28 January 2013

More on iPads in the Library and Across the College

Last Friday, I contributed to a webinar of the use of mobile devices in education organised by JISC. I spoke on the library's iPad project. The slides are here. Some notes - edited for the presentation, rather than for a blog post as such - are below and interim reflections on the project were published on this blog a couple of months ago.

Our iPad project was born out of many conversations with art tutors and their stories of what amazing things creative folk do with them. David Hockney’s exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art prompted us to put together a bid to the college’s Innovation Fund for funding. We were awarded £2,500 to develop the project specifically aimed at art tutors. Six iPads 2 were purchased plus accessories and App Store vouchers. Why iPads? – They are the creative industries' standard.

We contacted Apple, they were sufficiently helpful to make sense of the licences and technology implications. We attempted managing iPads with iTunes, however the application’s functionality was partially disabled on the college network; no Apple Configurator, therefore. Each iPad is linked with its own iTunes account. Email aliases are used for that; physically, all emails from iTunes come to one live email account.
The initial expectations of enthusiastic adoption of the devices were not met by our teaching colleagues, therefore, the iPads were divided between two sites; we started marketing them to learners at the art college in Hinckley (and the response was brilliant – see the stats), and to tutors – at the other site, in Nuneaton, where iPads are booked for use in classrooms most of the time.

The main users of iPads in classrooms are engineering and childcare tutors; hairdressing tutors had a go too. In the art college, Performing Arts learners take iPads to a classroom and use them instead of laptops when they need to check something online and made short notes, and instead of paper and books – to read from them when reciting.

A Hairdressing tutor was the first to spot an opportunity in using iPads for recording evidence. Videos were uploaded to Dropbox and then watched on the large screen. They were also made accessible to learners off-campus via a public folder.

An Engineering tutor has been using tablets with his level 1 learners for four days every week. In his opinion, tablets allow more flexibility and enhanced interaction in the classroom: they can be easily shared, passed around or placed in the centre of a group of students working on the same project. He also noted that there was more collaboration in the classroom – learners were more likely to discuss and help each other.

His students reported that they preferred tablets to textbooks: they liked an easy access to a lot of information and the whole experience of using a physical touch. For the majority of learners this was the only occasion when they used iPads; in spite of that, they quickly learned the basics and showed each other their discoveries.

We promote downloading ebooks on learners’ personal devices: http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/elibrary/e-books/.

Support staff found a good use to iPads too. I often keep one at the enquiry desk with me as it comes useful when dealing with enquiries on the library floor. It’s great at one-two-ones to explain  and demonstrate something. The library iPads were used to record video reports from events such as a student art show; they were used as interactive screens at exhibitions, to help with career advice and searching for jobs, for collecting feedback and drawing attention to displays at various college events.

There is a lot of buzz around iPads: learners love using them. The classroom dynamic becomes richer with tablets and learners engage with collaborative learning easier. Effectively, it seems tablets help to develop more interesting pedagogy.

I should also mention that the Functional Skills team has 28 small Android tablets. In the past, I was sceptical about such devices – their usability is poor comparing to iPads, lack of support and Google Play is a mess. However, tutors use them with success and they pointed out to me that our learners are comfortable with Android devices as, if they can afford smartphones, these are usually Samsung’s Galaxy, so they aproach those tablets with confidence, with no surprise.

For the earlier observations, see http://nwhc-librarian.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/ipads-in-library-interim-observations.html

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