On October 17, twenty faculty from the Tufts Schools of Arts & Sciences and Engineering, representing a broad range of disciplines, came together to discuss how the iPad can be used to promote active learning and engage students in the classroom. The faculty are experimenting with creative ways to use the iPad in their own teaching as part of UIT’s university-wide “iPads for Education” pilot program which was launched this semester.

In September, the program sent out to all Tufts faculty a request for proposals to either borrow an iPad or use their own device to explore how the iPad might be used with students in their courses. The longer-term goal of the pilot is to select two to four Spring 2013 courses where the iPad will be integrated into the course design. Each student in the course will be loaned an iPad to be used for the duration of the course. The professor teaching the course will receive support and help with evaluating the use of the iPad in the course.

Currently 68 faculty and staff from across the University are using iPads loaned to them by the pilot with 22 more faculty participating in the program using their own iPads. In addition to loaning faculty iPads, the program is also offering a series of events in Boston, Medford, and on the phone, as well as online resources to help faculty learn about the devices and explore how they might be leveraged in their own teaching.

At the October event, professors Lynne Batchelder from Chemistry, Kris Manjapra from History, Pearl Robinson from Political Science, and Tim Atherton from Physics presented on the ways they have started incorporating the iPad into their teaching.


Flipping the Classroom

Lynne Batchelder teaches a class for first-year chemistry students and showed how she is starting to “flip the classroom” to help manage the wide range of student abilities and diverse chemistry backgrounds uin her class. She uses theEducreations app to create short pre-recorded lessons for her students, using images, her voice narration, and writing on the iPad. She shares these recordings with her students via the Educreations site and finds that this is an effective and efficient way to supplement her in-class instruction.


Facilitating Conversation

Kris Manjapra demonstrated how he uses three different apps in association with instructional approaches to help facilitate conversation in his South Asian history class. At the start of class, he passes around his iPad in a group brainstorming session and asks each student to write a key theme on it. Later, he imports the text from that week’s Trunk Forum discussion into the iAnnotate app, marks up comments and invites students to elaborate on their contributions. Finally, during reports out from small group discussions, he uses neu.Notes to record a summary of the discussion. This both helps stimulate conversation in the class and also produces three artifacts at the end of each class, which he posts to Trunk for students to access and review.


Leveraging Social Media

Pearl Robinson’s focus is helping students in her African politics class learn about democratization through the use of social media, especially in relation to two major elections taking place this year – one in Ghana and one in Kenya. Professor Robinson has been involved with a mitigating electoral violence project and wanted to get students to use social media to follow events in two closely watched African contests. She started leveraging the fabulous trainers at Apple over the summer and continues to use that valuable resource.

Additionally, she uses Flipboard and HootSuite to aggregate and display information from social media sources, which allows her students to analyze and monitor developments on the ground in real time, which is very exciting. For example, they knew about a major change in one of the races a full two weeks before it was officially announced. Additionally, Professor Robinson has generously shared the excellent Social Media Toolkit she developed on the iPads site, along with other resources that have been developed to date.


Synthesizing Information

Tim Atherton opened his presentation by emphasizing the importance of articulating the teaching challenge the technology is being used to address in the first place. He went on to explain that, in traditional Physics teaching, instructors would stand up at the front and talk about things, without any knowledge of the audience and what they do or do not know. For example, most people attending the iPad event were not scientists. However, from three decades of Physics education research, he knows that if he gives students opportunities to synthesize information, they will do much better in their learning. For example, taking the problem every instructor has experienced where only one person is talking in class, instructors can leverage an online tool such as Poll Everywhere (or clickers), to pose a question and then elicit possible answers from students. This maps the range of possible answers, and he finds that often, just by doing this, students will get to the right answer. There are a wide-range of technologies that can support this approach, but the real change is in pedagogy – stepping away from being the “sage on the stage” and instead being the “guide on the side” because that more effectively promotes real learning.


Health Sciences Faculty

Faculty from Tufts’ Dental, Medical, Nutrition, Sackler Biomedical, and Veterinary Schools are also participating in the iPads for Education pilot. Two meetings have been held for Health Sciences faculty to learn about the devices and share interesting innovations with each other. We are excited about this work and will examine the interesting developments coming out of the Health Sciences Schools in a future article.


More Information

In addition to the meetings and iPad loaner equipment, UIT has provided faculty with opportunities for individual iPad instruction, as well as a wide array of handouts, links, and other resources. More information & links to additional resources can be found on the iPads for Education page.

Faculty participation in the program has been exciting, and UIT is now finalizing plans for the Spring 2013 semester. We look forward to sharing results with the Tufts community and beyond, following next semester.

Sheryl Barnes, Assistant Director, ESTS Client Services, UIT Educational and Scholarly Technology Services (ESTS)

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