A few things come to mind when I think back to my final Duke visit and admissions tour before making my decision to matriculate only 17 months ago. I remember the sweltering heat and its uncomfortable accompaniment, the sweat; I remember the fraternity chanting in deep voices on the main quad; and I remember passing a basketball player and thinking that he was a legend in the making. However, one of the most striking things about the tour was a fleeting reference that the "Admissions Ambassador" made to iPods in the classroom. While my high school may have been technologically inclined, iPods were banned during school hours and if one was seen it would be confiscated. Yet, here at Duke, there were iPods used in classrooms...for class?!
Many of you know the story and know how Duke's iPod project has been quietly slipping away; frankly, it was around before my time, and you probably are more familiar with it than I am. However, what you may not know is about Duke's newest next-gen Apple project: DukeMobile.
Created as a free app for the iPhone, DukeMobile is one of Duke's newest ways to use students' favorite gadgets as an interface for information. While it isn't used for classes, DukeMobile brings campus maps, course catalogs, University news, athletic schedules and rosters, student group calendars, and so much more to my fingertips in an instant. Interestingly enough, you don't even need to be a Duke student to use it; embarassingly enough, my mom uses it to ask me about basketball games and to suggest that I attend certain events. My mom--always looking out for me.
While the original app was designed and produced by Duke staff working with technology consulting groups in March of this year, the second version (which was launched only a week ago) includes new apps that were designed by students. Michael Ansel, a junior, is a friend and former classmate of mine--he also was privileged enough to get into Cathy Davidson's "Your Brain on the Internet"--is now also known as the cretor of "Places" in DukeMobile. "Places," a new feature which was designed by Michael himself, integrates dining hours, GPS coordinates, and the time of day into a program that will tell me where the nearest food can be found. While Terribly Clever Design and Duke's Office of Information Technology supported Michael in this venture, it is fascinating to see how he was able to further his own education in Electrical/Computer Engineering while adding to campus life.
Many of my friends at other schools complain about being forced to learn new technologies and new systems that their school chooses to emphasize; I applaud Duke (and the students like Michael) for continuing to try to adapt all facets of campus life to the gizmos that many of us already carry in our pockets. And from a personal, slightly pitiable experience, it is a relief to know that when hunger strikes me somewhere between East and West Campus at around 2:34 in the morning, there's an app for that.