Our guest blogger is Reid Adams, an Assistant Professor in the Teacher Education Department.
During the 2013 FTI, we were introduced to a number of iPad applications and given tutorials on how they might be implemented into our courses and in a few case, our research. The applications all seemed interesting, convenient, and relatively easy to use. Some of the apps were specific to video editing (Splice, ScreenChomp), some to document editing (GoogleDrive, and others to aid in the delivery of lessons (AirSketch, SyncPad) and apps used for organization and communicating with students (Remind101, EverNote, Dropbox). The next step was deciding which ones made the most sense to incorporate into existing courses I taught or current research projects.
I chose two apps to use based on a couple of existing needs. First, I was looking for a better way to organize the work I was doing on a couple of manuscripts being developed and an ongoing research project. Evernote seemed the obvious choice and I began using it as soon as the FTI ended. It allowed me merge a number of existing digital texts (notes from other iPad apps, articles for lit reviews, links to articles online, videos) into one central location. Better yet, I could take this collection anywhere with the iPad and also run the same application on my home and office computer while keeping all three synced. So far, this app (Evernote) has allowed me to streamline how I work on manuscripts and also allowed me a new tool to help keep texts organized for courses I teach. In short, the app allows for easy organizing.
The second app I chose was based on my effort to communicate more efficiently with my students and provide another level of access to them. I often teach field-based courses that don’t allow as much face time with students that one gets in traditional courses so I am always looking for new ways to interact with them. I decided to try Remind101. The app is fairly straight forward. It allows you to send text messages to students. Most of us are aware that students spend a good bit of time texting and that many of them find texting more efficient than emailing. I used Remind101, along with email, to send students reminders about assignments in all courses but the app was really helpful in getting “last minute” messages to students when scheduling was disrupted or changed in field- based courses. These were instances when they may have not had access to email or they weren’t checking email regularly. With Remind101, they would receive a text (IM) from me and be alerted to it on their phones immediately. Students do have to register for the app to work but it is free and fairly easy to initialize. I informally surveyed all three courses and most students agreed that getting texts from me was much easier than having to check emails. I saw a slight bump in student evaluations regarding access and I feel like this additional tool probably helped.
Overall, the apps discussed in this post were very helpful. It was nice to find ones that applied to teaching as well as scholarship and I plan to continue using both. Since both apps are straightforward in their use and setup, I would encourage other faculty to give them a try.