September 2017, select courses at Mills have been participating in an iPad pilot program that gives students an iPad and Apple Pencil for the semester.
The use of technology in the classroom has become a more common occurrence, with many college students often owning multiple devices. Apple, in particular, has developed programs to deploy its technology in more schools and classrooms, as it has been optimized specifically for education.
Ajuan Mance, one of the professors whose class is a part of the iPad program, said that they chose to participate in the program because she wanted every student in her class to have access to a device.
“I can post things to our class’ website and everyone can immediately access it online — everyone can view a video or handout together — and homework can be turned in via Google Doc,” Mance said.
Students in Mance’s class have said that they are enjoying having access to an iPad for the duration of the semester. While most of them have had access to a computer, few have owned an iPad or other tablet.
“I like that I can take notes directly on PDFs and can type and save assignments to Google Drive,” said Xiomara Hooker, one of Mance’s students. “It’s especially convenient because I can open Google Drive on just about any device. I used to have trouble seeing the board, even when PowerPoints were being projected, so having the iPad on hand is extremely helpful.”
Another one of Mance’s students, Amanda Benton, made note of some of the features that have changed her classroom experience.
“I really like being able to use the Apple Pencil to write handwritten notes on the iPad.” Benton said. “The split screen feature is also really nice because I can have the readings and the note taking app open at the same time.”
Benton believes that these features would make iPads useful in some of Mills’ art classes. She also believes film students could take advantage of the iPad’s high quality editing and recording software, found in apps like iMovie.
Elisa Harrison, however, was keenly aware of one of the dangers of implementing iPads in the classroom.
“I think we all understand that there is a risk of distraction that comes with the presence of technology at our disposal,” Harrison said.
Dian Schaffhauser of Campus Technology reported that a study published in the Journal of Media Education found that “students spend a fifth of their time in class doing things on their devices that have nothing to do with their school work.”
Despite this, Harrison believes that the implementation of iPads in the classroom has made taking notes easier and the class material more accessible.
As Apple continues to develop more applications to enhance and streamline the quality of higher-education classrooms, the professor and students agreed that the institution of this program should be more widespread across campus. Asia Hankins, a student worker in the IT department who helped prepare the iPad program, seemed optimistic about the possibility.
“My hope is that students will be able to utilize different tools within the iPad to gain a better understanding of the class material,” Hankins said. “Whether they draw diagrams or make electronic flashcards on an app, like Quizlet, they can do so in a sustainable and hopefully enjoyable way.”
Since the launch of the program, Hankins said that the IT department has received a substantial amount of positive feedback. She said that so far, students have said they appreciate the program and the opportunity to work with more technology.