Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I had a grand idea when first joined the mobile tablet group. I have been very interested in integrating technology in writing instructions and do wish to find a bridge to connect students' personal lives and academic lives and help them see that learning can be rather fun. However, I probably chose a wrong time because I was extremely busy this past spring semester and did not really have sufficient time to explore the ipad and its various applications. For me, the lesson learned is mobile tablets can probably used in classrooms (based on my observation of how ipads were used in some of our colleagues' nursing classes). However, instructors do need to spend much time getting familiar with the tablet and also applications. Using technology in teaching should not be an impulsive decision; rather it needs much research, trials, and experiment. I wish I had chosen a different time to join the group, maybe summer time to learn the tablet and play with its applications to seriously consider its pedagogical implications.

The interesting thing is I went to a conference Computers and Writing one week ago, and learned that some interesting applications used in classrooms in colleagues in other schools. Hopefully I can explore some of them in summer and get to apply them in my class.

Ruijie on May 29

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A few app ideas at the end of class

I think the linked science classes ended well. Students were whining about having to turn their iPads in because they were using them until the end, and all the feedback we got was positive. I really want to figure out how to get these in our classroom, and I think I'm ready to try to allow a variety of devices at the same time.

Really, this has been one of the best IF fund projects I've been a part of.  I've learned so much, and have had a great mind-twisting experience in terms of how I think about the functionality of my classroom. 

I had a few more ideas for simple apps in the classroom.

1) The Stabilization Wedge Game
This could actually be something that the folks at Princeton might want as it is becoming a global way of looking at solutions for climate change.  The idea is that we have a variety of solutions to try and stabilize our greenhouse gas production over the next few years.  Do we do that with energy efficiency or nuclear power?  The Carbon Mitigation Initiative has created a bunch of different options that are possible and included the amount of carbon reduction that would exist with each option. The app I envision would have different wedges representing each of these options, and a stabilization triangle.  Students could choose and drag different wedges to the triangle to come up with their solution for carbon reduction.  We could give them different scenarios so that each group had a different country, each company had different needs, etc. As usual, I'd love for them to be able to email me a jpg or other image of their final wedge-filled triangle.

2) A SIMPLE Graphing App
I still can't find any sort of easy graphing or charting app.  I just want students to be able to make a simple visualization from a set of data. They should be able to plug in the data, make some choices about the graph: graph type, title, axes, legends, and colors.  Everything I can find out there is all crazy powerful scientific calculator-type graphing and I don't need anything that sophisticated.
A website I often use is

3) A Sustainability Triangle
I use this as a tool for finding a solution to any environmental issue, particularly those classified as environmental injustice.

Everything in black is set and doesn't change.  Each point represents one of the three aspects of a sustainable human system: social equity (the people have to have what they need, be healthy, and "happy"), environmental (the natural capital has to be available and uncontaminated, and systems have to work well and be stable), and  economic (a system needs to at least get out what it puts in, if not more depending on what type of economic system you are in).  The center represents 0% sustainability for all the points. The outer points (marked with red lines) represent 100% sustainability. 

So I give the students a case study, and they have to draw a sustainability triangle within the above template.  For each point, they determine how sustainable the situation is. In the example here, I think the people aren't very content, so I gave it a 30% sustainability rank, the pollution is just a little problem so I gave it a 70% rank, and the company involved is making huge profits so I gave it 100% sustainability rank. You then connect the points on the line so you have a triangle (yellow) within the template triangle.   Each student makes their own triangle, and defends it.

What would be great is to have an app that has the black template triangle on it, and a movable internal yellow triangle that slides up and down each point so the students could set the yellow points at their particular sustainability ranking. Or, students could enter a % in each of three text fields and the yellow triangle would move as indicated.  Again, it would be great to be able to have this emailed to me so I can see what their thoughts are.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


What have you found most interesting and/or useful in your use of the tablet thus far?

