Universities are by definition often conservative, and that is not surprising given their role in conserving knowledge and the average age of chancellors and faculty heads. Within living memory even pocket calculators were banned, and there are still mutters in some staffrooms about laptops in lecture rooms. This is no longer true of the University of Adelaide though, thanks to the foresight of Executive Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, Professor Robert Hill – a man who believes in the wisdom of providing iPads at universities.
Thanks to the Professor’s efforts, every one of 700 first-year science students at Adelaide received a brand-new Apple iPad when they enrolled this year. The genial professor was clearly chuffed when he commented that the iPad will revolutionize the way science is taught at the university. This is because he believes that teaching material will be more accessible, more relevant and more frequently updated, providing the flexible learning environment students are looking for.
There are many further benefits of iPads at universities too. Students no longer have to drag bags full of books between lecture rooms. There is more elbowroom to work. Moreover and especially importantly, poor students will no longer be disadvantaged because they cannot afford prescribed study material. The cost per science student is in the region of US$ 857 – surely not exorbitant in terms of the equal opportunities this brings.
Opportunities in laboratories and practical classes are especially dramatic. Here students will be able to play, and re-play live experiments and other simulations as many times as they need. This will ease conflicts between different learning capabilities, and help put a science degree within the grasp of all.
As Adelaide University quietly iPads its way out into an exciting technological landscape, no doubt many other institutions will follow suite soon. But does this represent the end of science textbooks, and what are the implications for academic writers, of iPads at universities?