In 2003, there was not a single known educational use for the iPod. Apple approached Duke University about giving laptops or multimedia suites to students as part of an Apple Digital Campus initiative. Cathy Davidson recommended that Duke select iPods because students loved them and it would challenge students to think about pedagogical uses of a technology that was already part of their everyday life and create learning applications for the iPod.
The free Duke-branded iPods were initially given to incoming, first-year students. Within a week, other students were complaining that they too paid tuition, so why didn’t they get free iPods? In response, Duke issued a challenge: if any student could dream up an educational use for the iPod and could convince a professor to include the iPod on a syllabus for a course, the professor and students in the course would receive a free iPod. In one semester, Duke gave away more iPods to those in classes where students had devised serious educational uses for them than were given, without strings, to the 1,650 first-year students.