Seton Hill’s iPad Fail

I really liked Tom Scheinfeldt’s post “iPads and irResponsibility” because it points out the worst kind of conspicuous consumption to garner both attention and students. I mean the freaking homepage of the university redirects to the iPad project page—shameless, even by the bava’s standards. Add to the $1.1 million spent on an iPad for all students and faculty, an additional $3 million for everyone’s Mac Book—and what you have is the funding for a group like UMW’s DTLT to be funded for more than 15 years. That how you measure the difference with these gimmicks, they feed millions to corporations and stuff rather than investing in people and possibilities. It is a sham, and the press surrounding it just reinforces the fact that good work is not of value, rather a good headline that ties into some kind of shiny product.

And to be clear, I’m not nearly as upset with the fact that there is such a thing as the iPad, I am not necessarily an iPad hater, rather my contempt is preserved for all the folks who are claiming that the iPad is the second coming of educational technology. As CogDog says when discussing the tablet and Wired’s new online edition for the iPad:

I have to say, the demo on the video does look interesting, yet I see marginal “newness” in this “new media”.. it stil feels like a magazine on a “reader” is still pretty much the vestigal print archetype, with some media and navigation thrown in. I see little newness in the idea of what a magazine could/should/might be.

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18 Responses to Seton Hill’s iPad Fail

  1. Sarah M says:

    Wow, that re-direct is truly shameless. What a gimmick.

  2. Derek Bruff says:

    Did you have a similar reaction to Abilene Christian University’s iPhone / iPod Touch initiative? It seems they’ve invested in “people and possibilities” along with their mobile devices. (

  3. Ed Webb says:

    Pogue nailed it in the NYT – this is a device for consumption, not creation. So the Seton Hall gimmick is not only about marketing, but also about a broadcast model of education. Or, as the wise Bryan Alexander puts it: television.

  4. Derek Bruff says:

    @Ed: I get that the iPad seems to be tailored more for consumption than creation. I wonder, however, if it will be as useful for communication and social networking as an iPod Touch. There’s a lot of the “mobile learning” community focused on using mobile devices to increase and enhance interactions (teacher-student, student-student). I wonder if the iPad will lend itself to the more interactive elements of mobile learning.

  5. Ed Webb says:

    @Derek: one can only hope. But given its size – larger than a Kindle – this is only semi-mobile. The point of an iPod Touch, surely, is to pack a lot of functions into a small package. The iPad is not something you can slip into your pocket.

    How does it fare as a tablet rather than a large iPod Touch? The absence of multi-tasking will be seen as a plus by those worried about students updating facebook in class or similar. But it does preclude, say, reading and annotating a text and running a backchannel. So the ways in which a tablet might lend itself to participatory learning (which may be different from interactive – not sure) are severely limited. That lack of flexibility (hackability?) is something we’ve come to associate in education with the walled proprietary LMS and other dead-ends that sounded like a good idea at the time.

    I love slick and shiny toys as much as the next edupunk. But I don’t think this is the platform I want for education.

  6. Reverend says:

    I entirely agree with you on this point:

    I don’t think this is the platform I want for education.

    The closed/subscription logic of the iPad is not so different from the the proprietary LMS when you think about it.

  7. @Derek, is the iPad to be one content delivery source out of several, a la Touch, or a replacement computer, a “laptop-killer”, a replacement for netbooks? I’ve been hearing the latter from an awful lot of folks, *and* that it’s like tv. If this is true, that’s a… significant combination, pedagogically.

    @Ed, @Bava – the LMS-iPad link is a brilliant discussion starter. A single site for content broadcasting. Want to fire up a new post, and/or Twitter thread, to test it out?

    I’m toying with the idea that we’re working through an old, vast nostalgia for tv.

  8. Reverend says:

    I’m toying with the idea that we’re working through an old, vast nostalgia for tv.

    I love this idea, Bryan, and I really do see this very platform specific idea of branding syndedoche in tech wherein the part stands in for the whole. BlackBoard:LMS::iPad:Tablet. We are seeing many of the same patterns, and I really have heard very little complaint or concern over a closed development.

