iPad Usage in Classroom

Infusing Innovative Practices via iPad Usage in the Classroom

Amanda R. Smith, Associate Professor
ASL/English Interpreting & Interpreting Studies
Western Oregon University

Use of iPadsTechnology continues to sprint forward. In previous generations of interpreter education the use of technology (videos) was merely for ease of grading and simulating real work. Students today can take advantage of technology to develop their ability to interpret, but will need it for real-world work, particularly with Video Relay and Video Remote Interpreting becoming more and more commonplace. They are already savvy consumers of technology. As faculty responsible to future generations of interpreters, maximizing the use of that technology in the classroom is imperative.

I have found the iPad to be invaluable to instruction in my courses. It has provided an intuitive, creative, and powerful visual forum facilitating interaction with students, collaboration with other faculty, and vlog creation and viewing. In addition, it lends istself well to design & implementation of distance and online education, and allows for the collection, storage, and easy retrieval of resources for research purposes.

In this article I will share how the iPad has become an integral part of my interpreting practice and instruction and demonstrate a number of options that I encourage you to explore.

To interact with students and collaborating with other faculty

Working in a small field requires collaboration across distances, this is facilitated more effectively through the advancement of technology. I utilize the technology available via iPad to collaborate with faculty and students whether through the use of Sype, Google Hangout, or Facetime. These allow for real-time collaboration. Two of those, Skype and Google Hangout, also allow for screensharing so that all parties can see a single document, video, or webpage and respond in real time to what all are seeing. Google Hangout, in particular, allows for large groups (up to 10 individual webcams) to be connected at a time. This has been quite effective in collaborating with multiple faculty and/or subject matter experts for a project. This feature also allows easy collaboration with students in small groups.

The iPad also provides for asynchronous collaboration via an app (also online) called VoiceThread. This allows for participants to engage with the material according to their availability and they can contribute either via video, voice, and/or text. I have used this in a number of my classes for various assignments but also to collaborate with faculty on long term projects when faculty may be scattered around the states.

Additionally, with the use of a stylus, the iPad is a great resource for taking notes and sharing them immediately with others. I have used the iPad to fill out forms when doing observations of student interpreting work at the end of which I am able to click a few buttons and send the notes to them in PDF format for their review prior to our meetings. This allows for immediate input to be received by the students about their work. Also, with the addition of an adapter (VGA), I can display my iPad on an LCD projector, I use this to demonstrate visually some of the mental processes involved in interpreting but also when we are working on mind-mapping or notetaking in consecutive work, I can show them my notes in real time. I can also follow up any of those activities by sending them a PDF of what was discussed in class along with the visual to allow for better retention and review as they continue their professional development.

To design & implement distance/online education and to create and view vlogs


With the popularity of online/distance education it has become apparent to me that it is a whole different animal. I cannot approach my distance courses in the same way as my face-to-face coursework. The content is consistent but the method of instruction is quite different. The iPad allows me to be engaged with the online learning system at any time in an easy way via the web browser.

I use Keynote (which I find much nicer to navigate and manipulate on the iPad than desktop/laptop) to develop graphics that aid in the explanation of assignments, processes, and clarifying content. Keynote from iPad can send presentations in PDF, PPT, or Keynote  or be displayed in a face-to-face class via a VGA adapter as well.

Through the use of iMovie, I can record, edit, and upload vlogs to Vimeo (my preference over YouTube) for sharing with classes or students individually. In my distance education classes, I find myself giving students feedback and input about their assignments more frequently thought video than through text. It allows for a more personal connection and discussion (thought asynchronously) about the work. iMovie on the iPad is limited in its features but more than sufficient for short vlogs that are low tech. They can be edited to include keynote slides, picture, and or other video clips if necessary.

In my face-to-face classes, I sometimes use iMovie to record my teaching as a work sample for assessment (self or peer) and other times record student work for review later (self or instructor). One of the features I like about iMovie but have not employed as of yet is the “voiceover” track. This means that if I record a student sample of work, I can watch it in the editing screen and record my own voiceover to provide input, questions, comments, and/or suggestions about their work, save and upload it to Vimeo for their review. My comments are then embedded in the work sample. I intend to attempt that this year in one of my meaning transfer classes.

To collect resources for research purposes

Collecting resources

As interpreters and interpreter educators we are always researching, whether just digging for more information to satisfy our curiosity, or to prepare for an assignment, or to find nuggets of wisdom to share with our students. The iPad is a simple (and lightweight) means of compiling resources for research and course content. I particularly enjoy the ability to read scholarly articles and ebooks on the iPad while clipping relevant sections for use in class writing, highlighting relevant sections, and make notes, dialoguing with the article, in ways that I would in hard copy – but it is all housed in a simple to transport electronic device.

In addition to research, there are a multitude of resources available for use in the classroom or by individual students who have an iPad, for meaning transfer and knowledge building. The TED app and iTunes U are just two of the many resources available with many different sources, in different genres and registers. These materials serve not only as source material but also potential materials to prepare for upcoming assignments as an interpreter. For example, looking into content areas with which I am not yet familiar. Or reviewing an open source iTunes U course in a content area that I will be assigned to interpret in the coming term. There are many, many more resources available.

The iPad has impacted my teaching and interaction level with students inside and outside of the classroom. Students have had an extremely positive reaction to these applications, and I can see how I am able to elicit richer responses and a deeper understanding from them compared to previous techniques. I hope to secure funding to have iPads available for student use on a regular basis.

Apps Identified in this Presentation