Friday, December 28, 2012

The iPad as Inter-Generational Bridge?

I had a quick musing to share about some potential benefits of the iPad to me as a teacher that I hadn't been thinking about until now. 

After taking the iPad-in-education survey, I felt bad about my answer to the very first question--whether the iPad has been helpful for my teaching and research.  Honestly, had the question not been required, I would have remained uncommitted at this early stage of my iPad career, when I'm still not (as I confessed in the last blog!) much of a power user.  But we were pressed for a crisp yes or no answer, so my "not yet, but I'm hopeful!" registered simply as "No."  But that was my best honest answer at the time.  For the reasons I wrote about in my last blog ("Not a P.C. ..."), the iPad has yet to contribute meaningfully to my teaching or research.  At least not in any obviously identifiable way.  At least not yet.

But even though it has not proved useful to me professionally in the ways I initially hoped, it is a fascinating and useful tool that I have enjoyed learning from.  And the more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether it may even be advancing my core academic missions in more indirect ways that I wasn't thinking of before now.  I can't help but wonder about the benefits I get just from using it, even when I think all I'm doing is playing around.  Might it be helping me access parts of the online world that would otherwise just be passing me by, in ways that are indirectly beneficial to me as a teacher and a researcher? 

After all, I'm one of those dinosaurs that never found a good enough reason to join Facebook!  But just by spending time interfacing with the tablet world and the parade of touchscreen-enabled apps, I can understand my students just a little better.  I can imagine just a little bit more clearly what their world is really like.  Now I am seeing my iPad as more than just a toy; more like a little intergenerational bridge.  And that's a useful teaching tool indeed.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Images, Images, Images....

One of the most valuable resources for the visual art professor is the availability of high quality historical and contemporary art-based images that can be shared with students.  Usually, I show images with my class in one of the art department's  smart rooms, but showing images to an individual student or a small group of students makes the smart room a time consuming option.

This semester, I found that the iPad is a great way to share images that are specifically selected for an individual or a small group of students without the need to move to a smart room.

Using the iPad in the studio, students can easily explore images and technical information by using the many bookmarked image-based websites. Some include Lewis & Clark's own,, the University of Tennessee ceramics resource site, artStore and others. I love the immediacy and the portability the iPad provides me in the studio. With it, I can quickly find images or an answer to a technical question that is related to a students need.

My biggest problem now is trying to keep it clean! So, I am exploring iPad cases that are water and dust proof. Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Getting rid of paper trails

Following our get together last month, and listening to Lydia wax enthusiastic about condensing her endless lecture notes (that change each year) onto her iPad, I began to download my day's lectures onto the device and dispense with the typed notes.  This has proven very helpful in the classroom.  It's easy to carry around and doesn't require that I flip through pages on a lectern.  The one small issue is that it seems to turn off quickly and students must be patient while I fumble to recover the document.  I'm guessing that there is a way to change the timing on that.

At the faculty technology showcase last week, the patient IT staff showed me how to use the device to project images onto the classroom screen - I'm deciding on which app to use for that - that's next semester's task.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Improvements in Accordance for use with an iPad, but . . . AND using the iPad administratively

The chief reason I wanted to try out an iPad in the classroom was the opportunity it offered me to bring an ancient text program into classroom use that I had so far been able to use only on my office computer. The company that sells the program, Accordance, had launched its iPad version just before the iPads in Education project started. As it turned out, the ease of use was not what I had hoped and more often than not I have despaired of putting the program and the iPad to good use in my classroom. However, Accordance recently made some reasonable improvements that are increasing the usefulness of the program. Those changes offer some reason to hope that the match of hardware to software will improve enough to make Accordance genuinely useful in class. In the meantime, it still remains too cumbersome for my tastes. The ease of using technology needs to come to such a point that it never gets in the way of pacing a class session, and we're not there yet with this pairing.

An added comment: I read Lydia's post on iMovie and was reminded of a use of the iPad I have been making but haven't mentioned. It has become a very convenient tool for tracking the administrative duties I have in various roles and for ensuring I have a calendar with me at all times. On that front it has been a great resource for me and for that I'm quite grateful. (I know, some of you are saying, "Kugler, have you never heard of on iPhone?" And those who are saying that have never seen me try to type on an itsy-bitsy screen.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Keeping Your Ipad Dry

With weather like this, if you take your Ipad out in the field, this item has been great (in my experience): the Overboard Waterproof Ipad Case ($36 on  It's not a super-serious case, but it's really affordable.  We had our Ipad out on a College Outdoors birding trip to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge this past weekend, and rain was pouring down. 

In the waterproof case, we could pass the Ipad around the group with an iBird app (Western Birds field guide, $4.99), and students could see close up photos of the birds we were seeing in the field, listen to their various songs or calls, look at ecological range maps, pick out identifying features (and see which species this bird could be confused with).  It added a lot to the field trip.

I also found that the Zaggkeys FLEX lightweight bluetooth keyboard ($64 on Amazon) is great for writing trip reports on the Ipad in a moving vehicle when I'm a passenger.  And, in general, for any purpose, the Zagg keyboard is far superior to the one on the Ipad.  The best thing about this Zagg keyboard is:  it fully charges in less than an hour, and holds that charge for a month!

I had hoped to develop a College Outdoors Ipad photo gallery of common Pacific Northwest mushroom species earlier in November, but this was not the best year for a big fruiting of various mushroom species.  Our three field trips on weekends this November didn't find the diversity of (or quality of-  i.e., fresh) mushrooms that we've found in November 3 or 4 years ago.  So, we have a few good photos so far, but this continues to be a work in progress.  Too bad no one else has developed a Pacific NW Mushroom App yet!

Joe Yuska

Monday, December 3, 2012


As described in my post earlier this semester I am using the iPad in my Cell Biology lab class to present and discuss digital microscopy images students acquire in the course of their research.  It was quite easy to setup a dropbox folder which students were granted access to.  Over the course of the semester I have asked students to upload their data, which I then presented and discussed in class.  As we do not have dedicated digital projection/computers in the Biology teaching labs, the iPad enabled my to easily set up and work with the student materials.  This was done a few weeks prior to the submission of figures including their data and I found that this years class did much better in preparing and labeling their data than past iterations of the lab.  This experience suggests that it might be interesting to use the iPad for more "real-time" exercises where students work on problems and submit work in class that can be projected and used as the basis of class discussions.