New technologies are lightening backpacks and saving paper as the University of Minnesota transitions away from dead-tree class materials.
An increased effort from the University’s Office of Information Technology focuses on providing students with innovative studying tools.
Just this fall, the College of Education and Human Development gave away 440 iPad 2 tablets to its freshmen, Dean Jean Quam said. Using $216,000 in private donations, the college began providing its students with iPad technology last year.
Freshman Pashie Vang received an iPad this year. She said having Internet access everywhere was “very convenient,” though she wishes typing on the device was less awkward.
Another new University student, Padee Vang uses her new iPad 2 to access e-books and class material, to write journals and to take pictures.
Quam hopes the availability of technology would encourage professors to implement it in their courses. Not enough of class material is posted online, she said.
Some CEHD courses started “iPad Mondays” throughout the semester to help students become more comfortable with using the tablets. The school launched a website designed for iPad use last week.
The college is not alone in its efforts. University Libraries are looking to increase their e-book collection, said Wendy Lougee, the University’s head librarian. Recently, she said, the department purchased more than 180,000 digitized titles.
The University campuses are “transitioning aggressively” to e-books, Lougee said. “[There is] a dramatic change in how titles are distributed.”
She said the University purchased many digital books in bulk by subject, but wants to obtain more individualized titles.
She also would like more flexibility in e-book technology.
Digital texts are easier to find, search and carry, but most e-books limit on how many times they can be shared or printed.
“Imagine having titles on the shelf with bookmarks in them dictating how they can be used,” Lougee said.
But overall, she said the new technology is an asset.
The library at the University’s Crookston campus has a device that is part voice recorder, part tablet computer called a “smartpen.” Smartpens are available for use by students visiting the library and can be checked out with a U Card free of charge.
The pens simultaneously record lectures and capture written notes with an infrared camera that tracks pen strokes on special paper. When tapping a certain word on the paper, the pen replays that portion of the lecture.
“We asked students what they wanted and needed and then made it available,” said Owen Williams, Crookston’s director of library services.
He added there was no distinction between needing the devices and simply wanting them, as the library is committed to providing students with technology.
“What [the students] do with it is their own business,” he said.
Aside from smartpens, GPS devices, digital video recorders and cameras are now available from the Crookston library.
New technologies are also being adapted for classes at the University’s Rochester campus, said Michael Olesen, Rochester’s information technology director.
Pilot programs to implement iPads, powerful new computers, digital books and digital recorders will create a “hands-on” learning environment, Olesen said.
The idea is to give students new resources allowing for better sharing, note-taking and media production in class.
“We’re looking to innovate and implement new technologies to create high-tech classrooms,” he said.
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