Generous alumna makes technology gift to encourage innovation
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Two undergraduate teacher education students working on an iPad.
Through the Iowa iPad Project, made possible by College of Education alumna Linda Baker, teacher education students Melanie Hester and Alex Hanna explore innovative ways to use their iPads for instruction. Photo by of Mei-Ling Shaw Williams.

Incoming teacher education students got an unusual assignment and a big surprise at a recent orientation session: complete a dot-to-dot worksheet to learn about a new feature of their program in the University of Iowa College of Education.

When the dots were all connected, students discovered that they were each receiving a free iPad for use in their program of study as well as in their future classrooms thanks to a generous gift from a College of Education alumna.

“I was speechless,” says Cayla Speed, who began work toward her bachelor’s degree in elementary education this year. “I was so shocked, excited, and grateful. I really didn’t think I was understanding correctly.”

Nearly 100 newly admitted undergraduate and master’s teacher education students shared Speed’s joy. All will receive iPads and training to make the most of them. The gift to make this possible comes from alumna Linda Baker, who received her Bachelor of Arts in 1968, a retired teacher living in Golden, Colo.

Incoming teacher education students in the spring semester, also expected to number around 100, will receive iPads as well as part of the gift, known as the Iowa iPad Project.

William Coghill-Behrends, professional development coordinator in the college’s Teacher Leader Center, says leaders at the college are grateful to Baker for making the project possible.

“We know our students will be better because of it and because of that, their students are going to be better,” Coghill-Behrends says. “The ripple effect of this gift will literally go on for generations.”

Students will complete workshops during the month of September to familiarize themselves with their new technology and will receive the iPads to take home at a private ceremony at the end of the month. They’ll complete required ongoing professional development related to making the most of their iPads throughout their time on campus as well as incorporate them into their studies and field experiences.

Upon successful completion of the college’s Teacher Leader Certificate and the Teacher Education Program, the students will own the iPads and be able to use them in their future classrooms.

Baker previously donated money to a pilot program that provided iPads to approximately 20 teacher education students who submitted innovative proposals for using them in their student teaching placements.

Although she admits she’s not a technology buff herself, Baker says she trusts the College of Education and the future teachers to do big things with the iPads.

“When these people get their teaching jobs, they become technology leaders in their buildings,” she says. “I think that’s a wonderful vision.”

Susan Lagos Lavenz, associate dean for teacher education and student services, says she’s excited to see how the students make the most of this gift and imagines they’ll surprise her.

“If I’m a good teacher, I pay attention and my students will take me places I didn’t anticipate,” she says. “I’m sure that will happen with this project.”

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information, visit the UI Foundation website.