Purchase photos

A pinnacle of western innovation

12/21/2011

By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

GOODLAND -- The mechanics graduating from Northwest Kansas Technical College this year will have a slightly different looking toolbox when they arrive for work at their first job.

Equipped with iPads, the automotive technology students, along with all students at the college, are learning how to use new technologies to further their education and career.

It's the second year of the one-to-one iPad initiative at NWKTC in Goodland, and instructors across campus are finding innovative ways to use the devices in their classrooms, shops, salons and laboratories.

"I was amazed at the amount of applications out there and the ways that we were using it in the shop," said Jim Kennedy, automotive technology instructor.

At first, he was skeptical about how the tool could be used in auto tech classes, but now, students are aligning cars, doing diagnostics and calculating measurements with the assistance of an iPad. Not to mention the potential Kennedy has realized with video capabilities -- projecting an engine onto an Apple TV to allow the entire class to see the work that needs done.

The same methods are being used in respiratory therapy where instructor Leona Evans is using the iPad to show students chest X-rays and lab results. Students then use their critical thinking skills to determine treatment for patients.

Because Evans has students out on clinicals as far away as Denver and North Platte, Neb., applications such as ScreenChomp have proven useful.

"A student will email me on clinical and say, 'I'm seeing this and I don't understand it,' " Evans said. "I can pull up a lecture or a picture or draw something, and while I'm doing it, I can actually record it and I can talk to my students. ... As soon as I stop that, it will upload and give me a link, and I can email that to them and say, 'Watch this.' "

She hopes to begin using the FaceTime application next year to allow for real-time video conferencing.

The use of iPads is almost daily in the academic degree programs NWKTC offers. And since the use of iPads has grown worldwide, the need to stay on top of available apps and technologies is critical, said Ben Coumerilh, chief information officer at NWKTC.

"For us, as an institution, to be able to train students for technology they'll see two and three years from now is quite a task, so we have to be on the cutting edge and we have to be discerning about what's going to be out there," Coumerilh said. "We have to give them tactile tools that they can use to give them the experience they're going to find when they go into auto tech shops or wherever."

The technology implementation began with the idea of using iPod touches in the classroom a couple of years ago. But when Apple came out with iPads, NWKTC knew that's what it had to use.

"The iPad, when we first handed it to the students, was less than six months old," Coumerilh said. "Translating to iPads wasn't all that hard."

The staff had trained on how to use iPod touches for media consumption, Coumerilh said. The biggest difference in using iPads was the ability for instructors to create content with them.

"It's really streamlined the way we communicate here on campus," Coumerilh said.

Instructors' initial iPads were purchased through donations from Finley Motors and Eagle Communications. Students can purchase their iPads outright or use their financial aid on a lease-to-own program.

The technology has meant 24/7 access for students, staff and faculty. Instead of snow days, students now have E-days, when information for class is available via their iPad, but they don't have to report to campus.

The addition of iPads to the college has meant a wealth of opportunities for students and the school. A mobile application and entertainment development curriculum was added this year, and despite only having about six weeks and word-of-mouth advertising to fill it, all the available spots were taken.

"Because we were the first two-year college in the nation to be a one-to-one iPad initiative, it's given us a leg up in a lot of ways as far as launching different initiatives," Coumerilh said.

The degree has an advisory board with representation from Apple and California-based Sparrow Development, which has indicated it would hire some of the graduates to work from western Kansas where they still can earn a high wage, but the cost of living is much less.

"We (can) have high-wage people being able to stay here, being able to help ... our declining population," Coumerilh said of the potential Sparrow has offered. "We're looking for that to be the future as far as ways that we can bring in new types of business and technology out here."