UIT pilots program for classroom iPad use
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 07:10
University Information Technology (UIT) will distribute 70 iPads to faculty and students this year as part of a pilot program to test their educational uses, according to Sheryl Barnes, assistant director of client services at UIT’s Educational and Scholarly Technology Services (ESTS).
Faculty members seeking to participate in the program submitted applications to ESTS in August. Later this fall, ESTS will choose two to four small classes to receive iPad loans in the spring, Barnes said.
While ESTS prepares for the iPads for Education project, 62 faculty members on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville and Boston campuses can borrow one of the new third-generation iPads for the fall semester. Twenty-seven of the tablets have been lent out to undergraduate professors, Barnes said.
“It’s really great that we have the capacity to do this as an experiment,” Barnes said.
The decision to loan iPads to professors and students is a one-time experiment to determine their instructional value and identify the classes in which iPads would be most useful, she said.
UIT allocated a section of its budget this year toward the purchase of the iPads, as well as light-blue protective cases and a Tufts University Police Department tracking tag for each device— an allowance they do not plan to set aside in the future, Barnes said.
“There’s no particular expectation that we’d scale up to cover more faculty or more students [in the future],” she said.
Although the iPads may also be used for personal purposes, professors and students must purchase extra applications for the devices on their own, Barnes added.
UIT plans to host monthly sessions this semester to teach faculty members how to use iPads in the classroom. Twenty faculty members who own iPads have already joined the program, she said.
The first session, entitled “TeachSmart: iPad Tips & Tricks for Teaching & Learning,” took place on the Medford/Somerville and Boston campuses last month.
“I’m not quite sure yet how this can be useful in my teaching, so I [was] really looking for some guidance on that,” Associate Professor of Psychology Heather Urry, one of the iPad recipients, said.
Following completion of the trial in the spring, UIT plans to survey involved faculty members and publish an article on the results of the experiment to aid other higher education institutions, Barnes said.
“There’s a great enthusiasm and a lot of unknowns,” UIT Senior Educational Technology Specialist Haejung Chung said.
Chung said she launched an iPad Exploration Project at Loyola Marymount University before joining the Tufts UIT staff last November.
Having someone in the office with experience incorporating iPads into university education motivated the ESTS team to launch the iPads for Education program, according to Barnes.
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Timothy Atherton expressed excitement about the iPads for Education program because of its potential to help organize scientific literature and improve remote communication with students.
Atherton applied for iPads for his graduate electrodynamics class, which consists of five to six students, he said. He hopes that the iPads will help him identify problems in a struggling student’s homework from outside the office.
“It’s not obvious the best way to use these things, but they clearly have a lot of advantages,” Atherton said.
ESTS will work with the selected courses to ensure that the technology is enhancing students’ educational experiences, Barnes said.