iPolicy: Evaluating iPads in social welfare

In the Spring of 2013 I authored a couple blog posts on my social welfare policy course that was designated an iPad course. You can find the posts here and here as well as a post about an iPad specific assignment.

I also took the opportunity to conduct a small study on the experience and now you can see the full write up in the Journal of Technology in Human Services. The first 50 people to follow this link can download a free copy of the article “iPolicy: Exploring and Evaluating the use of iPads in a Social Welfare Policy Course.” The iPad was/is a great tool and I am still teaching an iPad required course, although the course is focused on social media, digital activism, and eCitizenship. The exciting thing about this class is that I teach it both online and face-to-face. This summer I am developing an iBook for the course in the Fall and so far using iBooks Author has been relatively easy and even Fun. Yes I dare say fun. I will try to come back to this journal to share my iBook and the experiences I have with this technology throughout the summer but I have a few things to finish up first. I hope you have great plans for the summer and be sure to stop back by this blog again in the future or sign up for email alerts. You can also follow me on Twitter 😀

Final Thoughts on Social Work Education and the iPad

2The semester is now over and I am reflecting on my iPad course, as well as looking through some of my anonymous comments from students. I have yet to get my actual course evaluations but I did have students volunteer to complete an exit survey on their experience of learning with the iPad. I will share a few tidbits as I am hoping to get this written up and submitted for publication. I have a previous post about my initial thoughts on learning with the iPad, which you can find here. I also wrote up a post about an iPad specific assignment that I created for the course, which you can find here.

In the previous iPad blog post I shared that I was excited for my class to have the iPads for learning. I was also realistic in regards to knowing the literature and using new technology in the classroom. Some have argued that students today are more adept at using  technology than their instructors. However, as Apostolos Koutropoulos points out in his Digital Natives: Ten Years After article, this is more myth than reality.

My final thoughts on the iPad in my Policy course are probably best viewed with an eye of skepticism. I am a technology geek and love using Tech in the classroom. Especially a Policy course since most social work students dread policy. I say skepticism only because the reactions to the ipad were fairly mixed. Most students indicated that the iPad was very helpful for learning because they were able to search for information in real-time. If a student had a question on a Policy that I couldn’t answer, we searched the Internet and had a discussion about what we found. Students loved the fact that they could work on their group projects remotely and at various times. Students also indicated they liked being able to access course information easily and contact me as their instructor through email or twitter.  Yes I used Twitter in this class, which could be another blog post in and of itself.

On the other hand, some students indicated that the iPads were a huge distraction during class. Although many students initially were using their iPads to take notes, some indicated they often would get distracted playing games or going on Facebook. I too was frustrated with this aspect of the iPad, as I indicated in my previous post. I also noticed that students began to revert to their laptops and other technological tools towards the end of the semester. When I asked why, they indicated that it was easier to type on the Laptop and that the Laptop seemed to be more reliable. I think that because students also were given the iPad MINI that it was more difficult for them to type on the smaller screen.

My FINAL THOUGHTS on the iPad are that I really enjoyed having the iPads in the class most of the time. I think that as anyone adopts a new innovation that there will be a learning curve associated with it and that one should think critically about how to incorporate new learning tools in their classroom. This is something I have been researching, writing about, and discussing with many others for years now. The need to think about how to incorporate new tools rather than just adopting them because they seem innovative. I was lucky that I was able to get the iPads in my classroom. However, it was on such a short notice that I know I could have done a better job with assignments and class activities that utilize the iPad if I had more time to think about it.

To sum it up, would I use iPads in my Policy course again. YES!!! Am I going to use the iPads again next semester? NO!!! Fortunately or perhaps unfortunately for the Policy students… I have requested that the iPads be taken from my Policy course and be issued to the students in a new course I just developed here at UNK. The course is titled Social Media, Digital Activism, and eCitizenship. The course draws upon an interdisciplinary perspective of marketing, nonprofits, and advocacy. It also relies heavily on New Media Literacy and of course Social Media.  I will try to blog about it later.  At any rate, I am glad that the University is innovative and forward thinking enough to invest in new technology and allow faculty to experiment. I hope that we will continue to be able to do so but with an eye towards making the learning experience better. I know that in social work we need more exposure to technology and to keep an open mind about how technology impacts our profession, our clients lives, and education. After all, it’s not going away!

iPad Assignments for Social Welfare Policy

This post is mainly a follow up to a recent twitter chat I had with @laurelhitchcock about my iPad Policy course. Specifically she had asked about ideas for using iPads along with Wikis. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

First off, I currently do not use Wiki’s in this course, although I definitely could and I see the pedagogical value in doing so. Pooling information/resources into a share space, collaboration, communication, and many other skills and benefits students could gain from this tool.  I am doing something similar, that is gathering resources and information, however, I am using a different tool. I will also not be using this tool again the next time around. Here is a description of my assignment from my syllabus:

Social Bookmarking assignment: Throughout the course of the semester we will collectively gather social media resources or digital apps and advocacy/analysis resources that relate to Policy and or Programs. Utilizing the social bookmarking website Diigo, each student is responsible for finding, evaluating, and discussing two resources. Students will need to provide links to articles on advocacy strategies or links to the identified resource on the course blog by the due date. Each student will discuss the resource they found in class by the date their assignment is due as well as sharing your resource using the course hashtag #swpolicy410 on twitter.

This is where I could insert the * about using Technology for any given purpose.  I really like social bookmarking and find the use of Diigo incredibly helpful….from a desktop or laptop. The mobile app is almost useless, but they do have a diigo browser app that adds in a bit more functionality for the iPad. I created a diigo group, to which each student has become a part of, and in this space we collectively bookmark information/resources/digital apps that relate to our course content and educational learning. So far it is going pretty well. Why then will I NOT use this app again?

Mostly because of the lack of functionality on the iPad. Next time around I will either use Pinterest or Spring Pad. I am more familiar with Pinterest, yes guys do use Pinterest, but I like the fact that SpringPad allows me or any user to take photos of things out in the world and share to my pads. I will be experimenting with this as a information gathering and dissemination tool in the future, but for now we are sticking with Diigo.

There are some Wiki apps available for the iPad, but unfortunately I have not really used them.  I found this post by LifeHack that might help those wanting to use Wiki’s on their iPads.

The other ways I am incorporating the iPad into Policy is through the Policy Advocacy project. This is a semester long project that encourages students to identify a policy or issue and create an awareness campaign.  I have been hesitant in providing too much direction regarding this assignment because I want students to be creative in what they develop and ultimately employ. I have sprinkled out some ideas as far as using digital storytelling methods and using social media, but I really want this to be organic and develop from the students perspective.

One last tool that I use in this class that makes use of the iPad directly is online quizzes using the app Socrative. I do have some issues with this app, mostly that I can’t weight my quiz questions, but for the most part it is really useful and cuts down on the amount of paper I would typically use for quizzes in class. Each week students take a quiz over the chapter we just covered.  I create the quizzes on the app and when students come to class I push the quiz out to their iPads via the app. It is really fairly simple. I can see live results so I know exactly when each student is finished with the quiz. The app then generates a report which is sent via email and I can open using excel which I can than save into my grade book.

I will be back later on to detail more about my experience of using iPads in the Social Welfare Policy course. Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion. I am always open to new ideas and methods of how to make Policy more interesting and meaningful for students.

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