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A Personal Take on iPads in the Classroom

My colleague, Greta Cunningham, asked me for a quote for her recent blog post on iPad's in the classroom, spurred by a recent article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education on iPad's developing role in the classroom. Greta's piece, as well as the article, got me thinking about how well my iPad does and doesn't perform in the classroom.

I'll admit my bias upfront: I love my iPad. It is among the most satisfying and convenient computing experiences I have ever had. Though I'm not a Mac person, the iPad resonates with me. I think that's because it's the piece of technology to which I feel entitled after years of science fiction movies and television. We live in the future.

That said, I expected an easier transition over to the iPad when I sold my laptop to finance it this summer. There is a lot the iPad can and cannot do for me.

Mixed Reviews for iPads in the Classroom

The iPad's place in the classroom is getting mixed reviews from several colleges participating in programs to distribute Apple's handheld, electronic tablet to students this fall.

Students quoted in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article (9/20/10) were generally encouraging and said they liked the iPad for note taking, web surfing and organizing information. The chief information officer at Oregon's George Fox University said some students still prefer using pens and notebooks because the iPad has limited storage space and the device cannot multitask and print.

A history professor at George Fox was quoted as saying it was difficult to "meld iPads into the curriculum because only a small subset of students has the device."

George Fox University has given laptops to incoming students for more than 20 years. This fall students chose between an iPad and a MacBook and 67 students--10 percent of the freshman class--opted for iPads over MacBooks.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports Duke University gave iPads to students in the school's Global Health Institute to experiment with how the device performs in the field. The University of Maryland gave iPads to students in its Digital Cultures and Creativity Living and Learning Program. The University wants students to learn to develop their own applications.

Indiana University formed a 24-member focus group to evaluate iPad-driven teaching strategies. The group of faculty members began meeting in this September and are due to write a preliminary report by January.

It is still too early to accurately gauge the future of iPads in academic institutions. A recent report from Reuters said, "A walk around the typical college campus turns up a few iPads, but still nothing compared to the number of laptop computers that students carry around the quad."

Reuters outlined how the future of e-textbooks could be the key to the iPad's success in the classroom. According to the Reuter's article, "One common complaint of students who buy e-textbooks is that, in class their professors will say 'turn to page 92' and that anyone using an iPad to read that text will have trouble finding the passage because of the lack of page numbers on digital versions of the textbooks."

University of Minnesota graduate student Michael Reis has owned an iPad for four months and says he's very happy with how it performs in the classroom.

"It's great for taking notes. You don't have to find an outlet like you do for a laptop. The iPad has a long battery life. It is also good for reading PDFs so you don't have to keep printing articles. It has some limitations but it is really easy to carry around on campus," Reis said.

PhilPapers: Online research tool for philosophers

PhilPapers: Philosophy Online

PhilPapers is a new directory of philosophy articles and books that can be found online. The site allows users to monitor current research, browse categories or search, and contribute their own research to the site.

The site is an interesting addition to the trend of "flattening" access to scholarship and research. Projects like Google Books are part of that trend, in providing digital access to as many books as possible. Another part of the trend is opening up who can add to the conversations in scholarship. Before the internet, academic conversations ("discourse", if you prefer) occurred at conferences or in peer reviewed journals. Access to the conversations were limited, and adding to the conversation could be very difficult. PhilPapers, and other sites like it, will likely make it easier for scholars to add their voices to the larger conversations in their field.

There are consequences to flattening access to scholarship and research. It may be more difficult to assess the quality of scholarship and research on a site like PhilPapers. It will broaden the research and scholarship available for new scholars to build on, making exercises like literature reviews more difficult. I am generally a proponent of access and abundance of information and I don't believe the consequences are overwhelmingly negative. Like most innovations, the key will be how we respond to them.

Hat tip: Dan Cohen

Zotero: An Open Source, Web 2.0 Citation manager

Zotero | Home

Zotero 2.0 beta was recently released. I was using Zotero 1.0, and while it was handy, it was too difficult for me to manage my citations across the multiple computers I use. 2.0 fixes that problem with a handy sync feature that allows you to sync Zotero to multiple computers/browsers.

Zotero also allows scholars to open their research collections to others, including making them publicly available. I can follow people working in my field and have access to their source materials quickly and easily. I imagine this could enhance conversations and collaborations about ideas and research.

You can annotate your citations in Zotero. When searching common databases like JSTOR, Zotero will save the full text pdf of articles, making the full pdf searchable in the software interface.

Work Sucks! But it doesn't have to...


Exhilarated might be a dramatic way to describe how I felt after reading "Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It" by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, but that's how I felt. It totally shifted my perception of work and how it 'sits' in my life. This ‘short read’ focuses on the work styles of a "Results Oriented Work Environment" or ROWE. The idea was conceived by Ressler and Thompson who were put in charge of figuring out a flex time program at Best Buy Headquarters. ROWE's are what they came up with and it's nothing short of brilliant and...exhilarating!

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