New devices playing key role in the classroom

The recurring arrival of new and improved electronic devices like the iPad mini has led UA associate professor of journalism George Daniels to ponder its future in classroom learning.

“In my class we talk about the four screen strategy: TV screen, desktop screen, laptop and phones and tablets,” Daniels said. “We have to think about another screen, it probably means thinking about, if it’s that size what do I embed in that story that’s interactive?”

Daniels teaches Multimedia Reporting, a class in which he recently challenged his students to produce content specific to different apps for electronic devices.

“One of the questions we ask for each app is: is this different from what you see in print,” Daniels said. “There are opportunities to embed pictures and graphics. In fall 2013 the tablet and mobile platform will be a bigger part of the class. It’s just a matter of the changing times.”

In July, the Huntsville school district provided 22,000 iPads and laptops to its students for classroom use. Chip Brantley, senior lecturer in digital media for the journalism department, said this is a new trend for grade schools, and it is likely that colleges may soon follow it.

“I think more and more students will get them as the prices come down and as digital textbooks become more popular,” Brantley said. “Many textbooks already have online components (case studies, discussions, etc.), and I think textbooks are moving very quickly to digital. It won’t take long for the entire textbook industry to go digital and become a lot more open and collaborative.”

Brantley speculated price as a likely deciding factor for many students when deciding to use a tablet.

“I’ve seen just a few students use iPads and other tablets in class and one of them won his at a basketball or football game,” Brantley said. “I’m surprised I haven’t seen more, but I think it’s mostly a matter of price.”

Kaitlin Hill, a senior majoring in nutrition, said she is dissatisfied with the price of textbooks and, though she does not own a tablet, would consider purchasing one to save money on books.

“Textbook prices have gotten so outrageous that I think most students, myself included, are looking for any alternative,” Hill said. “I’ve noticed that online versions of textbooks have become more widely used. iPads and tablets are viable options not only for textbooks but for other computers too. If they become the norm I think most students would want to use them just to save money.”

Daniels said it will likely take a while for traditional textbooks to be fully replaced, however. He pointed out that until students have the option of highlighting excerpts and making notes in the margins of an e-book, the concept of using them in place of a textbook is not fully practical.

“I think the jury is still out about the degree to which e-books are transforming our class,” Daniels said. “On paper they [electronic textbooks] are cheaper. But what are you really getting for that? It’s not like you can sell back an e-book. They are certainly growing in popularity; it’s no question they have a future.”