While devices such as the iPad and Kindle are becoming increasingly popular, many consumers remain skeptical. Donald Braxton, professor of religion, shares his thoughts.
Q: You encourage student to have iPads or Kindles in class. Why do you want to push these devices?
A: I have gone to a book-free format in all of my classes. Instead of books, what we read are PDF files from a wide variety of sources. I think it’s partially our responsibility to prepare students for a modern work environment. I think it’s important for graduates to be not information literate, but information fluent. Information fluency places a great emphasis on the ability to search and find information rather than mastering a body of finite information.
Q: Some people have reservations about these new technologies. Do you think these reservations are fair?
A: The adoption of any new technology means some things are promoted and some things are lost. Often I find critics only tend to look at what’s lost, and not at apparent gains. Enthusiasts in contrast look at all the great possibilities and ignore what’s lost. What critics think is lost is ownership of written words. As a result, for those people who view knowledge as a possession, they are losing the ability to grasp that. The biggest fans of books are people with this kind of romantic notion about knowledge. They think somehow these new devices cheapen information; that knowledge is a treasure you own by collecting books on shelves. But I think what we need to emphasize is not so much literacy, but fluency in ability to find information when you need it.
Q: One of the reservations many have is that these devices are very expensive. As they become more popular, do you think they’ll be more accessible?
A: First of all they’re already popular. Take all the books they’d be using compared to this and calculate which is the higher expense. Third if you buy this device while you’re in school, you’ll have it after you graduate and you can continue to gather information, so I see it as a win-win.
Q: Which of the three devices (iPad, Nook, Kindle) would you recommend most?
A: There are three devices you can buy depending on what you want to use them for. The iPad is versatile, but you have to pay for it. The Nook is medium-range, but affordable. At the low end in the Kindle, which is cheap but sacrifices a lot of functions. But watch out for the new Kindle tablet. They’re claiming it will have features comparable to the iPad.
Q: Many see these technologies as replacing books. Do you think maybe instead they might replace computers?
A: If a student were to ask me “can I not bring a laptop if I have an iPad?” I would say absolutely not. The iPad has basic word processing, I can keep notes and documents, but I can’t replace my computer. Where it comes in handy is with things like Dragon Dictation. (Dragon Dictation is an iPad program which records spoken words and translates them into text). You can do this with every lecture you attend.
It’s revolutionizing what it means to sit in class and participate. Instapaper grabs URLs and saves them for you. It changes everything about research. It’s like a little bag you can toss things into and decide whether or not you need it. There are news apps. Study guides. A 3-D model of the brain you can use to study. There are flash card programs and of course many amusing games. It doesn’t replace the computer; it revolutionizes what it means to be a student.
Kelsey Molseed ’14, Juniata Online Journalist