My latest at NITLE’s Techne blog: iPad: Paper or Computer?

August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Originally posted on August 25, 2010 at NITLE’s Techne blog,

iPad as Paper

Since we started asking the NITLE community to vote on their favorite apps for teaching and learning, I’ve been thinking about how faculty, in particular, might use the iPad.  Our app survey was prompted by a conversation I had last week with Jeffrey Wetherill, Director of Instructional and Research Technology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  He gave me this very practical list of questions he expects to hear from faculty:

  • how to print
  • how to teach with it
  • how to move files around

I was particularly struck by the first question, “how to print,” because as an iPad user, that one never occurred to me.  In fact, I purchased an iPad so I wouldn’t have to print, and I think that the iPad may help faculty reduce their need for printing.

Let me explain.  One of the most powerful uses of the iPad by a faculty member that I’ve heard was for grading. For example, Pedar Foss, Edward L. Minar Professor of Classical Studies at DePauw University (who presented in the Mobile Track at NITLE Camp) has all students submit class work as .pdfs which could then be marked up using iAnnotate and sent back to students.  Since iAnnotate notations are compatible with Adobe .pdf markup, students don’t need an iPad to read them.

Markup with iAnnotate

I see two advantages here; first of all, it saves paper, but more importantly, it makes going paperless realistic because the iPad gets closer to the ease and portability of paper.  Grading itself becomes more portable because you don’t have to remember to bring a specific set of papers with you.  As long as you always have your iPad, if you get stuck somewhere, you can take a few minutes to grade.  I think that Alex Golub got it right in “The iPad for Academics” in Inside Higher Ed: “the iPad makes a lousy computer replacement, but it does a great job of replacing paper.”

Pedar Foss presenting from his iPad, NITLE Camp, 2010

Figuring out the right analog for the iPad–paper or computer–is one of the challenges faced by campuses who are giving iPads to their faculty. They need to understand and address preconceptions about this tool; by helping faculty and students figure out what the iPad replaces, technology staff can help them make the best use of this resource.  I hope that our incipient app list will help by suggesting some uses, but let me conclude by pointing you to a few other iPad resources:

Resources emerging in the NITLE community

  • iPad Talk Bret Ingerman at Vassar started a blog on the use of the iPad in Education
  • SLU Technology Review at St Lawrence University, Eric Williams-Bergen (Science Librarian and tech guru), launched a Web site focused on mobile devices in the academic context this summer

Some general resources:

And don’t forget–vote for your favorite apps here: iPad Apps for Small Liberal Arts Colleges Forum.


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