Fresno State's Joseph Castro touts tablets over textbooks

The Fresno BeeAugust 5, 2013 

Fresno State president Joseph Castro holds an Apple iPad while discussing goals to focus on technology as a teaching tool during an editorial board meeting at The Fresno Bee on Monday.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS — THE FRESNO BEE Buy Photo

Fresno State President Joseph Castro wants to put a tablet computer in the hands of all the university's students, a move he says could save students and the state dollars on costly hard-bound books.

Spending $500 on a handheld computer and less on digital textbooks over a four- or five-year college career simply makes more financial sense, Castro said Monday during a meeting with The Bee's editorial board.

"These are emerging to displace laptops in the not-too-distant future, so they can be used to write papers and be on the Internet," he said.

But there will be challenges: He said not all textbooks being used by Fresno State professors are tablet-ready. And some traditional textbook publishers say it's difficult to affordably produce high-quality digital versions.

Even so, Castro says he intends to eventually make tablets a requirement. That would allow the university's financial aid office to start shelling out monetary awards typically used for textbooks to students who can't afford to buy a device.

Castro officially started his new job last week and has stayed relatively quiet when asked for specific goals and priorities. He has said he'll be involved in Fresno State's coming provost search and that he aims to raise graduation rates.

On Monday, he shied from questions about adding extra athletics such as wrestling and men's soccer — both popular in the Valley at the high school level — to Fresno State athletics. He said he intends to help the university's athletics and academics programs "rise together" while focusing on boosting the school's existing sports.

Castro also said he's received several invitations from community heads and plans to be actively involved with local business and multicultural organizations. A retreat with Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is on his calendar, he said, as well as meetings with Valley tribal and Latino leaders.

He also shed some light on his hiring process, which was largely closed-door and criticized by media after the university kept names of the selection committee's four finalists secret. Castro said he was recruited for the job during the first few months of 2013, but declined to give more details.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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