St. John Fisher College Announces iFisher Initiative
The College will become the first in Upstate New York to implement an Apple 1:1 program for all undergraduate students.
Over the next year, St. John Fisher College will transform its student learning experience with the launch of the iFisher Next Generation Learning Initiative. With this launch, Fisher will become the first college in upstate New York to implement an Apple 1:1 program for all undergraduate students as one part of a broad initiative designed to enhance teaching and learning at the College. As a core feature of the initiative, the College will provide an iPad, keyboard case, and Apple Pencil to all incoming and continuing undergraduate students beginning in fall 2021.
The Apple 1:1 program (one device for every student) focuses on strengthening collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity among students, faculty, and staff, as well as shaping students’ 21st century digital literacy skills. The program is a key feature of iFisher and will be complemented by enhanced support for engaging and active learning pedagogies as well as a re-envisioning of campus learning spaces. This new initiative is an extension of the Fisher Edge student success program, the College’s commitment to providing students with transformative experiences designed to help them achieve their educational goals and early career outcomes.
“The iFisher initiative reflects the alignment of our student-centered mission to the global, complex, and digital world we live in. More than simply making Apple technology accessible to students, it is a strategic, broad re-envisioning of teaching and learning at Fisher,” said Dr. Gerard J. Rooney, president of the College. “This is a clear example of the demonstrated commitment to innovation that continues to move Fisher forward.”
Faculty at Fisher have already begun to weave Apple devices into their courses. During the 2019-2020 academic year, seven faculty members, in collaboration with the College’s Apple 1:1 Task Force, piloted the initiative to explore how the technology could be incorporated across a variety of disciplines. During the pilot phase, more than 100 students in math, biology, economics, education, and English courses used the devices to take interactive digital notes and access electronic resources including eTextbooks. They also were able to create videos or presentations, work collaboratively sharing and creating documents with classmates, and complete online tests, among other tasks that allowed them to demonstrate their proficiency with course content in unique and interesting ways.
In summer 2020, following the shift to remote instruction during the spring semester due to the pandemic, the College launched Fisher Apple Academy which provided faculty with the necessary skills to utilize iPads in the teaching and learning environment. The academy included training sessions focused on basic iPad navigation, specific apps, and brainstorming ways this technology can be used in their specific courses. More than 140 faculty members participated, and upon completion, earned recognition as Apple Certified Teachers. By fall 2020, all faculty members had an option to use the iPad and related platforms in their courses.
“The program expands opportunities for faculty to more fully use technology and active learning strategies in the classroom,” said Dr. Eileen Lynd-Balta, associate provost, who helped lead the pilot. “It will also increase the digital literacy skills of our students and encourage them to embrace new ways of creating and showcasing their learning.”
Dr. Kevin Railey, provost, said that along with the 1:1 initiative, Fisher is also broadly supporting active teaching strategies more fully and revitalizing learning spaces on campus to allow these strategies to be more easily implemented. This includes adjusted layouts, movable furniture, and new technologies that make the spaces mobile-friendly and highly connected.
“As a College, we are embarking on a long-term investment to reimagine our learning spaces and the ways they support instruction faculty want to deliver; this is an important step in an ongoing process centered on improving the overall educational experience we provide for our students,” he said.
Extensive professional development and mentoring will be available to Fisher faculty through the new DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence. The support will focus on active learning strategies proven to have the best potential for student success, while learning how to maximize the available technology and learning spaces in which faculty teach.
“The possibilities to create innovative teaching and learning experiences for our students is endless with a 1:1 program of this kind,” said Katie Sabourin, director of the Center and co-leader of the Apple pilot. “Knowing that all students have a device and common learning platform elevates the types of activities and assignment our instructors can use. I’m excited to see what amazing creations are developed in the years ahead.”
Sabourin added that the iFisher initiative is one of the many examples of the College’s institutional commitment to supporting active learning strategies that will benefit students and ensure their success, both from an academic and career readiness standpoint.