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ENCOURAGING DISTRACTION? CLASSROOM EXPERIMENTS WITH MOBILE MEDIA

American Studies Professor Farman on bringing the iPad into the classroom.


By Jason Farman, The Chronicle of Higher Education



The University of Maryland, similar to many colleges and universities in the last couple of years, has made headlines for handing out iPads to students. The University has given iPads to all those accepted into its Digital Cultures and Creativity Program over the last two years. The idea behind giving the students iPads was that they would have a common platform through which they could engage digital objects, data, and other forms of online content.
 
The iPad in a Living/Learning Community
 
When I was hired to help launch this living and learning program (where all the students live in the same dorm and take classes in that building with their cohort), I was extremely skeptical about the iPad as an effective classroom tool. I kept thinking of a satirical image I had seen on a tech blog with the headline, “What’s Really Inside the iPad.” The cover is lifted off of the iPad to unveil its intricate inner mechanisms only to reveal that an iPhone is running everything.
 
But if the iPad had simply been an overgrown iPhone, I think I might know what to do with it in the classroom. In fact, when I was hired, I was initially told that the students would be receiving iPhones or iPod Touch devices. I was elated. This worked right in line with my ongoing research on mobile phone culture.
A couple of months after I was hired, I got an email saying, “Great news! The students are getting iPads instead of iPhones!” Rather than elation, I felt disappointment. How was I going to incorporate a tablet computer like the iPad? I had never owned a tablet and had received a first generation iPad only about a month before I started teaching.

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Date of Publication: 
2/9/12