The Collegian
Sunday, March 07, 2021

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University tests iPads, 5 students do a trial run

Senior Nathanial Asbeil is one of five students who was given an iPad by staff at the Boatwright Memorial Library to test its use in an academic setting. Skeptical at first, Asbeil said the iPad had turned out to be an asset to his classroom experience, but he would still never use it to write a paper.

"It is great to be able to pull up a PowerPoint in class," he said. "I can see everything I have to in one day through BlackBoard applications and it is just like having a computer, only less heavy."

Intrigued by how iPads could contribute to personal and professional life, Asbeil's teachers and classmates have asked him about the device. The library staff and faculty at Richmond are similarly curious.

Travis Smith, building and interlibrary loan supervisor, said it was vital that the library kept up with the newest technology.

"We are ready and do not want to miss out on what iPads could bring," he said.

Smith called the device a "'we-pad,' not an 'iPad" in reference to its social capabilities. Similar to peoples' reactions to the debut of the computer, there is uncertainty regarding the purpose of the iPad, what it has to offer and how to use it, he said.

The benefits of the iPad include a reduction of print paper dependency, educational applications, readily available books and a lightweight alternative to a backpack, Smith said.

"It could be a perfect companion for students, but I don't know when people will be ready to make the switch to digital," he said.

According to Apple.com, iPad sales topped two million in less than 60 days after its launch on April 3, 2010. iPad prices range from $500 to $700.

While Apple products are often seen on campus, there are equal amounts of Mac and PC users, said John Hurst, a technical support analyst at user services.

Nicole Maurantonio, a first-year rhetoric and communication studies assistant professor, said her previous students at Northeastern University tended to use the iPad for things that were not class-related.

Despite the distractions, she said, there were instances when she loved to have technology in classroom.

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"When a student raises a question and I don't immediately know the answer, technology is a great way to look it up," she said.

Fred Hagemeister, coordinator for academic technology services, said UR had worked with the distribution of Apple products before, but had not invested in iPads to give to faculty.

Since 2005, the school has acquired 100 iPod classics to distribute to faculty. Faculty submit proposals every semester on why and how a device can be used in the classroom. If selected, technology services will assign instructional technicians to work with the different professors on incorporating technology into teaching and learning.

"Professors come to an institution that has an undergraduate focus so that they can integrate technology into teaching styles, among other reasons," he said. "In liberal arts institutions, there is more academic freedom at any given course level."

According to "Business Insider," Princeton University and other schools have banned the iPad for connectivity issues that threaten the schools' computer systems.

Hurst said Richmond had not had any of these problems, and iPads were being treated as any other wireless device.

Some campuses have more of a predisposition to network identity problems, Hagemeister said.

Asbeil said testing the iPads before the university invested in them was beneficial because students could make an informed decision about whether they thought iPads should be added to the regular circulation of technologies.

"We don't just want to spend a lot of money on iPads without having the demand," Hagemeister said.

Contact reporter Amanda Sullivan at amanda.sullivan@richmond.edu

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