When I found out I would receive an iPad for my Communication 2221 class last fall, I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.
“Hell yeah!” I said, waving the phone with the email from my professor, Nicole Kraft, in front of my mother sitting next to me.
Excited at the time just to play Candy Crush on a bigger screen than my iPhone, I had no idea this iPad and class would lead me to take part in a full blown Apple production in New York City just five months later.
Nicole received the Digital First Impact Grant allowing her to provide an iPad for each student in her class that semester — a class focused on news writing and editing and a requirement in the journalism major.
She designed our course on iTunes U, her first endeavor in Apple’s app for the distribution of educational content. We accessed the course exclusively on the iPad along with our textbook, “Always Get the Name of the Dog,” that Nicole created in the iBook app.
It took a little getting used to, but once I began getting comfortable with the iTunes U interface and all of the functions and resources within, I started to realize how cool it was, and how much potential the iPad had as a reporting tool.
In the third week of school, I came to class with a new development on a story I was working on that involved a chaotic ticket release in the Ohio Union happening right at that moment, and Nicole immediately sent me out of class to cover it.
I used the iPad to interview, take notes, shoot photos and write the article, and had it sent to The Lantern in a matter of hours.
For the first time, I felt like a journalist.
This experience was validating for me, because my article made the front page and I realized I could really be a reporter. For Nicole, my story proved the iPad was a serious tool to be reckoned with and was already revolutionizing the way she could teach journalism to students.
Fast forward to December. Nicole pulled me aside after class, and asked if I would like to accompany her to the Soho, N.Y., Apple store in January where we would be featured in a new faculty speaker series Apple was starting. We would talk about our experience using iTunes U and the iPad in our class in an event filmed in front of a live audience to later be housed in the podcast section of the iTunes store.
I immediately said yes, but I could not believe it. To say I was excited, even ecstatic, would be an understatement.
A half dozen conference calls, immeasurable anticipation and a polar vortex later, Nicole and I finally met the Apple team in the lobby of our hotel the morning of Jan. 29.
We had one day to rehearse and the next morning at 10, the event would be filmed.
I started to freak a little bit.
It was weird. I was thrilled about this ever since she asked me to join her, but I had thought of it fairly abstractly up until that point. Now that I could actually see the masterminds behind the event, the people who were counting on me to tell my story, I felt the pressure.
Through the course of our 11-hour rehearsal day, we covered every second of the event. We perfected (or at least got really close to perfecting) every transition from Nicole’s iPad to mine, unearthed every potential technical issue that could arise, and prepared a flow of questions and answers that would best get our message across to the audience.
The whole time, Apple never asked me to say I used any app or liked any particular aspect of iTunes U or the iPad if it was not really true for me.
To that end, I don’t think I ever heard the word “organic” used by a group of people more in one day.
I also don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a group of people more quickly.
The team was just incredible. It was moving to see how each person brought his or her own expertise to the production, yet together shared this same goal they never lost sight of — to make people excited about Apple education technology, and show educators and students alike the benefits it allows.
And it ignited my passion for thinking about the future of digital education, too. Before, I had been excited about it insofar as I thought the iPad was amazing as a learning tool, but these were people whose entire livelihoods were dedicated to getting this message out. It was their mission to bring education to people everywhere through Apple technology, and I was inspired.
The best part was, they had this way of making you feel incredible, too. Even when I stumbled over answers I knew I needed to give more thought to, less than 24 hours before the event, never once did they share a look of fear or annoyance, or pull me aside and ask me to think through my answers a little more.
I never felt like they had anything but the utmost confidence in me, and because of this, I wanted to be the best speaker they ever heard.
And I don’t know if I can say I was the best speaker they had ever heard, but by the looks on their faces once it was all over, I think Nicole and I did a great job.
But being a part of this gave me something else, too.
In high school, I was obsessed with my grades. But I always envied the people who would come into class without their homework completed because they had spent the entire night before reading a captivating book, or organizing a project for a club they were starting, or even just eating with friends at a cool restaurant.
Basically, people who had the ability to see beyond the importance of marks on a paper and instead dedicate time to doing the things they really loved.
I never had the courage to abandon care of my precious grades, and spent most of my time feeling like a dispassionate, academic robot.
Now, I can happily report that after jet-setting off in the middle of the week and missing four classes, I’m pretty certain I earned no better than a C on a quiz the morning after my return from New York.
And I’m OK with that. Because for the first time, I feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself — and you can’t put a grade on that.