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Drew laptops out, technology tradition ends

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Incoming freshman and transfer students planning to graduate in the spring of 2016 can expect to be the last class to become participants in Drew’s Computer Initiative Program. The Initiative Program will be going through some changes this year and one of the priorities on the list includes finding a better way to educate Drew students on technology.

As many upperclassmen know, one of the main priorities on any freshman’s list is getting a laptop for classes. Drew’s Computer Initiative Program offered students a laptop–usually a standard or advanced ThinkPad or more recently new Macintosh laptops. But Drew’s incoming class of 2017 won’t have to decide on this issue. As recent data shows, more and more students are buying laptops elsewhere or bringing their laptops from home to use in class which faculty on campus have noted.

Mike Richichi, Director of CNS, talks about the importance of computers on campus–more importantly, about finding the computer that meets student’s needs. “What we are trying to do is find a way to save money, to reduce the cost of computers,” Richichi says. “It was a big interest, but the computers we are providing weren’t the best for our students.”

“We had debates about this,” Richichi remarks, “and we ask ourselves, ‘what if we don’t find the “right” laptop? What are we going to do?’ What we are trying to do now is focus on the latest advancements in technology—wireless computers and other items that have recently been in the market.” Richichi concludes that “students will still have to pay a technology fee, but this will go towards computer services.”.

When asked why the program was terminated, Richichi stated that “the decision to end the Computer Initiative Program on campus was due in mostly in part to Library services and the ITS team, Instructional Technology Services.” He comments that “they made a recommendation as part of the organizational review process last semester, and we are going to make changes based on that data.  Feedback from most of the faculty shows that students are just bringing in their own computers and that sometimes ours don’t really give students what they need.  I’ve always liked the Computer Initiative,” Richichi remarked fondly.  He said that it “forms a part of Drew’s identity,” but he comes back saying “it seems as though we have not been that effective with technology. We want to help students with other important technological affairs.” He states that he personally wants “to teach students about Social Media, new types of technology, such as iPads, tablets, iPhones, etc. Not just laptops for class.” Mike Richichi’s concluding words were “we are starting a new program and we will be supporting other devices. Ultimately, our goal is to have programs that will help students in the real world.”.

Tania Pimienta (’13), a student worker at CNS, comments on the change in the program saying, “the University feels that there isn’t much to choose from, when it comes down to purchasing computers from Drew. Parents buy their kids’ computers, so if they aren’t getting their computers from us, they still have one handy,”

Athatholee Johnson (’13), another worker at CNS, has a different opinion. “A lot of students were happy with the Macs,” she argues. “There aren’t a lot of schools out there that have Macs as an option for their students when they arrive. Drew is selective for that.”

“But,” Johnson counters, “while it’s a big deal for freshman, this isn’t really the case for upperclassmen. I think having standard laptops gives the University a better sense of community, instead of all these different options,” Johnson continues on the topic of the Computer Initiative’s end, stating “when the Computer Initiative ends, students are going to be bringing in all these computers from different companies as well as different models: Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc. and when they have some assignment for a class that requires a computer, they may have to approach things differently and this could bring up problems,” she comments “but I think that whoever came up with the program has considered this and will have a solution for any problems in the future.”

On this topic, Richichi says “the future of technology and how effective students are working with new technology is what we’re mostly concerned about, and that’s what we’re looking forward to improving technology usage on campus.”