After the Kindle didn’t measure up to student standards, Reed College and others will try their test again with the iPad.
In the fall of 2009, Reed and seven other colleges and universities were chosen by Amazon to take part in a study on the use of the Kindle in the classroom. The other schools were Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Pace University, Princeton University, the University of Washington, and
Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.
The study at Reed involved 43 students in three upper-level undergraduate courses.
Students noted a number of problems with the devices, including the inability to obtain all of the texts for the device, loss of functionality for things like highlighting and annotating, low screen resolution and the inability to display complex graphics and charts, and difficulty in locating files saved on the device.
In addition, “There has been a great deal of discussion, especially following the announcement of the Apple iPad, about the long-term viability of a device designed primarily for a single function: reading text,” the report concluded. “Tablets and other multi-function devices that can be used for reading text as well as for web browsing, email, word processing and countless other functions would seem to have a clear advantage.”
Overall, the Kindle experiment was deemed unsuccessful, and long-term use of the device seemed unlikely.
Some of the schools involved in the Kindle study have decided to recreate the study with the iPad.
Many universities have already begun giving away free iPads to students for use in the classroom. The University of Maryland also recently announced its intention to give iPads to incoming freshmen as part of its ongoing mobility initiative , and N.C. State University just purchased 30 iPads to lend to students for four-hour study periods.
Is it necessary?
The push to introduce technology in the classroom — even in the face of one failed study — begs the question as to why officials are so keen to have the high-tech gadgets. They certainly won’t save the university money — students will reap the saving on fewer textbook purchases.
If the end goal is to facilitate learning, shouldn’t the medium that offers the most advantages be the one favored? Through study after study, technological devices don’t hold up to print books in their ease of use for study: Books are easier to thumb through, to take notes, to highlight — whatever methods are easiest for students to earmark and retain information.
Electronic devices are greener, and students don’t have to lug around cumbersome books. The potential for cost savings seems great when eliminating the purchase of so many pricey textbooks, but students still have to invest in expensive technology and software. And there hasn’t yet been a standard device established for classrooms, meaning that students may have to buy multiple devices to access all the textbooks they need.
Universities may be attracted to the devices because they help raise the profile of the schools. It shows that they are on the cutting edge of learning and have the resources to give their students the best. But, at the end of the day, shouldn’t “the best” equal whatever will help students learn the way that is best for them — and that may just be the tried and true books that have educated students for hundreds of years.