Ascent of the mobile

By Guy Wilson, Educational Technologies Specialist

“There’s an app for that” goes Apple’s iPad mantra, but sometimes it’s better to think, “there’s a use for that.” iPhones, iPads, Android phones, phablets, and tablets are rapidly multiplying in Mizzou classrooms. Mobile devices account for roughly a ninth of our Blackboard logins. More and more these handheld computers are being used in classrooms, labs, and clinical settings.

When it comes to classroom teaching, tablets are a lightweight replacement for laptops and are more interactive allowing easy annotation and drawing. Jason Aubrey, professor in the Department of Mathematics began by trying out different note-taking and whiteboard apps with a stylus to replace working through problems on the board. After a time, he added one of WolframAlpha’s course assistants to quickly work through multiple examples with a customized on-screen keyboard. Recently, he has switched gears slightly, pulling up PDF worksheets and other pages in the GoodReader app, annotating them as he goes over the material in class.

Another mobile application for large- and medium-sized courses is in-class communication. Whether using Twitter, Google Voice messaging, or a specialized app, faculty can monitor student questions and comments in large lectures. While this may be done with a classroom computer, it is much less disruptive to use an iPad as an auxiliary device visible only to the instructor. This has the added advantage of allowing instructors to move around for better engagement with students. Faculty in disciplines as diverse as Communication (Lissa Behm-Morawitz) and Biological Science (Bethany Stone) successfully employ this method. While there are FERPA concerns to take into account, the benefits include more students asking questions and their realization that their questions are important.

Some of the most elaborate campus work with iPads originates in the Sinclair School of Nursing with Lea Wood, Donna Russell, and others. Students are introduced to apps they will use in clinical situations. iPads are used in the Essig Clinical Simulation Center in conjunction with patient robots, simulators, and databases to develop nursing skills, critical thinking, and decision-making. These are highly interactive uses with students recording data as well as receiving information on the iPad. Nursing is also developing ebooks and apps containing short, just-in-time reference videos for nurses to quickly refresh themselves on equipment and procedures.

While some of these examples may seem limited or esoteric, many of them are easily generalized. The techniques used for just-in-time training materials in Nursing are applicable to providing similar references for students learning to operate lab equipment. Likewise students benefit from using apps widespread in their future professions.

It isn’t about apps or devices, it’s about imagining better ways of doing things you’ve done already or could never do before. Our devices are becoming ever more mobile and capable. They will continue to affect what and how professors teach and students learn.

This was written entirely on an iPad.