Small group learning using iPads. Ideas for practical applications.

The iPad is an ideal platform to be used in small groups: it’s small and independent enough to be passed around, but large enough to be viewed by a group and easy to project from. For these reasons, we can start to explore different types of learning activities that can be facilitated by the functionality and observed usage of this device.

Instead of building e-learning that is primarily ‘broadcast’ in nature, presenting and pushing out ideas and information, we can create more interactive experiences where small groups can use one, or multiple, iPads to capture, manipulate and learn. This can be done either through well designed exercises and activities that use commercially available Apps, or through the creation of custom designed or built Apps and materials.

For example, it’s common to run small group sessions within workshops, breakout groups where skills can be practiced. Observation forms are frequently used in these and we have the option of producing these for the iPad, so that some participants can be observing and capturing data whilst others are roleplaying. This data can be synchronised back to a central database so that the facilitators can access and review it. There are various ‘mailer’ type programmes that can be set up to do this easily.

The briefing for these small group, skills practice sessions can be given by characters on the screen: we can have individual briefing notes for each participant, but with video used to give them a full briefing and to demonstrate the skills that we want them to practice. We can even use FaceTime to allow individuals to observe real time coaching given by the facilitator, or we can video the sessions and easily add a dialogue and feedback at the end.

In a different context, there are various Apps, like iThoughts HD or Adobe Ideas, that are ideal for capturing creative outputs from discussions: apps that allow you to sketch, process flow or mind map the stream of thoughts and then easily organise and share them afterwards. This type of workflow optimisation can be enormously liberating, allowing you to draw over flowcharts or mind maps, freeform, or to manipulate flows of information. You need to be creative in how the exercises and activities are set up, but if we don’t try some different things, we’ll never learn what’s possible.

There are also ways in which we can use the wider internet, rather than locally held assets, to assist in learning. Either by setting up a community site on LinkedIn or Facebook, or by using group messaging functions, we can explore synchronous or asynchronous forms of coaching during activities, or of information gathering and sharing results. Keynote, of of Apple’s very easy to use presentation Apps, is ideas for capturing and sharing thoughts, presenting directly back to the group in a visually clean format, fast.

If we move away from these commercially available Apps towards the more bespoke, or more configurable, we can look at creating community Apps where learners can upload video clips and notes and download reference and coaching assets. Video and podcasts are ideal ways of using different tones of voice to provide guidance and additional information and animations and images that can be manipulated and explored are a great way of investigating a subject in detail. Or we can go further and use storytelling analogies in real time ‘case study’ roleplays, where users, either individually or in groups, explore situations and diagnose what needs to be done. It’s adventurous, but we need to be pushing the boundaries so that, over time, we utilise the potential of the platform.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Group Dynamics, iPad, Learning, Learning Design, Mobile Apps, Mobile Learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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