The coming iPad-induced academic sweatshop.

21 09 2010

If you’re like me, then you run into a lot of stuff about the impact of the iPad on society and especially on classrooms during your daily Internet media rounds. This post from Wired Campus is particularly good for getting into the details about what iPads do for those of us who don’t actually own one yet. Here’s the part that really got me thinking:

Catherine Giunta, an associate professor of business at Seton Hill, said the technology has changed the way students interact with their textbooks and how she interacts with her students. While reviewing the margin notes of a student in her marketing class, Ms. Giunta was able to pinpoint and correct a student’s apparent misunderstanding of a concept that was going to be covered in class the next day. “The misunderstanding may not have been apparent until [the student] did a written report,” Ms. Giunta said. “I could really give her individualized instruction and guidance.”

My first reaction to this was: “Wow, I can review my students’ margin notes when they use an iPad?”

My second reaction was: “When am I going to find the time to read students’ margin notes?” It’s not like I’m a slacker in this department. I require drafts for all paper assignments above survey level classes, but this sounds more like scut work than empowerment. Seriously, are we supposed to require them to take margin notes so that we can evaluate their understanding of the text? Isn’t that what the paper is supposed to be for?

Don’t get me wrong: I still want an iPad. I plan to split it with my wife. She’s going to use it to run credit card transactions when she sells merchandise at belly dance shows.* I’m going to use it to read novels (specifically since I won’t feel the need to write in them or keep the overwhelming majority of them after I’m trough reading them). What I don’t want an iPad for is my classroom. Give me a better reason to teach American history with one and perhaps I’ll reconsider, but I haven’t seen that reason yet.

* As a matter of fact, my wife is much more interesting than I am. Why do you ask?


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