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iPads in the classroom

Student Darren Ivany poses with his iPad.

By Heidi Wicks

University students loaded down with 20-pound backpacks filled with textbooks may soon be a vision of the past with contemporary technology’s incorporation into the classroom.

This semester, the Queen Elizabeth II Library, Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT), Computing and Communications (C&C) and the Department of English are teaming up to examine how portable multi-media devices such as iPads can be integrated into a classroom setting as an educational tool.

Aaron Goulding is a full-time supervisor in QE II’s Digital Media Centre with a passion for using technology as a learning tool. He visited this semester’s English 4400 directing class, which is part of the Department of English’s Diploma in Performance and Communications Media program, to deliver 20 iPads for students to use to read texts, take notes, and use apps specific to theatre and filmmaking.

“We were very fortunate to get so much support from various departments at Memorial with the vision to see that this isn’t really an experiment, but rather a glimpse into the classroom of tomorrow,” he said.

Course instructor Dr. Jamie Skidmore has been using Apple apps in his directing and video production classes for the last couple years as teaching aids, which until now he was unable to share with his students.

“I was able to teach storyboarding through Cinemak’s app, but most of the students didn’t have access to this tool,” he said. “Now when we’re shooting a film for class we can all share the script through Newfoundland-based software CELTX. The students will also have digital copies of the shooting list and the day’s schedule, plus, we’ll use an electronic clapboard on our iPads for synching sound and video if we’re using multiple cameras.”

Rob Wells, associate director of DELT, said there is a great deal to be learned from a pilot project such as this.

“Part of DELT’s vision for the next several years is to maintain currency in technology, push the boundaries of its use and develop with faculty the highest quality, media rich and engaging courses available anywhere, and mobile technology is very much a part of the future vision of technology in teaching and learning,” he said. “While there has been much discussion on the impact of these devices in the classroom, student and faculty feedback will enable us to understand the advantages and disadvantages of this technology in a real life setting.”

Computing and Communications director Graham Mowbray agreed that all areas of the university’s operation are impacted by tremendous growth in mobile technology.

“Our students are causing change with the new devices that they bring on campus and which they expect to be able to integrate into their learning environment,” he said. “At Computing and Communications we need to adapt and learn how to support these devices and to strive to ensure that all of our services are delivered in whatever manner the students expect.”

The research team includes Mr. Goulding and Dr. Skidmore, as well as Erin Alcock of the QE II Library and Jane Costello of DELT. The team will collect data via video interviews and the students’ blog entries, to assess whether portable tablets can enhance excitement for learning, or if they are more of a disruptive technology that negatively impact students in an academic setting.

QEII Associate Librarian Susan Cleyle is hoping for enhanced learning.
“New technologies have changed the behavior and expectations of the library’s users,” she said. “We need to explore new ways to exceed those expectations, so we hope that devices like the iPad will enhance the academic experience of our students and improve the teaching and learning environment here at Memorial.”