WISE – Two years and two months ago, AVU Wise Chancellor Donna Henry was helping distribute around 1,400 brand-new iPads to students and staff at the college’s fall convocation.
On Wednesday, after a pandemic and a four-year technology plan that was scaled back to two years, Henry and university officials were recognized by Apple Inc. as a distinguished school for making devices an integral part of learning methods of students and teachers.
Apple executives Anne VanMiddlesworth, Bob Whicker and Jack Burns joined students and administrators for the official announcement of the honor. UVA Wise is now one of more than 30 colleges and universities in the United States with the Distinguished School designation, which means that the college has demonstrated significant innovation and advancement in using iPads and associated technology for l ‘education.
The first allocation of free iPads was part of the college’s innovate2eleVAte technology initiative. Henry said studies had shown that about half of the students starting at UVA Wise did not have access to a reliable internet before coming to campus.
“We had no idea that a global pandemic was looming when we handed out iPads with a fanfare of excitement,” Henry said. “When we closed in-person classes seven months later, the pandemic forced us to be distant and virtual and this iPad initiative was our lifeline.”
Within three weeks of the state’s order in early 2020 ending in-person classes at all state colleges and universities, nearly all university departments at UVA Wise were resuming classes using iPads and Zoom conferencing software.
Henry said faculty started a trial program months before the 2019-2020 academic year to familiarize themselves with iPads, available software, and free downloadable textbooks. This review helped the college complete the year and prepare for the continuing pandemic challenge the following year.
“The impact was immediate; the possibilities were endless, ”said Henry. “Not only have classrooms been transformed with Apple TVs so that all iPads can be projected onto TV screens. I truly believe our whole campus has been transformed.
Henry said students and faculty use iPads for music, data analysis, art, robotics, textbooks, language studies, and a range of academic applications.
Psychology professor Alex Reynolds, a member of a team of faculty and staff who worked on the pilot program ahead of the iPad’s fall 2019 distribution, said she expected to see the students use technology in unexpected ways.
“Let me just say that our faculty, staff, and students absolutely exceeded all of my expectations, which were pretty high, over the past two years,” Reynolds said. She cited an example where the pandemic did not allow for traditional anatomy classes, in which students would examine lab samples, including brains. A three-dimensional anatomy app allowed students to examine the structure of the brain and perform a virtual dissection.
“I was here two years ago when the first iPads were released,” VanMiddlesworth said. “Not all places have magic, and I’ll tell you all, this place is magic. This team – the management team, the academic team, the IT team, the student team, the sports team, the staff team – came together to create something truly special at the College of the ‘University of Virginia at Wise.
“It’s been two crazy years,” VanMiddlesworth added. “Thanks to you, it worked. “
“When we looked at our four-year plan for the Apple Distinguished School app, we found that we had actually completed everything on the plan in two years,” Henry said of the pandemic’s effect on the innovate2eleVAte program.
Scott Bevins, the university’s chief information officer and information services marshal, acknowledged the university’s IT staff and Apple support staff for making a smooth transition to an iPad environment at the campus-wide.
“It’s a pleasure to work with the students and the IT staff have enjoyed it,” Bevins said.
Naya Davis, a physical education major, said the iPad is an integral part of her college work and campus jobs as a sports videographer and head of the first-year expedition program.
“My computer died on me just at the start of the school year (2019),” Davis said, “and the next day they gave us iPads to get to know them and learn more about them for a week. loved it and haven’t bought a computer since, I use it most of the day, every day.
Senior art major McKenzie Dykstra got to work on her iPad when asked to work on an iPad user guide for students and staff. While she used to go through multiple logins and downloads of documents for graphics projects before getting her college iPad, Dykstra said the process was to turn on her device and work on graphics and animations for guide.
Classes entering since 2019 now have the cost of the iPad included in their tuition, Henry said, but the devices form a common educational platform for faculty and students.
“I was hoping we would really embrace this and that it might change the way we teach and the way our students learn,” Henry said, “and I think it happened. “Professors and students now expect to use iPads. Faculty know that students now have this technology, so it is easier for them to use it. I’m excited where we are at and I’m excited to keep going and see where this takes us. “