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JSU Puts iPad2s Into Students' Hands

02/01/2012


Every year universities across the globe find ways to integrate technology with their teaching methods. New curricula and lesson plans are being created to keep up with the advancing technological breakthroughs to which this generation of college students has become accustomed.

Not only are today’s students taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they must also learn computers, smart phones, and mobile devices such as Apple’s iPad2. Vinson Houston, JSU’s vice president for information technology, commented on the advancing technological age saying, “Information is available everywhere. It is now almost a disservice to the students to just make them sit and take notes. Using technology is a better, more appropriate method of keeping the student engaged by focusing on practical uses of what they are learning.”

In response to the changes, JSU has implemented a new program to bring technology right to the student’s hands. Because of Apple’s investment to the university with time and training, JSU has equipped two classes with iPad2s this semester.

Students in Dr. Nina King’s Creative and Mental Development in Early Childhood Education and Dr. Gordon Harvey’s Ancient History classes have been given their own personal iPad2s to use for the spring semester. Lauren Sutton, a student in Dr. King’s class, explained, “We take tests and notes on them, browse the Internet for subjects in class, and have access to check our emails from the professor all throughout the day.” The iPad2s came equipped with applications on them for the teachers’ use. The students can also access a program in which they can see exactly what the instructor is doing on their iPad2.

The instructors have adapted the structure and curriculum of each course based on the integration of the iPad2. Personnel from the Information Technology and Distance Education departments delivered the iPad2s to the students and gave them a basic training session on the uses of the device.

The spring semester is a pilot run for the iPad2. JSU is looking to observe and learn. At the completion of the term, the students will give feedback on the success of the program and offer suggestions. The students are required to keep video diaries throughout the semester and document the progress of the iPad2’s success. The ultimate goal is to be able to equip students campus-wide with technology like the iPad2 in addition to traditional classwork. Lauren Sutton continued, “The iPad2 definitely helps us to be more interactive in class, and makes it more fun to pay attention.”

Dr. Nina King has already noticed the change, stating that student comprehension during instruction seems to be enhanced and accelerated. Distance Education staff adapted the Smart Board in Dr. King’s classroom as an interactive display for her iPad2. Now, students can watch as she demonstrates exactly how to complete a task on their iPad2s.

“The result is that when I show how to do something, students are not waiting for me to finish my explanation---they are doing it as I tell them, so that many of them have already done the assignment by the time I finish telling or showing them how. I have to get used to that!” Dr. King explains. “In the traditional classroom, where the technology is varied, or maybe where some students do not have that immediate access, I have always had to take time to explain things in greater detail. Now, during class I have to remind myself that the iPad2 group is not going to need that much explanation; it wastes time to ‘over explain.’”

Further, providing students with the technology in hand is putting the classroom on the same level as this generation’s life away from school, Dr. King says. She adds that she must now move fast and be more innovative to keep up with her students, but it’s a challenge that she finds exciting.

Some of the ways she has incorporated technology into her classroom is by giving students more time to explore topics as small groups on their devices, asking each student to keep a video blog of their journey with the iPad2, and even video chatting via Skype with a teacher in Brazil.

To handle the added technology, Houston explained, “As part of the new philosophy, the IT department is expanding the university’s wireless network to convert all academic classrooms, common gathering places, and residence halls. We plan to do a major overhaul and expansion of the wireless network to accommodate the new way of learning.” Houston announced to the JSU Board of Trustees at its Jan. 23 meeting that by the end of this academic year all major buildings on campus will have wi-fi capability.

JSU is currently using a content-based approach to learning in which students go to class, take notes, study, and take the test. However, to keep up with the changing technological times, the university is ultimately headed to a project based approach. By providing students maximum learning opportunities and access to information made readily available through technology such as iPad2s, JSU is taking a significant step toward the completion of that goal.

For more information about JSU’s iPad2 initiative, please email Vinson Houston, JSU VPIT.

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