“Faculty who regularly reflect on their teaching are better prepared to create and sustain faculty-student interactions in which both teacher and learner flourish.”
Welcome to the twenty-first century. We live in dynamic times when technology advances profoundly affect education at all levels and require us to react more and reflect on our actions more than at any time in our past. The demand for online or enhanced (blended) educational opportunities has placed new demands on faculty and students to develop new techniques for teaching and learning in a virtual environment. Online education has begun to redefine how learning is managed and knowledge is acquired.
To address these new demands, colleges and universities have engaged a work force of instructional designers and IT professionals to work side-by-side with faculty content experts to develop strategies for engaging students and to prepare faculty to design, deliver and evaluate courses online.
Students today have not known education without technology. The level and diversity of technology skills and experiences of students sometimes exceeds those of faculty. Further, most faculty priorities dictate that they remain up-to-date with their discipline, but not with technology. This means they have little time to discover and master new learning technologies. In fact, many faculty teach their first online course without any prior online teaching or learning experiences; with all of their preparation completed in traditional settings.
Faculty are not without technology skills. Most if not all faculty are competent at using technology to produce class materials, communicate and research. However, this is often not enough. Faculty need to be competent in using instructional technology and learning management systems to sustain successful teaching and achieve targeted student outcomes. Few faculty find the time and inspiration to emerge as true innovators in their use of technology to enhance learning and engage students. Faculty need to have access to quality professional development programs.
Transitioning to Online Teaching
Today’s teachers did not learn to teach by modeling online instructors.
The initial teaching model for many faculty is generally derived from their own learning experiences and former teachers (Layne, Froyd, Simpson, Caso & Merton, 2004) and consists of mostly teacher-centered strategies in a traditional, face-to-face environment. Online education on the other hand, is a new specialty that redirects faculty from teaching in their familiar ways and encourages them to rethink their teaching practices. What may have worked for them in their past may no longer be helpful or reliable in an online classroom. We must present faculty with new views of teaching and new strategies for engaging learners. An initial step in this process of preparing faculty to move into online teaching is to encourage them to note that which is unfamiliar, different, or absent in the online courses of experienced faculty. Shadowing experienced faculty or auditing their courses can be a catalyst for reflection and evaluation of their own teaching practices.
Challenges to faculty self-concept as expert can result in resistance to online teaching.
In rethinking their familiar ways of teaching when moving online, faculty can easily shift from teacher-centered to student-centered instruction. As faculty discover alternative ways to deliver instruction and model teaching, they are able to shift their instructional roles to place a greater amount of responsibility for learning on the students. They soon discover that online there exists the possibility to create different teaching and learning roles. Faculty can move away from their role as deliverers of content to constructivist-based facilitators (Conrad, 2004).
If faculty development is considered within the context of adult learning, then all the theory, research, and literature from the field of adult education and its effective principles, practices, strategies, applications, and experience become the tools of the development team (Lawler, 2003). It is important to consider the characteristics of faculty as adult learners and be aware of their pressing problems, concerns, and issues in their professional lives. Faculty bring with them a diversity of life experiences, educational experiences, personalities, learning preferences, and uniqueness. This shapes their perspectives on their teaching practices, influences how they will teach in the future, and even influences their motivation to participate in professional development activities (Lawler, 2003). Therefore, I believe that faculty development initiatives should address faculty as adult learners and provide them with opportunities to reflect on their practice.
Responsiveness to the individuality of the faculty member is essential.
When faculty members display a resistance to online teaching, it may be because it threatens their identity as professors and experts (Meyer, 2004). This could impact their online teaching experience. Successful relationships between the development team and faculty start with an understanding of the faculty member’s preferences for teaching and learning, prior experiences, and attitudes toward change. Next, it is important to build a community based on collegial sharing. This community will serve as a support structure for faculty.
Critically reflective thinking is an integral component in transformational learning. If teaching online brings inherent changes that challenge our old assumptions about teaching and learning, then perhaps it is time to rethink everything about face-to-face teaching practices. Reflective thinking within faculty development might be the strategy to promote this kind of transformative learning in faculty.
As a way of introducing faculty to online learning, faculty should be added to an online course as an observer to gain a better understanding of how online teaching and learning occurs (Barker, 2003). The next step would be to provide sufficient opportunity for experimentation. The need for faculty to have opportunities to experiment and apply their online skills within the context of their own curriculum is very important to their development (Hinson & LaPrairie, 2005). It is also important to provide training that can be used right away, fit into faculty schedules, match faculty learning styles, and includes support from the development team and colleagues.
