The Herald / Arkansas State University / Updated: Monday, January 31, 2011 17:01 / Joshua Scott
President Barack Obama emphasized America's need to become innovative in the application of technology during his State of the Union address last Tuesday. ASU is one of a few universities testing those waters by implementing a new pilot program that provides iPads for students in two classes this semester.
Obama said, "It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor."
Students enrolled in American political thought and intergovernmental relations will get a chance to translate his words into actions. They will be introduced to what political science professor Jason Adams calls "paper-free learning." As part of the initiative, 45 of the tablet devices have been provided by the school for the students to keep in and out of class during the remainder of the semester.
While future developments depend on the success of the program in actually improving the educational experience, and on ASU budgeting, Henry Torres at ITTC talked about assisting more professors in the future with incorporating new technology and ideas in their curriculum.
Other schools, such as Duke University, have been experimenting with their own pilot programs that obtain iPads for educational purposes.
"I see myself using the iPad for e-textbooks as opposed to standard textbooks since the capability is there to annotate notes to myself on the pages without doing any damage to the file," said Kirk Lonidier, a political science major participating in the program. "It is very convenient to have a device that can replace several textbooks. This is my first time using an iPad, but there is little difference in the function of it as opposed to an iPhone or iPod Touch. The only difference is size."
Other students have already begun to put their iPads to use.
"The first day I received the iPad I downloaded, from Google Books and Kindle, four books for Dr. Tusalem's revolutions and foreign policy class and a book for Dr. Adams' class," said Steven Rockwell, another student in the pilot program. "Within the read highlighter tool, a dictionary, set bookmarks, post notes, write in the margins and search the entire book. I can also access my books from my desktop computer, the iPad or my iPhone, so I always have them with me, however, the iPad provides the best reading experience."
"I am both proud and appreciative of ASU for its progressive approach toward higher education," he said.
While there are still many things to figure out during the course of ASU's iPad experiment, Adams sees other ways the iPad will benefit students besides its e-book role.
"One thing I have them using on the iPad is an application called AudioNote, which can record lectures while you take notes, and I'm also going to have them use Keynote for presentations," he said. "We'll plug in the iPads into to the projector and then with an extended VGA cable, the student can have their presentation device with all their notes and everything right in front of them, while the relevant videos and images appear on the screen for the entire class."