iPad initiative commences
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 13:02
The First Year Experience iPad Initiative officially kicked off Tuesday with a faculty luncheon formally announcing the initiative at ASU.
The iPad Initiative will incorporate the Apple tablets directly into the Making Connections curriculum as a piece of the course material. This will allow students the opportunity to learn and make use of technology not only for their education, but also the opportunity to become engaged and involved in and out of the classroom.
Designers of the program hope that incorporating the tablets into the classroom will be a new way to engage students in learning, through technology they may already be using.
“We know that they’re bringing these things to the classroom.” Jill Simons, dean of the university college, said. “But now, if they’re bringing it, why don’t we use it? Why not bring it into the classroom and have fun with it?”
In class, the tablets will be used for any applicable function ranging from note taking and online textbook access to collaborative projects and video chatting with students from other universities.
Possible apps used will include iMovie, GarageBand, iPhoto, Pages, Numbers and Keynote, according to Gina Hogue, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and research. “These apps allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of their research and create multimedia presentations,” Hogue said. “I’ve seen firsthand that students spend far more time and energy preparing these types of presentations for their peers to see than any essay I might grade.”
The increased opportunities for classroom application appeal to many instructors, including Alyson Gill of the art department. “The place that I teach, it looks like it has four walls, but it really doesn’t. My classroom has no walls, and that’s the world we live in today,” Gill said. “The iPad, this tool, helps me dissolve the walls.”
One educational aspect of the Apple tablet is its ability to allow instructors to create their own digital textbooks, or iBooks. These iBooks can take the visual form of a traditional textbook, while including hyperlinks, videos and step-by-step interactive instructions. The iBook offers tremendous potential to create things,” Gill said. “There’s really no limit to what we can put in these books.”
However, the devices themselves do have some limitations, Lynita Cooksey, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs recognizes. “There’s not a simple recipe that says, ‘add iPads and stir.’ It doesn’t work that way, it does take effort on behalf of everyone.” Cooksey said.
“The iPad is simply a tool. Not a magical shiny object that will automatically or innovatively transform education at Arkansas State University or any other university,” Cooksey said. “The power of this tool lies in the hands of the students and instructors.”
Proponents of the initiative also recognize not all faculty may be comfortable working with the new technology, and said the university will be scheduling training sessions for faculty incorporating the iPad into their curriculum. “We may learn from our students in this process, and that’s fine, because that is part of the learning process,” Cooksey said.
Although many students are already bringing iPads with them as they enter college, the question still stands on how to ensure all students have the opportunity to access the often costly or out-of-budget technology.
Simons said while many students may already own iPads, a lease program is being designed to allow students without the tablets the same chance to benefit from the technology. “What we’re hoping is that students will have the opportunity to rent or lease (the iPad), and when they’re done leasing it, possibly buy it out,” Simons said. “That’s one of the pieces we are still working on. Our desire is to make it accessible to all students.”
Julie Isaacson, chair of the faculty senate, said, “I think it would be attractive to a student to know that if they didn’t have (an iPad) they could get one, and at a very reasonable cost.”
The lease program would function through the campus IT store. Leasing would allow students to pay a per-semester fee for the use of a tablet, a much more affordable option for some students than having to purchase the technology. Financial aid coverage is still being discussed, according to Simons. Once financial aid coverage has been settled, other questions students may have regarding leasing will be discussed as well.
“I can see a lot of parents panicking when they find out their child needs (an iPad),” Simons said. “But we want to make sure that if a student needs one, we are going to be receptive to helping them find the means to get that technology.”
An increase in classroom technology usage is often beneficial, and sometimes necessary, according to some faculty members. “Our students are looking for the use of technology in classrooms, they’re expecting to attend a university that exceeds their high school experience, and prepares them for the future,” Cooksey said. “They expect to learn in a technology-rich environment. And this is what the iPad Initiative is truly about.”
Simons says that the iPad Initiative will allow instructors to use students’ fascination with technology to enhance their classroom experience, rather than competing with it. “Instead of saying ‘put it away,’ we will be saying ‘take it out,’” Simons said.