Monday, January 23, 2012

iPad and Higher Ed: Making the transition

After six months of using the iPad as part of our iPad initiative, I have found benefits for not only class, but also for general productivity. While there are some bumps in the road to tablet use in the classroom, overall the students and I have had a solid educational journey. Here are a few processes that have helped me as I've converted to a tablet:

1. Investigate.  Let's face it, there are a lot of things about teaching we had to figure out as we went. What styles or approaches worked for us? Why did they work for us? What fits with our teaching styles? Our philosophies? The iPad (or other electronic device) use isn't much different. You may have to explore and read and then make adjustments.

  • Check Twitter. There are great updates and feeds about the #iPad, #apps, and #highered or #edtech. Stay on trend and find new tips/tools.
  • Check the Chronicle. Today's Chronicle article by Jason Jones: "Getting Unstuck with Your iPad" article explores the Unstuck App. The iPad is creeping up more and more often in the Chronicle especially in the ProfHacker and WiredCampus areas. See also "5 iPad Applications I Can't Live Without (and Why)" by Ethan Watrall and "iPads: Bane or Boon to College Teaching" by Josh Fischman.
  • Check the wikis. Teach With Your iPad on wikispaces has apps and links that can be helpful, particularly for those who are first timers with tablets, for example. There are great resources that other educators have already put together. Why not use them? 
2. Use with intent. Don't just try an app to try it. Consider what it might do for you in the classroom. Why are you including it. Will it save you time on record keeping (such as the Attendance App featured in an entry last week)? Will it make learning easier? There are great science apps that demonstrate a variety of topics such as frog dissection and photosynthesis, for example.
  • Try the app (or activity) with a smaller class or with a class where you have a TA. Explain that you are trying something new. 
  • Get their feedback (students, TA, colleagues). Did it work as you hoped? Did it help explain, demonstrate a concept? 
  • Did it cause any problems? Would another device or a class activity (without device) work better?
  • Modify the use and try again or simply move on if it wasn't what you needed for that lesson. 
3.  Learn from the students. I admit it, if the students are using it I feel like I want to at least know what it is. I will ask and seek demonstrations where necessary. Students first told me about mobile Blackboard, Evernote, and ooVoo -- I consider them an excellent starting place to explore new features or apps.

4. Invest (money). Be prepared to put your money (or your institution's money) on the line to explore new opportunities with your tablet.
  • Ask what the policy is for institutional equipment, accounts, and personally purchasing items.
  • Explore what equipment you might need (adapters, chargers, cases) to be successful in the classroom.
  • Apps aren't always free. There are some that are quite costly, others at $1.99 or $2.99 will soon add up. Be prepared and consider setting a personal budget for apps if your institution does not cover this cost.
5. Invest (time). I'm not a part of the touch-screen generation. Yes, I love technology. Yes, I know general techniques to be successful. But I kept my trusty Blackberry out of love of the keyboard. I did not feel any interest to move toward a touch screen. I had to learn. I had to actually force myself, in the case of my calendar, to shift from paper to tablet.
  • Take the time to become familiar with your device. 
  • If it has become a glorified paper weight (I just heard a professor say this last semester!), then consider switching to exclusively using it (to give it a fair chance...if you don't like it, of course, don't use it.) I had to do an exclusive switch to help get used to all of the tablet features. I found myself putting an actual sticky note on my iPad case about a week after getting it. I laughed out loud and realized sometimes the brain takes a bit longer to acclimate than we might like to admit to. I then instituted an "all iPad" philosophy where I *had* to use it to take notes, to type, to answer emails. Soon, I realized the potential of the device and avoided an expensive paperweight.

Take some time to explore your needs, the abilities of your device, your personal abilities, and see where you end up. Truly, there isn't much these new devices CAN'T do. It is a matter of exploring your needs and working with pedagogical intent to make the most of the device in the classroom (and as you manage your research, grants, and service).

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks Lora, This is a great list. I'll share your page with faculty I work with.