Thursday, August 21, 2014

'Twas the night before the first lecture…

…and all through the house, every Apple product was charging (save the wireless mouse).

I've spent much of the day today preparing my courses in the usual digital fashion: uploading files to our content management system (Blackboard), connecting my Blackboard sites to my textbook publisher's website, submitting my headshot, e-mail address, and office number and office hours to all of those locations. A few new things happened today, however, due to the advent of DISCOVERe, Fresno State's nascent tablet-based instruction initiative.

First, I made a screencast of my first lecture for my DISCOVERe course (genetics), uploaded it to YouTube, and placed a link to the movie in Blackboard - where tomorrow I'll show students how to access these lectures. I intend to provide at least one screencast lecture for every textbook chapter. This term, for both sections (traditional and tablet) of genetics, I am working toward a blended learning ("flipped classroom") approach where students are required to read/watch content in advance of class. In class, we will spend our more valuable face-to-face time dealing with content issues/questions and practicing applying the content with exercises and collaborative work and discussion (and only doing very little content delivery in class). What I imagine will become a typical workflow is:

  • I voiceover a screencast of my lecture slides (using one of my new favorite apps, Explain Everything) and assign students to watch it, as well as to read certain textbook chapter sections, before the first course meeting where that material is discussed
  • I then have a pop quiz (using another new favorite app, Socrative) every class period to reinforce the need for students to be vigilant at accessing the video and textbook before class

Other things I did for the first time today, in preparation for a class, comprise my new to-do list:

Preparing to enter the classroom with a tablet

  • Lock the auto-rotation of the tablet screen. It can be disconcerting for students to watch a video projection of a tablet screen rotating from landscape to portrait and back as one carries a tablet around in a classroom. For our iPads, rotation lock is accomplished by a swipe up from the bottom of the screen (accessing the Control Center) and selecting the lock rotation button.
  • Turn off auto-lock (or make it a longer delay): Settings: Passcode. Once projecting video, students will see your numerical passcode as you enter it, so you don't want your tablet locking during class.
  • Depending on whether you're deliberately using audio in class, consider muting your tablet
  • Most importantly, hide alert and banner notifications! Settings: Notification Center. For each app that has alerts (those listed under Include), the safest bet is to have only Badges. Set Alert Style to None (this interactive dialog box isn't very effective - you'll know you've selected "None" when there is an oval around the word). This is important is because you don't necessarily want your students to see the banner preview of that tweet your kid just sent out, or the e-mail preview of that "male enhancement" junk mail (or, worse yet, student e-mail that contains confidential information) that just hit your inbox, or the calendar event that your spouse just added.
  • [8/22 edit] Login to any websites you plan on visiting during class before you begin projecting! For me (and for the types of activities my students will be doing), that would possibly include twitter, Blackboard, and e-mail.

Tomorrow's report will, of course, focus on the events of the first day of class, including what considerations to make when preparing a syllabus for a tablet course!

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