CIO Predicament: What to do About the iPad

How should we respond to this latest encroachment of consumer technology?

November 22, 2010  | 2 min read

 

Timothy Chester(Originally published by Campus Technology, reprinted with permission of the author)

Steve Jobs has done it to us once again. With the release of the iPad, Apple has unleashed another revolutionary device upon information technology organizations in higher education. Within hours of its release, the iPad began showing up on campuses as faculty and students attempted to use the device to access library, portal, and other services through our campus networks. How should we respond to this latest encroachment of consumer technology?

One camp sees institution-wide adoption of the iPad as a precursor for innovation; the other views the device as an unwelcome disruption introducing new security and operational risks. Which camp is taking the right approach? If increasing the effectiveness of teaching, learning, and scholarship is the goal, perhaps both approaches leave something to be desired.

The mantra of the early adopter institution is: "Adopt aggressively: Innovation and increased effectiveness will surely come." This approach ignores the fact that most new technologies fail to live up to their hype. Effectiveness is related to the use and application of the technology and has little or nothing to do with the nature of the technology itself.

On the other hand, refusing to provide basic connectivity and support for the iPad does not make much sense either. Refusing to provide iPad users with the same basic services provided by the local Starbucks or Barnes & Noble makes us appear outdated and unreliable. It also unnecessarily increases the gap between those who build and support technology and those who use technology. If we've learned anything, it's that faculty and students will do whatever is necessary to adopt compelling consumer technologies—with or without our blessing.

Our "adopt, adapt, and experiment" approach is designed to acknowledge student expectations to support the iPad while we uphold our faculty as they determine the pedagogical usefulness of the device. The best part of our approach is that it does not require a major outlay of financial resources, which is vital in an era of slashed budgets.

Personally, I remain an enthusiastic and ardent fan of the device. I was one of the first in line at the local Apple Store and I carry my iPad to most meetings. While the iPad has had a positive influence on my work as a technologist, it would be a mistake for me to assume that every person who picks up the device will find the same advantages. Within higher education, there are a variety of aspirations, expectations, skills, and abilities. By focusing on what we do with technology, instead of the technology itself, we put our institutions in the best possible position to increase the value of what we provide to our students.