I firmly believe that teaching can be thought of as effective communication. To effectively communicate online, a teacher must master the tools of online communication. As a veteran teacher and college professor, I have undergone my own transformation and have found effective new ways to engage students using technology. The following represents my focus and my beliefs about education and faculty development:
The following Principles for Good Practice first appeared over twenty years ago and are still valid today. I consider them an important part of online pedagogy (Chickering & Gamson, 1987):
- Encourage contact between students and faculty
- Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
- Encourage active learning
- Give prompt feedback
- Emphasize time on task
- Communicate high expectations
- Respect diverse talents and ways of learning.
To these principles I add my own core of beliefs about faculty development:
- The best faculty development takes place when faculty are inspired. Authentic, significant, and sustainable change occurs when faculty receive support and guidance that is aligned with their professional beliefs and goals.
- There is no one way to teach that works for everyone. There are some teaching practices that are more effective than others.
- Promoting student learning is paramount and should always guide practice, especially when it comes to adopting new technologies and methodologies.
Teaching roles have changed. The lack of physical presence in the online classroom can be difficult to overcome. Anything a faculty member wants to “say” must be communicated electronically. These are no simple challenges. They require intervention. Faculty can transform and students can adapt. The future of education may well rest on our ability to master the online learning environment.
Chickering, A.W. and Gamson, Z.F. (Fall, 1987). Seven Principles For Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Washington Center News.
Conrad, D. (2004). University instructors’ reflections on their first online teaching experiences. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(2), 31-44.
Hinson, J. M., & LaPrairie, K. N. (2005). Learning to teach online: Promoting success through professional development. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 29, 483-493.
Lawler, P. A. (2003, Summer). Teachers as adult learners: A new perspective. In K.P. King & P. A. Lawler (Eds.), New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education (pp. 15-22). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Layne, J., Froyd, J., Simpson, N., Caso, R., & Merton, P. (2004). Understanding and improving faculty professional development in teaching. Paper presented at the 34th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (pp. 1C 15-20), October 20-23, 2004. Savannah, GA.
Meyer, K. (2004). Putting the distance learning comparison study in perspective: Its role as personal journey research. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 7(1). Retrieved March 30, 2010, from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring71/meyer71.htm
One of the pitfalls of teaching online that instructors often experience is that they replace face-2-face teaching lectures with large quantities of online text. Screen after screen of text will only “lock” the student into a linear sequence of learning. While this will provide data to support their participation in your course, it is not providing interactivity, a vital component of a quality online course, and, can make it difficult to assess what a student has learned.
So, is it possible to turn any lecture into an interactive experience? Yes! To begin, take a second look at your objectives and cut out unnecessary material and focus on the most important content. This will allow you to create rich content that includes visuals, animations and other interactions to promote a quality online course experience for your students.
One way to create rich content would be to create “scenarios.” Scenarios immerse learners in situations that require them to apply newly acquired knowledge. You can base scenarios on common issues or problems related to your lecture content. To engage your students, you could include multiple-choice questions or group activities that engage students with the analysis of content and strategies for solutions. The goal of the scenario is to engage your students in the presentation.
Careful selection and use of graphics can also provide an enhanced experience. Since your students have different learning styles or combinations of learning styles, consider designing activities that address their modes of learning. In designing online courses, this can best be accomplished by utilizing multiple instructional strategies like those that support visual/nonverbal and auditory/verbal. These two learning styles focus more on listening, or the use of graphics or diagrams to represent information.
Another strategy would be to develop lectures/presentations that are smaller, or “chunked” for easy consumption. Smaller content offerings provide an optimal environment for periodic reflection.
No matter the strategy, including interactive opportunities will likely open up new ways to engage your students at a distance and maintain a high level of connectivity with your online students.
The ideas and strategies offered by Flegle (2009) and Herbert (2006) have proven to be effective strategies for student retention over the past few years parallel to the development of Learning Management Systems.
What we have learned more recently is that there appears to be a relation between student retention and class length that might put more students at risk. Students who take short courses (5 weeks or less) are at a greater risk of dropping out than students who take semester long courses (Ferguson & DeFelice, 2010). This would support the theory that what happens in the first few weeks of an online course might have a significant impact on student retention.
