Paperless, High-Tech Classrooms

The University of Notre Dame will launch the first ever paperless class this coming fall semester, using the Apple iPad.  The trial is part of a year long study to see how e-readers would integrate into classrooms.  40 students from the Project Management course, will use the iPad as a textbook, conduct research, manage real world projects and be encouraged to use it in everyday life.

“eReaders are quickly being adopted for reading mass market literature, but also align well with the desire of higher education faculty and students to promote sustainability by reducing paper use,” says Paul Turner, manager of Academic Technologies in Notre Dame’s Office of Information Technologies. “But there are a wide range of issues we want to understand in order to decide when and where mobile wireless devices like the iPad can best replace textbooks and other paper-based course materials. Working with research faculty such as Professor Angst gives us the opportunity to study how students in multiple disciplines adopt and adapt to using eReaders.”

Image Courtesy: University of Notre Dame

The University owns the iPads, and once the trial is up the students do have to turn them back in so that another round of test subjects can play around with the technology.  Another layer to the sustainability of this project, if you will.  Reusing the product in new ways in new hands!

Other eReaders are thinking along the same lines.  The Kindle had a test run at Princeton.  In that case the students noted that they would prefer something a little more user friendly when it came to electronic text books.  So there are improvements to be made!

Just think about how much paper could be saved through the use of electronic pads and/or tablets for text books.  This could revolutionize college as we know it!  There is a drawback however to the potential elimination of hard copy text books.  According to

“While thousands of paper books can fit into one device, reducing the number of trees sacrificed to the printing industry, the embodied energy of electronics, let alone their e-waste at end of life, creates a massive footprint for the devices. Which will end up having the smaller footprint in the long run depends on many factors, including how thoroughly students use e-readers as opposed to books. It’ll still be years until we know which is “better” and until then, we’re using the earth’s resources from both sides — trees and water for books, and raw materials, electricity and recycling energy for eReaders.”

So, what do you think?  Will the introduction of iPads and similar devices into the classroom make it a more streamlined learning environment for students?  Let us know what you think!

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