Our iPad project at Penn State has been covered in the following venues:

• Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology: Project explores potential for use of iPad in education at Penn State

Faris said that he is using the iPad in this semester’s English 202c course in a variety of different ways. “We’re trying to use it as much as possible for the students’ work environment,” he said. “For instance, we are reading the textbook on iBooks which so far has been a really good experience. The students have enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed it; I mean, I don’t like reading textbooks and I enjoyed it.”

Other uses for the iPad Faris has found include using it for document creation, word processing (although Faris noted it is not fully functional for word processing), e-mail, and document delivery, including turning in papers.

“Most of them are familiar with the desktop metaphor of a computer. And it makes sense, their files are in a filing cabinet type system where they have folders, they save them there. Here, the files are inside the application.”

Despite an initial learning curve and other challenges, Faris sees a lot of potential for the iPad thanks to this project. “These types of touch screen devices allow for easy social networking, easy small-scale production, etc., are going to become increasingly useful,” he said. “I find days where I barely want to get on my laptop because of this thing. It’s so easy to do small things. I can’t write my dissertation on it, but it still has a lot of value.”

• Onward State: Students to use iPads in English class

Well, the iPad craze has made its way to Happy Valley. Although they won’t be given away to quite the extent as some other schools, Educational Technology Services and the English Department have teamed up to loan students of English 202C (Technical Writing) iPads for the duration of the course. Instructor Michael Faris points out that there’s more to this project then letting students play with some cool new technology:

The purpose of this project is to explore issues integrating new work environments, technologies, and platforms, such as the Apple iPad, into higher education and student writing processes. Students will receive an iPad during week two for the duration of the term, and will be reading (using an e-textbook on iBooks), writing (using Pages and other apps), peer reviewing each other’s work, and submitting their work on the iPad. Students will also receive a keyboard (because, frankly, typing a lot with the iPad’s screen is difficult).

• Penn State Live: Students test-drive iPads in technical writing course

Michael Faris, an instructor in the Department of English, planned a technical writing course for fall 2010 featuring the iPad in its curriculum.

“Students in my class were juniors and seniors who had already developed their reading, writing and research habits,” Faris said. “The iPad forced them to adapt to different strategies and change the way they think about their work.”
Each student in the class received the touch-screen-only iPad and an accessory keyboard for the semester. Apple donated iTunes gift cards to cover the cost of applications students may have needed to download for the class — like a word processing program — as well as a gift card from publishing company Bedford/St. Martin’s, to cover the expense of the digital textbook they needed to download.

Faris said that his students found the iPad’s light weight convenient and told him it’s a great tool for reading and doing simple writing tasks. However, they also reported having trouble writing more extensive papers and creating multimedia projects with it.

“I think right now it’s best to view tablet devices as supplements: they don’t replace anything, but they fill needs and gaps in work activities,” Faris said. “For instance, a tablet can’t replace the writing and heavy research capabilities of a laptop, but it can provide for a second screen, supporting some research that might have been open in a browser or printed off or in a book.”

• Penn State Daily Collegian: Students use iPads in technical writing

Michael Faris, an instructor in the English department, taught the class that took part in the study last semester and said the devices brought students a new perspective on their reading and writing habits.

Like Ulkus, most students met the iPads with mixed reactions, Faris said.

“Most students liked it because it was light and portable and it was easy to look things up,” Faris said. “But the biggest problem was trying to incorporate it into technical writing — in that sense, it lacks functionality.”