Friday, October 21, 2011

Wheat and Chaff

Hi, folks. Sorry this is my first post about this project.

I'm a general biology teacher using an iPad and am enjoying it of course. The ease of use in setting up and getting files on it was exceptional. This is perhaps so for me personally since I'm a reasonably strong user of Apple products generally.

Unlike Toni, I'm not overly thrilled with all of the content I'm finding about my topic. The actual content of many of the apps relating to my area of expertise are deeply flawed. Animations that are technically inaccurate or for which there are only one or two (relatively) esoteric topics covered are the most common problems. One glaring exception is an iPad app version of a new book written by Richard Dawkins.

The title of the book (and app) is The Magic of Reality. The app has beautiful graphics and interactive activities in which the reader can manipulate simulations in order to get a deeper understanding of the topic in hand. The book is intended as a children's general science book and is beautifully illustrated and incredibly well written. (I can't wait 'till my 4 year old daughter is more along the lines of 8, so that I can share this with her. Dawkins says the target age is 12-14 years, but there's no way I'm waiting that long. :) The section on evolution uses a method of explaining the concepts of our ancestry in a clear and powerful way that I've never encountered before. I would love to find a way to share this content with my non-majors general biology class, and perhaps even the Evolutionary Biology class which I coordinate.

However, like Toni I'm having trouble figuring out how I could use this technology directly in the classroom. Getting what I see on my iPad up onto a projector is, I understand, not an insurmountable hurdle. It is at least a small hurdle, nonetheless. Otherwise I have no idea how to make this content generally available to my students as I couldn't expect them to buy an iPad just to see/read this one section of this book.

This difficulty is compounded by the fact that any original content I produce is difficult to get the iPad to use easily. Even if I were (or had access to) a programmer (I'm thinking about Bob Richardson and Brett here), I could not code an animation and make it viewable on an iPad easily. Apple controls what software/apps run on their machines fairly tightly. I have an idea or two about how to use a touch screen to demonstrate concepts to my students, but I don't think it's feasible to enact these ideas on the iPad. I suspect it would be much easier to implement them on an Android.

I'm thoroughly enjoying reading all of your input. Hope I contribute more in the near future. Thanks,

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