I am a mac person surrounded by iphones, laptops, ipods, and a lab filled with imacs and I was a little unclear about what exactly the ipad had to offer that I couldn’t already access. By using it as much as possible over the semester I am more excited about it as a teaching tool than anything else. If I had ipads for my lab I know I could use them to fill in the gaps we experience in the photography classes as some students try to learn using point-and-shoot cameras and others have access to full range DSLR’s.  Everyone is expected to learn the same concepts and gain the same skills but some students have the right cameras to actually work through the ideas and gain the skills – others just have to work around their cameras limitations and then just learn the concepts in theory. Although I didn’t teach the video production course this semester I can also see the same need in that course. I did appreciate the demonstration on how to project from the laptop so you can share an app with the class.

What challenges have you experienced or do you foresee?
The biggest challenge for me was that I couldn’t find the aps I wanted. And then I was frustrated that if I couldn’t find them I also couldn’t develop them as a student project if I wanted the ipad format – which I do. I once came close to finding what I wanted only to notice at the last minute a warning that the content may be “for mature audiences only”. A simulated camera app for mature audiences only? Part of the problem of the field of photography – often lessons using the female body as subject.  Sometimes I’d find an app that came close but was artistically so lame I’d be embarrassed to show it as an example to my students. I did discover some beautiful sophisticated apps (Back in Time) but could not seem to find the combination of creativity and technical lessons I want. I’d say an exciting time for me was when I realized that maybe what I really want is mini etextbook?  I love the idea of replacing our textbook with lesson formats that show what I’m talking about rather than just talk about them. I also love the idea of creating the content so it is always up-to-date and relevant. Our textbooks seem out-of-date even after researching them in January and using them in September.

Another big challenge was that we have 3G internet access at our house in the country so I only searched when I was near wi-fi – while at Parkland I always had something else pressing to do it seemed so often my time was in little bits.

In hindsight I would have approached this semester differently. I came in with a clear idea of what I needed and wanted and spent all my time pursuing it. I wish I had come in with more “play” in mind – I might have stumbled on an idea. I will still keep working on this but now I’ll do it through my phone or laptop I guess? Now like most people- I wish I had more time...

Friday, April 20, 2012

RSS Feeds

By far, my favorite app for the iPad is Flipboard. Flipboard is a little difficult to describe. It takes the web and puts it into a magazine looking format where headlines and a paragraph of three to four “articles” are displayed on each page. If you want to see the entire article you can touch it on the screen and it will launch in the full screen. Flipboard integrates content from a variety of sources. You can choose from news,(money, sports, technology) social media(facebook, twitter, blogs) and other content providers(magazines). The format of Flipboard is amazing, but what makes it so powerful is the amount of content you can integrate into it. The line between work and recreation is completely removed as I jump from articles about alternative energy to sports to facebook. One of the reasons Flipboard can integrate so much content is its ability to tap into RSS feeds. Many sites including blogs, magazine publishers and reviewers produce RSS feeds and you can tap into them with Flipboard and in other ways. The learning management system Heidi and I have been using this semester, edmodo, has the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds. I’m hoping that Desire2Learn will be able to do this as well. RSS feeds allow you to continually incorporate current content on specific topics into your course. If you teach a topic that is changing so rapidly that textbooks can’t keep up, you may consider using RSS feeds to augment the content in your course. It can sometimes be a little tricky to figure out the url for a particular feed, but with a little online searching I have been able to find everyone that I’ve looked for.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Geometry App Idea

I found a lot of apps that calculate area and volume, but none that demonstrate where the formulas come from. So that's my app idea!

To make a manageable app, I was thinking one that demonstrates finding the volume of a prism. Ideally it would allow the user to choose different base shapes, but that might be too big the first time around. So maybe just rectangular or triangular the first time around.

For example: A rectangular prism

The user would input the units (cm) and the dimensions of the base: 6 x 2, and the app would demonstrate finding the area of one "layer" to fill the prism. It would draw a layer of 12 blocks (or one rectagular layer that is 6 x 2), 1 unit high, and show that the area of the base is 12 square cm.

Then it would ask for the height of the prism: 3. It would build the prism by adding two more layers on, for a total of 3, then show that to get the volume, the area of the base is multiplied by 3 to get 36 cubic cm.

If there were time, it would be awesome to have a menu at the beginning allowing the user to choose other shapes for the base: triangle, hexagon, even circles. But each would require separate programming because each would need different input dimensions to find the area of the base (triangle needs base and height, hexagon needs side and apothem, etc).

