Patrick McCullough worked with fellow University of Georgia turfgrass scientists to build the first turfgrass application for smart phones. Now, he is harnessing the power of technology to teach his students.
Smart Class is an app for smart phones that enables teachers to setup courses, documents, calendars, announcements, discussion forums and tests. Students and teachers access the information to take tests, participate in polls and review course information.
“On the first day of class I said, ‘we are trying something new. Let’s do this together,’” said McCullough, assistant professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “I felt there was potential there to enhance the educational experience through using new technology. And students would benefit from using a new teaching method.”
The app, which was introduced earlier this year, stores lessons, PowerPoint presentations, blogs, surveys and more. McCullough was one of the first professors to try it. It’s free for students, but professors must pay a monthly fee to use it for their classrooms.
Though the app adds a techie approach, the teaching method is basically the same -- learn and review. The app gave students immediate feedback about key topics, and they could see if they were on the same “page” as the professor. Class polls were pulled up on their smart phones for the last 20 minutes of each class.
“The polls were beneficial for them and for me,” McCullough said. “It was a good way to evaluate what they were taking away from class and a good way for me to monitor my effectiveness as an instructor.”
According to a class poll, two-thirds of students said other UGA professors should use the Smart Class app in their classrooms. More than 90 said the app helped them prepare for exams, and 100 percent said in-class polls helped them focus on key class topics.
McCullough surveyed the students before the semester and learned 70 percent of them owned smart phones they’d be willing to use for class. He purchased iPods for students to use who didn’t have smart phones.
Next year McCullough will introduce an app he developed. Turfgrass Weeds is a series of virtual flashcards to help students learn turfgrass and weed identification. The flashcards have photos on the front. Students simply tap the picture on the smart phone and the flashcard flips over to reveal the common name, scientific name, family and lifecycle of the species. Herbicide cards have active ingredients on the front and the mode of action, use, application and details about the herbicide group on the back.
“It is great for us to get out in the field and show them real-world situations,” he said. “Using these technologies, especially with a digital flashcard application, students can view and see things they might not have the opportunity to witness outside when the class is offered in spring.”
(April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)