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Major Universities In Arab Emirates Go Paperless, Replacing Books With 14,000 iPads

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Three leading universities in United Arab Emirates have handed over iPads to their first-year students, giving them freedom from carrying a heavy backpack with massive textbooks around, reports The New York Times, with a goal to provide iPads to all the students so that in four years, the universities will have completely paperless classrooms.

Last year, UAE’s three major higher-education institutions i.e United Arab Emirates University , Zayed University and the Higher Colleges of Technology, decided to use the already popular iPad as an academic tool. Starting with September this year, over 14,000 iPads have been handed out to all first-year students. Education experts are hoping that the move will help raise low test scores and bridge the gap between classroom learning and practical workplace skills, says the source.

“Everyone’s on mobiles and iPads, so we thought this was the right time and place for what has now become the largest systematic deployment of any mobile device in schools in the world,” said Jace Hargis, director of Abu Dhabi Women’s College and Khalifa City Women’s College, both of which are part of the Higher Colleges of Technology. Dr. Hargis is also a member of the iPad initiative steering committee.

The plan to offer iPads across the U.A.E.’s three main higher education institutions has been in the works for one year by government decree. With the support of the government, a team of specialists visited Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, in April to form a partnership and agree on training services for teachers and students.

Local U.A.E. students generally do not pay for tuition or textbooks, though they are required to buy their own laptops. According to NYT, the introduction of iPads will reduce that cost by nearly 50%. The initiative is definitely a first step toward paperless classrooms.

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  • Interesting approach but it feels like this is just applying a tool (in this case an iPad). What has been done to help faculty build content that works with a tablet? Have the universities invested in their network (particularly wireless) infrastructure to support this approach? Is there a faculty development centre setup to support faculty in using tablets in their teaching.

    I am a fan of tablet computing but we need to consider a holistic approach to create the next level in learning environments.

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