Best practice in tablet tech

Carolyn Bell, from the College of Science, Health and Engineering, shares her top tips for tablet teachers

By Dr Giselle Roberts

Microbiologist Carolyn Bell heads the SHE College’s Tablet Teaching Community of Practice (CoP). She tells us about her journey and shares her top tips for tablet teachers.

Lightbulb moment. A couple of years ago, a colleague and I attended Professor Birgit Loch’s seminar on teaching with tablets. We were impressed by the variety of applications and the level of engagement that could be achieved with a Surface Pro and some basic equipment. I started experimenting with one in my microbiology practical class. My first steps were small. Instead of using a laser pointer or highlighting something with a mouse, I used the pen to circle something on screen. Later the College purchased several Surface Gos and Birgit decided to establish a CoP to support staff who were interested in using the technology for the first time. We also wanted to include those who were already teaching with other tablets. I offered to help.

Beyond the whiteboard. Tablets are an excellent online teaching resource. Simply start a Camtasia recording and use a pen, virtual laser pointer or highlighter to transform your tablet into a whiteboard. Sometimes I have an unfinished diagram that I complete during the lecture, and the students probably have a better view of the ‘board’ via Zoom than in a face-to-face class. The possibilities are endless, and can create a far more engaging and collaborative experience.

Tech tips. Our CoP is about sharing best practice. Some academics are using Surface Pros and Gos. Others are using iPads. We troubleshoot and share ideas about our respective platforms. In addition to these bimonthly sessions, the College has produced a collection of ‘how-to’ clips that cover everything from installing a digital pen, to writing on screen, to using OneNote. If you have the Surface Pro, those clips will walk you through the basics. They are available on our Tablet Teaching CoP website, along with information about our upcoming virtual meetings.

Best advice. Technology can be temperamental. Things will go wrong and academics need to be prepared for the inevitable technical glitch. The first time it happens – and there will be a first time – it’s important not to give up. Now more than ever, academics are seeing firsthand how technology is transforming the way universities partner with students in the learning experience. That is exciting.

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