This could really continue semester after semester, to add pyramids/cones (which is a neat visual where you show that 3 pyramids fit in a prism), and even move on to surface area.

I've got another idea about showing how to find the area of a hexagon by dividing it into triangles. Could give more details if desired.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ap Idea

I am wondering about a multiuse-template ap for use with language based skills such as ESLacademic vocabulary, spelling, use of prefixes and suffixes, etc. The templates would be reuseabl eso that multiple exercises could be developed for training class-specific material. For example, the template could have formats such as matching, or word search, quiz, or crossword selections for which the user could enter target vocabulary and store/save/use it. However, the user could reuse the same formats to enter new vocabulary or material as the students advance through a course. The templates could also be used at different levels. Potentially, this could be used for many different areas besides language skills.

Android Apps in Mathematics and Humanities

In case someone is trying to cull something helpful from all of this and looking for something specific, let me give you a quick intro to what I teach and what classes I had in mind when using the tablet this semester.  I teach in both the Mathematics Department and the Humanities Department.  The math class I had this semester was MAT 134, Technical Mathematics, and so that was the class I mostly had in mind when thinking about math apps.  In the Humanities Department I teach courses on western civilization and philosophy (the introductory logic course).      

I found the post on Socrative helpful.  I have already downloaded it and am going to try to experiment with it today in class.  The post mentioned that it had not worked as well with a droid device, but so far in my testing of it I haven’t discovered any problems. 

Though it’s not particular to any subject matter, I discovered both Dropbox and Evernote as a result of searching for apps.  Yeah, I know, welcome to the 21st century – I felt like the last one to discover these (and of course you can use them without a tablet).  I found both of them helpful in their own ways.  Dropbox is the one I could envision using more for classroom purposes.  It has some redundancy with Angel if you are simply using it for students to submit work or to distribute files to students, but the area where it could be more useful than Angel is for collaborative work. 
The particular apps I found interesting pertaining to math, especially technical mathematics, were Smart Measure and GraphingCalculator.  Smart Measure calculates distances using the camera feature on the device and some basic math.  If I knew that all my students had access to a tablet or smartphone I would build a lesson plan in trigonometry using this app.  Once they know how it works, it could be a useful job-site app for many of my students who go on to work in construction or surveying-related trades.

The Graphing Calculator is just what it sounds like.  It may sound unnecessary, but since we don’t require graphing calculators for MAT 134, yet there are frequent occasions when it would be quite helpful, it provides a cheap (free!) way to get a basic graphing calculator for any student who has a tablet or smartphone.

In the Humanities, I found many apps that looked promising initially but turned out to be quite unhelpful.  Two exceptions were Art Academy and the promise of eBooks.  Art Academy allows students to explore various paintings or painters in an interactive way, and with greater detail than we can do just by looking at pictures I can show on the screen from a computer.  There are various platforms and ways to access ebooks, but in general it could be a way to assign more reading in certain books knowing that they won’t have to fight over limited access to books on reserve on the library.

Two challenges I’ve seen are (a) not all students have tablets or smartphones, and (b) for every good and useful app there must be ten that either don’t work or don’t do anything interesting. It takes time to sort through the garbage to find good apps.

If I could have more time with a tablet, I would like to either try some of the same (or similar) apps on an iPad for comparison, or integrate tablets into the whole course from the beginning of the semester.  Particularly now with the discovery of Socrative, I would like to think of more ways to use that in the classroom (for example, there is an “Exit Ticket” feature that would be helpful for immediate assessment).

I have three ideas for “mini-apps”:
1.       Math – something that uses GPS to mark where students are at different points, then calculates distances, angles, etc.  But not in a way that does all the work, but rather in a way that walks students through the process so that it can be used as a hands-on lesson in geometry or trig applications for something like surveying.
2.       Math – a graphing calculator that can use a logarithmic scale as well as a linear scale.  
3.       For Philosophy (logic and reasoning) – something where the instructor (or students) can clip comments or summarize arguments they find in current news stories and put them in a central location; from which either groups of students or individuals can later work through an assessment of those statements (or, access it during class and go over some examples with the whole class).