University Affairs: Teaching tips to consider for your classroom
University Affairs has published seven teaching tips from its readers — professors — about teaching tips or tools they can’t live without. U of M professor Sri Ranjan offered his: the iPad.
The power of the iPad
(Ranjan) R. Sri Ranjan, professor
Department of biosystems engineering, University of Manitoba
I started using a computer connected to a data projector back in 1992. A few years later, I upgraded to a convertible laptop. It allowed me to present my slides and use the paint program as my whiteboard. However, the computer was too slow to switch between the different programs and took time to boot up at the beginning of each class. Connectivity to the data projector in different classrooms was a problem. When the iPad entered the market, I searched around and found apps for the iPad which transformed it into a powerful “smart classroom” technology.
Once I researched and found apps to mimic different classroom technologies, my iPad became a very powerful tool both for my teaching and research. I use the Keynote app as my presentation tool to present my slides in class. I use an Apple Pencil digital stylus with the Notes Plus app as my whiteboard to draw in multiple colours and elaborate on the bullet points in the slides. My subject material covers irrigation systems, canals, dams and other structures. I use the Google Earth app to “fly” my students to different parts of the world to zoom in and show these different systems. The handwritten notes on the Notes Plus app can be converted to text instantly and can also be electronically searched. The notes for the day can be exported as an image or PDF file and uploaded to the course website for access by students. There is the ability to audio-record these notes within the Notes Plus app while the class is in progress. I also use the Board Cam app to transform the camera of my iPad into a document camera to project images of objects or diagrams to the screen.
The iPad has become an indispensable tool in my teaching. For me, it is the Swiss Army Knife of teaching technology in the classroom which I cannot live without. I have shared my experience with fellow professors through teaching-with-technology workshops both at the university and at conferences.