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Saturday, October 25, 2014

iPad Replacing Laptops in the Classroom

Automotive students at WCC have a fancy new gadget in their toolbox this winter: the Apple iPad.

Part laptop, part smartphone, the iPad is quickly becoming the standard in computing technology. Students in the automotive services department are learning to use the lightweight device instead of a laptop or clunky diagnostic equipment, which take extra time to boot and are cumbersome to operate.

“Its user friendliness is awesome,” said Ross Gordon, dean of vocational technology, who likes the ease with which students can take it inside and under an automobile when working on it. “We did a little experiment. One group used traditional scanning tools to pull off the [operating] codes from a car in the lab. Another group used the iPad with the special apps we downloaded for it. The first group had to wait until their equipment booted up. The students with the iPad did their assignment twice as fast.”

After putting the iPad through its paces, the students and faculty were sold. “It syncs well with other wireless devices and is the most practical when checking the cause of a ‘check engine’ light in class,” said Gordon. “It’s super quick. We don’t have just one course that can do something with it—all of our classes can.”

Staying Aligned With Industry

According to Gordon, the impetus to use the iPad in class came from the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas, where each year Washtenaw showcases its automotive handiwork. SEMA’s show is recognized as the premier aftermarket event for the automotive industry. When WCC instructors and students saw industry professionals with an iPad in hand, they quickly realized its potential.

With the interest and success automotive students have shown, other WCC disciplines are taking a closer look at the technology. That is why the College recently invited Apple to campus to demonstrate it.

“Representatives focused on many of the apps available to us and their capabilities,” said Granville Lee, dean of health and applied technology. “They also talked about the iOS Development Center, where we can get help developing our own apps. I’d say there were almost 100 faculty in attendance.”

Instructors in radiography, industrial technology, nursing, and natural sciences are in the early stages of identifying ways to integrate the iPad into their classes. And while enthusiasm for using this new tool is growing, radiography instructor Jim Skufis still has some concerns.

“The texts or material that we use are not yet in an iBook format, so reading or using them on the iPad is challenging,” explained Skufis. “We could convert our content ourselves, but I’m not savvy enough at it yet, and we have so many other drags on our available time. Currently, there is only one app that relates to medical imaging education for radiographers. We could try to create the apps ourselves, but we’ll still come up against the same restraints I’ve cited. And we can’t forget cost. This isn’t your mom’s MP3 player!”

Pocket Technology Has a Premium Payoff

To showcase some of the iPad’s in-class applications, WCC filmed a one-and-a-half-minute video using another popular handheld device, the iPhone 4. You can view it and photographs taken during the making of the video online.

Although a Steadycam was used with the device during one sequence, the standard iPhone technology is all that was needed to produce a high quality video.

“We wanted to show what you could do with something already in your pocket—the technology is that good,” said Christopher Billick, director of Web Services, who produced the video with colleague Mike Wilkinson. “It’s great if colleges have the budget to invest in video equipment. But if they don’t, the iPhone is a good alternative.”

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