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Dr. Andrew Goodliffe-How the iPad transformed my teaching

October 19th, 2011

[editorial note: The video embedded in this post is of Dr. Goodliffe presenting at the iPad Initiative feedback session for Dean Robert Olin, held on September 13, 2011. Dr. Goodliffe’s blog post summarizing his work with the iPad is below.]

How the iPad Transformed My Teaching from UA College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.

The iPad has had a significant impact on how I work. There are three main areas in which I have been impacted, the first of which I did not anticipate.

1)   The iPad’s lack of an obvious file system was an initial major hindrance. However, this forced me to look at new ways of doing things. I started out small – one of my favorite applications (Air Sharing) presented me with the option of a file system inside an app. GoodReader presented something similar (though unlike most people, I far prefer the former app). Within both programs I started to see mention of Dropbox – I had used this a little before, but had not realized the potential. I have now fully embraced this program. It is now my default file system on the iPad. Most of my day-to-day files are now on Dropbox. This means that these files are also available on my iPad and hence easily available to share with students in both formal and informal settings. If students are having problems with a concept, I typically have PowerPoints, images, etc., that can easily be pulled up and shared. This has been transformative in the classroom. Plus, all my computers (office, home, laptop) are now perfectly synced!

2)   In small class settings (upper-level undergraduate classes, graduate seminars, etc.), the ability to be able to pass around the iPad, as you would a photo or a scientific paper, is a major plus. A large number of my photos and the majority of my collection of digital scientific papers are on my iPad. No longer, when posed a question do I have to say something like “I am sure that there is a paper that I have read on this topic – it has a great figure.” Now I always have that with me, and it is easily shared around the room. This has also been true of items such as field photos. I should also add that the iPad is now my default medium for reading scientific papers.

3)   When doing fieldwork with students, the ability to use the 3G connection to pull up applications such as Google Earth has been a major plus. I can now show students where we are on the map. We can now more easily find the best location for an instrument–“There is a field behind that stand of trees.” The ability to easily do, and share, initial data analysis in the field is also a major plus. This gives students a much greater sense of understanding and ownership of geophysical field data. I am starting to explore and make use of GIS apps on the iPad. I am certain that these will be very valuable.

-Andrew Goodliffe is an associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at The University of Alabama. Andrew’s specialty is exploration geophysics. This area of research involves a significant amount of fieldwork throughout the globe, with emphasis on the southwest Pacific, Australia, Egypt, and Greece. Most recently his research has focused on the geological evolution of the Gulf of Mexico and geological carbon sequestration in Walker County, Alabama. Before arriving at UA, Andrew was on the faculty at the University of Hawai’i. Andrew received his PhD from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, MS from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and BSc from the University of Plymouth in the UK.

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