iPad as a learning device? Oklahoma colleges embrace the iPad

iPad learning is something Oklahoma colleges think is a winner. Many Oklahoma colleges are embracing the iPad.

iPads aren't just for entertainment (like watching the latest Iron Maiden video, for example). Colleges in Oklahoma believe iPads are also good learning tools.

Oklahoma colleges are embracing the iPad in the hope that the new device will offer flexibility and functionality while also providing relief for students' spines and wallets.

Classes throughout the state will be using iPads in various pilot programs, and Oklahoma Christian University is offering them to all incoming students.

At the University of Oklahoma, students are snapping up the gadgets, and professors and regents are using them for research.

Students can store electronic textbooks on the iPad, as well as take notes during class, watch lectures or presentations and check on grades and assignments.

Instead of information being in hefty texts and numerous notebooks, it will be a finger-tap away on the 11/2 pound device that is about 10 inches tall, 8 inches wide and a half-inch thick.

The learning curve isn't likely to be very steep for the texting high school graduates who are used to spending time online and on a computing device.

Bill Handy, visiting assistant professor at Oklahoma State University, is leading a pilot project that will give iPads to about 120 business and communications students. He is spending the summer recording all of his lectures, so students can watch them any time and come to class ready to take advantage of the time they have with the instructor and other students.

"If they're ready to listen to a lecture at 10 o'clock at night, they can do so," he said. "And they can do it in an environment where they're ready to learn."

Handy tried the technique once last semester, and every student watched the video. Most came back asking him to do that more often, adding that their friends thought the idea was great, too.

The textbooks chosen for the courses will be available on the iPad, and most will cost about $100 less than the traditional version. Users can perform searches within the text, highlight portions, take notes and jump to any chapter immediately, Handy said.

He's had his iPad for a couple of months and has gotten used to it quickly. He had no problems typing a six-page memo on the virtual keyboard, and he has found reading on the device to be a delight, he said.

"What it does is it allows a lot more mobility and a lot more functionality," he said.

And if students find as Handy has that they don't print nearly as much as they used to, the university could save a substantial amount of money on paper and ink.

At Tulsa Community College, Gornie Williams is looking forward to the same benefits. As associate dean of business and information technology, he is leading a pilot project that will put iPads in the classrooms for about 20 students in project management.

Using the technology in the classroom will prepare them for the business world, when an e-mail or text message could change the parameters of a project immediately and immensely, Williams said.

"I tell my students, how many times have you gone to work and your boss says, 'OK, clean off your desk and get out a clean sheet of paper.' It doesn't happen," he said.

The learning resource centers at two TCC campuses will have iPads available for loan, and employees said they are already giving demonstrations daily on how to use them for research.

"We really want to engage all the senses," Williams said. "We want to appeal to audible learners and kinetic learners. We can't pick out students. They pick us."

The University of Oklahoma's IT Store has sold about 350 iPads since they went on sale in April, and store employees guess that that number will double before fall classes start, officials said.

The colleges will closely evaluate their pilot programs. Student and faculty reaction will help determine how iPads continue to be used in the classroom.

Handy said keeping up with technology and using platforms students know best will be important in the coming years.

"I don't know that the iPad is the future of education," he said, "but I do think the future of education lies in technology."


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