iPad in the Classroom


Here at the College, one of the subgroups of the IT Department is TLT: “Teaching, Learning and Technology.” Check them out on Twitter: @TLTCofC! For a full list of their programs, check out their blog at http://blogs.cofc.edu/tlt/. One of their functions is to offer equipment check-out for staff and faculty at the College. Last semester (Spring 2012) I was able to check out an iPad 2 from early February through the end of final exams. I was teaching three sections of our 3-credit “Elementary Statistics” course (MATH104) and one section of our 3-credit “Linear Algebra” course (MATH203). I abandoned the use of chalk boards in favor of lecturing on the iPad.

My Pre-iPad Lectures

For the last few years, I moved to using ELMO-style document cameras instead of board-based lectures. Originally I made this swap because the particular classroom where I had been assigned had a only tiny blackboard and I realized I would spend half of the class time erasing the board. But after a couple weeks of ELMO use, I was a big fan. Instead of presenting material while facing away from the students, writing on blank paper using pens under the ELMO camera allowed me to face the students for the entire class period. Doing this enabled me to catch many “I’m confused!” facial expressions from students who may not have felt comfortable voicing their concerns. Also, I was able to keep track of exactly what we had completed in any given class period since every day I walked out of the classroom with a written record of what we had done. It turns out that the ELMO cameras are going out of favor. I think this is because of the cost versus use computation done by the people in charge of budget decisions (but I’m not entirely sure). The iPad was the natural place to end up.

What I Do Now

As my class prep, I produce PDF files of class lecture notes for all of my courses. I upload the PDF files to our learning management system (called OAKS at the College of Charleston). My students can access the files on a password protected site. I don’t require my students to print out the notes, but I’d say about 95% of my students do print the notes and bring them to class because they find them useful.

Meanwhile, I load the PDFs onto my iPad and then project them in the classroom. I use a stylus to annotate the notes and my students write on their printed copies. The best app I’ve found for this purpose is GoodNotes. Currently I am using a Bamboo Stylus, which isn’t perfect but works well enough.

I have found it useful to name my PDF files like this: 104-ch7s123.pdf The “104” designates the course and “ch7s123” means these notes cover Chapter 7, Sections 1, 2, and 3. Last semester when I was teaching three different sections of the same course, I made three copies of each PDF file in GoodNotes and named them 104-ch7s123-05.pdf, 104-ch7s123-12.pdf, and 104-ch7s123-14.pdf for sections 05, 12, and 14. This helped since sometimes the classes wouldn’t be on exactly the same problem and each class I could re-load exactly where we had been the day before.

I hope the information below will help!

Hardware and Classroom Requirements

Classroom requirements:

  • A digital projector and a screen
  • VGA-in connection
  • A desk

To bring to class:

  • An iPad. I am now using a college-owned iPad3.
  •  My stylus
  • A dongle — It connects the iPad to the VGA input for the projector

Useful Apps

  1. Dropbox (Free)iTunes Store: http://itunes.apple.com/app/dropbox/id327630330

    Website: https://www.dropbox.com/

    Dropbox makes it easy to sync files across different computers (and the iPad). They have a free desktop application that installs as a directory, something akin toC:\Documents and Settings\My Documents\Dropbox

    which allows for easy “drag and drop” functionality as well as the ability to save files directly to your Dropbox. You can also share your Dropbox (or just part of it) with other people by extending them an e‑mail invite. Good reasons to consider this would be sharing course materials among colleagues teaching the same class, or to store joint files produced during collaborative research. The “Basic” service is free and gives 2GB of space. You can upgrade Dropbox to 50GB ($99/year) or 100GB ($200/year).

  2. GoodNotes (Free; or Paid version $3.99)iTunes Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/goodnotes-notes-pdf/id424587621

    Website: http://goodnotesapp.com/

    The best feature of GoodNotes is that it behaves well with the projector. The projector will display only the PDF file and not all of the annotation features. (That way, my students don’t see me messing around with choosing different pen colors or highlighter widths.)

    GoodNotes easily syncs with Dropbox, which makes moving files from where I produce my notes (my computer in my office) to where I need them (my iPad in the classroom) simple.Another feature that makes GoodNotes great is the little “write here” box at the bottom of the screen. This allows me to write using big lettering, but it appears as a normal size on the screen. Writing in 12pt font using a stylus can be a bit tricky. In essence, what the “write here” box allows you to do is to write in 48pt handwriting but have it appear like you’re writing in 12pt handwriting instead.

