Monday, October 04, 2010

Cool Teachings

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:

PDF Presenter

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

Presenter

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.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm planning to do something very similar this year, having been inspired by a colleague. I don't have an ipad, but will be using an ordinary tablet PC laptop. We tend to get quite negative student feedback if we just use powerpoint instead of writing on the board, but the projector is really needed for displaying images and diagrams. And of course our lecture theatres aren't designed to allow you access to the board when you're projecting slides. Teaching a course for the first time last year, I think relying on powerpoint encouraged me to go too quickly, particularly through derivations. I'm hoping that annotating fairly skeletal slides, adding to diagrams, rather than having them all premade, will help me pace things much better, as well as avoiding the disconnect you mention.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like I teach the old school way of what you do - I make PPT slides, print them out and then project on a document projector and write on them (for same reasons). Students seem to like this - they get a version of slides to 'fill in' and don't waste time recreating drawings, but I do more than just talk at them. Maybe I'll have to get an iPad :)

namnezia said...

Does presenter allow you to use powerpoint presentations or keynote presentations? How bad is the stylus for the iPad?

Average Professor said...

Our main teaching classrooms are equipped with tablet PC's hooked to a projector - enables the same thing. LOVE. I even just use it instead of the chalkboard, and begin with a blank slide that I write on using a stylus. To me the best part is that now instead of facing the board as I write and draw, I am facing the students.

Tracy Larrabee said...

I use Noterize, which reads PDF or PowerPoint and allows many forms of annotation including insertion of images, typing, printing, and highlighting. There is a strip of slides that are not projected on the side (hideable).

On my tablet, I used Ubiqitous Presenter and Presenter, but they are not available for iPad. I can't find any iPhone or iPad apps named just "presenter". Can you tell me more?

Anonymous said...

What stylus do you use?

Doug Natelson said...

FSP, what kind of stylus do you like to use? I know people have divergent tastes about these things, but I'd be interested in getting a good one. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

FSP... no offense, but I've been teaching with a 2Lb Fujitsu PC tablet since 2006...

Micro Dr. O said...

Yet another reason for me to get an iPad when/if I get a faculty position. I would love to have the use of a stylus while putting slides up. Sometimes I even project my slides onto the white board in our conference room so that I can write on them. I so miss the old days of chalk boards and overhead projectors. :)

Female Science Professor said...

I have tried 3 different styli: 2 I did not like and 1 is OK. I don't have any of them "at hand" right now, but the unliked ones were a Pogo Stick and a stylus with a slanted end. The one I like has a hard rounded end.

Tracy Larrabee said...

My favorite stylus is from Boxwave (http://www.amazon.com/BoxWave-Capacitive-iPad-Stylus-Black/dp/B000BUI76S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286224304&sr=8-1).

Someone please tell me more about using "Presenter" on ipad. Like I said, I use Noterize (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/noterize/id364906681?mt=8).

Anonymous said...

You think your cool now that you have an iPad, I have been using mine to teach since May.

Michelle said...

...and I've been using a tablet PC to lecture since 2005 :) (see Anonymous' comment above -- and the webcasts here).

Seriously, the part I like the best about these sorts of things is that I can look at the students as I lecture and catch that moment of confusion on their faces that I miss when I have my back momentarily turned to write on the board.

It's also easier to read than a blackboard, something a couple of sight impaired students have deeply appreciated.

I've been playing with using the iPad, but the lack of good capture and the clunky handwriting are not making me love it. I'll have to see if I can find a stylus I like better. The Pogo is a non-starter.

Anonymous said...

I knew that someone must have figured this out! I have been debating between an iPad for teaching and a more expensive Tablet PC. I have been wondering

1) When you project, does it also show up on the iPad screen? (I have read mixed reviews about this...)

and

2) How good is the writing resolution with a stylus? Is it good enough to do long problems, or do you use it more for simple annotations (like circling key points)? Can you write in different colors?

Stephen Spiro said...

Tracy

You may be looking for Power Presenter

http://download.cnet.com/Power-Presenter-for-iPad/3000-20415_4-75182891.html

Dave Backus said...

I'm with the Tablet people. Either way, it's a wonderful interactive technology.

Anonymous said...

I have been using a tablet PC for teaching since 2006, in various configuration with Win XP, Vita and now 7. I switched to teaching with the ipad over the summer. I have to be honest. Both have serious flaws but after a good old college try with the ipad I am switching back to the tablet pc which is just a tad more responsive when writing and can handle large files and animations that I often need to rely on in my teaching. Plus getting it set up with the projector does not require me to carry around an extra attachment which I have forgotten in my office a couple of times already....