iPads take teaching and learning in new directions at Emory

By Leslie King | Emory Report | Nov. 12, 2012

iPads in education

Two years of using iPads in Emory classrooms shows how the device has shaped teaching and learning.

A two-year-long effort to partner with instructors who use iPads in their classrooms has given the Emory Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT) some real-life perspective on how the tablets are being used as a teaching tool.

The partnership encompassed a variety of uses for the mobile, flexible device in several University classes in the humanities and social sciences.

An October session on "iPads as Part of Teaching at Emory," ECIT unveiled some results of the collaboration in a survey the center conducted.

Instructors report they use iPads for:

• archival research and blogs

• note-taking in meetings

• Skyping into classes

• holding virtual office hours

• sharing photos

• videotaping student presentations.

From the student perspective, more than half of the students surveyed said they were studying in places they otherwise didn't due to the mobility and capabilities of the iPad.

Almost 50 percent of students used the iPad for different classes as well as the one to which it had been assigned.

Asked if they would use a personal iPad for academic purposes, 75 percent of the student respondents said they would.

The conclusion: The mobility that the iPad provides has the potential to increase the amount of time a student spends with class materials. The iPad's mobility also can expand locations where students study and learn.

ECIT Director Wayne Morse says the ECIT survey also asked: "How would you rate using an iPad differently than having a laptop?" 

"What we found is users still complain about weight and the battery life (of laptops). iPads' battery power lasts for days, normally, and the lightness and portability breaks down its difference from a laptop."

Donna Troka, who is teaching a fall semester class on "Archives to iPads: Investigating the Discourse of Sexuality at Emory," says that the iPad's "flat surface makes it open, so it's more of a sharing experience among the students. It encourages collaboration."

The ECIT assessment confirmed that the portability leads to increased engagement on the part of students.

Morse notes that apps available for the iPad are changing the device's development. For more information on using apps in teaching, Morse recommends consulting the AppsLab@Emory for best practices.

Chris Fearrington, ECIT coordinator, says they were surprised to find that the iPad is not widely owned by students. "We found, at most, one to two students in a class would have their own iPad," he says.

Fearrington adds that he was "shocked" to find that over the two-year partnership, there were as few incidents of damage or problems with the iPads. "We've had one $150 incident," he notes.

Morse pointed out a consideration for using iPad in the classroom: "Most of this [using apps and working with the device] is dependent on the network. So we hope the network stays with us."