for out the $25 dollars for the device...since these clickers had no use after graduating, it was not at all well too received.

At least these devices being selected by the school are mainstream and have utility after leaving post-secondary education. The fact that it is optional is good!

(Report Comment)
Kay Nelson May 7, 2009 | 9:32 a.m.

Advise to the parents of the students attending Mizzou. Remember to purchase some type of insurance to cover electronic equipment that might be left in the student's dorm room. My son was a student at Mizzou, his dorm room was broken into and his Apple Laptop, and his ihome equiment and all other electrontics of his roommates were stolen...The University told me that he should not have left anything of value in the dorm room...These items have never been recovered and he was out a $2,200 laptop. As a Jouralism student that laptop was an important part of the necssary equipment need for not only the Journalism classes but all others also. So just a word of advise.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich May 7, 2009 | 10:02 a.m.

“The reason we put required on it is to help the students on financial need,” Brooks said.

No, Brooks. The reason you require it is to raise Tiger Tech sales.

"The iPod touch retails around $229 and the iPhone starts at $199, according to Apple’s Web site."

Don't forget about the locked, overpriced plan you are forced to get when you purchase an iPhone. ;)

(Report Comment)
Thomas Wolfe May 7, 2009 | 1:37 p.m.

Better tell them to study math and science or get an MBA or law degree. Journalism is dying.

(Report Comment)
Andrew Warren May 7, 2009 | 9:48 p.m.

The iPod Touch truly is a fantastic media tool. (And I'm a PC user.) I get my primary news from it (,, etc.) and seldom watch TV news, turn on the radio or actually read a printed paper anymore (blasphemy! but true enough.) J students need to be familiar with this device, since it heralds the demise of the printed word. By the way, I've been gone from Columbia for 20 years: Is J-School now a 4-year program? (The article mentions "freshmen" in the program.) I went through it during my junior and senior years, "back in the day."

(Report Comment)
Elizabeth Eberlin May 8, 2009 | 12:40 a.m.

Hi, Elizabeth Eberlin here.

Would just like to make it known that when I created the above mentioned Facebook group and commented to the reporter writing this article, I had not been informed of any information to the effect that the "requirement" would not be enforced, or that students really would not be forced to purchase anything. Now that this has come to light, I feel like maybe both my group and my soapbox are unneeded.

My aim in starting the group was only to start a conversation about whether the requirement was fair and whether the J-school's relationship with Apple was ethical from a "Principles of Journalism" perspective. I am not anti-Apple or anti-journalism school and in fact love my MacBook. I also did not intend or really want to become the spokesperson for this issue.

Judging from the comments I have gotten on the Facebook group and the fact that this issue is being talked about by places like PBS and Gawker, I'd say that my aim to get a conversation started worked pretty well. And isn't that what journalism is all about?

(Report Comment)
robert jackson May 8, 2009 | 2:12 p.m.

Sounds like someone at the Missouri J-School has stock in Apple. It's surprising that a J-School would require an IPhone or I-Touch. One would think that the J-School would also include MP3 recorders designed specifically for journalists and recording interviews. I'm a journalist who has just bought (and lost) a ITouch. I love the ITouch but it is very hard to record has a proprietary recording interface which means that almost any mic not made by Apple won't work on a IPhone/ITouch. IPhones/ITouch are great but you can only download audio wirelessly via ITunes. Stand alone professonal journalistic MP3 recorders by Sony, Zoom, Tascam, M-Audio or the consumer grade recorders from Olympus, Panasonic and RCA all record direct to MP3, can be directly download via USB to PCs or Macs without wi-fi. A California company called C. Crane makes a MP3 recorder with an AM/FM radio that can record directly off the radio. All these recorders are equal to or less in price than the IPhone/ITouch. Students in general should be given the choice of what device they should buy to record and listen to audio; journalism students should be encouraged to buy and learn a digital recorder they may use on the job after college.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich May 8, 2009 | 3:17 p.m.

This story is on Gawker now:

"Congress is debating whether journalists should be subsidized. But hey, did anyone know that we're already coddling J-school students by letting them take federal loans for iPhones?

The Missouri University School of Journalism is making an iPod Touch or iPhone required equipment for incoming students. This has students who are PCs up in arms; one student, Elizabeth Eberlin, has started a Facebook group, her generation's ultimate gesture of pointless, passive-aggressive protest, to complain about the move.

But it's okay, say school officials, because "required" actually means "optional." Brian Brooks, an associate dean at the J-school, explained to the Missourian, "If it's required, it can be included in your financial need estimate. If we had not required it, they wouldn't be able to do that." The whole point of the iPhone requirement is to let students listen to recorded lectures, and Brooks admits they only need a laptop to do that.

So basically, this is a scam to let students take out federally subsidized loans to buy iPhones. Presumably they can put AT&T's minimum $69/mo. subscription on credit, too, and pay it off after graduation. We applaud this. Because if there's anything journalism needs, it's students who value gadgetry, theory, and massive student-loan payments over, say, reporting."

