The Collegian
Thursday, August 06, 2020

Despite increased availability of iPads for students, professors still wary of use in class

IPads are now available for student use through Boatwright Memorial Library, Parsons Music Library and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), but some teachers still believe iPads can be distracting in their classrooms.

"I don't want people to be checking their email in class while others are talking," said Jessica Flanigan, a leadership studies professor.

Flanigan said that most of the classes that she teaches were discussion-based and it was very important that her students were comfortable in the classroom and supporting one another. "I feel like if there's these screens up then it ruins that feeling of everybody being a participant together," she said.

The Boatwright Memorial Library has iPads available for students to check out for up to two weeks, said Andy Morton, the emerging web technologies librarian.

This service is offered free of charge through the library, unless the iPad is returned late and then the library will charge a fine of $25 a day until it is returned. IPads are not renewable.

Rae Kennedy, the customer service associate at Boatwright Memorial Library, said that the library had approximately 14 iPads available to students. She said that students usually checked out the iPads for personal use before they decided to purchase one.

The CTLT also has iPads available through their mobile device initiative. The initiative allows faculty members to apply each semester to have iPads provided for an entire class of their students.

The program started in 2005, providing iPod classics, but today the iPad is the initiative's most popular device, said Fred Hagemeister, liaison coordinator of the CTLT.

There are approximately 100 iPads available at the CTLT as part of the mobile device initiative and this semester, six classes were approved to be part of the initiative, Hagemeister said.

Beth Crawford, a psychology professor, said that her yearlong Sophomore Scholars in Residence (SSIR) class, Technology, Cognition and Behavior, was using iPads provided by the mobile device initiative.

Crawford said that her students would have the opportunity to use their iPads to make videos to teach local children with mental disabilities.

"There's good research to show that people with autism and other developmental disabilities sometimes can learn quite well from a video skills that they might struggle to learn from somebody that they were interacting with in person," Crawford said.

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With the iPad, her students can create instructional videos to prepare children for visits to the doctors office or teach them a skill such as making lunch, Crawford said.

"The iPad makes it so easy to integrate text, audio and video all in one mobile device," Crawford said.

Crawford's class will also study applications created specifically for children with autism.

"I can have all my students download an app, work with it, study it, then we can come together to discus the psychology of it," Crawford said.

Even though Crawford has found using iPads for her SSIR class to be beneficial, she has discouraged them in her classroom during past semesters.

She said that she thought that devices in the classroom affected the discussion level of the students.

"I felt like students were more engaged when they didn't have technology," Crawford said. "I had other students complain that they were distracted by the screens of their peers."

Crawford said that she appreciated the usefulness of the devices, but that they required students to regulate themselves during class. When Flanigan was a preceptor at Princeton University, she said that she would stand in the back of the classroom and notice that everyone was checking Facebook or looking at emails and not paying attention to the professor.

"I've just banned them from the beginning after I saw that," Flanigan said. "I think it's a good policy."

Contact reporter Brennan Long at brennan.long@richmond.edu

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