MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) -- A group of 13 professors at Western Illinois University are trying to stay ahead of the ever-changing world of technology to meet the needs of students raised in a very digital universe.
For nearly ten years, the Faculty Innovators Program has helped professors connect and communicate better with their students-- now, they're using iPads.
It's a lightweight, easy to carry device, but for some professors at WIU the small gadget is opening a whole new world of possibilities for their time in-- and out-- of the classroom.
"So you can see the different grading criteria, the visual display," points out Rachel Smith, a professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism, as she uses her iPad.
For Smith, incorporating the iPad into her teaching is making a lot of things more simple.
"It's a lot faster, easier, cleaner. Before I would have stacks of legal pads of names and grades and grading rubrics and it just was more cumbersome," said Smith.
The iPad puts that mess of paper into one lightweight device. It isn't just helping Smith in the classroom. Smith says she spends a lot of time in the field and says such technology could be helpful for her students.
"I think it would allow us to do things like bird and plant identification," said Smith.
If you walk the streets of the WIU campus, you can't go more than a few steps without seeing someone texting or talking on a cell phone. The university says it's important for faculty stay on the cutting edge of technology.
"In many ways it's an effort to catch up to our students," said Nick Digrino, the dean of the College of Education and Human Services, "and help them better understand that many of the social applications they've been utilizing, their hardware and software have just a multitude of opportunity for learning in the formal sense as well."
Some things that are standard in that formal environment are getting a facelift, like taking notes in the margin of a book.
"Of course you can just read it, but you can add notes to it and there's a functionality where you can share those notes with groups," explained Smith.
Smith says she's excited by the possibility of using that kind of technology to better reach her students.
As the 13 professors spend this year learning how to use the iPad, they're also preparing to incorporate it into their lesson plans more often next year.
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