eXtensions - Thursday 27 April 2017

Cassandra: Trickle-down Education - Student Presentations, iOS Devices and the Apple Watch

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


When I first tried a Mac in 1985, I was a bit overwhelmed as, back then, I was only used to the bare-bones MS-DOS interface, although that taught me a lot about working at the command line. Fast forward to the 1990s and I had some pre-OS X Mac experience, but things took off for me with the first iMac: I still have this, although it was out of my hands for a while.

Original iMac

While writing, photo-work and other tasks were OK on the early OS X devices, I was not able to benefit from their use in the classroom until the arrival of my 12" PowerBook. I had a series of MacBook Pro computers after that as well as iOS devices, all of which I was able to use in the classroom, projecting the screens via adapters and VGA projectors.

VGA Adapter for Mac
VGA Adapter for Older Mac

In recent years, the numbers of students with Macs, iPads and iPhones has increased significantly where I am. As a result, I am occasionally asked by students if they can borrow the adapters they know I have with me. Although I have asked the Faculty to purchase these too, so that students do not have to rely on me, that falls on deaf ears.

VGA Adapter for Mac
VGA Adapter for Mac

This week, my year 2 class of Mechanical Engineering students are making presentations. There are two groups of 39 students each. With the department head, we came up with a list of technical subjects that they have learned (and should know), but presentation in English is different from listening to a lecture in Thai or reading a text book. In this way, we hope that they will absorb more and be less terrified of English: a fear that high schools breed into them.

VGA Adapter for iOSD
VGA Adapter for iOS - Lightning

When the first group came in to make ready for the class, It was not unusual for a student to ask me if she could borrow the Lightning-VGA adapter. I was surprised to find, however, that several groups were using iPhones for their presentations. Most used Keynote, although one group made a valiant attempt to deliver their slides using the LINE app. I don't think they will do that again. This may be down to late preparation more than anything as I checked and Keynote was on the iPhone they used.

Apple Watch

I was also surprised near the end to see one student taking this further. Not only was his group using Keynote on an iPhone 7 Plus, but he was controlling the presentation using an Apple Watch. I have done this myself on several occasions, but did not expect to see this trickle down to the students so soon.

Keynote on Apple Watch Keynote on Apple Watch Keynote on Apple Watch

Classes in which students are required to present information often have additional problems (and a sharp learning curve) when the technology does not behave as expected. Over the years I have seen many disasters on PCs - hardware related rather than software - and my own Macs sometimes misbehave when it comes to connecting to the VGA projector systems used.

Initial connections, once the device is identified, seems to be far easier with iOS devices and Macs. I would like to think that the students recognise this and the gradual shift to these devices is part of this realisation that, "it just works" may be closer to reality than what they are used to. I also hope that my lead on the use of these devices may have inspired some of them to move to the same devices I work with.

They also like nice toys of course.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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