Let a thousand iPads bloom!

The Technology in Higher Education conference in Qatar was hosted by Texas A&M Qatar on February 27-28, 2012.

This was an opportunity for me to try out the iPad for note-taking in real time. Using the Brushes app, I prepared the title in advance for Bob Munroe’s session, “Let a thousand iPads bloom” and took notes during the presentation. This was an interesting experience, as the conference was about using mobile technologies, and I was using mobile technology to visually represent the content. This particular presentation title really caught my imagination, and I was eager to record it mostly for that reason (of course, it also interested me because I was eager to hear how other institutions in Qatar are introducing/supporting mLearning). Interestingly, the speaker’s metaphor of choice was actually sunflowers (not tulips, as I had prepared), as they apparently are low-maintenance and you can scatter the seeds haphazardly and they will grow where they fall.This was the “Carnegie Mellon approach” represented in my recording through several themes that Bob Monroe highlighted.

As you will see from the youtube video (below) showing the brushstrokes from start to finish, earlier notes are sketched in hastily to ensure I am capturing the main ideas of the lecture. Later, I went back and did some post-session editing to add some finesse to the lettering and a few more visuals.

I am currently working on an iMovie with voiceovers, which I am editing for length and to smooth out some of the rough edges (like the part where I messed up the layers). I hope to have the edited version ready to share in the near future, but in the meantime this one might be interesting for you to see the unedited process from beginning to end. Please view it in full-screen mode so you can read the text!

I welcome your feedback and suggestions!

Below is text from the script for the iMovie of my recording, which summarizes the main points from this conference session (I used the abstract for the session to make sure I included all of the key points set out by the presenter):

As Bob discussed in his session, over the past two years Carnegie Mellon Qatar has made a deliberately unfocused effort to substantially increase their use of mobile computing devices for education, integrate them with teaching and meta-curricular activities, and make them ubiquitous throughout the campus. After conducting a poll of university staff and faculty, it was recognized that opinions on exactly how to approach the introduction of mobile technologies on campus were polarized.

Despite this lack of agreement, an executive decision was made to try to incorporate one type of mobile technology – iPads. iPads were purchased and provided to faculty, Computer Science post-graduate students, and the campus library for students to borrow.

While it appears the initial financial investment is paying off, it remains to be seen whether the iPads will be utilized in more focused ways to enhance learning environments on campus.

As Dr. Munroe observed, there appear to be limitless opportunities to use iPads in interesting ways in education, but the question remains…HOW will educators accomplish this?

Rather than pursue an aggressive top-down program, a very “Carnegie Mellon” approach was chosen. This involved making devices, time, and energy available to faculty and students and encouraging them to experiment and report back on what they discovered – what works well, what doesn’t work so well, and how to make effective use of the devices and their ubiquitous network connectivity.  

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