Because he has to print out a lot of lecture slides for note taking, printing costs were a significant part of Zach Rutledge’s college budget. Fortunately, technology has enabled him to practically eliminate this expense.

Rutledge, an immunology and infectious disease major, said that having to print slides in campus computer lab printers for his statistics, biochemistry, and microbiology courses quickly ate up his free printed pages allotment from the University.

Rutledge raised this issue with the President’s Office, who then forwarded the email onto Cole Camplese, senior director of Teaching and Learning with Technology. Camplese decided to meet with Rutledge.

“I went in and spoke to Cole about it. With the whole technology transition in the world, which is how things are nowadays, he asked me if I wanted to do a trial run with an iPad,” Rutledge said. “So, the University lent me an iPad 2 to use in my classes. Basically I was going to be the guinea pig to see how much it influences my learning, etc. and to see how much in the future they want to implement the iPad into normal classes.”

While eliminating printing costs was a huge benefit of the iPad for Rutledge, he has found other advantages of using an iPad. For example, since he has what he refers to as an “ancient phone,” he can use the iPad to access emails to keep in touch with people, such as classmates and friends from his home area near Pittsburgh.

Rutledge also really likes the idea of having everything he needs on the iPad. “I don’t have to worry about big bulky heavy books, or losing papers. Plus, I love the organizational advantages of having all of your classes in separate folders,” he said. “All you have to do is download the PowerPoint files, and boom, it’s on the iPad.”

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Rutledge using the iPad touchscreen to zoom in on an image while working at the Berkey Creamery.

Ease of use is another benefit, according to Rutledge, using the example of how he can now take notes on class slides without printing them. “You just take notes on the iPad like it’s a piece of paper,” he said. “It’s easy, you get a stylus and write right on it.”

“A program that I mostly use for note taking is called called iAnnotate. It requires the lecture slides to be in a PDF format, and then you download them into Dropbox and upload them straight into the program on the iPad,” Rutledge said. “You go on it, click on the file name, just take your notes on there. It automatically saves it, no hassle, and very easy to do.”

An additional advantage of the iPad over books—it lights up so you can read on it in the dark. Rutledge said he likes the idea that he can now study if he is traveling via bus or as a car passenger at night. “You can study anywhere,” he said. “If there is noise you can put in headphones and listen to music. It’s great, I love it.”

While there are a lot of advantages, Rutledge said that there are a few drawbacks. While the iPad overall is easy to use, there is a learning curve during the transition to using an iPad. This includes learning any new software.

Rutledge also said that sometimes he is nervous about something happening to his iPad, like being stolen or broken, and then losing all his work. But, he said the solution is to download all his course slides and save them on a hard drive, just in case.

“Using iPads in class is going to take a little bit of effort from the teacher’s part but I think it’s definitely worth it.” —Zach Rutledge

Rutledge also recently found another solution. “I found out that the new Apple program known as ‘iCloud’ automatically syncs iPads, iPhones, and/or Macs to a server,” he said. “Thus, if anything were to happen to the iPad etc. all the work would be able to be recovered off of the server. So in response to the drawback of losing work due to malfunction or theft, this is the remedy.”

Rutledge would like to see faculty incorporate iPads into their teaching in a variety of ways. For example, he said, iPads are helpful to people with different learning styles. “I’m a very visual learner, and having a professor just talk with no images, no movies, no breaks, it makes it hard,” he said. “In fact, I will do worse if I go to class than if I stay out of class and read a book that has good illustrations.”

The iPad’s multimedia tools and other software enable it to help faculty reach just about any style of learner, so Rutledge sees a lot of potential for them as an educational tool. “People learn in different ways. You have audio learners, visual learners and stuff like that,” he said. “The iPad’s multimedia capabilities offer some good ways to get teachers engaged with different learning styles. Using iPads in class is going to take a little bit of effort from the teacher’s part but I think it’s definitely worth it.”

iPad saves Penn State science student from paying big printing fees

Zach Rutledge showing a slide from one of his courses on his TLT-loaned iPad

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