September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Students Speak Out About Using iPads in the Classroom

Posted: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

by Prof. Jeff Bradbury, Cristina Flores, and Lily Shen

My original intent was to write an article about how useful iPads are in the chemistry classroom.  Last year my school (Cerritos College) purchased several classroom sets of the devices.  I thought the tools would be useful in helping my students create “digital lab reports” using apps like Explain Everything™ or Educreations™.  There are also some good apps specifically tailored to chemistry content, such as Mols Editor©.  I was going to write this article from my teacher perspective until my good friend Laura said, “Have the students write the article.”  So, I invited students Cristina Flores and Lily Shen to write about their experiences with iPads in their education. I am sure you will agree that students often have a very powerful voice.  (You might even finish reading the article!)

First we will hear from Cristina Flores:

Acquisition of knowledge or a skill may be done through study, practice, or experience. Others will gain comprehension of a trade via creation. Tools such as iPads or tablets will allow the users imagination and creativity to flourish. In my personal experience, my iPad along with the app Explain Everything™ permitted me to create video presentations of the concepts being taught in class. Such tools and opportunities have opened my eyes and completely changed how I study.

I come from a family of workers, a group of people who did not have the opportunity to go to school and choose the career they desired. Once I got to college I had no idea where to begin, so I took as many classes as I could while working 35 hours a week. My grades were not that great and my classes only got harder, so I left my job and focused on school. Yet while I felt I made the correct decision, I still had a lot to learn. My grades were still not what I wished them to be but I felt shy and embarrassed to talk to my teachers and peers about what to do because my grades were low and I felt that I was not as smart as everyone else. Until one day, my organic chemistry professor assigned a project that would change how I worked forever. The class was to create a video presentation explaining what was going on in the experiment we worked on that day. I went home and designed a creative and entertaining presentation (if I do say so myself) yet the information that I presented was incorrect. That was the most embarrassed I have ever felt in my life. I put so much effort into creating this video and making it entertaining and fun to watch, yet some of the information was wrong! Watching that video again completely changed my standpoint on my studies. That presentation embarrassed me so much I went to talk to my professors, and I talked to my peers, and I began to ask questions in class. I guess in a way, I figured I couldn’t have embarrassed myself any more so why not admit when I do not know something and ask someone for help. Luckily, my professor liked my video so he asked me to help others with theirs! Never did I think I would be so excited to go to school. Creating that one 5-minute video inspired me to not give up when I do not understand something and taught me that there will always be more to learn if you keep studying. All of this was done using Explain Everything™ and my iPad. I am now going to share with you some of the things I have learned about the app.  

Explain Everything™ is a very simple and easy to use app in which the user may create videos using slides, similar to a PowerPoint™ presentation, yet one may record themselves speaking while discussing the slides and using a an arrow or a laser to guide the audience in the production. There are so many possibilities with these apps: drawing, uploading and taking pictures or video, as well as typing. One of the downsides of the app is that the editing permitted is not as advanced as other apps. For example, if a mistake is made while recording, the app requires one to erase from the point where the error occurred and any speaking that had been recorded after the error is deleted.

Another issue I have encountered is importing a video into the presentation. This luckily had an easy fix, which is to post the video up on YouTube™. Since I could not directly post the video up from Explain Everything™ to YouTube™, I saved the video to my camera roll and from there posting was simple. Although this does take some time, it is the easiest and surest way.  I have created a video for my organic chemistry lab and it shows a few techniques or ideas that one may use. The app also includes clip art, which can make a presentation very fun to watch. Remember, apps such as these require patience and practice, after that the possibilities are endless.

The next student you will read from is Lily Shen:

“I was a senior in high school when I got my iPad. Before that, I had taken all my notes by hand. Don’t get me wrong, taking notes by hand isn’t bad, it’s just I had to carry so many notebooks – one for each class. Plus, I had to carry all my books too, so my backpack got pretty heavy (maybe this is why I’m so short). The iPad allowed me to cut back on the notebooks needed for taking notes, and sometimes even allowed me to leave some textbooks at school so I didn’t have to carry so much stuff home. Then college came along and that’s when I really saw how much the iPad could do for me. I started downloading the professors’ lectures onto my iPad and opening them using the Adobe Reader© app. This app has a lot of features that aid in note taking, either by writing with a stylus or typing texts onto the actual slides. With the iPad, I’m saving paper and carrying a lot less things on my back. Another awesome thing is picture taking. I take pictures of labs I do in biology so that I can review when I get home. Sometimes taking videos of the professor going over structures for dissections or details for exams also helps remind me what and how I should be studying.  

In chemistry class, my classmates and I have been using iPads to make videos on topics chosen by our professor. We make these videos as quizzes or just to practice the material we were learning in class. By speaking about the material and needing to explain the concepts learned in class, I learned more and was able to solidify key concepts. Although sometimes the information I gave in the videos wasn’t correct, after turning them in and getting feedback, I was able to learn even more and understand why I was wrong. Also, being able to create a whiteboard video on the Educreations™ app and explain why and how some chemistry concepts works in an easy way is very rewarding.

Using iPads for educational purposes isn’t a bad idea. I’ve been using mine for almost two years now and it’s treated me pretty well, so I would actually encourage their use in class. We are in the age of technology now, so why not use the available resources to our advantage?

Cristina and Lily said it better than I ever could have. iPads have begun to transform the learning experience and they’ve significantly changed my chemistry classroom.  It is a lot of work.  Things do go wrong at times.  But I must say that this journey has been very fulfilling to me as a teacher.  Lily and Cristina are so good working with their iPads that recently they were asked to teach the teachers here at Cerritos College about using iPads in the classroom.  As you can guess from their writing they exceeded our wildest expectations in teaching us how to use the new technology. Their love for learning is infectious!  If you would like to see how other students like Lily and Cristina are using iPads in the classroom you can visit my blog.

Jeff Bradbury is a Professor of Chemistry at Cerritos College and a CSTA member.
Christina Flores and Lily Shen are his students.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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