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First Paperless Class at McPherson College Tests the Frontiers of Technology

posted Feb 07, 2012 in ACADEMICS

If a new classroom experiment at McPherson College proves successful, “Hand in your papers” might be an extinct phrase – to be replaced with “Bump in your iPads.”

“Intercultural Communication”, taught by Dr. Becki Bowman, assistant professor of communication, has become the college’s first “paperless class.” From the first day students sit at their desks, Dr. Bowman will not distribute a single piece of paper – not for the syllabus, not for tests, not for research papers.

Instead, the 20 students in the class will each be issued an iPad to use during the semester, which will be used for taking tests, writing and turning in papers (through a wireless application called “Bump”), conducting research, reading the textbook and even keeping a video blog journal. If the students find the iPad useful in their daily life, they will have the option at the end of the semester to purchase the iPad for $200 (compared to the new retail price of $499).

It’s an option that Josh Dunback, sophomore, Wamego, Kan., finds appealing. All the possibilities of having a more immersive, interactive experience are both exciting and “a little surreal”, he said.

“Having a device that’s as expensive and advanced as this, it’s a great idea to have the college experiment with going with these,” he said. “I think we’re starting to get to a day and age that people know how to use the technology. I think paperless is going to be the way to go in the future.”

Going paperless is a prospect that Dr. Bowman says she finds both daunting and exciting. The interactive tools that the iPads make available will create for a more immersive experience, she said.

“They get more interested in the class. They retain more information. They’re more engaged,” Dr. Bowman said. “I think the way our country is moving forward with technology, it’s a great skill for them to have.”

Dr. Bowman said that with the ready availability of information, the focus of higher education has lagged behind reality. No longer is memorizing facts as important, replaced instead by the skill of finding and evaluating the information needed.

Jake Luedke, senior, Lincoln, Neb., said he was interested in seeing everything that he can do with the iPad, like taking notes that are matched to an audio recording of a class lecture.

“Just being able to use new technology and seeing how it can help me is exciting,” he said. “I’ve been thinking of an iPad but wondered about the uses, so this will help me decide if I want to buy one. It creates a lot of shortcuts to learning that will help us out.”


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