College Students Still Testing The IPad Waters

September 21, 2010

Group of college students using an iPadA few weeks ago a slew of optimistic college campuses gave away Apple iPads to determine just how effective the tool would be in a classroom setting. As NPR pointed out, many saw the iPad as a "game changer"--the device was expected to enhance students' classroom experiences and e-textbooks are also cheaper and much easier to carry around campus.

However, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, responses to the iPad in academe, so far, have been mixed. Many students who opted for an iPad over a MacBook have not been "pushing the capabilities" of the device, said Greg Smith, chief information officer at George Fox. Although many students were excited to try the device, its limitations have held some back from fully endorsing it for academic use. Smith pointed out that the problem is that the iPad is "not an independent device". He stated that its inability to multitask and print as well as its limited storage space have been issues for the 67 freshmen students that opted for the tablet.

Indeed, students told NPR they were hesitant to buy their own iPad. Rebecca Traber said, "While I like reading on it better than reading on a laptop, in terms of creating anything--like writing papers or even e-mails--it's ridiculously hard." Michael Crane said he uses the iPad to read articles for all his classes and appreciated its instant boot time, but is still not sold: "It doesn't solve enough problems for how much it costs."

Reuters reported that a walk around any typical college campus would prove that laptops are still the preferred device among students. One common complaint of students is that it is difficult to find a specific passage during classroom discussions because of the lack of page numbers on iPad e-textbooks.

Sean Devine, CEO of the e-textbooks provider CourseSmart, told NPR that it is difficult to address students' needs because they are using various platforms--some have an iPad, others a laptop and the rest a traditional textbook. "We believe that students will be sitting side by side in a classroom and not all of them will have iPads. Some of them may have the print book just as they have had for years. And they need to see the same thing--they need to be literally on the same page," he explained.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Caitlin Corning, a history professor at George Fox, agreed that it has been difficult to use the iPad. While the tablet was an ideal portable teaching tool during a student art trip to Europe this summer, Corning said she has had less success incorporating it into her classroom back in Oregon. "It's still a work in progress. It's a little difficult because only some of the freshmen have iPads," she said.

Matthew Kirschenbaum, program director for the Digital Cultures and Creativity program and an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland at College Park, said, "I think [students are] taking a sort of wait-and-see approach."

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Classroom iPad Programs Get Mixed Response," chronicle.com, September 20, 2010, Travis Kaya

"Looking to supersize the tablet on college campuses," blogs.reuters.com, September 15, 2010

"The E-Textbook Experiment Turns A Page," NPR.org, September 17, 2010, Lynn Neary

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