I just read an announcement about the University of Southern Mississippi was handing out 1,000 slate computers to their "outstanding" students. [Click to read the online article.] The curious thing about the plan was to only share them with "outstanding" students defined as those from the Honors College, McNair Scholars Program, and Southern Style leadership group.
The article states "Tablets are like the Swiss Army Knife to academic excellence. By leveraging this new technology, we are committed to transforming the way students interact, engage and learn in the classrooms," said Homer Coffman, CIO at Southern Miss, in a statement released today. "The iTech department at Southern Miss is continually challenging itself to support emerging technology and find new ways to put information into the students' hands."
With such a great technology, why not the "average" students or targeting those that are facing academic challenges in a class or two? Why not for students who do not have a mobile device, perhaps due to low income? The college I work at provides an iPad for all first-year students enrolled in the College of Education and Human Development. [Click to read the press release.\ Results look promising. We are repeating the distribution this year at no cost to the students. Preliminary from the instructors in more than 30 classes report favorable positive resutls from the students and the faculty members who enhanced their classroom learning enviroinment. It was also good to know that everyone in the classroom had an effective mobile computer and bridged the "digital divide" due to income restrictions and social capital that some students have and others do not.
Congrats to the University of Southern Mississippi for their bold decision to distribute the 1,000 tablet computers. Please consider more inclusion with next year's program to those who are not quite as outstanding as others (yet). Maybe the mobile devices could help propel more students to that category. Outstanding students probably have more social capital than others. Let's see what happens when more resources are provided to those who might need the resource more.
Co-director, Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education
Associate Professor, History and Higher Education