Developing an online community or establishing professional relationships with students takes time. Over the course of a semester, student-faculty interactions tend to grow and strengthen the possibility that students will remain in the course. This can be even more true if the course content and expectations are introduced gradually, giving the student time to adjust to the online environment.
One successful strategy that as helped to improve student retention has been incorporated into this training course; having a discussion board or chat room available for students throughout the semester allows them to discuss non-course related content (and gives them another reason to return the course site). However, one cannot expect any online student engagement strategy to work if not nurtured. Simply creating a “Student Lounge” does not ensure that it will have an impact on student retention. The level of engagement and participation needs to be nurtured by the Instructor.
Another strategy is to present students with “practice” sessions for each of the major components of any LMS (i.e., discussions, submitting assignments, using external technology tools, etc.) before introducing graded content for the course. This can be done before the course begins or during the first week.
In my online courses, I have discovered a correlation between the frequency of communication at the beginning of a course and student retention. The more actively I engage in communication with students at the beginning of the course the less likely I am to have students drop the course. One way I have increased communication is to conduct one-to-one chats at the beginning of the course to learn what I can about each student. I repeat this strategy throughout the semester to learn how students are perceiving the course.
Finally, consider using students to moderate discussions. By placing the responsibility for moderation with the student, I have found that they nearly always step up to the challenge and later report that it was one of the most rewarding experiences they have had in the course. Perhaps this contributes to retention as well.
Ferguson, J.M. & DeFelice, A.E. (2010). Length of Online Course and Student Satisfaction, Perceived Learning, and Academic Performance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11/2.
Flegle, L.V. (2009). The Instructor’s Role in Retention: Teaching students to stay in school. Retrieved on October 2, 2011 from: http://voices.merlot.org/forum/topics/the-instructors-role-in
Herbert, M. (2006). Staying the Course: A study in online student satisfaction and retention. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 9/4.
When special efforts are made, online education actually can enhance learning experiences, expand horizons and facilitate group collaboration.
Remember when you were a college student and attended your first course? Did the method by which the course and the instructor were introduced affect how your felt about the course? Did the instructor read the syllabus to you and then dismiss class? Perhaps the professor began with an “ice-breaking” activity?
As you contemplate the start of a new semester or new online course, it is important to step back and consider the overall course experience you want your students to have. How will you introduce yourself, get to know your students. How will you present course expectations, content and assessment guidelines? What impression do you want to leave with your students at the end of the day?
Because student’s today are likely to be more “socially” oriented and technology-aware, it is a good idea to take advantage of this as you plan the introduction to your course. Your studentʼs have had access to a wide variety of technologies that allow them to instantaneously know what their “friends” are doing or thinking. This experience with connectivity will likely extend into your online classroom environment.
No matter the method you choose or create, it is suggested that you provide a personal introduction to your course. A personal introduction offers the students a glimpse of their instructor and provides them with a model for interaction and communication styles within your course. What you include is really up to you.
In general, you should include a mix of formal details of your career and academic interests and, if you like, some informal details about you or your interests or hobbies outside of your day job. Some instructors encourage (not require) students to add photos by emailing them to the instructor, uploading them to course webpages or by attaching their image file to a discussion thread. Photos personalize the biographical information and help classmates form a clearer image of their fellow students, especially if they should run into them on campus. Another suggestion is to share your passion for the topic/subject of the course. Students will ultimately develop their own relation with the topic/subject. However, knowing how you feel can influence their performance in the course. Your goal should be to form a sense of community within your online course.
You should also determine which elements of your course and syllabus are important enough to be highlighted in your introduction and then point them to these resources so they can read and review them later. Helping learners understand the reasons behind participation requirements and course expectations will better enable them to use this information to expedite their own learning.
You may want to share information about your teaching style/method as well as share educational values that you would like exemplified in your course. Faculty who have taught online for a number of years have learned to express their expectations in short and simple terms with great success. Include personal suggestions or guidelines for students to ensure their successful learning experience in your class. You may want to touch upon grading procedures, rubrics, or subjective grading criteria if applicable. Share with your students how you will provide informative feedback, assessment feedback and acknowledgement feedback.
