At the start of term, I discussed my continuing adventures in teaching, and I professed about how a tablet + whiteboard app would make me a better instructor, and help me deliver content more effectively in an introductory ecology class. Here’s an update.
At first, it just didn’t work. I was sure it was because I had yet to perfect the technology – the writing was sloppy, the interface was awkward, and stuff I was writing was always appearing on the wrong part of the screen. Students were chuckling in the classroom. I think the students could see the potential opportunities with the i-pad and whiteboard, especially being able to bring in complex graphs from a textbook. However, potential is one thing and reality is another. The biggest problem was that my writing on the i-pad was positively ridiculous.
So, that was lecture #1. I did not give up – I practiced in my office, worked on my penmanship, tried different i-pad apps, and kept at it. It saddens me to say that Day 2 and 3 were not much better.
Another problem was that when I exported the whiteboard as PDF (i.e., so students could have a record of the lecture), I realized that over the course of the lecture, my handwriting continually got bigger. Let me clarify: the whiteboard app was an ‘ever expanding’ whiteboard – so if you wrote and filled up the screen, you simply move down or sideways to expose more whiteboard, and you can continue writing. The problem is that if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to change the size of what you write without realizing it until you look at the entire whiteboard, as a PDF. The student did not, therefore, find the exported whiteboard very helpful.
I also tried using the typing feature a little bit – instead of writing like a 6-year old, I would sometimes bring up the keyboard and type. However, I am not much of a fan of typing on an i-pad. I need a real keyboard in order to be quick and in order to not make any mistakes (And let’s not talk about that dang auto-correct feature!). Sigh. The efforts at typing were a complete failure.
I’ll point out one final problem with the technology: there was not a 1:1 ratio between the i-pad screen and the whiteboard that was projected. This meant I would write away on the i-pad, assume everyone was following along, but would sense some unhappiness from the audience. Sure enough, when turning around to see the screen, not all that I had written was being projected. This led to more fiddling around, more wasted time, more swearing under my breath. I’m sure there was some technological fix for this, but I was out of patience.
Yesterday I went back to using the chalkboard, and the lecture went smoothly, the class was happy(ier), and most importantly, I felt the content was being delivered in a more effective manner.