Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Will it dissolve?

Lab work is an essential part in chemistry education, so a question that arose today is how well the iPad will stand up to the harsh chemical environments of our labs. Good question! And I'd be happy to hear what people have to say about this. Especially acetone is a very enthousiastic dissolver of many, many things and it might not be a very bright idea to use it to clean your iPad. On the other hand, the main components (on the outside) of the iPad are in fact glass and aluminium, which should be allright.

Perhaps this is a good question to answer before sending the students into the lab with their iPads. Since I don't plan on testing it on my own iPad, perhaps I will get this guy to try it out!

Mobile Learning Initiative Launched

Mobile learning is strongly related to the perhaps more well known principle of e-learning. But the use of digital resources is only the first step in modernising education. With the help of mobile learning, all digital learning resources will be available for the students, anytime and anywhere. In this blog we will describe some of the experiences of the ‘Mobile Learning Initiative’ that was launched in the department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences at VU University in Amsterdam.

The iPad: To promote the use of digital learning resources, the department will equip all of our first-year students with an iPad, initiating a broad basis for mobile learning. This interactive tablet-computer will make it easy for students to consult their course material, which will increasingly include audiovisual and interactive material. The iPad will serve as a means to facilitate the overall use and accessibility of digital learning material. The iPad is, given the extremely portable form factor and long battery life, also ideal for use during experimental courses.

Instructional video's: Due to increasing workload in teaching and higher student numbers, digital materials can be a welcome addition to get the most out of contact-time with students. By using instructional videos in experimental course, students can prepare themselves better, but these videos (or other material) can also be used as reference during the course. This will allow the contact with student to focus directly on the more in-depth problems. We therefore want to start making these videos and discover how to effectively apply them to improve our experimental courses.

Weblectures can be used to improve education in a number of ways. First of all, they can be used as a reference for students that attended the lecture. Weblectures can also be presented to the outside world, for example via iTunes, giving information about the education at our department. Weblectures can be produced in a number of ways; the simplest variety consists of adding an audio recording to a PowerPoint presentation while giving the lecture. Even this quite minimal approach is highly appreciated by students. We will provide support for people interested in weblectures, and explore the various other possibilities for weblectures.

Digital books are becoming increasingly popular and easier to use. Textbooks are also increasingly available in digital format, or have an accompanying website. With an advanced e-reader like the iPad, the possibilities of using the digital versions of textbooks become more appealing. Also, readers and course manuals will be very easy to distribute digitally, and printing these documents will become a thing of the past. We will be (and already are) engaged with the VU boekhandel, and will negotiate with publishers toe explore the possibilities. Initially, an option is preferred where the digital version is present besides the normal book. In this way, we can evaluate which version the students prefer.

Supporting applications: A portable interactive platform such as the iPad is ideal for new applications for educational purposes. There are already many versions of periodic systems available and molecular building applications are another possibility. It is expected that many educational applications will be developed, which can aid and enliven our education.

Blackboard: At this moment, BlackBoard is still intensively used at our university. With the iPad, all students will be able to consult BlackBoard at any time. This will make the latest version of the course material always directly available. Additionaly, BlackBoard has announced a dedicated iPad app, which will make BlackBoard a lot user-friendlier. We want to encourage educators to make their course material available online.