Even though our students seem to be technology-savvy individuals, it is always a good idea to discuss online course/communication etiquette (netiquette) – preferably from your personal perspective. Remember, not all faculty are going to conduct their courses online in the same way. Your expectations for online conduct may differ greatly from that of your colleagues. Many faculty expect students to already understand how to conduct themselves online. You should let students know what your values and expectations are for their conduct in your course. How do you want students to communicate with you? What is permissible when students communicate within your course and with each other? Sometimes, creating a single, open discussion forum for “off-topic” discussions by students can help them to understand the “time and place” concept and to adhere to professional standards within the formal discussion areas.
Finally, be sure to discuss your expectations regarding time. An online environment is very much like a Casino; no clocks, no windows, no sense of passing time. Students come and go when it is convenient for them. If you have a need to control when a student needs to be online, make this very clear. It can be very helpful to delineate those components of your course that are “time sensitive” and those that are not!
Now that you have a sense of what you want to include in your introduction, letʼs take a look at some of the ways in which you can deliver this introduction to your students. You can choose to engage your students before the course formally begins or within the first days of the course offering. The options for introducing your course include, but are certainly not limited to the following:
1. Create a document for students to read
2. Create a Course Announcement
3. Create a Podcast
4. Create a Video
5. Create a Discussion Forum
6. Student web pages
7. Face-to-Face (F2F)
What you may want to include:
1. Picture or Avatar
2. Short Bio
3. Personal expectations for the course/students
4. Opening “thought-provoking” question
(Note: Consider the following as “spices” for your online meal. Consider blending several spices to achieve the best results.)
While some consider this approach the easiest, it can also be considered impersonal depending on how it is structured. If you choose to create a document that introduces you and your course, then carefully consider your “voice” when composing it. The tone you set in your document will likely imply a tone for the course communications.
If appropriate, include images, links or tables. Instructors that have been successful in using documents to introduce their course generally use a variety of graphics, organize the information carefully and provide contact information, references, and helpful hyperlinks. An introductory document should be concise and not lengthy. One advantage documents have is that they can be referred to often either in print or online.
(Note: a word document can have embedded links, images, audio and video!)
Most if not all Learning Management Systems (LMS) have a system for providing course announcements. The better systems will provide options for the display of the announcement either as the student signs in (pop-up), as an email, or with some sort of flag or color designation to attract the attention of the student once they are in the course. The announcement feature can be a very effective way to grab student attention and introduce your course. One caution though, some LMS have a character limit in their announcement tools which would make them inappropriate for this task.
Podcasting, or simply audio recording, is a very good way to introduce your course and yourself to your students. Podcasts are generally small audio files and are easily managed online within most LMS’s. If you choose to do podcasting, and have a significant amount of information to extend to your students, consider “chunking” them, meaning, create more smaller podcasts on single topics instead of one very long podcast. Students are more likely to listen to all of your individual clips than they are to one single podcast, even though they may require the same amount of time.
Ideally, the best option for many instructors. Many computers today, especially laptops, come with a built-in camera and software allowing the user to create video clips. And, a video introduction is the closest thing to an in-person experience an instructor can offer their students. Some suggestions for creating your video introduction would be:
• Keep it simple and relatively short. If you find that you have more than 5-8 minutes of video, consider creating more than one clip. As with the podcasts, breaking the content into smaller units (chunking) has been shown to be an effective strategy for delivering multimedia content online.
• Choose a suitable setting such as your office or work area
• Practice a couple of times
• Work from a script or outline
• Look into the camera as often as possible
If you choose to post your introduction in a discussion forum, be sure to email your students and let them know where how to join the forum. You can combine an announcement with this as well to ensure that all students arrive a the correct location within the LMS to view the discussion. The email you send or the announcement you post can do much to set the tone and expectations for your course. These “first words” can also provide models of online communication for your students. Your introductory remarks should reinforce what is contained in your syllabus and other documents
students will encounter as they begin their online class.
The discussion forum should also encourage students to share and relate to others in the course. You can initiate this by providing similar information about yourself. For instance, you could share some of your personal experiences teaching and learning online. Do you teach from your office, home, or pool-side? Perhaps your read email at Starbucks? Maybe you have overcome some challenges related to learning online that you can share?
In some LMSs, students have access to tools that allow them to create their own ”webpage”. You can utilize this feature to have students create autobiographical websites that they can share with other students. In this way, students can archive the information, and refer to their own or others as needed throughout the course.
