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iPad reinventing classrooms


The iPad is reinventing classrooms and schools. Now, it's Jacksonville State University's turn for an upgrade.

"We unrolled our red balloon initiative three falls ago," says Dr. Rebecca Turner, the Provost and Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs.

"[It's] an initiative to transform an undergraduate education and make JSU a more learning centered campus," says Turner. "We decided to let one of our strategies be to improve technology for instructional purposes...My role is getting technology into the hands of the students and faculty."

The option for students to purchase electronic versions of textbooks is not only convenient, but also frugal. The use of iPads at JSU is not only to lower expenses, but to transform students' and faculty's attitudes towards the learning process.

"It opens up the world in the classroom," says Dr. Turner. "We just believe that the iPad is a great learning tool and we wanted our faculty to take a look at using them...some have really taken this to a whole new level. They've redesigned their classroom spaces, they're trying to create a more collaborative learning process...making learning a more interactive, relevant, collaborative process."

"There are going to be 110 [faculty] with new iPads," Turner says, adding that most of the professors utilizing the iPads are with the College of Arts and Sciences, but professors in education, nursing, and business have been involved in the transformation as well.

Training sessions on how to use the iPads and some of their useful features and apps that can be incorporated into the classrooms  have been held for each department. Professor Richard Watkins of the biology department just recently held such a training session that, according to Blair, was full of "eye-opening opportunities to use the iPads."

"In my class, I use an app called iMolView to show the structure of protein and rotate it to illustrate different regions on it...Next week, I'm going to begin to use the iPad to give quizzes in class, where students will use their computer or phones to take quizzes off of my iPad using an app called eClicker," Watkins explains.

In the Biology department, Dr. Benjie Blair says he can use the iPads to "record videos and show them almost immediately to demonstrate laboratory concepts in the classroom."

Blair says, "The iPads allow much more freedom in the classroom; instructors are not tied to the front of the room anymore. We can walk among the students, put them into groups, and provide quizzes on the internet that in turn provide us with immediate feedback as to the understanding of the students...Students can look up answers to questions faster than we can find them in an index!"

According to Dr. Turner, several instructors' responses to the iPads are similar to Blair's. "I think that faculty have embraced it and are using the technology, and that's what I had hoped to accomplish. What I have seen evidenced is that there are quite a few examples out there of faculty who have taken to it quickly, others more slowly, but they're all getting training. They're doing it by department. It's just a quick learning curve for them...but I think it's exciting, and I think that faculty and students think it's exciting."

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