Drs. Hong Min Park, Emily Hencken Ritter, and Greg Vonnahme–iPads in Political Science, pt. 1
Hong Min Park, Greg Vonnahme, and Emily Hencken Ritter, of the Department of Political Science, submitted a collaborative grant for the College of Arts and Sciences iPad Initiative. We each used the iPad in different ways in our own classrooms, in addition to collaborating to create and execute an activity across two sets of students. We also used the iPad in our research.
Dr. Vonnahme used the Airsketch app (with the Pogo stylus) to present slides during lecture, giving him more flexibility in the classroom during lecture, particularly to write on the slides while speaking, moving, and interacting with the students. The freedom allowed him to combine prepared material with content generated during the class period. It was particularly useful because the projector screen limits the amount of whiteboard space left to use during class. Here are some examples of slides, edited during lecture with the app.
Note the app allows the professor to use different colors for a variety of emphasis, etc. The app also allows the professor to save the amended slides so that students can refer to them later. Though the app occasionally froze such that a backup plan to continue lecture was useful (e.g., PDF Presenter with VGA connector), an updated version released in early April 2011 seemed to solve the problem. Overall Dr. Vonnhame prefers the reliability of the iPad and stylus and the flexibility of the iPad to the system of stylus and lecture capture available through the classroom PC/podium.
In contrast, neither Dr. Ritter nor Dr. Park used the iPad to present lecture slides. Dr. Ritter uses clickers (Turning Technologies) in the classroom and these are not (yet) compatible with iPad use. Dr. Park tried several apps to “replace” clickers (eClicker, iResponse, ResponseWare, and etc.), but experienced no complete success – this could be useful only when all students have internet-enabled devices.
Dr Ritter used iPads in a group activity, asking students to answer a question as a group and report their collective decision in an audio format, using QuickVoice, but giving them the option of written reporting as well. The students were enthusiastic to report their assignment in audio format, and their answers were more complete and suggested more consensus than those answers from groups with written reports. Informally, the answers were more consistent with course material in the audio answers than the written answers – this seemed to be due to the increased consensus required to develop an audio response.
All three professors worked together to develop an interactive activity and “experiment” with the iPads. Principal-Agent Theory is an economic theory of strategic interaction that is widely applicable in the study of politics, so Dr. Ritter gave the same lecture on PA interactions to both her class and Dr. Park’s. She then assigned an in-class activity to both classes – her class completed the activity on paper, with a single prompt, and his class completed the activity using the iPads.
Using the Safari browser, Dr. Vonnhame designed an interface such that one group could act as the principal, making a decision that affected the agent’s options, and another group could act as the agent.
The groups were assigned points based on the decisions they made, in accordance with the standard incentives in Principal-Agent games. The groups’ choices were connected, such that each affected the other’s point allocation. They were given chances to interact with one another and play again.
After both activities (the paper-based one in Ritter’s class and the interactive, technological one in Park’s class), we administered a direct assessment (not for credit) to determine how well the class learned the concepts after each type of activity. We found no significant difference in learning across the two activities, though students were considerably more enthusiastic about the activity with the iPads. Go to part 2 of this post.