If you carve out a separate area for this activity or create a page of links to students’ webpages, your students will be able to refer back to the biographical information throughout the course. It is best to keep the requirements for introductions simple, meaning, “please say a few words about yourself and your reason for taking this class” or, “tell a little about your background in this subject.”
F2F Meeting (on ground)
Of course, there is always the Face-to-Face option. This can be a very effective method in some special circumstances, especially when course requirements dictate it; for example, if a proficiency must be met. However, if you do not have special requirements, and you are teaching 100% online, it only makes sense that you utilize the online environment to deliver your introduction.
Faculty who use Learning Management Systems (LMS) to assist with the delivery of courses in online, hybrid or even ground-based courses have a variety of tools from which they can strategically devise interactions with students to promote learning. Originally, these LMS were designed to facilitate transition from ground-based to online teaching without having to learn complicated or archaic programming or coding languages. And today, despite many advances, these tools and technologies have either been underutilized or the benefits have been misunderstood.
It is always surprising to me when I discover yet another faculty member who uses the LMS to teach courses in which students read independently and demonstrate their knowledge through multiple-choice exams without interaction of any kind between the instructor and the student, or between students. Despite efforts at providing quality professional development programs, online resources, and consultation services, some faculty have resisted the change that is a requirement of online teaching; stimulating learning through interaction.
Interaction is the bridge that brings everyone together in an online learning environment. And, technology resources such as online threaded discussions, chat rooms, video conferencing and document sharing facilitate interaction and stimulate engagement and participation in an online course. Most LMS will have some or all of these technologies available, however, if they are not a part of your LMS, you can link to these tools online.
The rapid development of web-based tools (sometimes referred to as Web 2.0 Tools) has offered up an ever-changing menu of resources that, when added to the existing set of tools currently available in LMS, can provide the instructor with an even richer palette from which to select the appropriate strategy or interactive experience.
What makes the online resource even more enticing than the LMS is that the user has more control over the environment. The instructor no longer has to rely on professional development courses to train the in the use of expensive and overly complicated software or LMS tools. Many of the web-based solutions are simply easier to use because they focus on one thing, and one thing only – the task at hand, without a lot of “extras”.
Here are some of my recommendations for “add on” tools to enrich your online teaching experience:
Connecting Visually Online – (DimDim/Skype)
Both of these programs offer free solutions that allow an instructor to engage visually with their students. In the case of DimDim, you can also share documents, videos, and images – or anything else you have on your computer. Add to that the ability to illustrate, draw and share a whiteboard environment. Skype now offers screen sharing with its free service, but unlike DimDim, all users must have Skype accounts. With DimDim, only the host user (most likely the instructor) needs to have an account. Both web-based tools offer excellent connectivity, real-time chat environments and video compression making them excellent choices for establishing interactivity with and among your students.
Creating Knowledge and Brainstorming – (MindMeister)
Having a way to challenge student thinking while visualizing their contributions in real time is something that MindMeister does very well. This easy to use application allows an instructor to generate a topic for discussion and invite students to participate in the development of the topic. Each user must establish a free account, but other than that, there is no other requirement. The free version of MindMeister works great. Students can create their own mind maps (concept maps) and share them with others. Instructors can watch as ideas are created and begin to populate the screen. This tool provides an excellent platform for generating ideas and developing thoughts.
Presentations and Document Sharing – (280 Slides/SlideShare)
Many courses are constructed using PowerPoint or other presentation software. And, some instructors even require students to create their own presentations. An excellent web-based solution for building “powerpoint-like” presentations is called 280Slides. In fact, the entire user interface resembles PowerPoint so much that students often confuse it for PPT. With this application, students can create powerful and professional PPT presentations that they can email, download or share with online sharing services like SlideShare. SlideShare is similar to YouTube by design. The user can post their presentation online for others to view and share, but maintains control of the presentation. Some faculty use SlideShare as a way for students to share and peer evaluate each other’s work. The process of creation to sharing to evaluation is very simple and straightforward using these tools.
Quick Information/Announcements – (Twitter)
Twitter is a web-based application that facilitates the sending of small chunks of information (140 characters max.). Students can receive this information quickly and act on it. For instance, an instructor could “tweet” (send a twitter message) from their smart phone reminding students that there is a quiz or guest speaker for the next class session. Students can ask short questions and perhaps receive a response from any of the other students in the class. If used with consistency, tweeting can be a very easy, and very engaging way to interact with your students.
