Last Friday we held a second iMeet event, to explore the use of tablets and mobiles in teaching and learning. The session was facilitated by the Centre for Learning Technology and we were keen to stress we were there to learn as much as the participants. We started by presenting some brief stats on smartphone and tablet ownership amongst students as indicated by the LSE IMT Survey this year. It’s high, with 92% of student having a smartphone. We then divided the room into three groups, facilitated by myself, Sonja and Jo to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using these devices in a teaching and learning context. Below is a summary of the discussions in each of the groups. We also shared some favourite apps and provided a list of further reading, which I’ve included in this blog post.
People around my table owned a range of devices: iPads, smartphones, laptops, android tablets. It would be fair to say we had quite a few sceptics, including a member of academic staff who had an iPad but couldn’t really find a work reason for using it. However, all agreed they are light and easy to carry around. The group were concerned that many students couldn’t afford an iPad and that in many cases a laptop would be better for the work they wanted to do – particularly when it involved working on files.
One of my group is teaching maths and was looking for a tool or app that would allow him to annotate his slides. He currently uses the visualiser but was interested in whether you can you project from the iPad and annotate onto the screen directly. We discussed editing documents and many of the group use Dropbox. This led the IT Security expert in our group to raise some security issues associated with cloud storage.
So is there a value in using tablets and mobiles in teaching? We were not sure. It was concluded that tablets were good for lots of fun things, for accessing information, for email and for internet browsing. We also discussed how students used tablets and phones, such as for taking notes or recording lectures. Our group concluded that we were perhaps not the best people to understand the potential tablets and mobiles offer for learning and LSE should consider running a pilot with students to explore this issue further.
There was lots of conversation, though occasionally it veered off into the particular and technical, due to the make up of the people on the table, one of them being a newly appointed Apple specialist and another responsible for the LSE iTunes U application. One person was there to ask how she could improve the iPad experience for her students – her executive Masters programme gives out iPads to all students. The iPads are blank, and there has not been a decision yet to preload any apps for students. What could be put on there to supplement students’ learning, and how could the iPads be used more by teachers to engage students off campus?
We also considered the prevalence of Apple and how the market domination of Apple might cloud educationer’s understanding of the usefulness of tablets, what they are for etc. We agreed that essentially it does not matter what device is used in education, but how it is used. We had one of our round outline how a LSE tablet “portal” is currently being developed, and how it might work in making use of tablets for learning purposes even easier.
My table comprised a variety of academic, administrative and support staff, who each had different devices and approaches to using them. Our discussion was on the whole quite positive, and we felt that in some respects mobile devices have the potential to change the way we work. We did, however, touch upon key issues such as accessibility, cloud-based data security, and student access to what can at times be expensive equipment.
We tended to focus on personal productivity, organisation and content collation in terms of the apps we wanted to share (think Evernote, Mendeley, and Flipboard), but one tablet-centric idea which seemed to pique the table’s interest was in electronic annotation of documents. We noted that within the context of research this could be hugely useful; storage of documents in a cloud-based facility would drastically reduce the amount of paper we need to carry around, electronic articles are very easy to search, and annotation, from the group’s personal experience at least, tends to aid recall. One other application of electronic annotation is in marking of student assignments either by staff or as part of a peer review activity, and the academic staff on our table were very positive about this approach.
Our favourite apps:
Surprisingly the browser was one of the favourite apps everyone used! Dropbox was a popular app, as was YouTube and Netflix for their entertainment value.
Interactive books were a favourite, e.g.: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/a-christmas-carol-for-ios/id401507863?mt=8
and a favourite art application: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/brushes-3/id545366251?mt=8
10 of the best Apple and Android apps for higher education in 2013. eCampus News. (May 2013) Available at: http://www.ecampusnews.com/business-news/new-10-of-the-best-apple-and-android-apps-for-higher-education-in-2013/
Watters, A. (November 2012) Why tablets? Inside Higher Education. Available at: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/hack-higher-education/why-tablets
Horizon report 2013. Available at: http://www.nmc.org/publications/2013-horizon-report-higher-ed
iMeet: a participant shares his thoughts. Report from a previous session. February 2012. Available at: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/clt/2012/02/08/imeet-a-participant-shares-his-thoughts/