Laptops-for-students programs are becoming increasingly common, with administrators finding that they relieve pressure on computer labs and improve teacher-student communications. Many colleges provide laptops at a reduced rate to students, through partnerships with manufacturers, and some even give them away for free (or, rather, build the cost into the yearly tuition that students or their parents must pay). George Fox University
will take this trend to the next level in the 2010-11 school year by allowing students to choose: MacBook or iPad?
The Christian college located in Newburg, Oregon has already been giving new students their own computers, which become theirs to keep when they graduate, for the past 20 years. The college's chief IT executive said that the decision to go with the iPad - a device that has not yet been released - has some risk, but feels it is worth it to stay on the cutting edge of technology. "We realize there are a number of uncertainties," Greg Smith said. Will students struggle with a virtual keyboard? Can the iPad do everything students need it to do when it comes to their college education? These are the kinds of questions we really won’t know the answer to until we get started.” He said that the goal of the move is to on the forefront of what could be a seminal shift in how mobile computing is used in the classroom. "By doing this, we’re opening the door to innovation," Smith continued. "What we learn can influence the future of technology as it pertains to higher education.”
Textbook publishers have been aggressively courted by Apple prior to the iPad's announcement, and several of the major companies are ready to go with electronic versions of their titles. ScrollMotion has been developing iPad versions of textbooks for McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Kaplan, offering interactive quizzes, the ability to record lectures, highlight and search text, and take notes, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal
. And Macmillan's DynamicBooks
is an innovative new "interactive textbook" platform for the iPad that will effectively give professors the ability to reshape a textbooks by giving them Wiki-style editing, allowing them to shuffle the order of material as well as editing it themselves.
Some students - especially those in science and engineering programs - may choose to go with the MacBook for its flexibility and power. That's why, according to Fox's Greg Smith, they gave the students a choice. “With this, we’re basically asking students ‘What computing system will work best for you?’” he said. “By giving them this option, they can choose between the iPad, a mobile device known for its networking and E-textbook capabilities, or the laptop, which offers more computing horsepower.”