(Report Comment)
Derek Bruff May 10, 2009 | 10:48 p.m.

Andy Church (first comment above) has the right idea. I hope that faculty will consider the use of these devices in the classroom, not just outside of the classroom (for lecture review and access to course materials). iPhones and iPod Touches can be used as "super-clickers," allowing students to respond to multiple-choice and free-response questions posed by their instructors. Summaries of these responses can provide useful feedback on student learning and perspectives and can be used to generate further discussion or motivate subsequent lecture material.

Also, Robert Jackson points out that iPhones may not make the best audio-recorders. However, as mentioned in the story above, the Journalism School will be capturing lectures using a system called Tegrity. The idea is that students will use their devices to review those lectures later, a task for which they are well-suited, I think.

(Report Comment)
Janet Rae-Dupree May 11, 2009 | 1:44 a.m.

Best possible device both to take AND review lecture notes is a Livescribe Pulse Smartpen. Starting at $149, it costs a lot less than an iPhone or iPod, and the recording quality is better. Plus, it introduces budding journalists to a piece of equipment that they'll find indispensable in coming years.

(Report Comment)
elizabeth lister May 11, 2009 | 1:37 p.m.

Hey, Elizabeth:
Have they covered fact checking in jschool, yet? Just wondering

(Report Comment)
Paul Soubrause May 11, 2009 | 2:10 p.m.

This is a poor ethics choice by the school. There are many digital recording devices that are more universally compatible, more capable in function and cheaper that should be recommended for students. The bundling of rebates with purchase of computer (probably restricted to Mac) further diminishes the integrity of the school as they are clearly pushing electronics sales at the expense of our underfunded financial aid programs. How many computers is Apple donating/discounting to buy this policy?

While this policy is in place I won't hire or offer internships to MU students/grads nor allocate private scholarship funds to students attending. I would encourage alumni to notify the school that your contributions will be withheld until they rectify this.

(Report Comment)
Kathy Rudd May 11, 2009 | 4:34 p.m.

The letter was sent to admitted freshman around early April. It came as a huge shock to all admitted students I know, especially since many MU freshman are not admitted directly to the J-school program and are still being asked to follow this rule.

I'm interested to see how this will work out; as a freshman next year it is going to be a big help in transitioning to lectures but I can see the cost outweighing the benefits for many of my peers.

(Report Comment)
Silence Dogood May 11, 2009 | 10:41 p.m.

is kick back two words or hyphenated?

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich May 12, 2009 | 2:46 a.m.

"...Now, the University of Missouri is taking my advice and "requiring" journalism students to buy an iPhone or an iPod Touch.

OK, they probably didn't even read my column, and the gadgets aren't actually required (there will be no penalty for non-compliance). And if they did read my column, they're weren't persuaded by my central argument, which is that 1) people will always have Internet-connected mobile gadgets, so making kids memorize facts they can easily get online or from storage isn't realistic; 2) using gadgets to store data so humans can do what they do best, which is to think, improves education; and 3) the skill of finding, storing, referencing and utilizing data via a gadget is now a primary job skill necessary to succeed in the world.

Instead, the University of Missouri's bone-headed reasoning is that including iPhones and iPods as a "requirement" enables students to claim the expense and pad their student financial aid requests. The "lesson" the students are learning is how to lie and cheat in order to get easier access to luxury consumer goods used mainly for passive entertainment.

When I first saw the headline, I thought some educational institution finally got a clue. But no. The massive educational opportunity of iPods will continue to be ignored. Because, according to the university, the problem that needs to be solved isn't preparing students for journalism careers in the real world -- it's that they don't have enough easy entertainment. "

(Report Comment)
Jon Carson May 28, 2009 | 2:12 p.m.

Although the intent is good, I am angered but not surprised by the proprietary nature of the requirement. There are excellent open source devices, formats and methodologies that are not nearly as costly. Consider the G1, based on open source android platform, or perhaps another simple $10 digital music player (if mp3 is the target format)

The "requirement" as it stands, smacks of payola.

(Report Comment)
Andrew Silk May 13, 2010 | 12:45 p.m.

I'm really surprised that Brian Brooks doesn't mention that it is important to put one of the next generation of publishing systems, (iphone/ ipad) into the hands of journalism students is important. If students don't get the future of new media and how it is distributed, then they won't be ready for the real world when they get out of school. It seems to me that the main headline should be about the j-school is getting the next generation of media delivery platform into the hands of soon to be journalists. The ability to listen to lectures a second time to reinforce learning is just a side benefit! As to the people talking about it not being a great recorder, that may be somewhat true, but it certainly is a recorder that is always with them. The camera in the iphone isn't great, but it is on par with the digital cameras used 10 years ago that seemed to work just fine for cutting edge newspapers back in the day. I think it is a great investment in the future, and I hope the J-School keeps pushing the edge!

(Report Comment)

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