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2012-03-01 issue:

A student perspective on iPads at Goshen College

Web exclusive

by Serena Townsend, intern for The Mennonite

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Students squeeze through the sanctuary doors following convocation, rushing down the hall like a school of giant fish. A clump has already formed around the table near the door, with amoeba-like lines reaching out in all directions as students clamber to sign the petition. A two-paged letter outlines their collective argument against integrating iPads into the Goshen (Ind.) College curriculum.

Despite this effort, next fall each freshman will receive a new third generation iPad. I read an article about the decision in The Record, our campus newspaper, and shook my head in disgust. “President’s Council affirms iCore Initiative,” the front page of the March 8 edition boasts.

Why? Innovation, according to the FAQ section of the college’s iCore Technology Initiative webpage. Change for the sake of change. “Technological innovation has shifted to the mobile space and is being driven by the iPad and smartphones,” the page explains. In other words, Goshen is jumping on the popular culture bandwagon.

Although I graduate this spring, I pity the students who will become slaves to this new technology. Even without an iPad I spend way too much time staring at my computer screen, and most of it is unavoidable. I type papers, read articles for class, do research, check email and even perform tasks for my job and internship on my laptop.

The only things I don’t use my laptop for are taking notes and reading textbooks. Often, when I have an assigned textbook reading I use it as a break from the computer, something besides a screen to look at. Giving students iPads eliminates this welcome break.

The iCore webpage speaks of iPads being used for e-portfolios, “digital reference materials, free digital books, collaboration and productivity tools, and discipline-specific apps.” Goshen might as well just digitize everything and hold classes via video chat.

The argument has been made that iPads will save paper, money and energy. Professors already post most supplementary reading materials online and ask that students submit essays online rather than print them out. I don’t see where any more paper will be saved by using iPads.

Perhaps the conservation of materials comes in the form of e-books, which eliminate the need for bulky, expensive, paper-dense textbooks. However, I have found used textbooks online for as cheap as half the price—sometimes even less—of new ones, and in purchasing these previously owned books I reuse materials.

As far as energy goes, an iPad’s battery lasts for 10 hours, twice as long as my 2008 MacBook. Because of its size, the iPad also uses fewer materials. Thus, the iPad is more eco-friendly than a laptop. Except next year Goshen students will probably use iPads about twice as much as they currently use laptops.

Finally, Goshen claims that iPads may improve student connections with peers and professors and that the new technology will better prepare students for the workforce.

In my experience, screen time has been inversely related to time spent interacting with other people. Technology doesn’t help me relate with others; face-to-face conversation does. And of all the technology requirements I’ve read in job descriptions, not a single one has mentioned iPads.

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