    You tell me how you want to pursue, but I’ll push this further in a post, and

  9. Derek Bruff says:

    @Bryan: Very good points. If the iPad is just a big iPod Touch, then it will be more or less useful in education than the Touch–more useful because the greater screen size will facilitate some more interesting, more visual applications (like image-based “clicker” apps), but less useful because it won’t be as portable as the Touch.

    If the iPad is a pretty, but less functional laptop, then, yeah, I’m not sure how that leads to positive changes.

  10. Ed Webb says:

    Cory Doctorow does a more eloquent job here on the walled garden and unhackability aspects:

    Back to the future – I want my, I want my, I want my MTV…

  11. Brian says:

    It’s remarkable, really. Educational technologists are talking a big game these days. We claim that a revolution of computing and communication technology means fundamental change in how teaching and learning should be (or ‘will be’) practiced. We talk boldly of the need for radical transformation to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

    We complain to each other that the academy doesn’t ‘get it’, and trade funny stories of how faculty and administration resist or fail to comprehend our wisdom. We want more respect for our specialized expertise.

    We aspire not merely to be technicians, but to have a voice in the mission and the fundamental work of the academy. Given that, one would think that when a much-hyped proprietary gadget hits the market we could be counted on to provide informed, open-minded yet cautiously skeptical assessment. And presumably our expert judgment would be grounded in some actual experience (either personal, or via trusted members of the network).

    Instead, we see professionals acting as unpaid PR flacks. If you are going to sell out, shouldn’t you get a piece of the action? Instead, as the case you present here demonstrates, the money flows from the educational institutions to corporate HQ.

    The Tom Scheinfeldt piece you link to is also worth reading for the comments. “They are not only buying the iPads they are buying the publicity.” In other words, getting a couple days worth of “buzz” on TechCrunch and the Chronicle of Higher Learning website is worth the expense of scarce resources. One would have thought that the crushing economic lessons learned the past couple years would have taught us something about investing in “buzz”…

    And just in selfish terms of job security in an insecure age… Why would technologists want money at their institution that is earmarked for “technology” to go straight to Cupertino? Can’t they think of more creative things to do with that money? Things that might actually improve the teaching and learning experience, and enhance the value that higher education offers to society?

    One nice thing about the past few days… I’ve been rapidly pruning my Twitter feed. This has been a very useful acid test.

  12. Just caught the first story on – the *first* story – being “When you buy your iPad…”

    @Ed, it was neat to see Doctorow’s piece paired with Xeni Jardin’s. Night and day. …could teach a writing lesson from those, right outta the box.

    @Bava, are you seeing that tv nostalgia, too? I worry that I’m projecting my own media self onto the world – me, tv-free for years, focusing instead on the internet and books. Maybe a stance I need to bracket out.
    Is anyone on your campus doing media studies and tv? I wonder what that field’s state of the art is in 2010, after a decade of social media. F’instance, is tv culture now more personal and silo’d, after cable and satellite displaced broadcast?

    Well said, @Brian. Modeling critical thinking consumerist frenzy.
    (To your later point, about job security, did you see our post about Brian Hawkins’ New Orleans jeremiad?)

  13. Meg says:

    Well said, @Brian. I’m not currently at an institution that can afford to take risks on untried technology (I’m on a Fulbright at the Univ of the West Indies) so I am not a witness to the on-campus frenzy that I imagine is occurring at my old institution in the US (unnamed ’cause I could be wrong). Just reading the twitter hype is disturbing. It’s funny, these are untried little shiny tools, no one is giving them away, and yet because they’re blessed by Jobs, higher ed flocks to them.

    One more thing, it’s too bad that Seton Hill U and Seton Hall U are so similarly named.(See @edwebb above) Seton Hall U is home to well-thought out, creative and tested curricular development around pen-based and touch-based technologies in teaching. They (Seton Hall) were doing tablets long before a lot of us were.

  14. Ed Webb says:

    Apologies to Seton Hall for the typo!

  15. Brian says:

    @Bryan – thank for the pointer to Hawkin’s talk in NOLA…

    And since I am spraying this other URL every place I can today: Internet NO será otra TV

  16. Good link, Brian. The ideological battles return. Time for Jerry Mander again.

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