Friday, December 12, 2014

Term 1: Lessons Learned

As another reflection on the first semester of DISCOVERe tablet-based instruction at Fresno State, I'm offering a few general best practices for any of you who are thinking about introducing tablets into your classes. Later, I'll detail specific best practices for certain apps and approaches. Look back through some that I've already covered in previous posts:

Lessons from the first semester of tablet instruction

Be flexible. As you are aware, this isn't specific to tablet instruction. However, we're more likely to run into problems opportunities in class when trying something new, and these can lead to those priceless teachable moments.

Be prepared to spend more time doing essentially the same in-class things you used to do without a tablet. Likewise, be prepared to sacrifice some content to give you and your students time to establish workflows for apps. Consider making practice assignments (assign some points purely for completion, if you want) to let students work through using apps for the first time and become comfortable with their new learning environment.

Be an evangelist. On day one and regularly throughout the term, explain to students the potential benefits to them of tablet instruction and set their expectations for the term.

Foster interaction between you and the students (and between the students) about how they are using their tablet in class. The students are more likely to come up with efficient processes and creative ways to achieve goals than the instructor. Leverage their expertise!

Finally, and most importantly, have a backup plan!

  • What will you do if there is an internet outage? Our campus was performing network upgrades during the term that impacted internet access during one class period.
  • My tablet suddenly isn't connecting wirelessly to the AppleTV (and through it, to the class projector), or it keeps dropping the connection! What now?
  • "Dr. Ross - the new version of that app, which just came out, doesn't work the same as it used to..."
  • A third-party website you were planning on using (e.g. online database, textbook publisher website) is temporarily down

Once again, as always, the flexibility of an instructor to deal with adversity on the spot is critical for keeping a class moving forward, engaged, and convinced of the perception that their instructor is an authority. Addressing the above best practices in advance will help you keep those students engaged and to present the best possible classroom environment to them.

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