You can tell that we’re in a period of potential technology confusion. Over the weekend I read three articles which went in different directions.
First I read "Australia: Day of the iPad arrives" in University World News, and saw that it was (yet another) article about the University of Adelaide handing out iPads to 700 of their first year science students.
And then I read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education which carried a story heading in the opposite direction, "iPads could hinder teaching, professors say", which starts with the views of Chatham University:
"When Paul Steinhaus, chief information officer at Chatham University, met with his colleagues last summer to discus getting iPads for incoming students, they knew the move could raise the profile of the small institution in Pittsburgh. Across the country, institutions had grabbed headlines for adopting Apple’s tablet computing device.
But Mr. Steinhaus and other administrators soon realized that the iPad, with the slow finger-typing it requires, actually makes written course work more difficult, and that the devices wouldn’t run all of the university’s applications. ‘I’d hate to charge students and have them only be able to use it for e-mail and Facebook,’ says Mr. Steinhaus. Chatham charges a $700 annual technology fee, which now pays for standard laptops."
Reading the pair of articles together made me wonder if we’re moving into an academic world where a measure of success is about generating PR headlines?
And there also appears to be some confusion in the press about the difference between different devices – for example, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story, "Tablets emerge as new uni tool", which left me confused about the different kinds of tablets (in my world, a tablet has a pen). In the article, which starts with the ‘iPad for students’ stories, it then goes into a lot more detail about the way that Australian universities are using Tablet PCs to enhance teaching and learning. It includes this story from Monash University in Melbourne:
"At Monash University, associate director of e-learning Nathan Bailey says the screen-sensitive tablet PCs are preferred to iPads by staff in their lectures. The university now has 1000 of them on loan to staff and, if they wish, to students.
‘For students to learn from other students and for the teacher to intervene if the students aren’t learning effectively, you need devices that allow the lecturer and students to interact, to ask questions and respond to questions, to get a lot more discussion happening rather than the lecturer standing out the front talking,’ Mr Bailey says."
By the end of reading these, what I’d concluded was that there are some high profile stories of different device pilots going on (which also happened at the time of the first ebook readers), and that the story to read is the one that’s written at the end of the pilots – once the technology has been in use – rather than the ones which announce what is going to happen. And perhaps the outcomes will be the ones that help reduce the confusion.
NB: I’m a Tablet PC fan, and have been for the last decade. And I’m writing this on my Lenovo X61 Tablet