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Dr. Steven Ramey–iPads and Religious Studies

August 31st, 2011 Comments off

The iPad that I received became a part of my pedagogical technology in both REL 220 and REL 490 (Capstone Seminar) during Spring 2011. The most consistent use of the iPad was annotating Powerpoint presentations during class without being tied to the podium, using Airsketch. I faced some difficulty with the program, especially at the start of the semester. Some advice from eTech and an app update improved the performance. Based on this experience, I particularly want to continue using the iPad with Airsketch to control and annotate presentations in large enrollment courses where I move about a 170-seat auditorium. In REL 490, I used my iPad and one borrowed from a colleague on several occasions to facilitate small group evaluation of internet sources, emphasizing the analysis of representations of different religious communities in Alabama. This pedagogical application of the iPad was relatively successful, although it was limited by the availability of only two iPads in the department at the beginning of the semester.

Steven Ramey is an associate professor in Religious Studies and the director of the Asian Studies program. His field of specialty is the religions of India. He has focused his research and his writing on the experiences of transition in context of migration within and beyond Asia.

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Drs. Hong Min Park, Emily Hencken Ritter, and Greg Vonnahme–iPads in Political Science, pt. 2

August 25th, 2011 Comments off

[see part 1 of this post]. . . We also used the iPads in a variety of ways for our respective research. The iPad is small and light, making it very easy to travel with. The 3G service is excellent and cheaper than paying for service from conference hotels. Though we have not used the iPad for presenting, this is definitely possible and others at our conferences have done so with great success.

Reading articles and drafts is very easy and comfortable on the iPad: Dr. Vonnhame likes iAnnotate for reading and marking pdfs, and Dr. Ritter uses PDFExpert, which syncs the marked pdfs with the eternally useful cloud storage space, Dropbox. The ability to both read and mark-up documents is particularly useful when acting as a discussant of a panel or discussing a project with a colleague at a conference.   However, Dr. Ritter, for instance, still travels with a laptop in order to edit her presentation slides, which you cannot do if you do not opt to use Keynote.

Dr. Park used the iPad for collaborative research with people from other parts of the country.  For instance, he communicated with co-authors using the Skype app and shared files via Dropbox app – it has been much easier for him to do these activities with the iPad as compared to with the laptop computer simply because the iPad is light and convenient.

Dr. Ritter also used the iPad while doing interviews in Europe this summer. She only used it for notetaking (using Evernote) and not recording (though Evernote does record audio connected with your notes), but the iPad was much less obtrusive than using a laptop to take notes, making it easier to speak freely with the subject.

For a pen and paper replacement app, Dr. Vonnahme tried two: WritePad and Penultimate.  WritePad converts hand-written text to typeface.  Dr. Vonnahme’s handwriting is somewhat cipherous and the conversion was a complete mess (over 80% of the words were converted incorrectly, often to non-word characters).  Penultimate is just a pen and paper replacement app with no conversion.  Writing was smooth and responsive, and notes could be easily organized into different “notebooks”.

Overall, the three of us found very different uses for the iPad and felt differently about them. Dr. Vonnahme quite liked the iPad, especially teaching with it, due to its flexibility. Dr. Ritter, in contrast, enjoyed using the iPad for its size and flexibility, but found that most of the things she did with it could be done (sometimes more efficiently) with a traditional computer, and she was rarely able to eschew the use of a computer in favor of the iPad. Dr. Park also liked the iPad in general for its flexibility and versatility and found that it could develop into a very teaching-friendly device in the near future (not entirely at the current moment, though).

–Hong Min Park is an assistant professor of Political Science.  He was born and raised in South Korea, and received B.A. from Seoul National University and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.  His research and teaching interests include U.S. Congress, political parties, and American political institutions in general.

–Emily Hencken Ritter is an assistant professor of Political Science with a PhD from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Her research and teaching interests center on the way a variety of institutions affect human rights violations and domestic conflict, including work on treaties, international and domestic courts, and executive political survival.

–Greg Vonnahme is assistant professor of Political Science.  His Ph.D. is from Rice University in Houston, TX and his research and teaching interests are American voting behavior, elections, election reforms, campaign finance, and state politics.

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Drs. Hong Min Park, Emily Hencken Ritter, and Greg Vonnahme–iPads in Political Science, pt. 1

August 25th, 2011 Comments off

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.

Airsketch slide 1

 

Airsketch slide 2

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.

Principal-Agent iPad activity

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.

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Dr. Eric Weisbard–iPads and popular music

August 10th, 2011 Comments off

I teach American Studies courses on popular music. For AMS 232, Contemporary America in Music, a class of 30ish students, we had 10 iPads, enough to use in fairly small groups. The course has units on the 1970s, 1980s, and then 1990s-2000s. For this inaugural installment with iPads, we used them in small groups for the 1980s unit to look at specific MTV videos. It worked well overall, though one of the 10 had internet connection issues for no clear reason. I had planned a class using the iPads to look at current apps for music, but the tornado kept it from happening. If we still have the iPads this fall, which I have not yet confirmed, my plan is to repeat the 1980s class, get to actually do the apps class, and introduce a 1970s iPad class where we look at soul music album covers together. For my other course this fall, Pop Music to 1945, I am hoping that I will be able to use my own iPad in discussion circle meetings to play music or showcase web information, without having to get up and walk to the podium and back each time. Overall, I want to keep working with iPads and other technologies to think about ways of encouraging students to be, in a sense, more hands-on where the virtual archive of popular culture is concerned.

Eric Weisbard is assistant professor of American Studies; author of Use Your Illusion I & II, editor of This Is Pop, Listen Again, the Spin Alternative Record Guide, and the forthcoming Pop When the World Falls Apart; associate editor of The Journal of Popular Music Studies; VP of the American branch of IASPM: International Association for the Study of Popular Music; and organizer of the annual Experience Music Project Pop Conference. He still thinks of himself as a rock critic.

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Experimenting with Mobile Devices in the Classroom: The AS iPad Initiative

August 10th, 2011 Comments off

In December 2010, faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences here at The University of Alabama submitted proposals to Dean Robert Olin for how they hoped to use an iPad in their teaching and research. In January, 34 faculty were selected to receive an iPad (with some receiving an additional set of loaner iPads to use in their classrooms) with the understanding that they would report back on their experiences. I’ve asked each of the iPad Initiative participants to write a blog post that describes how they hoped to use the iPad and how it did or didn’t meet their expectations. Dr. Eric Weisbard’s is the first of these posts.

–Rebecca Johnson

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