Friday, January 20, 2012

Virtual lab

Dave said that he put a "virtual lab" app on his list for apps to develop for use on tablets. We had our first on campus labs of the semester this week (transformers, resistance, and home appliance electricity), and I wished again for such a virtual lab app. 

We have it working fine, but it's so clunky. The biggest issues are finding a way to share a fillable spreadsheet with the students, being able to fill in the spreadsheet without wifi (for example, in one lab I have students collect data outside where there is no wifi), and finding a way for them to get their completed spreadsheets to us.

It works fine, but students almost have to work in groups of 3. One tablet has the instructions, one has a calculator, and one has the spreadsheet open.

Last semester, we tried to use Google docs exclusively as there was no free app that would share and allow editing of spreadsheets.  Google docs was okay, but we had to create a separate spreadsheet for each student or student group, and the students had to use wifi in order to access and save information.

This semester, Curtis discovered a free app called "Documents" for the ipad. It worked much more smoothly.  We share a spreadsheet on Google docs, the students use Documents to reach out through wifi and grab the spreadsheet. It opens in Documents and students can fill it in without needing wifi, save it, and email it to us.  The app has  a few strange bugs (it crashes occasionally, and you lose the back button sometimes), but we'll continue to use it.

An app that would have the instructions with fillable fields specific to each lab throughout, would work without wifi, compile the class data into a graph or table, and record the individual student's data would really make labs go much smoother and utilize the tablets well in lab.