You’d have to have been on some other planet last week not to have heard about the iPad giveaway from the Faculty of Science at the University of Adelaide – yes, as of first semester 2011, all new enrollments in first year science will be given (yes, given) one of these much sought after devices. This is the sort of thing, of course, that the media loves. The news feeds went ballistic, and Robert Hill, Adelaide’s Executive Dean of Science, found himself thrust into the role of multi-media celebrity, as commentators everywhere scratched their heads and asked him why. Hand out thousand dollar technology to a bunch of shiftless uni students? Professor Hill, what are you thinking?
Well, in fact there’s a lot of interesting thinking going on here. The iPad giveaway is not just some buzzy attempt to build up student numbers, nor is it simply focused on the digitization of text books. The iPad is seen rather as the catalyst for a wholesale paradigm shift in the nature of science education at the university, as connected, interactive, collaborative students explore the workings of science, and its real world applications, in a radically reconceived way.
In this interview we talk to Bob Hill about this vision for reshaping science education, and about the many challenges that it brings. This is not the world’s first higher education iPad initiative, of course – there are already a number of pilot/evaluative programs under way, primarily in the United States – but the revolutionary pedagogical aspirations of this one make it particularly exciting. So the pressure is on at Adelaide. We all will be watching closely to see how it fares.