Dr. Teresa DeBacker teaching an iPad class for JRCoE demonstrating innovation at OU!

Cathy Pierson

Dr. Teresa DeBacker and I recently sat down for a great interview about the OU Digital Initiative.  The JRCoE iPad Initiative has begun and it is very exciting!  Dr. DeBacker is the Associate Dean for Professional Education and Professor of Educational Psychology and she is teaching a auditorium-sized class  in Dale Hall this semester using iPads.

First, some background on the One University Digital Initiative. OU has launched a digital initiative embracing digital technologies to create a dynamic classroom experience for students.  Several colleges were reviewed and The College of Education was chosen to participate in the Apple partnership using iPads.  This college teaches our future teachers so their commitment was evident – “not only will we be using it for our students’ learning and productivity but also showing them how to be innovative instructors themselves”.

Fellow faculty member, Dr. Theresa Cullen, led the charge to prepare faculty for this technology adoption throughout the fall semester.  Faculty received their iPads in October and met regularly with Dr. Cullen to find useful apps and to brainstorm about iPad instruction.  “What was really innovative was that we seeded our faculty teams… with some of our advanced undergraduates who were comfortable with technology.”  Faculty understood the pedagogical side of designing iPad-friendly activities, and the undergrads were good at finding interesting apps to support this.  The College of Education undergraduate students then received their iPads before winter break so they would be ready to use them in their education classes the 1st day of the Spring semester.


Notability App IconDr. DeBacker was ready the 1st day of class in Dale Hall as well, with a goal to go paperless.  Students used D2L for her lecture PDFs. Notability was chosen so students could write on the PDFs and use Dropbox or Google Drive Sync to manage their content.

We discussed two iPad activities that she has employed so far:

Sticky Boards IconConcept Mapping ActivitySticky Boards App was used to show relationships among concepts being studied in class.  4-5 students teamed up around one iPad to illustrate the relationships among the concepts using movable sticky notes and hand-drawn lines and arrows.  Students spent time moving shapes around with their fingers and really talking about the concepts.  Less time was spent on editing issues compared to when this assignment was done with pencil and paper.

Comments were:

  • ‘Learned a lot – love it!’
  • Sharpened their understanding of the material
  • Maps were bigger than iPad screen so kids adapt by writing on their own paper
  • Wished the App would allow simultaneous drawing, more colors and fonts

Google Apps and Drive VisualGoogle Docs/Drive Activity – Student teams used iPads connected to Google Docs/Drive to complete a Literature Case Study.  Each team read a novel that addressed difficult issues faced by children and teens such as abuse, neglect, poverty, foster care, immigration, language and culture shock.  These teams of 4-5 students then used Google docs to write an analysis of their novel in reference to themes in the course.  Google docs allows group members to simultaneously contribute to the analysis document, allowing for deeper analysis .  “People jumped in and out of contributing…they took turns shaping and rearranging content… they concentrated on the quality of the analysis and all members could actively contribute. – It was great!”

Class logistics

  • 100 students were organized in 2 groups called Boomers and Sooners.
  • Boomers and Sooners will switch between using iPads and Paper/Pen throughout this semester to compare and provide research on the results – “does this make an impact on learning?”
  • Some topics require more time for technology setup and use of the application.  In these cases half the students attend in class Tuesday and the others have an outside class assignment.  Thursday, groups are reversed –  “Learning something new, I give up half my class to ‘learn’ the app”
  • Able to review and share students’ work in class by connecting iPads to LDC projector and discuss their results.
  • A debriefing is done at the end of each class to allow students to comment, make suggestion and talk about issues.

The research Dr. DeBacker is gathering within her class about the impact on learning using technology verses traditional methods is invaluable.  She is a trail-blazer at OU.  She is willing to get out of ‘her comfort zone’ to do this.  Her students know she is committed to their engagement and learning.  She wants her class to be a shared learning experience.

“That’s what life is…that’s what their teaching experience will be!”




Cathy Pierson
Cathy Pierson

I have called OU IT 'home' since 2000 and before that, the Engineering Computer Network where I worked with Engineering Faculty and their web development. I love what this Academic Blog represents to OU and I hope to share in the growth of it! With my Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies I am thinking seriously of a Master in Museum Studies for my next venture after OU IT.

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