The atmosphere was electric as students began to arrive at Meacham Auditorium in Oklahoma Memorial Union. In the background you could hear the squeals of delight and comments like “I can’t believe this is happening” and “this is so exciting!”. What could cause this much excitement among education students?  On Dec. 4 and 5, undergraduate students attended an orientation for the College of Education iPad initiative, where they received an iPad to use not only in class, but to take with them upon graduation from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education.

The initiative is a part of the One University digital initiative (  The University of Oklahoma launched the digital initiative as a way to embrace digital technology in an effort to make an even more dynamic classroom experience for students.  This initiative allows students to individualize and enhance their education through technology.  OU is implementing technology across campus through videos and interactive online course materials formatted specifically for the iPad that are available on iTunes U.  The University also is developing a new iPad app to offer additional services to students.

Four hundred students enrolled in the undergraduate teacher education program for spring 2013 received the new fourth-generation iPad with Retina display at the beginning of December.  The Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education was selected to be the first college on the campus to receive the iPads, which were entirely funded by a private donor. The students will use the devices to enhance productivity, create lesson plans and more. According to University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren, “We are excited to have the opportunity to create greater access to learning for our students. By providing iPads as supplemental education resources, our students will learn how to develop more powerful learning models, which they can then utilize in their own classrooms after graduating.”

The devices already are beginning to play an active role in K-12 education. “Since many K-12 schools have adopted iPad initiatives, it is imperative that future teachers learn and teach with the same tools,” said Dean Gregg Garn. “OU will supply iPads at no cost to the students and upon successful completion of the degree program they will get to keep the device and the digital content they created to use in their teaching careers.” The JRCoE undergraduate teacher education faculty received iPads during the fall 2012 semester and began training to learn how to incorporate them into their spring teaching and lesson plans. According to associate professor Theresa Cullen, “If you really want a one-to-one technology initiative to be successful, you first have to empower the faculty to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the technology that they are learning how to use.” Cullen continued, “The goal is to have the faculty use the technology as a tool to incorporate the activities that they are already doing, such as lesson planning, and to extend to such activities as reviewing apps that would further enhance the content they are teaching.” The college has selected nine students to be a part of the “technology student team” that will assist faculty members in designing activities for their classes. “This is an innovative model, based on 21st-century skills that includes collaboration between the faculty and student,” said Cullen. “We are trying to design this collaboration to get the students engaged with the faculty so that they are learning together as future and current educators.”

The JRCoE faculty plan to conduct two research projects over the next few semesters, according to Teresa DeBacker, associate dean for Professional Education and professor of Educational Psychology. “Recently there have been quite a few iPad initiatives in higher education as well as K-12 schools, but there often is not a lot of research. We are going to do research to gauge the impact of having this device on our students, both as learners and as future educators.” The faculty plans to survey every student who received an iPad, asking them a set of questions at the beginning of the semester and then again at the end of the semester to assess their attitudes about the usefulness of the iPad for studying, completing course projects, productivity and organization and for entertainment. “We want to look at to what extent they integrate the iPad into their lives as students as well as into their lives in general,” said DeBacker. Some faculty who participated in the iPad professional development activities in the fall are planning activities that will allow them to look closely at the impact of the iPad on learning. “In my class, I’ve got a couple of activities where students demonstrate their understanding of course material through a concept mapping activity,” said DeBacker. “In the past, students have done their concept maps in groups on paper with pens, so if they decide in the course of their discussion that they want to change a bubble or link they have to start over or cross out in ink, so it becomes kind of a mess. I’m looking at doing the same activity but using a concept mapping app on the iPad so as the discussion moves forward and the ideas are firmed up it will be easier to revise the concept map.” DeBacker believes the iPads will improve learning on that activity because “instead of spending time starting the map over from scratch because of all the messy revisions they will be able to think about the concepts and relationships, and hopefully once they become comfortable with the app the technology will disappear into the background and the concentration really will be on the intellectual content.”

DeBacker continued, “We’ll be collecting data all through the spring then we’ll spend the summer analyzing the data and looking at the uses that look really productive. Then we’ll disseminate those ideas and review how to improve instructional uses and work on getting all that information out to faculty so they can take that into account when planning their fall classes. Ultimately, we want to get better use of the iPads in really instructionally solid ways in our classrooms.” Since the distribution, students are frequently seen working in groups in the study lounges and running around the college on class assigned iPad QR code scavenger hunts. “The iPads have brought a new aspect of group collaboration for the students, which is really exciting to see.”


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