Apple Pencils, Virtual Reality, and Drones: New Technology comes to campus

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

If you’ve paid attention to the technology here on campus, you may have noticed some changes this year. 

At iPad deployment for incoming and transfer students this August, new Cardinals were met with an iPad Air – a break from the traditional iPad Pros –  and an apple pencil. But this new iPad is actually not so different from the previous models. 

“All iPads and all technology go through different variations and updates,” said Heath Hase, director of teaching and learning technologies. “With this new release that Apple made for the iPad Air, it was essentially the same specs as the iPad Pro but at a cheaper price.”  

That made the choice of switching from iPad Pros to iPad Airs an easy decision for Hase and the rest of the college’s administration. With the money saved, the school was also able to purchase Apple Pencils for all new students – something Hase pushed for. 

“When I arrived on campus last April I very much wanted to see the addition of the apple pencil being apart of the Jewell-verse initiative for our students,” he said. 

Hase says feedback he’s received from students is positive, and he feels that they are able to use their new devices in a variety of classes. He also says he’s heard from older students who did not receive an Apple pencil and are interested in the device. 

 “I’m grateful that the students that are expressing that interest are expressing it from an academic advantage and they’re saying ‘Hey I could really see myself using that effectively in the classroom’ instead of just saying they want to have one. It’s been a good response so far.”

Because of the success of the Apple pencil thus far, Hase says the school has acquired a mini stockpile so that older students who need the pencil for a class can use one for the semester. 

“We of course don’t have enough to send out to all 800 students here on campus, but if there is a class where they could really take advantage of using the apple pencil we could definitely work toward getting them one” Hase said. 

New technology is also coming to the bottom floor of the PLC. The IT department is investing in four main areas of new technology – 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality and coding. 

Along with existing 3D technology, Hase is looking to upgrade the 3D printing available to students. 

“3D printers are just like any other device there are multiple levels of quality and so I want to be able to emphasize the differences in terms of the quality of those 3D printers and allow students to be able to create models using software, so we’ll be investing in new software as well as equipment,” Hase said. 

Beyond helping STEM students, the 3D printers are also important to education majors. 3D printers are being installed in more and more schools, and it is becoming essential for aspiring teachers to learn how to use these devices. In some cases, 3D printers can change the way core curriculum is taught. 

“We’ve printed a lot of types of manipulatives, whether that be fraction blocks or angle pieces, or just many examples of things that many teachers would have to go out and purchase, and you can do it for a fraction of the cost using a 3D printer,” Hase said.“You can also customize pieces for a lesson which is nice.”. 

The IT department is also investing in two growing technology fields – virtual reality and augmented reality. 

“Virtually reality is where you essentially immerse yourself in a digital environment,” Hase said.” “So we could go and record Downtown Kansas City and create a virtual reality experience, and then someone would put on a pair of goggles and they would immerse themselves in the Downtown Kansas City area without having to go there.” 

This is different than augmented reality, where you can still see your current environment but augmented changes or additions are made. 

“For example if I was wanting to learn about dinosaurs, I could be wearing some piece of augmented reality equipment and I could be out on the Quad still seeing the trees, still seeing all the buildings, but then have an augmented dinosaur standing in front of me and I could then interact with it and learn about it,” Hase said.

All this new technology means that the way we experience our world – and the way we learn about it – is changing, and that’s exciting. This is not just for students in STEM fields or those technology buffs, it’s for everyone. 

Hase hopes that virtual reality and augmented reality equipment will be available to students soon, but he wants everyone to know that in some ways, it’s already here. 

“The cool thing is, everyone here on campus can automatically incorporate augmented reality with the iPads they have already been deployed,” Hase said. “All of our iPads support augmented reality, and there are some really cool applications that are free of charge that students can download, and then try out augmented reality for themselves.”

Jigsaw, for example, is one of those augmented reality apps that Hase recommends.

The IT department is also interested in helping students learn about coding. More and more tech companies are pushing for coding lessons in K-12, but there is also an increasing demand for coding lessons in higher education. 

“It’s literally just like learning another language – it’s just what computers happen to speak…  computers are growing so much that now we have AI where computers literally getting a mind of their own in some capacity, and so us as humans have to be able to interact with them and be able to manipulate them or modify them – to recode them,” Hase said. 

Apple’s coding language – Switch – is a newer code that has grown tremendously since its creation and is now what many programmers use to create their applications. In an effort to make this more accessible Apple created an application called Swift Playgrounds.  

“Swift Playgrounds essentially takes the user through different lessons of learning the Swift programing language,” Hase said. “The cool thing with Swift Playgrounds is that you can actually then connect real life items like robots and drones, that could then be coded using that software.” 

Anyone interested in coding can use Swift Playgrounds on their iPads and be walked through coding step-by-step. That accessibility is key to Hase. 

“Just five years ago many people who ever entertained the idea of coding or writing an application felt the need to have a computer science degree,” he said. “I’m not saying that’s still not the case, but it’s gotten to the point where everyone now can code in some capacity…and so I think it’s fantastic.”

Under Hase’s leadership the Jewell campus could be thrust into the cutting edge of new technology and innovation. As he points out, the world is changing and future employers are going to expect a workforce that is ready to handle those changes. That means one day in the near future, augmented reality could replace desktops, 3D printers could replace traditional classroom models and you could be coding a drone to do tasks for you. 

“The cool thing is that all four of those areas [3D printing, virtual and augmented reality, and coding]… really require us to step out onto that critical thinking platform and think about how we can change our way of thinking, or maybe take some of our ways of thinking a step further with some of those technologies,” Hase said “And so I’m really excited to see what will come about with some of those technologies being incorporated here on campus.”

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