The Secret Project

For over a year, I've been part of a "secret" project. (Although I've mentioned it a few times, no one has asked me about it. You, dear readers, have the utmost respect for secrets!)

This project, led by the Arts Resource Centre, was intended to address two issues. One was in-class engagement. What would the classroom experience be like if every student had a tablet computer? Not a smartphone, not a laptop, but a tablet. Like, say, an iPad. All students involved in this project (a couple of intro psychology classes, some economics, and political science) were going to be given free loaner iPads. There would be an option to buy out the lease at the end of term, meaning students would get to use an iPad for free for 4 months, with the option to buy it at a discount. (Did I mention that it would be free?)

I went to seminars put on by Apple, got a loaner iPad 2 (the day before the iPad 3 came out, argh!), and experimented with a lot of apps. Apple even offered us the use of some of their app development team in Cupertino.Cool! In a too-good-to-be-true way.

Unfortunately, the lease cost of the iPads kept going up and up until it was out of our price range. (Hey, someone has to pay for all those iPads!) At that point, the focus shifted to the much less-expensive ASUS-made Nexus 7 tablet. Our experimental team members designed the research side of things, to measure how using tablets would affect student learning and engagement. Those of us on the instructional team used our loaner iPads to work out how we would engage students in class with this technology. The team leader applied for research funding. Everything was clicking along fine--until it all went off the rails.

Two days before the devastating provincial budget was released, we were told that our application for funding had been denied. The little money we had wasn't going to be enough to supply multiple classes of students with tablet computers. The many hours we spent meeting, discussing, reading, and preparing for this project were all for naught. Although, there was still the other part of the project...

I shouldn't really talk too much about the other issue that this project was going to examine--after all, this is still an ongoing research project (even if it is radically scaled back). If I blab about it and reveal our hypotheses, it may affect the results. I think it's safe to reveal that we are interested in how you learn outside of the classroom. In fact, I've got a meeting today with a publisher's representative who is working with me on this project. And we're collecting baseline data in my intro psych class today. Beyond that, I'm afraid everything else is going to have to remain...a secret.

Why aren't you studying?


Bashir said...

I read your blogpost and was very interested in your project idea. Would the idea of incorporating tablets be useful for any schooling other than university? For example, I think the idea of giving every high school student an Ipad is a bit unrealistic in the sense that it will be used for things besides studying.

However, how are you sure that students in post secondary won't waste their time on their Ipad? What if this leads to a net loss of time used while studying?

Karsten A. Loepelmann said...

@Bashir: There are some school districts that are starting to use iPads in the classroom. I'm pretty sure they're "locked off" and only have apps on them that are required for schoolwork.

I think there might be a danger that some people will be dazzled by a new gadget--as I was at first. After a while, though, I just started to use it to do the things that I normally did. It took the place of a piece of paper or my desktop/laptop computer. That is, I just used it to get work done.

I was worried that, in class, students would use the tablet for, say, Facebook. But then I realized that students are already using their gadgets to do that. (Yes, I do notice that, people!) Those who are serious about doing work and learning will still do that--with or without a cute new gadget.

Find It