I was the fortunate recipient of a $2500 Faculty Innovation through Technology (FIT) grant from my institution, Gateway Technical College, to fund 4 iPads for use in my writing sections. Additionally, as part of the grant program, I will receive a faculty stipend at the end of the academic year—which I fronted myself to buy my own iPad, which I let my students use in class.
Part of the rationale for my grant proposal was using the relatively new tablet computing category in small group settings, ranging from 3:1 to 5:1 student to iPad ratios. My thought as to why this was a useful trial was at least threefold. As the New London Group describes in their A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies, one of the emerging labor structures of fast or late global capitalism is the small, shifting project-based group. As such, being a faculty member at a college largely focused on the training and retraining of workers for the contemporary workplace, small grow work utilizing the latest technology is quite relevant to our students’ potential futures.
Tablets might also facilitate more mobile and participatory structures for collaborative group work in class. Students can assemble around tables, less encumbered by or tied to a stationary desktop or folding netbook, to create collaborative texts, and then send those texts to a centric server to be shared with and viewed by the entire class. While having one desktop computer per student in a lab setting in combination with a learning management system like Blackboard can offer similar opportunities in sharing text, I’m betting that the portability of a tablet might encourage more equitable and exchangeable sharing of composing and thinking. Simply, net books and notebooks have folding screens that require viewers to be seated in a semicircle to be viewed. iPads are lighter and have a single surface to work with.
I’ll likely post my formal proposal, complete with some standard (for me) New London Group quotes, in a follow up. I will also be updating this blog with what my student have been using the iPads for, as well as how well or poorly the iPad works in this specific context.