Collaborative teaching: tablets and interactive projection

Trial of collaborative classes with tablets and projector at UB

Collaborative teaching: tablets and interactive projection

The digital nature of society, especially its transformation through the prominence of mobile devices, is naturally finding its way into universities, which urgently need to adopt technology and new forms of teaching.

Teaching and communication

Teaching is an activity in which continuity can be fragile, given the difficulty in retaining students' attention. Any stimuli outside the teaching itself can cause interruptions to teacher-student communication. This means that the attention of students is fundamental to any act of communication and to teaching-learning dynamics.

As teaching is also communicating, it seems vital to find mechanisms for making dynamic connections with students, taking into account the characteristics of our time: immediacy and user-friendliness. One of the best options, in this respect, is to use networked smartphones and tablets. A number of studies have already demonstrated the benefits of this type of system for university teaching and provide interesting data about some processes. The proposal by the Faculty of Psychology and the Area for Information and Communications Technology of the University of Barcelona, at the Mundet Campus, is based on the generation of a protocol for the use of tablet computers for teaching, in conjunction with Epson's projectors and iProjection app, using these systems as a smartboard and mobile presentation device in class. Let's take a closer look at this project.

Method: projection from mobile devices

The trial has taken place among different groups of students from the University of Barcelona's Faculty of Psychology – including undergraduates and students sitting master's degrees and doctorates. The only requirement is that students wishing to participate must have an iOS, Android or Windows-based tablet. These activities began in the academic year 2012-2013 and continue today.

To run this trial, teaching staff needed to have a tablet running iOS or Android, while students needed tablets with any of the previously mentioned operating systems. Epson's free iProjection app was installed on all of the tablets, while in the corresponding classroom a wireless network connection was installed for all participants with an EB-1955 projector connected to that same network.

Using the EasyMP Network Projection software, all presentation devices connected to the wireless network could be managed. In this way, the projector could recognise all of the tablets connected.

The trial

At the start of the class, the teacher would connect their tablet to the projector, turning the tablet into a smartboard. The subjects covered in the classes are Statistics Applied to Psychology, Epidemiology and Mathematical Psychology. These subjects involve the use of graphs, mathematical formulae and, in some cases, three-dimensional materials.

The teacher shows all materials to the students via the tablet (PowerPoint, Prezi, Word documents, PDFs, images, videos, web pages, etc.). As demonstrated by other studies, such as Simoni (2011), the faculty concluded that the use of this technology in the classroom allows the following:

  • Teachers can move freely in the classroom, without losing visual contact with the students.
  • Easy switching between materials in various formats is possible without the need to stay close to any peripheral devices.
  • Zooming in on parts of the materials being presented, particularly parts of graphs, mathematical formulas, etc.
  • Rotating an image or using different viewing angles for complex structures.
  • Writing and adding annotations to their own presentation materials, regardless of the file type, or using a blank page as a smartboard. Adding and deleting text is also very simple.
Collaborative teaching

It is important to mention that during this trial teachers could hand over to any of their students in possession of a tablet, who could then show the rest of the class any kind of material - including a problem they are solving, an image or graph they have produced, or a web page of particular relevance - at any given moment during the class.

Some limitations

Nonetheless, there are some risks to take into account. Fundamentally, there are two aspects to consider: you need to have a network with a sufficiently strong connection to support a multitude of devices connected at the same time, and that a trial of this nature can be difficult to manage with very large groups. These aspects coincide with the conclusions of other studies carried out (Siozos, Palaigeorgiou, Triantafyllakos and Despotakis, 2009).

"Mobiles have become central to our lives and the next generations at university will be digital natives who are already using tablets, laptops and smartphones in place of books and paper"

Carme Pineda,

Area for Information and Communications Technology

Mundet Campus, University of Barcelona

Authors

Joan Guàrdia Olmos

Maribel Peró Cebollero

Faculty of Psychology – Research Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (IR3) – University of Barcelona

Carme Pineda Teixidó

Area for Information and Communications Technology – Mundet Campus, University of Barcelona