Student engagement in the classroom — there’s an app for that.
A new and developing Faculty Learning Community is studying the effects of Apple iPads as teaching tools in the classroom.
The Teaching and Learning with Mobile Tablets FLC, coordinated by University Information Technology Services and UITS’ Teaching & Learning Technologies Centers, allows eight participating professors to use an iPad along with additional iPad accessories for the academic year to experiment with the new technology.
Each professor also has access to 25 iPads to explore whether the technology further engages student involvement and enhances the classroom learning experience.
John Gosney, faculty liaison for the learning technologies within UITS, said professors in the FLC will likely develop projects for students outside of the traditional classroom setting.
“A lot of the projects are revolving around mobility and what you can do if you weren’t tethered to your desk,” Gosney said.
Gosney also said professors involved in the iPad initiative come from various departments, including education, biology, fine arts and more.
“We’re really interested in finding out if you have that kind of freedom to work with information, how that might change your perception of that information,” Gosney said.
Joshua Danish, an assistant professor in the Learning Sciences Program and part of the FLC, used the iPads in his class for the first time last week.
In his graduate level course, Theorizing Learning in Context, Danish had his students work in groups while utilizing multiple iPad applications, including editing a presentation made in Keynote.
Danish also had the students use the Twitter application to update their progress and to communicate with the other groups to share ideas.
“The students in that class for the most part thought it was very fun,” Danish said. “One or two found it mildly distracting, but most said they thought it was very powerful.”
Danish said a survey given to students to evaluate the use of the iPads in the classroom provided positive feedback, and he plans to continue to use this technology in future classes.
“It added a little something to the class,” Danish said.
Marty Pieratt, visiting lecturer at the School of Journalism, said the incorporation of the iPad into the classroom setting is inevitable.
“I know it’s coming,” Pieratt said. “It is, and in the future will be, an integral part of how we do business. Eventually I don’t think we’ll have any classes that will not use them.”
However, not everyone is enthusiastic.
Senior and informatics major Tyler Harrison said he thinks the concept of using iPads in the classroom is illogical.
“It’s a consumer product and not meant to be used like that,” Harrison said. “It’s small, awkward and from what I’ve heard, isn’t very ergonomic for typing.”
Harrison said he disagreed with the idea that iPads would generate higher student involvement and connectivity.
“How is giving one to the professor supposed to help engage with the students unless they are all using iPads, too?” Harrison asked, adding that even if iPads were distributed to students as well, it would be extremely expensive, hard to monitor usage and a liability for the school.
Pieratt agreed that cost is a concern but has a different perspective. He said the iPad could likely replace laptops altogether even though not many people have been exposed to it yet.
“I don’t think the iPad is a trend. I think it’s here to stay,” Pieratt said. “It could possibly be the format of the future for print — it may even be the salvation.”