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How Tech Changed My University Classroom

  
  
  
  
  

20100428harvardhaweshall11

 

As a (now contentedly former) English professor at a large public university in the American South, and, obviously, a longtime student myself before that, I have seen firsthand how technology transformed the classroom...and then transformed it again. This is a big mistake we make when thinking about technological change: thinking that the world can be divided into “before” and “after” a given technology, and that once the latest thing is ubiquitous, we’ll get to stay still. Unfortunately this is not the case, for it’s not one shift that makes the difference but multiple simultaneous, overlapping, and qualitatively different revolutions that may soon be made obsolete themselves.

When I was a child, we still watched filmstrips in class. Yes, actual strips of actual film. I remember watching the first President Bush’s inauguration on TV in a classroom, though I can’t remember if it was cable yet or simply broadcast. Then video infiltrated classrooms, with the beloved clunky TV cart that heralded a day off from book-based study (Marshall McLuhan once warned that introducing television into education would blow the classroom apart -- I’m not so sure he wasn’t right).

Thanks to the famed visionary forward-looking genius of Apple (and/or their self-serving canniness), green screen and then full-color Macs proliferated in my schools. I was in college when cell phones became popular, but few people had laptops.

By the time I started teaching, nearly every student had a laptop, though as those years went on, fewer and fewer bothered to bring it to class. Why? I wish I could say it was because of their desire to put away anything that might distract from my words of wisdom.

In truth, the cellphone and laptop had merged, and their iPhones were now a one-stop shop for research, socializing, and pure time-wasting. We now have the iPad and, interestingly, tablets seem to be trending smaller and iPhones bigger. Will the two products merge? Where does our future lie, and what does it mean for education?

My most recent classrooms featured computer podiums hooked up to a projector. This was moderately useful in my Introduction to Fiction class, where I mainly used it to call up YouTube videos so that authors like James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, and Vladimir Nabokov could explain their work in person. I also found biographical documentaries of writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and James Joyce, who did not live to see the television era, let alone get grandfathered into YouTube.

But it was the other literature class I was teaching, Introduction to Drama, where technology really brought the subject alive. Unlike prose fiction, after all, drama is not in its essential form a “text,” but is meant as a blueprint to be interpreted and brought to life. So after reading, say, Euripides in our anthology of plays, I could show my students a slideshow on the development of tragedy, a documentary clip demonstrating the spatial quality and remarkable acoustics of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens, and four or five different interpretations of the same scene from Medea taken from live and cinematic versions in English, Greek, and Japanese. This truly showcased the mind-blowing potential of the wired classroom, and all that was missing was an interactive element to make it more hands-on for my students.

 

Stephanie Brooks is a freelance writer and blogger who mostly enjoys covering all things education, including at top10onlineuniversities.org, but also regarding traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. When she's not writing, she can be found at the gym working out to Zumba and cooking healthy recipes at home. She welcomes your feedback.

 


Lecturing with an iPad eBookFree eBook: Lecturing with an iPad

Students are far less likely to stray when you are able to roam the aisles. Download our free eBook and learn how to use your iPad to untether yourself from the podium and start teaching more interactively.

5 Ways to Use Your iPad to Teach in the College Classroom

  
  
  
  
  

iPad
Photo credit: Sean MacEntee

When thinking of iPads in education, typically the first thought that comes to mind is an iPad for every student. But, iPads and their Android-based counterparts have plenty to offer the college classroom in the hands of instructors, too.

The tech savvy professor can finally teach without the need to spend the first ten minutes of class locating a working dry erase marker or achieving the seemingly impossible feat of configuring an overhead projector to project both large enough for students in the back to see, as well as in focus.

In many cases, the iPad enables you to interact more with large groups of students and facilitates more engaging means of instruction. Here are 5 ways to use the iPad as an instructor in higher education:

 

1. Control your laptop remotely

Some of the primary criticisms of the iPad are that it does not offer the same level of functionality as a laptop running either Windows or OSX.  The iPad does not allow you to multitask, nor does it offer an SD card slot or a USB port.

But, while teaching your class, you can control your laptop wirelessly using an iPad. This means you have access to the same applications that you do on your Mac or PC, and by controlling a laptop that is connected to the classroom projector, you can thus navigate and project your class PowerPoint slides using your iPad.

 

2. Present interactive activities to your students

Admittedly there isn’t too much advantage to simply using a remote desktop app like Splashtop or LogMeIn if all you are doing is advancing PowerPoint slides – remotes for this already exist, and they are substantially cheaper (and smaller) than iPads.

Take the opportunity to stop lecturing at your students and start engaging them. Present interactive activities, like free response questions, using your tablet, so that your students can engage with the material you are presenting to them. They’ll pay more attention, too.

 

 3. Open a backchannel and reply to questions

One of the worst things about teaching a large lecture course is that oftentimes it is difficult to know if students understand anything you say. Additionally, students can be too intimidated to raise hands in front of their peers, or simply don’t have a chance to ask a question without interrupting.

There are many methods to open a backchannel for your classroom using your iPad, some more elegant than others. Browse forums or a chat room built into your LMS with your iPad while continuing to present lecture slides using the podium PC and a presentation remote. Or, adopt a more seamless interactive presentation tool.

 

4. Draw or annotate your slides

It’s tough to draw diagrams or graphs using a mouse. Use your electronic slate to draw on your slides using your finger or, better yet, a stylus.

When remotely controlling your PC using your tablet, you should have no trouble drawing graphs or sketching out important points. No more need to bring a package of wet erase markers and a box of overhead transparencies!

