Using tablets to enhance enquiry based learning

 We had a very interactive enquiry-based learning workshop this morning with some of our level 3 students, making full use of the recently purchased iPads as a research, collaboration and presentation tool. The workshop was part of a level 3 module in the Occupational Therapy programme on External influences and contexts of practice, and the subject matter for the workshop was Challenging stigma and ageism; promoting well-being and personhood, in practice working with older adults. The subject seemed ripe for a student-centred, interactive and enquiry-based approach that students could really engage in and be motivated to research various aspects of the issues themselves, then present, critique and discuss their findings. To facilitate the workshop we had already set up a discussion forum on the module Moodle site where students had been able to share information, media and websites pertinent to the session learning outcomes, and for the workshop itself students worked in 4 groups, each one investigating a different aspect:

1.Stereotypes and negative attitudes about ageing

2.How stigma and ageism impact on occupation, health and well being

3.Older people as a social resource – positive views of ageing

4.Challenging stigma and ageism practically (including relevent policy,  legislation and professional guidelines as well as examples of good practice)

The advantage of using iPads in this session was that it greatly increased opportunities for students to work collaboratively and interactively, and to creatively research and engage with the topic. Since most classrooms only have one computer terminal,  previously an activity of this nature would have required that students go to the library and try and access as many computer terminals as possible to do their research and create a presentation. This process is time consuming, and as one student pointed out in the session, there is no guarantee they will all be able to access a workstation, and it’s much harder for them to work collaboratively under those conditions.

The iPads made it possible for them to stay in the room and work together, they were able to discuss topics and research information very quickly and effectively and much more collaboratively. Students used the iPads to share links, images and discussion points by posting them on the Moodle discussion forum we set up for this purpose, and were able to gather information in a variety of media, including video as well as images and text, and present it to their peers to facilitate a group discussion. They were creative and engaged and the feedback suggests that they found the session stimulating and to have been a valuable learning experience. As expected a few students needed some additional help getting used to the iPad interface and tools but this is where having Dasha in the session was invaluable (as well as some familiarity with the tools myself). This did not present a major obstacle though and most students seemed to find the interface easy to learn, even those unfamiliar with it. The main problem we encountered was the erratic wifi signal in DeGrey level 2 which at one point was significantly slowing down Internet access. For iPads and other tablet devices to be used to their best potential we need a IT and educational ecosystem in place that allows them to be used easily and without barriers. One of the aims of this session in terms of pedagogy was to evaluate how well such devices could be used in the context of core everyday learning processes; the focus was not on any particular apps or the technology per se, but on facilitating enquiry based learning and collaboration.

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    One thought on “Using tablets to enhance enquiry based learning

    1. It was a very interesting and interactive session indeed and I learned a lot from it. I was very impressed with how quickly the students picked up using the iPads and the quality of the presentations they produced.
      The feedback from the students strongly supports points that you covered in your post. One student said: “I felt they enabled us to work more cohesively in groups, as we were able to easily chat to one another without someone on a computer being excluded. The iPads were slick and easy to use once a little instruction had been given”. Another student commented: “Lots of fun, good as able to communicate with lecturers aswell as research, therefore not needing to go to library where you have to fight for a computer”.

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