From laptops to iPhones to the standard paper and pencil, there are a variety of note-taking methods, including the addition of iPads. This year, for a group of about 100 first-year students, note taking just got a whole lot easier.
The university is in the early stages of a new initiative to give its students free iPads that they can use for schoolwork and note-taking. While this year it’s exclusive to only a handful of first-years, if all goes well, free iPads will be handed out to all incoming first-year students beginning next fall.
According to Dr. Nate Jackson, assistant professor of philosophy and one of the professors involved in the initiative, the idea was to give all students easy and equal access to resources that can help them succeed in the classroom.
“Over the last year, this idea has been percolating to try and have a device that students could have access to, that would be sort of a one-stop shop for their academic needs and other student sources,” Jackson said.
The initiative was piloted this year to 100 first-year students concentrated in a few cohorts — roughly 50 students total from Jackson’s and Dr. Betsy Pike’s first-year seminars (FYS), who all share the same oral composition class, and 50 others from another collection of first-year seminars who are in another oral composition class.
According to Jackson, one of the key reasons for this is accessibility.
“I think we see more and more technology being incorporated into the classroom,” Jackson said. “This, in addition to being, sort of, possibly equaling the playing field . . . allows us to do interesting things with pedagogy. So we can better incorporate new media, different applications, different modes of communicating, into our classes with the iPad.”
In addition to allowing for a more interactive and tech-focused teaching style, the iPads offer more tools for creating and accessing different types of media outside of the classroom as well.
“[Students] can use it to make magazines and videos and things like that,” Jackson said. “And I think you’re seeing a lot of our textbook companies . . . making use of different applications. Publishers like Cengage will have an app that goes along with textbooks that often instructors can require; it’s easiest to do that on a mobile device like an iPad.”
The participating students seem to find the iPads helpful, and some are already seeing the benefits of the initiative.
“For a majority of the kids, a lot of us have iPhones, so it was perfect because we already have an Apple account, and I have access to my notes on my phone whenever,” Taylor Summerlin, a first-year communications major, said.
Nick Ferda, a first-year psychology major with a philosophy minor, is also finding the initiative helpful.
“The iPads have really given me the opportunity to keep all of my important documents in one location,” Ferda said in an email. “The added user-friendliness allows for effective note-taking and the accessibility of iLearn.”
There are a couple of downsides, however.
In addition to the usual distractions that come with technology, the students have to return the iPads to the university this coming spring at the end of the academic year.