Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

The Best E-Texts (App) Created by Academics

Rowe, professor of English at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and Elliott Visconsi, associate professor of English at Notre Dame, have co-designed The Tempest iPad app, they re-imagined reading gave this story a write-up here (edcetera).

reading app“We’ve made the text manipulatable,” Rowe says. “We’ve said, ‘You can get your hands inside this electronic text in any way that you want.’ That’s a feature a print book doesn’t have.”

To Rowe, it’s the decades they’ve spent studying readers’ interactions with texts — the findings of which they were able to share in minute detail with the app’s programmers.

“Since we were developing a reading app, we needed to very precisely describe how readers and writers interact with text, and that’s what I’ve spent my career doing,” she says. “We described the tiny gestures or actions that the app needed to make in response to how a reader would approach a play text or how a writer might want to make a note.”

According to Rowe, humanist academics are uniquely positioned to recreate their own courses’ texts as e-texts.

“I think we are seeing the potential for a pretty significant shift by humanists to see ourselves as makers,” she says. “We have the opportunity to really think deeply about, and to participate in, the design of a new environment or tool for reading or writing.”

app created by academics

Tempest for iPad is designed for social reading, authoring, and sharing, for all readers from students to professional scholars. Learn more in this video. Its features include:

•Learn from the expert commentaries of the world’s leading Shakespeare scholars, artists and teachers.
•Enjoy a full-length audio performance from the noted company Actors From the London Stage. Play text scrolls as you listen. Additional audio takes provide alternative performances of key passages.
•Publish your own commentaries privately to the iPads of students, friends, or colleagues.
•Share your notes immediately to a Facebook discussion group.
•Create your own play text. Select key passages you like, annotate them, and share with friends, colleagues, and readers worldwide.
•Illustrations, podcasts and video from The Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection bring alive Renaissance English culture and theater.
•Customize your experience. Quiet when you need it, social when you want it.

Also, two professors at tiny Albion College in Michigan have each developed an app for their respective courses that is helping their students become more engaged in the content they’re teaching. Lisa Lewis is a professor of chemistry and Ian MacInnes is chair and professor of English at the 1,400-student, four-year liberal arts institution. Check this story in here (Campus Technology).

Neither was happy with what they were seeing in the e-texts increasingly in use by students. In a poster presentation produced for Educause Lewis shared one example of a digital chemistry book that includes quiz material and animations. “You can click on a link and obtain a rotatable molecular model,” she said. “It’s pretty. It’s interactive. But will students make the implicit connections about molecular bonding and attraction? That is, are they thinking while they’re interacting with this material? Our expectation is that this is not the case.”

In the area of humanities, MacInnes pointed to a dearth of e-texts, particularly in the area of literary anthologies. Those that are available may include “engaging illustrations” but the tools that are included may not be appropriate to the work. For example, he said, “Ebooks tend to allow the students to make notes, but the notes tend to be invisible. They allow highlighting, which is really inappropriate when you’re looking at poetry. And when you click on a word, you get an opportunity to look that word up in a Webster’s dictionary, but with Shakespeare, that kind of look-up is not only not helpful, it’s problematic.”

The original intent was for both instructors to learn the basics of iOS coding. But in order to deliver programs that would run on the variety of devices in use by their students–smartphones, computers, and tablets–the two decided to develop Web apps instead of native apps. The development for each app used the same set of tools–HTML 5 and JavaScript, Adobe Dreamweaver and jQuery Mobile. They enlisted the help of the college’s Ferguson Center for Technology-Aided Teaching and Learning and on-campus game design students to take the project to completion.

Although there is astonishing amount of education Apps on the market, but the best apps created by educators are very rare. Teachers who know the best pedagogy and needs for their teaching, while also get comfortable doing at the edges of their knowledge with developers are our hope.



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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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