Piloting Tablets in the Classroom

Winona State University has been piloting the use of tablets in classrooms since 2012.
The goals of the Tablet Pilot program are:
  • Determine impact of tablets on teaching and learning
  • Uncover strengths and weaknesses of tablets
  • Discover how the use of both tablets and laptops complement each other in the classroom
  • Determine viability and durability of tablets as educational tools
All proposed pilots were weighed against their ability to meet these goals. The results of the pilot programs influenced additional pilot proposals and ultimately the decision to include a tablet in the e-Warrior: Digital Life and Learning program. Synopsis of several classroom pilot programs follows


Two female students use tablet to analyze data in outdoor class 


Watershed Science

Professor Dogwiler's watershed science students made field trips to the river to collect data on watersheds, geologic formations, and other geophysical entities. These data came from observations and instruments that were traditionally recorded on paper before returning to the lab to start the analysis.
In the tablet pilot, data were entered into iPads in the field. Once the data were entered, analysis and creation of graphics was immediate. Rather than recording the data on paper and returning to the lab for analysis, the students recorded and analyzed the data immediately on the iPad in the field, and discussed the results of the analysis while still in the field at the collection point.


The iPads and their associated applications enabled Professor Dogwiler to:

  • Improve data collection process in the field
  • Increase data sharing

These changes caused the following outcomes:

  • Higher-quality data analysis
  • Faster access to instruction in the field


Campaign Design

The students in Professor Mah’s Campaign Design class create thematic sets of design pieces in response to clients’ need. In the past, designs were prototyped on paper or on laptops and final versions were created on computers in the lab. Preliminary and final designs were reviewed periodically by the client.
Professor Mah used iPads in the pilot for two purposes: idea generation and client review. Prototyping of ideas was accomplished quickly through collaborative work between students in the design team. Review versions of the materials were assembled into electronic portfolios for presentation to the client.
The iPads and their associated applications enabled Professor Mah to:


  • Prototype ideas more quickly.
  • Promote collaborative thought and critical thinking.
  • Increase comfort level during customer reviews.

These changes caused the following outcomes:

  • Quicker prototyping of client solutions
  • Deeper collaboration between students


Mobile Application Development

Because of the nature of the Mobile Application Development class (CS 345,) Professor Gegg-Harrison used the iPads differently than did the instructors from the other classes in the tablet pilot. In this course, the iPads were literally part of the curriculum.

A significant step in the development of mobile applications is testing. This testing assures the quality of the application and that the needs of the user have been addressed. In previous terms, CS 345 students tested their mobile applications on their laptops. This worked fairly well, but there were some shortcomings.
The iPads and their associated applications enabled the professor to:


  • Test applications in an environment closer to real life
  • Expand knowledge
  • Increase student engagement
  • Provide new textbook materials

These changes caused the following outcomes:

  • Better project results because of student engagement
  • A custom textbook for the class created in iBooks Author and given to the students for free



Professional Educator

In the Professional Educator course (EFRT 459), students research the educational system. Traditionally, this has meant many trips to the library to gather information for the paper. With the addition of the iPad, Professor Reineke augmented this research by sending his students into the field to interview, record, and analyze input from key members of academia within the community (teachers, administrators, school board members, and community members). Interviews were organized, recorded, and analyzed on the iPads.
The iPads and their associated applications enabled Professor Reineke to:


  • Increase student engagement
  • Create new educational materials
  • Promote new styles of research
  • Introduce the students to the community
  • Collect student feedback and reaction

These changes caused the following outcomes:

  • A more complete student view of the educational system due to interviews in the community
  • Research that reflects both national trends as well as local trends
  • Students were able to give real-time feedback to course activities enabling just-in-time teaching



Visual Communication

In Visual Communication, Professor Bowey teaches the theory of communicating through two-dimensional designs. Designs are studied for their communicative properties by applying theories like visual literacy, semiotics, and symbolism. These designs can include graphics, text, typography, or traditional art media.
While the course teaches the theory of visual communication, Professor Bowey stated that a main objective of the course is bridging the chasm between visual theory and the actual practice of communicating effectively. This is where the iPads were put to work. Because of the iPad’s innate ease of use and the flexibility of the applications, the psychological barriers around drawing, painting, or using any artistic media fell away. It is the removal of this artistic paralysis that made the connection between theory and practice attainable for the students.


The iPads and their associated applications enabled Professor Bowey to:

  • Re-enforce theory with practice
  • Go deeper and think deeper
  • Reinforce lecture materials with outside information
  • Open new forms of visual communication
  • Increase student engagement

These changes caused the following outcomes:

  • Deeper understanding of theory because reinforcing experience was possible within the iPad applications
  • Information relevant to the course materials pushed to students by Internet news apps


Professional Practice IV

Nursing students learn to conduct mental health assessments through role play. A student playing the role of a nurse visits the home and interviews classmates playing a husband and wife, the wife having just come home from the hospital after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. The nurse interviews the couple to determine the mental state of the wife, how to keep her safe, and how to help her progress along the road to recovery.
As part of the assessment, the nurse completes a standardized form. The form serves two purposes - guiding questions for the interview and documentation of the responses. The paper assessment form completed by the nurse is approximately 14 pages in length.

As part of the iPad Pilot, a PDF of the form was loaded onto an iPad. Rather than the nurse completing the 14-page form in pen, a PDF-editing application was installed on the iPad and a stylus was used to annotate the form.


The iPads and their associated applications enabled Professor Smith to:

  • Increase student engagement
  • Eliminate the stress produced by the 14-page document
  • Expose students to technology

These changes caused the following outcomes:

  • Greater focus on the interview process
  • Fewer physical obstacles between the parties in the interview process


For more information

If you would like more information on the tablet pilot activities at Winona State University or you have an idea for a program of your own, please contact Teaching, Learning, and Technology. You can email tlt@winona.edu, call (507)457-5240 (option 3), or stop into Maxwell 130.