Opps for Apps Symposium – thanks to our all participants!

On behalf of Larissa, David and myself, I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who either presented or attended our Symposium today. Despite the pressures on everybody’s time, I think we had a really interesting and worthwhile day, which gave us the opportunity to share ideas across disciplines and, indeed, with colleagues working in the tech industry sector. I learned a huge amount from my co-presenters and attendees about the variety of apps available and the best ways to use them for teaching and learning, and I hope all who participated found something to take away with them.

Here is the link to the padlet site with the feedback from our discussion workshops:


We’ll be posting a fuller refection on the day’s events shortly.

Focus Group Session

Yesterday, 23 April, saw the meeting of the focus group in which a combination of staff and students involved in the Opps for Apps project got together to discuss their experiences of using apps in seminars. A wide range of issues was discussed including the quality and user-friendliness of particular apps, their relevance to the academic curriculum and their pedagogic capabilities, how best to incorporate the content inside and outside seminars, and access and cost issues of using apps more widely in the programme. Overall, it was felt that the use of apps had created a positive buzz in classes but their pedagogical value was less certain. Anthony, a postgraduate student who used the Carmilla app, commented “the app facilitated group discussion and gave the group a focus”. Views differed considerably on whether such products represented a threat to the research skills associated with studying print materials. A particularly lively debate concerned the degree to which the app market was driven by commercial concerns, which may constrain the choice of texts for teaching purposes and/or limit student access to teaching materials. Catherine, a first year English student, commented that using the app had developed her digital competency but the cost of the products would be prohibitive on a student budget. On the other hand, as digital proficiency inevitably grows among our student cohorts, apps and other digital technologies could play an increasingly important, and potentially positive, ancillary role in teaching and learning. It was generally acknowledged that such a move would need to be supported at an institutional level in terms of funding and resourcing. Overall, it was fascinating discussion and we hope to present a summary of the views of the focus group at the L&T Conference on 21 May.

Second phase of Apps project

The results are in! Having completed all the taught sessions using literary apps, we are now moving onto the second phase of the project, which involves analyzing and writing up the data. With the help of our LearnTech colleagues, using SPSS, we’ve been able to break down the responses to the various apps used on the project. We’re also busy with preparations for our Opps for Apps symposium on 17 June, which will involve creative app designers, an academic researcher working with ebooks, as well as UN colleagues working on new teaching technologies. We have also extended an invitation to teachers from local secondary schools to join us for a workshop session on how apps and ipads can enhance teaching and learning. We’ll also be explaining the project and sharing ideas at the L&T conference on 21 May.

The Waste Land app

All this week, as part of the Opps for Apps project, students in Dr Gerri Kimber’s Modernism seminars have the opportunity to explore Touchpress’s app on T.S. Eliot’s epic poem The Waste Land. With contributions from fellow writers Seamus Heaney, Craig Raine, and Jeanette Winterson, it’s a beautifully made app and one of the first that brought apps to our attention as a teaching resource with the potential to enrich the learning environment. We look forward to hearing students’ views about it.

Symposium on 17 June to share results of UN innovation projects

There are a number of exciting projects around the use of apps and ipads currently going on at UN. We’ve now made contact with our Innovation bid colleagues in the Department of Education and are delighted that they have agreed to participate in our forthcoming Symposium on 17 June. Helen Caldwell, Helen Scott and a number of other School of Education colleagues will offer sessions on the following aspects of their research:

  1. Apps for Innovation School of Education Project: Exploring agile classroom learning
  2. Apps for Innovation School of Education Project: Exploring learning across boundaries

The first would look at how iPads can help make learning more explicit within the classroom, the second would look at how they can enable learning to flow across settings and make it more ‘seamless’.

We look forward to sharing and comparing the findings of our research on the use of literary apps.

First App session and preliminary results

The first sessions using apps have taken place in Dr Richard Chamberlain’s Shakespeare class on Othello. After an hour of tutor-led discussion of the play, students were handed ipads pre-loaded with the Explore Shakespeare: Othello app. Richard had prepared a handout identifying some of the play’s key themes and issues, and students were encouraged to use the app to explore one or more of these. After 40 minutes of app-exploration, students used the ipads to complete the online survey and record their views about the app and its suitability for use in the H.E. classroom.

Preliminary results suggest students responded favourably but not uncritically to the use of apps in the classroom. The overwhelming majority found the app either highly or quite relevant to their study of the play, extremely user-friendly, helpful in developing critical skills, and a useful addition to conventional resources. However, several students thought it was better suited to general use outside the classroom and felt it was aimed more at school age audience. It will be interesting to see if subsequent sessions on the other apps in the study bear out or contrast with these early findings.

The Questionnaire has landed!

With help from our brilliant colleagues from LearnTech, Rob Farmer and Al Holloway, we have designed a feedback questionnaire using Google docs.  We’ve uploaded it onto this site (see below) but have yet to decide how to organise student access to it. To get the best return rate, we’d ideally like to ask students to fill it in in situ at the end of each class where the apps will be used.

Our SoTA Learning & Teaching co-ordinator, James Smith, has also offered some great advice suggesting, for example, that we use a Google doc list to find out which apps our colleagues across the School and institution have been using in their teaching.  This will help us compile our Directory of Apps.

We’ve now decided which classes and seminars will utilise the apps: the first one will be road tested in week 9 so  there’s not long to go. Let’s hope our order for the itunes cards is processed soon!



Appointment of research assistant

Larissa Allwork has agreed to assist on the project. She has extensive experience of co-ordinating research projects and organising events so will be a huge asset to the project, particularly the organisation of the Symposium and staff development event. The three of us will meet next Thursday 30 October to co-ordinate our roles.

meeting with LearnTech technicians

We met with Rob Farmer and Al Holloway on Wednesday 22 October in order to get their advice on the technical aspects of the project. The meeting was really helpful in terms of how LearnTech can support the project through the supply of ipads, technical help, and training. Rob came up with some really good ideas such as asking students to bring in their own ipads and buying iTunes cards in order to purchase the Apps. We also discussed whether the data collection could be done online or through the ipads; Al recommended looking at Google Forms as they provide a simple template that could be adapted.