Creating Knowledge – (WikiSpaces)
Wikipedia is an online repository of information about everything you can imagine. But what if we could make this repository smaller and much more refined? That would be the purpose behind using WikiSpaces. WikiSpaces helps an instructor create a “wiki” environment. An instructor could use a wiki to develop a lexicon of information and knowledge about the subject being studied in the course. Practices, terms, case studies, etc., could be collected and organized into the wiki. Students could participate in the collection and editing of the articles that result. The peer participation and opportunities for individual and group expression are enormous. An added benefit is that the wiki can continue to grow indefinitely over the years the course is taught creating a rich archive.
Web-based media tools and applications such as those discussed here require very little management and are set up in minutes, often without the help of the LMS technology support staff. Faculty and, or students can take advantage of web-based tools to communicate, share, collaborate and learn while fostering interactivity and user-generated content.
The LMS is good for education, but it should not be considered the “total” solution to delivering courses effectively to students. Instead, consider the LMS your “stock” for the world’s best soup. What you need to add are “spices” to make it exceptional. Web-based tools and applications are the spices from which you select the very best – the ones that accomplish your learning objectives.
I am frequently told by educators that one reason they do not integrate more technology into their classroom is because they cannot afford it; “there is no money.” And just as frequently I respond with, “but what if you could do that for free?”
Many of the tools used by educators to enhance teaching and provide interactive experiences over the years have been purchased software products. Class productivity tools such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database programs are ubiquitous within our schools and they can cost a lot of money to upgrade and maintain. In contrast, programs such as web browsers are equally ubiquitous, yet they cost nothing to install or upgrade.
So why is it that educators and IT professionals tend to shy away from the so called “free” tools widely available on the Internet, and often referred to as Web-based or Web 2.0 products? In my opinion, it is because they are not aware of them. Many programs currently available such as MindMeister.com, Google Docs, Weebly.com, PickNik.com, Screencast.com, to name but a few, are not well know in education.
As a university professor teaching introductory technology integration courses, I would do whatever I could to introduce future teachers to these web-based tools. I believe teachers need opportunities to learn about and try out new technologies. These opportunities are available to those seeking advanced degrees at local colleges and universities, and often to forward thinking districts who provide ample professional development opportunities.
The demand placed upon teachers today to adopt and integrate technology to enhance instruction and learning opportunities is great. These same teachers are also expected to provide rich and engaging classroom experiences and to increase student achievement through State and local assessments. This does not leave much time for teachers to sit down and explore new technologies. How many Web 2.0 tools are there? Far too many to cover here in this modest blog entry, but there are places on the Web a teacher can go to see and learn about web-based tools and Web 2.0 technologies appropriate to education. Here educators can find applications to meet their needs for teaching: social networking; social bookmarking; web page building; image storing, editing and sharing; file sharing; writing; spreadsheets; financial management; polling and voting; drawing; music; video; calendars; rss aggregators; presentations; multimedia hosting; virtual learning environments; graphing/charts; teaching/meeting online; video conferencing; microblogging (tweet); blogging; project management; to do lists; assessment; notetaking and event planning.
Go2Web20.net - One of the largest compilations of Web 2.0 applications. You can search using “education” or simply float through the many apps to see what might be used in your classroom.
TheDigitalClassroom.com – Search by keyword or tags for teaching strategies and web-based tools.
Spend a couple of hours this weekend surfing through the possibilities – you will not regret it.
One of the restrictions that often keeps technologies from finding their way to the classroom is whether or not they can (or will) be supported by district IT services. Well the good news is that the iPad is going to be a device that can be integrated into most school network infrastructures. Issues concerning security, stability and compatibility appear to have been addressed by Apple (as they were for the iPhone and iTouch).
John C. Welch does a great job of addressing this concern in his recent article at MacWorld.com. If you or your IT professionals are uncertain, I would recommend taking a look at John’s article below.
Opinion: How the iPad fits into IT
With the recent announcement by Apple of the iPad, I cannot help but think of the many ways this device could become a powerful tool in education. These are preliminary thoughts as the device is not yet available, but I think most might agree that the following are potential uses for the iPad.
