(post 2 of a 4-part series on why I teach with the iPad)
My Spring 2012 course, “Vampires in Folklore, Fiction, and Film,” was one of Hood College’s first iPad pilot courses, and I have been exploring how the iPad can challenge students to become more active participants in their own learning ever since. Now that Hood gives an iPad to all undergraduates, students in my classes use their iPads every day. The iPad helps them make the most of digital resources like e-books, apps, and the Blackboard course management system as well as improving access to course blogs and other online projects that keep collaboration and conversation going outside of class time.
I’m always experimenting with different ideas. Sometimes it’s something simple, like using Apple TV to allow me or student presenters to get out from behind the podium, or adopting apps to make content more interactive. Many students think of reading books and watching films as passive activities, but the iPad has helped me encourage my students to make their encounters with texts more active. The highlighting and notes features in eBook apps (iBooks, Kindle) and PDF annotation apps (GoodReader, Adobe Reader) make it easy for students to annotate their readings and then access their comments and questions for class discussion and writing assignments. In informal polls (conducted via the not-so-scientific method of “close your eyes and raise your hand if you agree”), nearly every single one of my students say they take more notes when reading on the iPad than they do when reading in a paper textbook—music to the ears of any teacher! When watching films for class using iTunes or Netflix, students can take screenshots (simple on the iPad; challenging at best on a laptop or desktop computer) of key moments to facilitate discussion.
Other times, the result of my experimentation is a complete redesign of an assignment or even an entire course in order to take advantage of the possibilities that the iPad has to offer. All of my syllabi now include at least two multimedia projects that were much more challenging (if not impossible) before my students had iPads. In my introductory courses, the influence map project gauges my students’ knowledge on a topic at the beginning of a semester by asking them to make an argument visually, with a collage of images, rather than verbally. The iPad and apps like Photo Wall HD allow my students to quickly and easily show me their understanding of major topics like “magic,” “the vampire,” or “England.” Seeing what my students know, what images and ideas they associate with the subjects we’ll be discussing, helps me to provide the foundation that they need to master our course material.
The iPad has helped me re-imagine more “traditional” projects as well. In some classes, students give a “poster-style” presentation of their individual research on final exam day; the iPad brings this traditional academic staple into the 21st century, allowing students to share their findings using a combination of images, text, sound, and video. In my “History of the English Language” course, students make videos using iMovie to demonstrate their proficiency in Middle English pronunciation. And I’m especially looking forward to the final projects in my “Exploring Utopia” class this semester; students will work in groups to create a travel brochure and video for their own version of Utopia. I can’t wait to see what exciting new worlds they will create based on our semester’s work together!