 

5. Catch off-task students by roaming the aisles

sleeping studentAt times it can be tough to engage students when you stand guard next to the lectern for the entire class session to access a mouse and keyboard. But, when you have a remote connection configured using your iPad, you can easily walk up and down the aisles of the lecture hall.

This will inevitably wake up students who thought the distance between you and the seating area represented an impenetrable fortress of safe space for an early-morning nap, and lets you see which students are actually typing comments on their friends’ Facebook albums instead of notes on your course.

 

Lecturing with an iPad eBookFree eBook: Lecturing with an iPad

Students are far less likely to stray when you are able to roam the aisles. Download our free eBook and learn how to use your iPad to untether yourself from the podium and start teaching more interactively.

2011: The Year of Ed Tech

  
  
  
  
  

students using ipads in the classroom

The year 2012 holds a lot of promise for the field of education technology—but before we take the leap into the future, we should take a moment to reflect on the outstanding accomplishments of the past. It's equally important to emphasize why improvements in education are notable in the first place. Increasing the public's accessibility to educational resources, be they classroom-based or otherwise, is the most effective way to improve the quality of education in the U.S. and lead to a more productive society as a result.

 

The reign of the iPad

According to the New York Times, 2011 saw a growing number of schools begin to integrate use of the iPad into curriculum as a means of improving student understanding and engagement in the classroom. The devices are used for various academic pursuits, including analyzing literature through multimedia, playing trivia-based games in history class, and walking through complex math problems with step-by-step animation. Interactive platforms allow students to take a more hands-on approach to the problems that confront them at school.

 

Adult learning through mobile devices

Even more accessible and convenient than the iPad, mobile devices were also a notable medium for educational breakthroughs in 2011. Many colleges and universities across the country began encouraging adult learning through mobile devices last year taking advantage of the potential of podcasts as a means of broadcasting online lectures and videos through mobile technology

 

Shift in opinion regarding online education

Though the public may not be quick to catch on, over half of college presidents surveyed by the Pew Research Center reported a positive opinion of the value of online education (pdf link). This is compared to just 29 percent of the general public mentioned. Despite a less positive opinion toward the value of online education, its popularity has continued to grow in the past ten years, with 46 percent of graduates reporting to have taken at least one online class during their time spent in college.

 

steve jobsRemembering Steve Jobs

No article discussing the breakthroughs in education technology would be complete without referencing the contributions of Steve Jobs. Although his life was cut short in October of last year, he left an enduring legacy. Jobs was one of the first innovators to advocate the use of computers in the classroom, and his devotion to integrating technology into educational environments was clear with each new device Apple manufactured. The use of laptops, iPads, mobile devices and other technological devices in the classroom can be traced back to the convictions of one man.

 

The Year of Ed Tech

2012 promises to be a year of digital dominance as well, with products like ultrabooks and tablets taking center stage this month. But 2011 was a year that created a platform for bigger and better educational technology to come.

 

Photo credit: Fancy Jantzi


Jesse Langley specializes in writing about education, professional and personal development, and career building. He writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University.

5 Reasons Why Apple's New iBooks Will Modernize the eTextbook

  
  
  
  
  

apple ibooks textbooks

Yesterday, Apple made a series of education announcements at the Guggenheim Museum. Perhaps the largest news of the day was the unveiling of the iBooks 2 eTextbook format, designed to harness the 1.5 million iPads currently used for education (and to make it even more appealing to get more iPads into the hands of students).

There are plenty of companies vying for eTextbook dollars, but none with as much weight and digital delivery infrastructure already in place as Apple. Here’s why iBooks 2 are a wave capable of making a huge splash in higher education:

 

1. iBooks are significantly cheaper than physical textbooks

While the catalog is currently limited, Apple has a price cap of $14.99 on books selling in its store. Despite not having the ability to resell an eTextbook, the difference in price between iBooks and traditional paper copies is large enough to draw in more students who are looking to save on books, particularly those who either already own an iPad, or those who attend institutions with iPad initiatives.

 

2. Anyone can create and distribute materials through iTunes

Along with the iBooks 2 format, Apple also revealed the iBook Author application. Anyone can import existing Keynote or Word files, and it is simple to drag and drop multimedia into your iBook. For instructors who offer a great deal of material in either a coursepack or in a custom textbook, the iBook Author application will allow them to publish their book to the iTunes Store in no time, with the ability to price materials from $14.99 and under.

 

3. Designed for the iPad, iBooks are more engaging and interactive

Most eTextbooks to date are identical to their physical counterparts, the only difference being that the former is accessible only through laptops or other mobile devices. iBooks by nature are intended to be optimized experiences for the iPad. This means that beyond standard fare – text and still photos – videos, interactive quizzes, and other elements can supplement static material.

 

4. No need to worry about writing in your book

When students read an iBook, they are able to add “sticky notes” to particular pages with notes for later. They can also highlight important passages using an array of different virtual “ink” colors. This could have the effect of getting more students to “mark up” their class reading, since there is no need to worry about ink bleeding through pages, or reduced resale value from taking notes in the book.

 

5. A single location for all course materials

With web browsing, office suites, and a full range of apps already available for the iPad, the addition of proper textbooks provides a single location for students’ study materials. There is need to tote around multiple books, notebooks, and highlighters when everyone is contained within a single device. To this effect, Apple has updated iTunes U to also allow instructors to deliver syllabi, assignments, and information like office hours through a dedicated app.

 

Improve In-Class Engagement and Attentiveness Using Students’ iPads

student ipad appWhile iBooks and iTunes U provide great platforms for after class, did you know that by engaging iPads during class, students can become more attentive and engaged? Using the LectureTools iPad App, students can take notes associated with lecture slides, respond to interactive activities, and relay comprehension difficulties to you in real-time.

Get Early Access to the LectureTools Student iPad App

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