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Hastings College invests in tablet technology initiative

October 7, 2018

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — Today’s college students connect with and consume technology in a much different way than students of the past.

“The students who come to us today haven’t existed in an age where there wasn’t an internet, where there wasn’t an iPod,” said Travis Feezell, president of Hastings College.

“So what if you put the tool — it’s not a proxy for teaching — that is both powerfully about information and if you have a tool which can enhance teaching in certain ways, what if you could put that into the hands of every student and guide some of our teaching so it becomes more impactful,” he said.

It is with that in mind that starting in fall 2019 every student entering Hastings College will be equipped with his or her own iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, the Hastings Tribune reported.

For more than a year, every faculty member on campus has been equipped with these tools to learn about operation and how he or she can incorporate it into classroom instruction.

Starting next fall, each of the 1,200 students will receive an iPad and stylus. In future years, incoming first-year students will be issued the devices.

Patty Kingsley, the college’s director of information technology, said the iPads will be loaded with a set of apps that will be universal for all students.

“It’s really nice to walk into a class and know that every student has a common tool,” Kingsley said.

She said the focus of so much of learning and work in today’s world is based on technology, whether it is the pocket computer in a cellphone, a tablet computer or a laptop.

Many professors already have students take online quizzes and do interactive work through services like Kahoot. The problem currently is that some students might not have a smartphone or not want to use their data for that purpose.

With every student having his or her own iPad, Kingsley said, this opens it up for every student to be able to equally participate and for professors to use more of that digital interaction in a classroom.

“I think overall what it does is it lets them learn and become mobile and it’s a tool for applied creative learning,” Kingsley said.

With the iPad, she said, a student can create a three-minute video presenting an essay for class rather than writing a paper, much as a person would give a presentation in the workplace.

“With Barbara’s lead curriculum-wise, we think the iPads are the perfect tool to support that change and focus on learning,” Kingsley said.

One exciting addition to the technology for students is the Apple Pencil, a stylus students can use for everything from writing to doodling on their iPads.

“It’s the culmination of digital paper, which for a lot of people it’s a great path to learn whether you’re a ‘write everything down as you do it’ or ‘a doodler.’ There’s something still to be said for that action and the Apple Pencil and iPad is closest I’ve ever seen come to actual digital paper, which is nice for students,” Kingsley said.

On the classroom side, Kingsley said, students may be able to save on textbook costs with e-book rentals and some professors are already considering the creation of their own digital textbooks through Apple’s iBooks program.

Faculty members have each had an iPad and Apple Pencil for a year already in an effort to help introduce them to the technology.

“We have some early adopters who are very excited about it and we have some who have yet to literally take it out of the box which is fine, I understand that,” Kingsley said.

Part of the reluctance for some professors, she said, is that it has only been in the last few weeks that it was determined that every student would receive an iPad starting in fall 2019.

Each classroom also has been equipped with an Apple TV, which will allow the professors and students to project onto a screen to show everyone maybe a math problem they’re having trouble with or a classroom presentation.

Kingsley said she doesn’t expect every professor to deeply embed technology into every part of their curriculum. She said it could be something as simple as replacing the overhead projector with the Apple TV and projector.

“It replaces a lot of thing that already happen so even if they just take tiny steps that’s big,” she said.

In an effort to help professors use and integrate the technology into their classrooms, Kingsley said, the college is hosting Apple to conduct five professional development training sessions on campus between now and next fall.

With the addition of all this new technology, Kingsley said, the college underwent a major technology upgrade.

The number of access points has been tripled with wireless and hardwired points in every residence hall and apartment room, anticipating each student could have as many as five to eight wireless devices operating at one time.

“We needed better capacity because we had not been robust with those things so we had been bogged down,” Kingsley said. “You would try to do something in the classroom like stream a YouTube video, and it would bog down the internet.”

The upgrades already have been completed, and the bugs are being worked out of the system in hopes that everything will be completely set by next fall.

Kingsley said IT also is working with the athletic department to ensure that when student athletes are traveling they will also still have access to the internet.

That’s because with this new technology, professors will be able to give more online quizzes, put homework and reading materials on their class Canvas page among other things.

“It’s important for our student athletes to have that connectivity as they travel,” Kingsley said.

Kingsley said there will be no technology fee added to a student’s tuition to cover the cost of the new technology or maintenance in the future.

“We think we’ll recoup the costs in better retention and more meaningful experience, more relevant learning environment,” she said.

Students, however, will be responsible for purchasing their own protective cases and keyboards if they should so choose.

Kingsley said she in no way expects the iPads to replace a students’ laptop or desktop computer. However, she said if a student wishes to use it in that way, that is totally acceptable.

“There will be students who probably can get by just using an iPad, but we’re not saying it’s a laptop replacement because I think you still have programs and situations where you probably don’t want to be doing all your work on that,” she said. “But I do think it’s a video camera. It’s a great camera. It’s a scanner. It’s a digital paper. It’s browser. It’s all of those things, so we’re excited about it.”

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Information from: Hastings Tribune, http://www.hastingstribune.com

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