Another Lab Report Idea – iBook Author
Posted July 31, 2013on:
Our school has added a number of iPad and Mac carts. The technology push is on and I’m not generally excited about it. You have to understand, I am the technology guy. I sold top of the line engineering software to the defense and manufacturing industry. I’ve presented technology solutions to the Secretary of Defense’s office, Senators, Congressmen, Admirals, Generals, and heads of fortune 500 companies. I am not afraid of technology, I love technology. I have an engineering degree; I can program in half a dozen computer languages, and I’m competent in 3-D CAD. But handing me an iPad and telling me to use it in class is like buying a 12-piece screwdriver set and hoping screws will suddenly get loose. It’s a solution in search of a problem.
It took a brain-storming session with my department head to realize I do have a screw loose, I have a problem that technology might just solve.
I have been really unhappy with lab reports. I’ve gone full circle with what I want from the kids. Here is a brief history:
- Year 1-2 – The students were required to have hard-bound composition notebooks. Students were required to type the report (3-4 pages) and the notebooks were graded. I had about 100 students – grading was a nightmare and the work was poor when it was even done. Many of my students didn’t have a computer or a printer a home.
- Year 3-4 – I changed over to one-page labs where the students would fill in responses as they went. They were much easier to grade, but the rigor was gone.
- Year 5-7 – Students purchased Carbonless Lab Notebooks. They were to record observations and show their work as they went through the lab. This never worked as planned. It was a constant battle to get them to only write in the lab notebook; they wanted their report to be neater, so they took notes on the handout. Reports were hard to read because I was reading a copy of unreadable students’ handwriting. Students didn’t like that they couldn’t edit, mistakes were to be crossed out.
It is time for a change, again. Maybe technology will by my answer this time.
Here is the plan as it currently stands (in my head). Students will be given a basic report layout on the Mac using iBook Author. They will build on the layout to construct a full lab report. Having the Mac in their hands during the lab will allow them to take pictures of the set-up and the results. Ideally, they will be able to record data directly into tables and turn it into graphs, charts, and anything they feel is appropriate. Reports will be turned in electronically. What they turn in will be a unique, well-documented report, hopefully of a much higher quality than I received in the past.
The down-side is quite significant. First, there is going to be a learning curve for iBook Author. Second, the students don’t have their own Macs, so the entire lab report will have to be created during class time. What was a one-day lab will probably turn into two or three days of class time. Third, I’ll have to figure out how to transfer data from the Vernier to the Mac. I’m hoping the quality the iBook reports will make up for the lost teaching time.
If you are a follower of this blog, you may have noticed I posted this entry and then promptly unposted it. I thought the software I saw demonstrated was called iBook, but I couldn’t find the application for the iPad. I spoke with my principal today and she confirmed that I had it right. However, the authoring app does not exist on the iPad, only on the Mac. When I went to download the app for my Mac, it said it needed to be running OSX 10.7.4 and I’m running 10.6.8. I tried to update my Mac but it says no update is available. I admit, I’m a bit confused. The tech guy from school is the one pushing the app, so I’m sure he will get everything taken care of once we are back. I was just hoping to spend some time this summer exploring this idea.
If this works out, I should have some really nice files to post here in about two months. I’ll let you know either way.