[U]Tech, UCITE encourage active learning

[U]Tech, in collaboration with UCITE, recently published a survey calling for faculty members to propose ways in which mobile technology, including iPads, can be used in the classroom. The initiative, known as Active Learning iPad Pilot, is aimed to promote active, collaborative learning.

According to the [U]Tech and UCITE initiative, active learning is when students further their understanding of course material by engaging and collaborating with peers and technological resources.

“We will be working with faculty to explore how using iPads or other mobile technology could potentially help to improve students’ learning in their courses,” Tina Oestreich, [U]Tech’s senior director of Teaching and Learning Technology, said.

The collaboration is supported by a group known as the Active Learning Fellowship, which was created five years ago. The purpose of the pilot program is to encourage the use of active learning in the classroom by educating faculty on how they can implement active learning in their curriculum.

This project expands on the original goals of the Active Learning Fellowship, and focuses on way students are taught at Case Western Reserve University.

“CWRU has a number of active learning classrooms that feature moveable furniture, multiple writing surfaces and shared computers with large displays that students can use to collaborate during class,” said Oestrich. “We have been looking for ways to create opportunities for students to engage actively in our other classrooms. By using technologies like the iPad, in addition to screen-sharing, we hope to expand active learning in our standard technology enhanced classrooms.”

Although most responses to the initiative have been positive, some faculty members expressed concerns regarding students being distracted by the presence of technology in the classroom.

Macromolecular science and engineering professor David Schiraldi explained, “Studies have shown that students who have electronic devices on during classes retain less and do more poorly than those who merely listen and take notes.”

Oestrich, though, reinforced that the benefits of implementing the technological initiative outweigh the costs.

She said, “Faculty are sometimes reluctant to allow technology in class because technology can easily distract all of us, not just students. However, when all students have the same kind of technology in class, faculty can think of ways to incorporate it in ways that will enhance their courses. The iPad Pros will allow students to draw diagrams, write out complex equations, and annotate texts easily and share with each other and their instructors.”

She added, “This pilot is just the beginning of a new way of using technology in CWRU classes and we are excited to see how students will respond to the initiative.”