Faculty provided iPads for teaching and research

Elon University has provided faculty in the School of Communications and in the Department of Computing Sciences with Apple iPads as a form of professional development and to help keep professors at the forefront of using technology in the classroom.

Don Grady, associate dean of the School of Communications, shows off an iPad to communications faculty members.

In the School of Communications, the initiative was funded through stipends that accumulated through the school’s success in the Hearst Journalism Awards program, as well as additional fundraising efforts.

“The world of communications is undergoing radical transformation,” said Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications. “Our faculty and staff need to be on top of how technology is changing both the creation of content and the distribution of content in a global age. We want to jump-start that process in a dramatic way.”

A recent cover story in Newsweek magazine declared the iPad a revolutionary device. “Today we talk about ‘getting on the Internet,’ but with iPad you can have a persistent online connection,” it reported. “The iPad could eventually become your TV, your newspaper, and your bookshelf. Pretty soon, Apple might even become your cable company.”

The School of Communications – one of only 18 private universities in the nation with an accredited communications program – is embarking this fall in its self-study process leading to a reaccreditation visit in 2011. One of the national standards focuses on staying abreast of communication technologies.

“We have to research how we can use it to teach, but once we find them, it’s going to be a great tool to teach from,” said Randy Piland, a lecturer in the School of Communications. “We just have to find what those teaching methods are and which ones fit our teaching style and our research interests. I’ll definitely be on board with it.”

In the Department of Computing Sciences, five faculty members received iPads in the late spring when the device first hit the market.

“The iPad is an evolving platform that’s impacting businesses and schools across the country,” said professor Dave Powell, who chairs the department. “Faculty members were offered the chance to get one to stay ahead of that paradigm and to introduce it, where appropriate, into their classes and their research.”

One faculty member who has used the iPad as a resource in his research is assistant professor Duke Hutchings. Hutchings has evaluated a number of devices for research on password and security strategies.

“We wanted to ensure that the research study we designed, regardless of device, would be applicable to a variety of touch screen devices,” he said.

The move to equip faculty with iPads is in line with several courses and programs it offers, including classes on digital media convergence and the Interactive Media master’s program.

Phillip Motley, an assistant professor in the School of Communications and its Interactive Media master’s program, said the iPads could be used to teach students how to develop applications for mobile devices.

“I see that as being an interesting thing that we should try to explore,” Motley said. “It is possible that we could even teach a little bit of that in the classroom.”