iPad shame?

First I've heard of it.  Professor Doug Ward notes that his graduate students were embarrassed about carrying their school-provided iPads.  "They felt," he explains, "elitist."  I'm thankful that my staff doesn't feel that way--otherwise I'd feel like my recent decision to approve 5-6 iPad purchases was unwise.  Hate to make them feel bad.  Professor Ward is writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

iPads and the Embarrassment Factor
News that all the graduate students in my Future of Media seminar would receive iPads for the semester generated a flurry of excitement.

Some students replied with exclamation points in their email messages. Some stopped and asked when the iPads would be available. Others passed on word to classmates and seemed to enjoy the envious responses.

Then something odd happened: The students, all in their mid- to late 20s, became self-conscious about carrying iPads. They refused to use them in public. They felt elitist. In their eyes, the iPad represented snobbery, a technological tool that no one needed and whose utility was far from apparent. Used to a graduate student frugality, they didn’t want to be seen as profligate.

I was surprised about the students’ embarrassment. Part of the experiment of having the iPads was to consider how tablets might fit into the future of media. Were they a fad or a potential institution? Would they displace laptops? Become a favored companion to smartphones? How might journalists use them? Educators? Students?

Not all students are tech-savvy, of course, but I was expecting these students to take to the iPad quickly and show me new ways of using it as we explored tablets’ place in the future of media.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. Last year, a psychological profile of iPad owners described them as “selfish elites.” And earlier this year, a study found that those most likely to buy iPads had incomes of $100,000 or more.


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