The primary objective of the project was to use tablets to explain complex and abstract biochemical processes in a more engaging and understandable way:
Students were already making extensive use of Twitter and blogs, using the module code as a hashtag, Graham and the students could discuss the course and support each other. Graham also felt that some of his lectures could benefit from being more engaging, as the traditional slide show was sterile and difficult to convey concepts which are dynamic, a typical solution is to use a whiteboard (or chalk and talk), but this has capture limitations. Therefore, a technology related solution was sought that would not only help Graham to contribute to the social media discussions but also help to make his lectures more engaging than using a pc and conventional slide show software.
The technology trialed was an Apple iPad2 tablet computer. This type of device offered a flexible platform with appropriate connectivity for use in class and around the university, thus helping to enrich the learning and ensuring that Graham is able to be in communication whenever and wherever he wants.
In class, Graham uses the iPad2 to simplify complex subjects. For example, one lecture focuses on the biochemistry of biological enzymes and the game ‘Pacman’ is an apt analogy for the subject. Graham will encourage students to come to the front of the lecture room and play the game whilst explaining the
Graham will also use the iPad2 as an electronic whiteboard. Using the ‘Penultimate’ application, he makes notes on the iPad2 as he delivers lectures – these are displayed in real-time using a data projector via an Apple to serial connector. Graham then saves the ‘book’ in Penultimate and uploads this in PDF format to Blackboard. The books are saved using the module code and over time, students have access to all of Graham’s electronic notes and diagrams; in a clear and structured manner, via BlackBoard. Should the student also have access to penultimate on their own devices they can annotate the actual lecture notes away from class.
‘Mightymeeting’ and ‘Keynote’ are applications that allow Graham to access all of his electronic learning resources (such as PowerPoint slides) on the iPad2 via the cloud. He will create presentations and content using either the iPad2 or his PC and upload them for use via these apps in delivery.
The ‘Peek’ application, along with its accompanying screen cover is used to create quizzes that Graham uses in his delivery. Peek allows the iPad2’s screen to be fully or partially covered by fitting a special cover to the iPad2. By manually folding the cover back, Graham can reveal parts of the screen at a time, facilitating the use of reveal quizzes and also ensuring that students see different parts of diagrams as Graham is talking rather than being overwhelmed by complex diagrams.
Away from the classroom, the iPad2’s connectivity allows Graham to use applications such as ‘Speedgrade’ to access student information regardless of his location or the time.
Graham also uses the iPad2 to contribute to Twitter discussions and to read student blogs.