This year, I am experimenting with teaching with an iPad instead of a laptop when I project images. Why am I doing this?
Is it a lame and ultimately doomed attempt to appear cool? I don't think so..
Is it because the laptop is heavier and therefore carrying it around is difficult for my aging self, especially since it is taking a long time for me to recover from a surfing injury this summer? (That is sort of a joke, but only sort of.) I don't think that's the reason either, but I have appreciated that the iPad is a much smaller, lighter, thinner piece of equipment to carry around.
Is it because I am bored with my old laptop and need the stimulation of new shiny electronic toys or I lose all interest in life? No, not that either, but again, there is an element of that. Trying something new and experimenting with it and seeing what it can do is quite fun, and makes teaching a course (again) a little bit more exciting (for me).
Is it because the iPad can do some new and zippy things that will transform the learning experience for my students and that will help them learn complex scientific concepts more easily? Probably not, but that is actually my hope, at least in part.
When I project images, I typically supplement the pictures by writing on whatever surfaces are available in the classroom (black/white board, document projector). If I am writing things down as I go, this helps the students take notes and it makes things a bit more "active" -- I can change what I write depending on student input, work things out as I go, derive equations piece by piece, draw pictures, and so on.
That works fine, but sometimes there is a disconnect between the images and the writing, and what I have been doing with the iPad is write on the images (using a stylus) as they are projected. I can underline things and circle things and write simple notes and draw arrows and I think/hope that this makes the pictures come alive a bit more than just pointing to things with a little green laser pointer dot. I still write on the board (or whatever), but I like having the option of writing on the projected image as well, even if writing on an iPad with stylus makes your handwriting resemble a 5 year old's.
It's too early to tell if using an iPad for teaching even matters, but I am having fun.
For those interested in the details, I have tried two different presentation apps, the pros and cons are which are listed below:
pros: nice format, ability to see next and previous slides, easy transition between slides
cons: you can't annotate slides, your only option is to show slides
pros: ability to write on the slide, flip to a 'white board' slide for writing (and your writing is smoothed as you write), easy access to the web from the presentation software, ability to erase annotations,
cons: slide transitions involve poking a rather small 'Next' button, no way to preview the next slide
Mostly I use Presenter because of the annotation ability, but I wish someone would combine the best of both apps. If anyone knows of a better app for teaching with an iPad, please let me know.
6 months ago