iPad in the classroom: New technology meets old challenges

iPad in classroomA growing number of universities and colleges embrace the iPad as a teaching and learning tool inside and outside the classroom by outfitting every student and faculty member with an iPad. What are the results, and what are the challenges? Won’t students be on facebook instead of following the lecture?

My university doesn’t have an “iPad for everyone” programme (yet?), but I stumbled over a document produced by Seton Hill University today. Seton Hill was one of the first universities to embrace the iPad, so there is something to learn from their past experience. This brochure describes how the iPad transformed learning at SHU.

What I found interesting going through this document was that it is not enough just to throw an iPad into every students’ starter kit. In order to fully take advantage of the iPad for teaching and learning, it is important to rethink the infrastructure, curriculum, and training for students and professors alike.


The textbook revolution continues

One aspect of college education that is going to be radically reshaped by the iPad are textbooks. I have covered this topic before when writing about Apple’s iBooks and iBooks Author and about inkling’s ambitions to transform the textbook industry. Seton Hill University was part of a pilot programme for the inkling textbook app, and the following quote (p. 14) underlines the potential of digital textbooks:

“I can, on the Inkling text, leave notes for the students… and they can refer to that,” said Cathy Giunta, Ph.D., professor of business. “I am surprised by how much, in a short period of time, the iPad has changed how I teach.”

Oh and by the way, the etextbook revolution continues, as inkling expands its reach through distribution partnerships.


iPads expand the classroom

It is great that learning becomes more social, and this trend does not have to stop with textbooks or the classroom door. On page 18 of the above cited brochure, you can read about Seton Hill’s new mobile learning portal that allows for more collaboration and interaction among students, as well as between students and professors:

“Probably the most important feature Seton Hill will offer its students in the 2011-2012 academic year is a new mobile learning portal. This resource will look and function like a social networking site that is dedicated to members of the Seton Hill community. Designed to be used as part of any academic course, in addition to serving as an online community for the university, this portal will be used by students to interact with professors and peers in real time, take quizzes, participate in discussion groups, find out what’s going on around campus – even earn “badges” for taking part in specific activities.”

Oh oh, social network, isn’t that a time waster? Won’t students spend all their time on facebook? Are iPads (or laptops) not a distraction in class? Not in the eyes of Mary Ann Gawelek, Provost and Dean at SHU (p. 20):

“…the time of the solo practitioner in the closed-door classroom has ended. Mobile technology is an extension of the self, not an intrusion, and as such, it dismisses the boundaries of learning time and space.”

Well put! In my opinion, “closed laptop” and “turned around iPad” policies are about the equivalent of not allowing students to use pen and paper, because they could draw doodles instead of listening to the lecture.

So lets get over these fears of mobile technology in classrooms, and let us instead think how it can be used for engaging students and facilitating (social) learning.

To start, here is a massive list of 100 Tech Tools for Teachers and Students. Although many of these are targeted to kindergarden or K12 schools, some of them are also suitable for Higher Ed. So go and have a look to see if something speaks to you.

And if you are hungry for videos, you can check out this video about how the iPad can be used for writing. Good to see at 1:30 that Professor Laura Sloan Patterson uses popplet for conceptualizing ideas, the first app I ever reviewed on academiPad!

Is your university supplying students and faculty with iPads or other mobile tech? What are your experiences of using the iPad in the classroom? Please share your stories below.

Disclaimer: All images by Seton Hill University.

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  1. Chris says:

    Jo, I ran across your blog and really appreciate all the insights. I’m part of a small program in the b-school at Baylor working to explore ways to fruitfully integrate the iPad into my teaching in the next year. So, I’ll definitely be following your posts. Also, saw that you are a CCT researcher. Hope to see you around at the conference next week.


    • Jo says:

      Hey Chris, cool, another CCT researcher. I am already in Germany right now and will jump over the English Channel on Thursday. Looking forward to see you around in Oxford, lets chat there!


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