While it may seem like contrary to its primary function, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Forestry Department has announced it’s going paperless. An article in the VIU newsletter said that in September first-year students enrolled in VIU’s Forest Resources Technology program will be required to purchase iPads instead of textbooks for use in both indoor and outdoor classroom activities.

“We’re going paperless,” says Doug Corrin an instructor in the Forest Resources Technology program, who launched the initiative with colleague Bill Beese. “We’ve put all our course content and textbooks online.”

Forestry students will use the tablet computers for GPS field navigation, electronic data collection, consulting references as well as for note taking. Students will also be able to use the systems as a camera, as a digital library at their fingertips and as an effective way to interact and collaborate with program students and instructors.

“The iPad tablet will replace $900 in book and supply costs per student and prepare them for use of current technology in the forest industry,” Beese said. “We’re really excited about this initiative. Both Doug and I notice that industry partners in forestry are using iPads in an effective way. Our goal as instructors is to remain current and adaptable, so this is a perfect opportunity to use changing technology in the field and in the classroom to enhance student learning.”

Beese and Corrin began experimenting with iPad technology late last year. “If you’re not a little bit uncomfortable with something, you’re not learning,” says Beese. “We tested the idea with a few students and it was great. One student thanked us for keeping abreast of new technology and for pushing the envelope in our classroom teaching.”

The move to embrace technology by the Forestry Department has reached beyond the iPads to include changes in the classroom itself. The department has also adapted a remote controlled smart projector to use with the new tablet technology.

“It may sound Star-Trekish, but we’ll link our iPads to the projector,” says Corrin. “As a class, we can brainstorm ideas, and draw diagrams which we can save as an image and post to our classroom website. During discussions students can take over the screen (using their iPads) and add to the conversation.”

The technology upgrade is part of an overall effort to introduce students to the systems they will be using once they begin working in the forest industry.