Tablets in Teaching Learning Community


Convening tablet and specifically iPad users to discuss problems with and strategies for the use of this type of technology to enhance teaching has been something I have been interested in since I started at St. Norbert. I started Tablets in Teaching as an informal gathering several years ago, and it has continued fairly regularly since that time.

Purpose and goals

The purpose of this learning community was to bring together faculty who were currently using or trying to adopt the use of tablets in their teaching to share ideas, strategies, and approaches to incorporating the use of tablets into all aspects of teaching new and existing courses.

The primary goal for this community was to facilitate an increase the use of tablets in the community members’ courses, either by adding additional strategies in courses where this technology was already utilized, or by increasing the number of classes in which users utilized tablets to enhance their teaching. More broadly, the goal is to increase awareness across campus of the many ways tablets can be used to enhance teaching and learning, and to encourage adoption of this technology more widely.

Community Composition and needs

Faculty from several disciplines were represented:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Communication and Media Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Modern Languages and Literatures
  • Women’s and Gender Studies

Due to the breadth of the range of disciplines and courses taught, previous experiences with iPad apps and requested resources/technologies also varied. Requests for iPad topics to discuss and challenges to address included:

  • Identifying a note taking app with more features (inserting movies, links, etc)
  • In-lecture whiteboard that can be saved to PDF
  • Video capturing and editing
  • using Kahoot! and Quizizz
  • Playing videos while projecting (many formats don’t work reliably)

Current community ipad usage for teaching

The majority of community members already used their iPad for much of their teaching, including during lecture or lab to present material and gauge student understanding, in the preparation of materials for lecture or lab, preparation of learning tools for students to use outside of lecture or lab, and for grading, correcting, or commenting on student work. Commonly used apps include:

  • GoodNotes
  • Vittle Pro
  • iAnnotate
  • Pro Scanner
  • Zoom
  • PowerPoint
  • Acrobat

New ipad applications explored

Document Camera (free): This app turns your iPhone or iPad into a document camera. It is compatible with Zoom and Google Meet, and has AirPlay support. It allows you to annotate and pause, and also has an auto-level feature that keeps the document camera image level even when your phone/tablet isn’t.

Good Notes ($7.99): This is a handwritten note-taking app designed for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac. Notes can be organized into folders and are searchable with the help of handwriting recognition. Several file types (including PDF, PowerPoint, Word, images, and photos) can be imported and annotated. More than one document can be opened at a time in multiple tabs, and two documents can be open side-by-side for referencing. This app is particularly useful for teaching as it can be used to project at normal size even when zoomed in on the iPad for detailed writing; toolbars are not projected; there is a laser pointer tool; notes can be saved and exported for sharing.

Google Slides (free): Google’s slide creation and presentation app. Syncs via Google Drive. There is a presenter view to allow the presenter to see notes. Annotations disappear when you advance slides. There is a Q&A mode that allows viewers to ask questions and the presenter to get to them later; they only show up on your iPad, not the presentation screen.

Jamboard (free; in-app purchases): Created by Google, this is a collaborative digital whiteboard app for the iPad/iPhone. A new project is called a “Jam” – once created, it becomes a file in Google Drive and can be shared as a link across multiple users; users can annotate from any device. There are drawing, laser pointer, and sticky note tools. The final product can be shared as an image or PDF.

Keynote (free): Apple’s slide creation and presentation app. Syncs via iCloud. Annotations are saved even after advancing to the next slide. Live videos can be inserted into presentation. The app can be used to make lecture videos; there is a record screen tool in the control panel which captures audio in addition to what is on the iPad screen.

PDF Expert (free): Open, read, annotate, highlight, and even edit PDFs on your iPad. This app connects directly to Google Drive, and saves final modified pdf back to Google Drive, making it a useful app for annotating/correcting/grading student work.

PowerPoint (free; in-app purchases): Microsoft’s slide creation and presentation app. Syncs via OneDrive. Annotations are saved even after advancing to the next slide. The Apple Pencil allows annotation of slides while your finger serves as a laser pointer tool.

ReadCube Papers (free version; some functionality requires subscription): This app is like iTunes for your journal article collection. Read, annotate, share, organize and search your articles and annotations. It also functions as a citation manager.

ShiftScreen ($7.99): This app allows you to connect your iOS device to an external monitor (or projector or Apple TV) to use it as a second screen. Up to six windows can be opened on the external monitor, and the windows can be moved and resized.

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