First, lets consider what this device is. The form is similar in appearance to the iTouch and iPhone, only much larger. The iPad will run all existing applications currently available on iTunes/App Store and will no doubt generate a large number of new apps to take advantage of the iPad’s larger format. It is reported to have 10 hours of battery life, comes in WiFi and 3G configurations and 16-64GB of internal storage. iPad owners can purchase an external keyboard/docking station from Apple for $69.00 as well as a well-designed case. The entry level unit will cost $499.00, a relatively low price point for a potential classroom computing device.
Will the iPad challenge the desktop computers or laptop computers that can be found in classrooms across the nation? Probably not, but they do make one think about what we actually use computers for in classrooms and whether the iPad can meet that requirement. So, who is thinking “education” and “iPad?” Pearson Education wasted no time getting apps ready for the iPad (see: David Sims’ article at education.tmcnet.com). PBS thinks there is a future for the iPad in education and Campus Technology has offered it’s view as well.
Here are my thoughts in no particular order…
This keyboard is perfect for small hands!
1. The size of the device and the size of the keyboard are perfect for smaller hands. Elementary students could benefit from having access to a “scaled down” keyboard. When I taught keyboarding many years ago to 6th grade students, I remember how difficult it was for some children to navigate the full-size keyboard.
2. The flexibility offered by this device might be realized by companies currently offering “slates” that work with their products. Companies that make SmartBoards for instance, may see an opportunity to develop apps that communicate with their products and allow students to write, draw or navigate the SmartBoard device using the iPad.
3. Companies that produce Student Response Systems (SRS) are sure to realize the potential of the iPad. In fact, Turning Technologies has already created iPhone and iTouch versions of its software as have eInstruction. Having an SRS app for the iPad just makes sense. We may even see someone develop an app that bridges the capabilities of the SRS and the SmartBoard systems.
3. One of the features announced by Steve Jobs was the iPad’s electronic book capabilities and the creation the iBook Store. Imagine how book publishers might be able to take advantage of this. We may soon see multi-touch interactive versions of popular children’s books, resources (dictionaries and encyclopedias) and textbooks on the iPad. Home schooler’s may see their content delivered to them via the iPad as well.
4. Online services like Discovery Education’s streaming video and web-based learning environments like Learning.com and Compass Learning (to mention but a few of the many) are perfect for this platform. Students would be able to view and interact with the content as well as collaborate with other students.
5. Web 2.0? Well what could be better? Cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) could finally find their place in more educational institutions. In Higher Education, the use of these tools and the iPad could result in a more affordable educational computing option for students. Even at the entry level price the iPad would be a perfect solution for most college students. They could have access to their textbooks, online resources, social networking sites, and much more. And, with productivity software that will be available, they could word process, create presentations and develop data sets, charts and graphs.
6. And what about teachers? Over the years, I have demonstrated numerous teacher/student management systems for my university students. Some were written for the desktop computer, some for PDAs, and some were cloud-based solutions. If any of these companies should happen to port their products to the iPad, we could see some outstanding teaching tools very soon in the App Store. Currently their are more than 500 apps in the app store categorized as Education. I can’t wait to see what shows up once the iPad becomes available.
7. I envision the iPad along with the Optoma Pico PK-101 Pocket Projector (and similar products) being used by teachers and students in the classroom. This solution could save a lot of money for those classrooms that do not already have projectors. And, if a SmartBoard is not available, you can add the Wii remote solution for converting an existing whiteboard into a SmartBoard. Now you have a total “smart classroom” solution for under $900.00.
8. And, just for fun, what do we do with the iPad when it is not being actively used by students or teachers? Well, with the available docking station, you could place the iPad in a prominent place and have it display an outline of the activities and lessons for the day. Perhaps the iPad could serve as a small interactive bulletin board. The iPad could display a user generated webpage on Black History Month for instance. Students would be able to walk up and read about famous figures and historic events and use the iPad to interact with online content to learn more. When the iPad is replaced in the dock the home page would again be displayed for the next user.
I think there is a home for the iPad in education. I am not sure if the iPad will link up with all school servers, and I am not clear on how printing will be handled, but I think these solutions will be available when the iPad becomes available in a few weeks. Schools that have adopted technologies like the iPhone/iTouch are exploring the ways in which these tools contribute the learning process. Of course, we must remember that it is not the technology that will ultimately make a difference, but the way it is utilized in the learning process. If it keeps students engaged and enhances the learning opportunities, then it can be very effective as a learning device.