    As an aside, a recent version of GoodNotes had an unhappy bug where all files would appear blurry when projected. This was a bummer for my class that day! I contacted GoodNotes customer support and they got back to me in eight minutes! That was amazingly fast and I was impressed. They knew of the problem and fixed it within a couple of hours, and took the time to update me about how it was going. Thanks, @GoodNotesApp!

  3. CourseSmart (Free)

    iTunes Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/etextbooks-for-the-ipad/id364903557


    CourseSmart is an eBook subscription service. Digital textbooks can be rented for 180 days. As an instructor, you can get free subscriptions to most textbooks. You will need a CourseSmart account. If you have used any other digital Pearson product (e.g., MyMathLab, MyStatLab, MathXL) your same login information should work on CourseSmart. If not, you can register as an Instructor here. You need to register from a computer (not a mobile device). Once you register, you can add different books to your eBookshelf. Once books have been added, the CourseSmart iPad app will allow you to access them. You can browse through them, flip to a particular (printed) page, take digital notes in the margins, put a “sticky note” down on a page, etc.

    CourseSmart is a great tool to avoid bringing the textbook with you to class every day. I have found this app useful in cases where a student will ask during class about a particular homework problem, or in-text Example.

    I have many books in my eBookshelf. I have several “Elementary Statistics” textbooks to browse through when I need more example problems, project ideas, etc. This is the digital solution to having bookshelves in my office with thousands of pounds of textbooks I don’t need.

    The one downside of the CourseSmart app is you need a live internet connection. On the “Wireless only” iPads, this means you can only access the textbooks while you have a wireless internet connection. So if you were hoping to read the Linear Algebra textbook while on a flight, this won’t work.

    Students can download the CourseSmart app and purchase a digital textbook subscription. Here is a pricing comparision for “Elementary Statistics (11th ed.)” by Triola.

    MSRP:  $160.00 (new book)

    Amazon:  $125 (new book with MyMathLab), $115 (new book), $75(used book)

    CourseSmart:  $63.99                                   (eBook)

    MyStatLab with eBook:  $82.00               (eBook + online homework)

5 thoughts on “iPad in the Classroom

  1. Kate-Thanks for sharing how you’re using the Ipad in the classroom- and some tips too (e.g, naming of files). Good to see that the ipad went to good use. We’re excited to see how other faculty are using the iPads! -Monica

  2. I’m going to try that this fall semester at Augusta State, at least for my Statistics course (and perhaps on my PreCalculus and College Algebra courses, too). We’re instituting “Desire2Learn” software, so I’m going to try to integrate that as well. Thanks for the great ideas!

  3. I hope ELMOs are not on the way out!… I never used it to lecture. What I use it for is students’ sharing their solutions.

    I run a pretty interactive classroom, and I often have students up at the board demonstrating or explaining something. Class used to run this way (especially math for elementary teachers):

    – Short lecture (sometimes) or announcements.
    – Give group work assignment.
    – Put students in groups.
    – Groups work on assignments.
    – Groups put their solutions up on board and then take turns presenting their work.

    This last step was really painful. First, I didn’t always have a classroom with enough board space. Second, I felt like I was spending 15+ minutes of every class with students writing on the board stuff they had already worked out.

    So now, the group work directions include that they are to produce a clear write-up. And the presentations entails one person slapping the write-up on the ELMO and presenting from it.

    Oh, and in my other courses, I often have students present a homework assignment. This way they don’t have to write it up on the board (time consuming, and students’ board work is invariably terrible)… they just put their homework paper on the ELMO and go from there.

    Anyway, back to your comment… I’m going to an iPad for teaching class tomorrow at our “Center for Teaching Excellence.” I may try to do more of what you do next year (instead of what I do: write lecture notes on the iPad instead of loose leaf paper… which is a big improvement, but not exactly innovative). But in the fall all I have is the math for elementary, which really has almost no lecture at all. So that’ll have to wait for spring, probably.

  4. I’m interested in potentially doing this in my classroom. I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy Note to do this. I like the stylus (just like a pen) and the way it writes, but the Note is smaller than an Ipad, and more real estate would be a good thing.

    I have two questions for you:
    1) Does the iPad stylus work like a pen, i.e. with a reasonably narrow point? The rubber tipped styluses I’ve used don’t give a good enough resolution to really be useable in class. I would have to write so large that the use of space would be inefficient.

    2) How good is the PDF import? What size font do you have to use? When I do this with the Galaxy Note, I have to have the font set to huge, and even then, projecting often has some issues — the cross bar in a + symbol disappears, so it looks like a negative “-” sign.

    Any information you are willing to share would be helpful!


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