iPad Pilot Update 2

Picture of someone writing on an iPadAcademic Computing & Media Services (ACMS) hosted the second lunch meeting for participants in our Spring 2013 iPad pilot program. The program put iPads into the hands of UC San Diego faculty for use as part of instruction in a wide range of classes in order to explore the educational possibilities of iPads in higher education.


Discussion in the first lunch focused on how each participant used their iPad in the context of their discipline. In the second lunch, one of the biggest points of conversation was the role of writing on the iPad using a stylus.

One participant found that handwriting during lecture has worked very well. However, the professor noted that writing on an iPad is different from writing on a chalkboard during lecture. In particular, he noted that he had to train himself to slow down his handwriting when using an iPad as his regular writing speed often resulted in some “skipping” where parts of his writing would not register on the iPad, creating gaps.

The participant also shared that he uses his iPad in conjunction with screencasting, which ACMS offers as part of its podcasting services. Screencasts capture everything projected and pairs it with the audio from lecture, giving students a resource to refer to when they have questions about material covered in lecture. This participant said that he put blank slides in the middle of his lecture slides to give him space to do work by hand in a way that students could see in the screencast. Student response to having this resource available to supplement lecture has been overwhelmingly positive.

Some participants tried out the Hand Glider glove at the meeting, which is designed to improve writing on an iPad by covering the wrist and the pinky finger (some designs include the ring finger as well, but the testers preferred only having the pinky finger covered). The testers felt that using the glove drastically improved handwriting on the iPad as it allowed them to rest their hand and wrist against the iPad, rather than having to hold their hand above the iPad to avoid contact with the screen.

Other faculty shared that students told them that their handwriting on an iPad was not as legible as their handwriting on a blackboard. However, the professors also noted that students preferred a professor writing by hand to only using prepared lecture slides. Improved handwriting technique, coupled with use of a glove for writing, showed potential to meet students’ educational desires.

Handy Apps

Several interesting iPad applications were also shared with the group.

  • Dropbox is a popular application to access and share files on an iPad. One participant recommended turning on the passcode function on the Dropbox application. In the event the iPad is lost or stolen the passcode prevents unauthorized people from accessing Dropbox files. To add a passcode, go to the menu, select the gear icon to access the Settings, and there is an option to enable a Passcode Lock.
  • MyScript Calculator is a highly popular application for the math and science fields. It takes handwritten equations and not only makes them neat and legible, but also automatically computes the answer. One professor even shared that she used it as her calculator because it was such a great application.
  • One professor had trouble importing slides in PDF from Latec to notate during his lecture using Notability. The problem was solved by using TopNotes. Another popular program for combining handwritten slides and prepared lecture slides was Good Notes, which one participant used with great success.
  • Molecules provides three dimensional models of molecules in a way that can be manipulated through the iPad. A participant also said that he uses iSpartan extensively to convert two dimensional molecular models into three dimensional models.
  • History: Maps of the World is a free application that has a large collection of maps from different periods of history to show the state of geographic knowledge at different times. Users can zoom in and out of pictures to examine details and many maps have links to additional information as well.
  • Virtual History Roma features photo galleries and art of Rome as it stands today and recreations of what it looked like thousands of years ago. Historical information supplements many images. One of the most impressive features of the application are the 360 degree views of historic buildings and sites. Some views even enable the user to toggle between contemporary and historic recreations of the location.

The Teacher’s iPad Spectrum was also shared with the group. The Spectrum grouped apps under the headings of “consume,” “collaborate,” and “produce” and made suggestions about how to use each one as part of instruction.

The program participants will gather for one more meeting before the end of the quarter. Check back later to find out what their final thoughts are!


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