Tablets Pt. 2

An update on that tablet project I mentioned back in the fall.

Back in September, I found out I had one week to submit paperwork for a grant offered through student equity funding. I had planned to do a survey about our students’ technology usage in order to make some mobile technology recommendations to my dean, but I had to scrap the whole plan with the unexpected deadline and opportunity.We initially received 33 percent of the funds for 36 Microsoft Surface Pro 3s (at the time, this was the college approved tablet) and a charge cart. However, a little later, the Library received funding for all 36 tablets. The tablets are mostly for library instruction since we don’t have an instructional space, but we decided to circulate 5-10 for in-house use when not being used in the classroom.

We finally got everything delivered at the very end of 2015/beginning of 2016, but, long story short, we just started checking out a few this last week. I am bummed I wasn’t able to use them for instruction. I am also sad that I won’t be seeing this project through since I am heading to a new job in June.

With all the delays and my exit timeline, I forgot all about apps. One of the part-time librarians recently reminded me about apps after I sent her a Storify summary of a Twitter chat about tablets by ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Instructional Technologies Committee. Here’s the accompanying Winter 2016 edition of the Instructional Technologies’ Tips and Trends newsletter. Back when I used to do butcher paper posters in the hallway outside the Library doors with questions for students to respond to on Post-It notes, one of the questions I asked was about apps students use to help them with their work. I didn’t get much of a response, though. After this email conversation, I remembered that I had saved a really cool idea that could be modified a bit to figure out what sorts of free apps might be added to the Surface Pros. It really needs to be guided by our students (we really need a student advisory committee!). In 2014, there was a message in the collib-l listserv from a librarian named Beth Johns about a drop-in workshop she and a colleague did about apps.

One of my colleagues and I experimented with a drop in workshop for students last February. It was called “Sips, Snacks and Apps” and was designed as a “sharing” workshop–the plan was to share information on mobile apps that have an academic purpose (such as library database apps) with students and find out what they use in their academic life.

We didn’t get a huge turnout, but some students were coaxed into attending and thanks to one of our student workers who also wrote for the student newspaper, we had a short article published on the event. Snacks included coffee, tea and lemonade to drink and cookies to eat. We held it in a group study room, but when we do it again (planning for the fall!) we want to hold it in a more public place. This room was not a good location–kind of hidden in the library. I think we will hold it near the library entrance next time. The few who attended, including one faculty member, seemed to enjoy it. It was more about building relationships than the topic of mobile apps. I’ve attached a pdf of one of the flyers.

With this particular topic, it seems that students at our school are not yet using library or academic apps (unless they are just not telling us what they use), but we did find out that those with iPhones sometimes use Siri to figure out alternative keywords when they are researching something, so that was helpful and interesting!

I mentioned to our part-time librarian that what we could do is come up with our own list of apps that work with Windows, and then see what students want from that master list, as well as look into others that are suggested. If were going to stay, I would set up a student advisory committee that includes our student workers and other students. With less than a month left until I leave my job, I do plan to add this tidbit to the notes I’m leaving for the new librarian.

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