Thursday, March 17, 2011

iPads in the Classroom

A mostly negative account of putting iPads into the hands of students and faculty. Unfortunately, I don't think they're actually "integrating" the iPads into teaching and learning. Instead, it seems like they're treating iPads as laptop replacements. Bringing iPads (or any other mobile device) into the classroom requires greater institutional, faculty, staff, and student commitment. Assignments, activities, faculty-student interaction have to all be built around the device. This may require creating new assignments, modifying existing assignments, creating custom applications, and customizing your infrastructure for these devices. An iPad initiative should take advantage of the special capabilities of the devices, but also account for the limitations.

iPads Could Hinder Teaching, Professors Say

When Paul Steinhaus, chief information officer at Chatham University, met with his colleagues last summer to discus getting iPads for incoming students, they knew the move could raise the profile of the small institution in Pittsburgh. Across the country, institutions had grabbed headlines for adopting Apple's tablet computing device.

But Mr. Steinhaus and other administrators soon realized that the iPad, with the slow finger-typing it requires, actually makes written course work more difficult, and that the devices wouldn't run all of the university's applications. "I'd hate to charge students and have them only be able to use it for e-mail and Facebook," says Mr. Steinhaus. Chatham charges a $700 annual technology fee, which now pays for standard laptops.

Still, he adds wistfully, "it would have been nice to get the publicity out of it."

Despite the iPad's popularity—Apple has sold nearly 15 million of them and just came out with the iPad2; and there are dozens of competitors, like the Samsung Galaxy—early studies indicate that these finger-based tablets are passive devices that have limited use in higher education. They are great for viewing media and allow students to share readings. But professors cannot use them to mark up material on the fly and show changes to students in response to their questions, a type of interactivity that has been a major thrust in pedagogy.

Even students have issues. When the University of Notre Dame tested iPads in a management class, students said the finger-based interface on its glassy surface was not good for taking class notes and didn't allow them to mark up readings. For their online final exam, 39 of the 40 students put away their iPads in favor a laptop, because of concerns that the Apple tablet might not save their material.

"When they're working on something important, it kind of freaks them out," says Corey M. Angst, the assistant professor of management who tested the tablets.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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