iPads Aid in Learning

Textbook? Nope. Notebook? Nada. Pens and pencils? Don’t need those either. Going to class armed with just an iPad may be far away for some classes, but that tablet-driven future is within reach for students in Ohio Plants and Organismal Diversity.

Program Coordinator Cynthia Dassler and her team from the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology were the recipients of the Zirkle Endowment for Undergraduate Instruction for Innovation in 2014. Just one year later, these professors have used those endowment funds to introduce iPads into classes as field notebooks, instruction aids, homework tools and even as a supplementary textbook.

“I use the iPad as a tool to present activities that promote active learning and that engage students,” said Dassler. Rather than listening to a prolonged speech, students in Dassler’s classes are able to get outside and experience the lessons first hand. Using iPads, students can take photos of plants they find, take notes and draw out sketches. They can also answer related course questions as they observe the nature around them. In this way, the iPad becomes the ideal field notebook for documenting plant life and other organisms.

Back in the classroom, Dassler’s students still utilize their mobile devices. Photos from the field are stored in BuckeyeBox and then shared on large screens in the lab so students anywhere in the room can see other photos taken by their peers. iPads and other technology allow for collaborative discussion, and the students learn from one another as well as from the professor.

Students in Ohio Plants classes have also been using iPads to author their very own iBook. Each semester, new students in the class revise and edit the book.

“I found that I could use the iBook most effectively as a learning tool,” Dassler explained. “I use it now to teach students how to write in non-scientific language, as well as to explore course material.”

Going forward, Dassler plans to develop new iPad activities to debut in her classroom. She is hopeful that professors across the university and beyond can learn from her example and incorporate more engaging classroom activities by utilizing mobile technology. To Dassler, “Development of activities using the iPad is determined by course goals and only limited by the imagination of the creator.”