University of Kentucky dorm offers free iPad, special courses

Dorm will be high-tech Freshman learning community, complete with free Ipads

ctruman@herald-leader.comAugust 17, 2011 

A group of University of Kentucky freshmen will arrive on campus in the next few days as members of a new technology-based learning community.

The group of 175 freshmen, to be housed at an updated Keeneland Hall near Memorial Coliseum, will be given new iPads and have access to touch-screen technology in the front lobby. A variety of professors will come to the dormitory to hold specialty classes, which will be held in rooms with specially configured furniture to facilitate group work.

It's called Wired, an arts and sciences residential college where students will learn "fluidly and organically, outside of the traditional constraints of semesters, courses and credit hours, and within the halls of a residential building," according to UK.

Mark Kornbluh, dean of arts and sciences at UK, said the Wired community eventually might grow to 300 students.

The program's goal is to integrate the curricular and extracurricular activities of freshmen, who arrive on campus with hundreds of Facebook friends and connections but might not know any other students or professors on campus, Kornbluh said.

Having students live and work together, and introducing them to professors who are outstanding researchers in their fields, promotes freshmen success, Kornbluh said. It also helps build bonds that will meld the group more closely with UK as upperclassmen.

"The point is for students to have a richer engagement with the other students they're in the dorm with and with the faculty from the start," Kornbluh said.

In addition to traditional coursework, Wired students will have a variety of eight-week courses available to them, from "Migration Stories" with Cristina Alcalde, one of three faculty co-directors for Wired, to "Eating Kentucky," with Jeff Rice, another faculty co-director.

Some of the students will attempt to write novels during National Novel Writing Month with psychology professor Nathan DeWall.

UK said the students will participate directly with faculty on research and service projects using iPad technology described as "the seamless integration of socialization and education."

Meaghan O'Dell of Richmond is one of the students moving into the Wired program. She said she hopes the emphasis on technology and a small living-learning community atmosphere will help her communications studies.

"Technology is such an important part of so many jobs now," said O'Dell, a 2011 graduate of Madison Central High School. "We'll be able to understand more technologies, even as just a freshman."

O'Dell's roommate will be her friend Mikayla Rogers, a fellow Madison Central graduate.

"Free iPads are attractive in any situation," Rogers said. "I use my iPhone for everything I do. I appreciated how iPads can be used in class. ... It will be a huge deal being ahead of the game doing research."

The program is costing UK $800,000 to $1 million, said Adrienne McMahan, assistant dean of student affairs for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Reach Cheryl Truman at (859) 231-3202 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3202 or on Twitter at @CherylTruman.

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