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MVCC uses iPads to aid students’ science discovery

Science is about discovery, which is why Mohawk Valley Community College’s STEM Center has taken the next step in state-of-the-art teaching tools. Beginning this semester, MVCC is loaning students in its General Physics classes iPads to be used in the classroom. The iPads take the place of Physics textbooks and are used by students as lab tools.

“They are using iPads for a textbook, note taking, and all the lessons and teaching materials are provided through the iBook platform,” says Assistant Professor Shahida Dar, Ph.D. “The materials provided are interactive, with the syllabus featuring embedded movies and interactive diagrams. The lab write-ups show how to perform the labs. These too include diagrams, movies, and PowerPoint presentations embedded into one document.”

The STEM Center purchased 40 iPads through a federal grant, with 31 students using them this semester. Dar designed the curriculum so students can upload materials to MVCC’s iPad or their own iPad while using apps, which are free on iTunes. There are other Physics apps students can purchase for a few dollars as study aids, and these remain in the students’ personal iTunes accounts at the conclusion of the semester.

“Some of the students took right to using the iPads in the classroom while others were uncomfortable for a few weeks until they became accustomed to the technology,” said Dar, who created an open forum for the more tech-savvy students to help the rest of the class. Dar has found the communication within the classroom is much better this semester as the open forum has enabled students to give feedback or submit questions anonymously during class. Fifteen minutes into each class, Dar visits the open forum to respond to the students.

“My goal is to have my students walk into the classroom with only their iPad and a calculator. No bulky book bags,” added Dar, who points out the textbooks are cheaper as electronic versions than in print.

At the conclusion of each semester, all the information is erased from the MVCC iPads and they are reset to factory settings. MVCC is currently working on purchasing and keeping scholarly apps on a College iTunes account so they can be re-installed for each semester’s new students.