In the past several weeks campus has been buzzing with the news: All incoming freshman in the Fall 2018 semester will be receiving a free iPad Pro (along with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard) as a part of Ohio State’s new partnership with Apple.
The initiative is a part of the university’s Digital Flagship University plan that, according to President Drake, aims to give students “outstanding opportunities to develop modern mobile skills to enhance learning and excel in the competitive workplace.” In addition to the iPad, a new iOS Design Lab is coming to campus, open to all students and the community to learn to code in Swift, an Apple coding language that is popular in the iTunes App Store.
The Apple iPad Pro currently retails starting at $649, the Apple Pencil at $99 and the Smart Keyboard starting at $159. That’s not a bad deal for the future class of 2022, as the Ohio State website insists that these costs will not be rolled into tuition or fees in any way, and instead will be covered through discounted rates from the Apple partnership and through the “administrative efficiency program.” It’s still slightly unclear whether these iPads will be the students for just their freshman year, through their Ohio State career, or permanently. Ohio State’s website gives examples as to how iPads are already used in “flipped” chemistry courses (courses in which students watch lectures online, then work on homework problems in class), the marching band’s formations or in biology or medical classes. The grant aims to give professors more ways to integrate technology in the classroom as well, while also serving as a platform for students to engage in coding.
Needless to say, this program is impressive and unique, with Mashable reporting that Ohio State values the partnership at almost 10 million dollars. The question that remains, however, is just how effective it will be.
Apple has been pushing to integrate its technology into the classroom for several years. In fact, in my senior year at Kenston High school in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, every student was given an iPad, through a grant through Ohio State and Apple, to use during the school year with Google Classroom and our courses. While the long terms effects of this program have yet to be seen, I witnessed some teachers embracing the idea of the new technology: putting textbooks, assignments, and homework online and using learning apps for projects or presentations. Other teachers were more set in their ways and the iPads would remain shut for the majority of class.
In many instances, the iPads actually served as a distraction, as most students would download games or watch videos instead of participating in class at all. At a certain point, I began referring to my iPad as my “Netflix-watching machine,” as that was what I spent most of my time using the device for. It will be interesting to see if and how these issues propagate to a much larger class size in a university setting. However, from where I stand the likelihood of students sitting in the back of lecture playing Candy Crush or catching up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones seems pretty high.
Nonetheless, the new iPad initiative represents an exciting new step for the university on a national scale, as learning with technology becomes increasingly normal. If professors and the university as a whole can find ways to make these iPads essential to learning rather than just expensive playthings, the incoming freshman class could experience a fresh take on education unavailable at any other university.
In my opinion, the program is exciting, and I’m interested to see the direction the university will take it. At the same time however, I think that faculty needs to be completely on board with the new changes in order to make the iPads influential to education, otherwise, I would rather see the time and money spent somewhere else for something that could help students in a more direct fashion. It’s also worth noting that a large majority of students enter college with a laptop of some variety, so how can the university distinguish between these two pieces of technology? Or, will the iPads be used as a kind of replacement tool and eradicate the need for a laptop entirely?
No matter how the iPads are used, there is one thing that’s safe to assume: the rest of the student body will surely be jealous, because who wouldn’t want a free iPad?