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Apps: In the Classroom

Annotated apps used on mobile devices related to student success in higher education.

Student Success Classes

Student Success Class Learns to Share with Google Drive - Librarians allowed ten minutes for students to break into groups and use an iPad Mini to record their results of a keyword brainstorming exercise. Students were able to see the real-time updating, which takes place with a shared document, on both the mobile version and desktop version of the same document. The class then discussed how this app could improve communication in group work assigned in future classes.

ENC1102 - English Composition

The Maze of MLA is Unscrambled in English Composition - A large amount of information is packed into a Composition II instructional research session at IRSC. While it was tempting to skip hands-on activities due to time constraints, an exercise introduced to the class helped to reinforce lecture concepts. After students were provided an overview of the library's LibGuide covering MLA citation format, groups were formed and each group received an iPad Mini pre-loaded with a color-coded shared Google Drive document. The groups were then asked to work together to correct scrambled-up MLA citations. This cooperative lesson afforded students the opportunity to review the LibGuide, obtain assistance from the librarian, and get practice at creating correct citations. By presenting the process as a puzzle game to figure out, rather than the foreign language that some perceive, this activity helps to de-mystify the citation building process.

Instructor feedback was very positive. 

Plant ID Class

All of the students in the 2014 spring semester Plant ID class are already working in the landscape field, many of them own their own businesses. Being able to connect these students to apps which allow them the opportunity to show off their work and have their clients share success stories via photos was a great opportunity for the libarians who presented and led the presentation and hands-on activity. A short (7 minute) lesson was presented with overview information about apps. Then iPad minis were passed out along with the handout. About half the class followed the handout and completed the activity quickly without needing assistance. The remaining students were actively asking questions and had librarians pointing to the correct places to tap to complete the plant ID exercise.  

Learning Objective: Address students' unfamiliarity with social media by having them quickly create a product (a Pinterest board) about the topic they have studied all semester in class.


Journalism on the Go: MMC 1000

The Effect of Mobile Devices on Journalism - MMC1000 discusses the changing field of journalism and incorporates a photojournalism project. For this session, students received an overview of the effect of social media on traditional journalism and some recent examples such as the use of social media primary sources by TV news channels. Students also worked through the session on the iPads. This activity helped to demonstrate how a journalist may feel on assignment without anything but a smartphone or tablet. Snapfish, a photo editor, was also demonstrated. Using Snapfish students were able to explore notable photojournalists who use social media and mobile devices rather than traditional equipment.

Interior Design, Apps and Social Media, oh my!

Interior Design - With the support of a faculty member, four separate sessions were held for interior design students and these highlighted very different applications. In “History of Interiors,” the mobile application for ArtSTOR was demonstrated, while “Interior Design Graphics” students were shown how to link their CAD accounts with the mobile application. In “Special Topics,” an industry specific app called Houzz was demonstrated. Students can use Houzz to create guidelines and showcase their work. Finally, students in a practicum course were presented with information on how to use Twitter for professional purposes.


Best Practices

Incorporating apps in the classroom can be a positive experience, but it also holds the potential for distracted students who no longer want to listen to an instructor. Here are some ideas we have found helpful to create the most valuable Classroom App Sessions.

  • If browsing or self-exploration of a device is part of the classtime, schedule that type of exercise for the end of class. Once that door is opened, it's very difficult to re-focus attention afterwards.
  • Avoid including sign-up time as part of your classtime. Having dummy accounts already set to go allows more of your time with the student to be spent in more meaningful ways. Most students can figure out how to sign up for a free account with whereever on their own at a later time.  
  • Even if you have the students register ahead of time, have a dummy account ready to go just in case. Many students will forget passwords or not have access to the email that they used to set up their account with, or what not. Be prepared to keep the focus on learning not signing up.
  • Always include a discussion of how to evaluate information into the lesson or exercise. There is so much information out there, and a lot of it is being distributed via apps. Teach students how to seek out the best information regardless of the format. 
  • Do structure the lesson into chunks of when it is okay to use the device and when it is not okay to use a device. 
  • Do include a discussion of academic honesty and the use of mobile devices whenever possible. Many apps are valuable learning tools which have now received a bad rap because they are used to cheat on homework and exams by students. Share examples of what is and is not appropriate device use for in-class as well as out-of-class exercises. 

Background Information

Indian River State College was awarded an IMLS Sparks! Ignition Grant in 2013 to implement “From STEM to Sternum,” a program that fosters the digital literacy skills of students involved with STEM concepts in academic and career pathway programs.  “From STEM to Sternum” is a scalable and replicable program that can be implemented at any institution that sees a need for increased digital literacy instruction. The program is delivered through synchronous face-to-face and virtual sessions, and is supported by a corresponding IRSC content management LibGuide that provides asynchronous access to applications used in the sessions.

As part of the initiative, IRSC created the IRSC Digital Literacy Lab (DLL), a transportable unit that enables librarians to teach digital literacy and STEM skills with mobile computing   devices.  The IRSC DLL has been used in both open sessions for students and staff and in presentations designed in collaboration with faculty members for specific courses. Tailored sessions target groups that may not use library services regularly, such as interior design students and landscaping professionals. Sessions are also created for mass communications and Upward Bound courses, and incorporate digital and information literacy skills that are linked to assignments.

General sessions introduce students and staff to cloud computing, the differences between tablets, and other digital literacy concepts. Devices are loaded for the sessions with a curated selection of apps chosen by IRSC librarians and faculty members for their credibility and applicability to academic success.

Allowing students to manipulate mobile devices in conjunction with digital literacy concepts increases the quality of instruction by engaging users in active learning techniques and repositions mobile devices as a key element in the learning process. Students who do not have access to mobile computing devices have an opportunity to interact with devices they may see in a professional setting, while those who already own smartphones and tablets are able to create a connection to academic success with devices that they may have previously only used for leisure activities.

To date over 400 students, staff and faculty have attended sessions for “From STEM to Sternum.” Additionally, resources and activities addressed through the IRSC DLL are accessible and marketed through RiverLife to which 15,500 students have access. Future sessions will target Lifelong Learning participants and community members utilizing IRSC libraries.