Q: As a teacher that is administering a class set of iPods, do you know of a cable or adapter that will allow me to connect multiple iPods to a single computer at once, or a way to charge multiple iPods at once? I am using iPod Nanos and 5th Gen iPods.
A: Depending upon how many iPods you’re administering and how often you need to do so, there are a couple of possible solutions.
The first and most inexpensive solution is simply to use a USB hub. One computer running iTunes can easily sync content to multiple iPod devices, and these can all be connected at the same time and will appear in iTunes as separate iPod devices. Although synchronization of each device is managed individually, you can use synchronization of selected playlists or smart playlists to standardize the content across multiple iPods, or even simply stay with the default setting to sync ALL iTunes content. Likewise, as long as the USB hub is powered, it will also charge any and all iPods that are connected to it. Due to most USB hubs having limited ports, however, this may be cumbersome if you are managing more than about 8-12 iPods.
For a much more sophisticated solution, you might want to check out Apple’s iPod Learning Lab, which provides a cart that allows up to 40 iPod or iPod nano players to be charged at once, and sync 20 at a time to the same computer. At a retail price of $2,299 for just the cart, this is not an inexpensive solution, but definitely provides more sophisticated options for managing a large class set of iPods. The cart is available by itself, or a custom configuration including iPods and other accessories can be worked out on Apple’s education site at http://education.apple.com/custom_ipod_lab/, which provides an online tool that will even generate a PDF proposal that can be submitted for purchasing purposes.