Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Early Results of the eReader Project

It appears that a decent amount of students at the University of Notre Dame have decided to throw textbooks to the wind and have instead chosen to adopt the iPad as an e-reader replacement. Seven weeks into the study, students said that they learned more and were able to enjoy their classes more.

There is currently a yearlong study being conducted called the eReader project. Forty percent of a school’s management students (mostly undergraduates) are given an iPad as a loan for the study. Other schools besides Notre Dame are doing similar studies, but Notre Dame is the first school to release some early results concerning the study.

According to the eReader project, students said that the iPad really helped encourage them to further explore additional course topics, increase their knowledge, and keep their interest in the course. They also loved the portability of the iPad.

Dr. Corey M. Angst, the professor who taught the management class, noted that one advantage to the iPad was that it didn’t have the annoying and distracting clicking sound that a laptop has.

The students who enrolled in Angst’s class were not aware that they would be offered an iPad free of charge when they signed up for the class. It’s not a surprise that not one single student out of the forty offered an iPad rejected the offer.

Once the students were given the devices, there were a few rules that were laid down about what they could and could not do on their iPads. "We did this because we wanted to understand how or if the iPad changed the way students read, studied, participated, took notes, etc. We also anticipated that students would 'invent' ways of using the iPad to improve their course engagement," the authors wrote in their report.

This is a very interesting way to conduct the study because it allows users the freedom to figure things out on their own.

The success that Notre Dame is reporting from the study could possibly cause some two-year colleges' wheels to turn. The Obama administration just recently outlined funding that would provide eligible two-year colleges with new technology. The grant program plans to provide $2 billion in funding to support online learning strategies. This funding includes providing new ways of delivering core material to students.

Although most of the comments from the students were positives, the one negative comment was that it was frustrating using the highlighting and note-taking tools.
College is not the only place that iPads are popping up though. The New York Times reported that New York public schools went ahead and ordered more than 2,000 iPads for $1.3 million. In Chicago there were 200 public schools that applied for iPad grants totaling $450,000. In California there are six middle schools that are only teaching algebra courses via the iPad.

"It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls," Larry Reiff, an English teacher at Roslyn High School in Long Island, which has 47 iPads, told the Times.

Scott Wolfe, the principal of a New Jersey elementary school, said that the iPad could quite possibly be the best new technology that has come to the school “since the overhead projector.”

Technology coordinator at the Bronx Green Middle School Michael Little wrote a blog discussing the integration of iPads into the school system. "For the students who don't remember the old math and can’t quite grasp the new, they can shut down in class or act out because of the frustration. The MathBoard app helps with the basic skills, but oftentimes I pull up a math game through the game center app and let those students focus on that while working with the rest of the class."

Not everyone is so excited about the devices though. "There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines," Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, told the Times. "iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning."

I’m not exactly sure where I stand on whether or not the iPad is a helpful device within the classroom. I feel like it could easily become a distraction instead of a help. It will be very interesting to see the final results of the eReader project when the year is over and whether or not the iPad really made much of a difference with the college students at Notre Dame.

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