Do iPads in School Change Behavior?

iPad goes to college

I was just reading an article about some studies being conducted at Wharton Business School to see if the iPad changes behavior in the learning environment. I imagine the study will find that it does – but we’ll wait until the research is reported.

Combine that research with a recently published study by Reed College that concludes the iPad can meet the demands of a higher ed curriculum, and it’s likely we will see more iPads showing up on college campuses in the near future.

From the Reed College report:

After extensive student interviews throughout the Fall 2010 semester, “The bottom line feeling was that the Amazon Kindle DX was not adequate for use in a higher education curricular setting,” Chief Technology Officer Martin Ringle tells Fast Company. “The bottom line for the iPad was exactly the opposite.”

The most impressive iPad feature was also the simplest: a smooth scrolling touchscreen. “The quick response time of the touch screen was highly praised and seemed to be extremely beneficial in class discussions because it allowed students to navigate rapidly between texts to reach specific passages,” notes the report.

Add the smooth scrolling touch screen to the growing list of positives for the iPad (the battery life, the apps, the size and weight, etc.).

Several business schools have been testing iPads for use with students – and now Wharton is also going to be adding a small iPad test for their EMBA program.

On the business school front, IMD (The International Institute for Management Development) broke ground by giving all 400 participants in its Orchestrating Winning Performance executive programme (spelling intentional as this ‘program’ is based in Europe) iPads back in April 2010 just after the iPad was released. The intent for using iPads in the Orchestrating Winning Performance program was to run a completely paperless program. No text books, no handouts, no printed reports or case studies.

Many other programs are initially attracted to the iPad for its form factor and for the ability to reduce the need to carry around heavy text books. But now, these same programs are looking beyond just delivering course materials to see how the iPad might influence the learning environment in other ways – like team based learning, the culture, communications, etc.

At Iese Business School in Barcelona, which is running an iPad pilot with 60 EMBA participants from April, assistant professor Evgeny Kaganer says the device will enable participants to remain in touch when they are back at work between modules. “For the full-time MBA students this is less important because they are on campus and they see each other all the time.” Prof Kaganer points out that the pilot has to be more than just a means of distributing course texts.

“We want to run a research study, observing how people interact. How does this [tablet device] affect team-based learning, social culture, collaboration. The critical thing is that it should go beyond delivering course materials.”

At Wharton, as in some of these other programs, administrators want to see if the use of the iPad is really the next stage in the evolution of teaching.

On the other end of the spectrum we can see a marked impact on behavior when using the iPad with autistic and other learning disabled youth. The article referenced below tells an amazingly touching story about a young boy that has ended up using the iPad for vocalizing his thoughts during class – as the particular type of autism he has was impacting his vocal chords. Until using the iPad to articulate what he was learning and what he knew, no one in his environment had any idea what he was picking up and what he wasn’t.

Imagine the joy of being able to express one’s self and being able to be in mainstream learning environments – all enabled by the iPad.

On a less than optimistic note, it’s also important that we not forget there are still many things that can be done to improve the iPad in a learning environment. There are weaknesses that have been discovered/experienced in using the iPad in business schools. From another article it says:

The virtual keyboard is a pain for composing anything beyond short notes. The nonexistent file system makes finding important documents difficult and sharing across applications nearly impossible. Finally, managing a large number of readings in PDF format becomes a major time-suck. Syncing PDFs via iTunes was found to be “needlessly complicated,” emailing marked-up versions back to oneself was “prohibitively time-consuming,” and even the cloud-based storage, Dropbox, “failed to work seamlessly with PDF reading/annotating applications.”


Reed College Report

Business Schools testing iPads

iPads used for Autism


2 thoughts on “Do iPads in School Change Behavior?

  1. We are seeing the groundswell in education and look to coming school year as a bigger tipping point. Our product addresses one of the challenges of a virtual keyboard, especially when it comes to using robust applications.

    • Please tell us more about your product for class use where use of keyboard is eliminated.

Comments are closed.