The iPad Initiative

You may have noticed many students on campus working on Apple iPads this year, or writing on them with a high-tech “pencil” in some cases. Norwich is one of a few universities leading the way in exploring use of the powerful devices in classes, labs and for homework.

So what do students using them think? Opinion depends on the students and the major, but based on interviews, the iPad initiative holds promise – and also some issues for Norwich administrators.

Professor Aron Temkin, the Dean of the College of Professional Schools, oversees the iPad initiative working with the Norwich president, board of trustees, and the provost. “The iPad initiative is an effort to enhance the access faculty and students have to technology in a way that supports their teaching, their learning and their scholarship,” explained Dana Routhier, the office manager of college of professional schools, who is playing an important role in the deployment of the iPad initiative.

According to Routhier, there are approximately 240 iPad users this semester. The users are upperclassman who are majors in nursing, athletic training, history, studies in war and peace, psychology, education, geology, environmental science and Chinese.

In interviews, students in those departments shared the experiences and impressions that had using the devices. Most students held a positive initial reaction when finding out that they would get iPads, but some expressed confusion about what they were supposed to do with them.

“For me, I have a lot of technology so I felt like it was another thing to try out,” said Alec Schreurs, a 20-year-old junior health science major from Ansbach, Germany.

Ariana Sala, a 20-year-old junior business management major from Mililani, Hawaii, said she felt that getting an iPad would be “awesome because they come with Apple pens that you can draw and sketch with.”

But one of the students was not sure why he was getting an iPad. “I was kind of confused, but I’m not going to turn down a free iPad. It’s pretty cool,” said Peter Caine, a 19-year-old sophomore double major in Chinese and communications from Springfield, Mass.

Temkin explained that the main goal of the initiative was to “provide a broad set of versatile tools” to students. “We wanted to make technology more easily integrated into a classroom, in a way that’s not just about technology,” Temkin said. He explained it could help “enrich students’ opportunities to learn.”

Some students got their iPad as early as fall semester of 2016. Those students were part of a test group that helped determine if it was beneficial to students to have the devices.

“I got an email from my administration in my major and they said, ‘You are the testing group and we are going see if we are going to further this project,’” Schreurs said.

Students that were not part of the testing group in 2016 received their iPad this fall semester. “I received an email in September telling me I hadn’t come down to pick up my iPad. I was kind of confused because I didn’t even know I was getting an iPad,” Caine said.

Ellie Vigurie, a 20-year-old junior health science major from West Palm Beach, Fla., and Schreurs, agreed to be a part of the test. They met up with “iPad distributors” and were given an iPad with an iPad protector, Apple pen and Apple pen charger, according to Vigurie.

Vigurie explained that when she got her iPad, the IT (Information Technology) department told her and other students that they “could have it until senior year and then IT would take the iPad from there.”

Temkin explained that eventually the plan is that the iPads will be acquired by students on a “lease to own” basis but currently the students do not have to pay for them. Norwich University maintains “liability” for the iPads, according to Routhier. Once the students graduate, they have to give the device back, or they could buy it if they choose.

Although the iPad is property of Norwich University, the students said they treat the iPad as if it were their own device. Sala said that she treats the iPad “like a baby.” She explained that because it belongs to the school she is more careful with it. Hunter White, a 20-year-old junior exercise science major from Hamburg, Penn., agrees, saying he treats it as if he “owns” it.

Students, especially those in the life sciences, said that the iPad is relevant and helpful to their academics. “I saw an increase in my anatomy grades because I could actively look up certain portions of the body, make annotations on it and view them more in depth,” White said. Vigurie said she used the iPad often during her sophomore year. She explained that she used it for lectures because the iPad “enabled her to draw notes on the PowerPoints to the lectures for class.”

Schreurs also used it for his classes. “On the iPad, we have a lot of apps that are angled towards our major so I can use those. It helps with studying,” Schreurs said.

But other students said they felt the iPad wasn’t relevant to their classes. Caine explained that IT did not tell him how he was supposed to incorporate the iPad into his majors of Chinese and communications.

“They really didn’t say anything about it. They were giving it to select people in my major but I really don’t see how it would be helpful,” Caine said. Caine said he also asked his language professors how he was supposed to use the iPad but they “were not sure either.”

Although the iPads were definitely utilized for academic purposes, they also found some uses Norwich officials might not have thought of. Speaking anonymously, one student noted that she knew multiple people who used the iPad solely for “inappropriate reasons.” “I remember within the first hour that we got the iPad, there was a group of us, and two of the guys said, ‘I’m straight-up using this for porn and nothing else,’” she said.

She also said that some of these people would watch pornography in class, especially in “big classrooms.” Another student who wanted to be anonymous admitted to using the iPad for porn and personally witnessed people watching pornography on the iPad in class “one or two times.”

“Sometimes it comes down to convenience. “The iPad’s got great quality, it’s bigger, and it’s handsfree,” said a third anonymous student.

Schreurs said that he thought “the school can probably see what we are doing on the iPad because they want to know what we use it for.” But that is not the case.

Jonathan Spaulding, a senior support agent for Norwich University IT, said that IT can see “what applications are on the device, when and where they are used, but not how they are used.” He added that IT “does not invest time in seeing where the network traffic is going.”

Other students said they used the iPad for more appropriate personal reasons. “I use the iPad for music in my room but I don’t use it for anything related to school,” Caine said.

White uses it for both academics and personal reasons. He said that if he was not using the iPad for academics, it was for “ordering things online and FaceTiming.”

In contrast, Sala, who already owns multiple technology devices of her own, said, “I don’t use my iPad for personal use ever.”

Students said there were certain aspects of the iPads that they really liked. Vigurie enjoyed that the iPad is “light and portable,” making it easy to carry around. White liked that the iPad enabled him to “actively make annotations to PowerPoints the teachers uploaded” on NUoodle.

Sala explained that she appreciated that the iPad will “record and type with certain apps.” She added that if an application for the iPad costs money, IT covers the cost, which is “great.”

Sala said she also appreciated the AppleCare that comes with every iPad distributed, which provides two years of AppleCare. If the iPad was damaged physically or from a technical end, there would be minimal to no costs to fix it.

Spaulding explained that for “Norwich network related issues,” IT would resolve the problem. He continued that “if it’s something IT can not solve quickly, we will refer students to contact Apple.”

However, other students found certain aspects of the iPad cumbersome or not useful. Vigurie said she didn’t like that there were “too many steps” involved with completing certain tasks on the iPad.

“In order to download a PowerPoint so that I could write my own notes on them, I would have to download an app, then open it through Safari, download it as a primary document, and then email it to my email,” Vigurie said. For that reason, she no longer uses the device.

For White, he found it odd that for “all of his classes” this semester, he was not allowed to use the iPad technology in any of them. He continued that the school needs to “provide a justification” to professors for why students are permitted to use the iPads.

“Why can we have iPads if we can’t even use them in class?” White questioned.

Another thing that students didn’t like was that the iPad does not come with a charger. “I bought an iPhone charger, and I know other people that didn’t, so they had to choose between charging their iPhone or iPad,” Vigurie said. White said that he only had one charger, and so he found himself having to “choose” what device to charge, which became “problematic.”

Still, summing up, White said that although there are negatives and issues with using the iPads, “the positives outweigh them.”

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