Teaching and Learning with Technology: A Common Ground

Last semester I had the privilege of being one of sixteen awardees of the Provost’s first call for Proposals for Hybrid Learning Course Redesign and Delivery. Everything happened very fast, from the short amount of time to prepare and submit the proposal, to the quick response. Still under the shock of having received the Provost’s letter of award, I found myself at a reception, covered by the Spectator, where we learned that we were going to be interviewed—and filmed—for a presentation to the trustees of the University. It turned out to be a wonderful experience. The room was a kaleidoscope of disciplines, including medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, history, music, foreign languages, engineering, economics, international affairs, and computer science, covering all possible ranks. As I was talking to some of the awardees, the uniqueness of the situation dawned on me. In what other context could I possibly have anything in common with an anesthesiologist or a physical therapist, if not as a patient? And yet, it was a true eye-opener to see how we all had something in common: enhancing our teaching and our students’ learning experience through technology, no matter in what discipline or academic level.

The title of my proposal was Student-Generated iBooks as Final Projects and the Incorporation of Mobile Technologies in the Face-to-Face Classroom. Through the grant I have received funding to purchase iPads for my students to use in class as well as in-kind support from CCNTML to assist me and my students in using iBooks Author in my advanced language in content course: Spain in Its Art.

So far, this semester the students have already formed four chapters: “Foreign Influences in Spanish Early Modern Art,” “Still life in the Baroque,” “Goya,” and “Surrealism.” They share their research with the other students collaborating on the chapter in order to reduce redundancies, and they will collaborate to write an introduction to their respective chapters. Once the iBook is completed they will present it in class, read other chapters, and participate in a discussion board in Courseworks.

Through CCNTML I was paired with Aurora Rodriguez-Collado, an outstanding Educational Technologist who is helping me through each step of the process—finding the right contacts to manage the iPads; showing me how to make the best of the tools in Courseworks to maximize efficiency; giving a workshop on the use of iBooks Author to my students early in the semester. It is very important for the students to be familiar with the digital platform early in their research process since creating a digital text is not just cutting and pasting content into “edgier” platforms, but fundamentally a new way to transmit knowledge. Intertwining video, audio, and picture galleries with written text offers a deeper and richer experience for both the researcher and  his or her audience.

The final iBook will be housed in iTunes U Columbia, and my goal is to start a collection of volumes of student-generated iBooks of Spain in Its Art for each semester for which the course is taught. Because of the nature of the project, I am also reaching out to experts in digital humanities and copyright law. These additional aspects, completely new to the students, are an integral component of research and publication in today’s digital environment.

The award also allowed me to purchase eight iPads to use in class with my students. Besides using the iPads for previewing and experiencing the iBook, the use of these mobile devices is proving to be a wonderful learning tool. Students are able to do quick consultations on monolingual dictionaries, or “Google searches” of any work of art at any time, and apps like Art Authority, Second Canvas and Museums and Monuments, to name a few, are becoming invaluable resources in our class.

When covering El Greco—to give a brief example—each student was assigned a work of art and before delivering their class presentations, they shared their findings in small groups using the iPads. It was remarkable to see them sharing their immediate reaction when seeing a new image, zooming in, and discovering new details impossible to see with the class projector. The use of iPads in the classroom is leading to wonderful collaborative learning moments and opening the door to rich language exchanges in the target language. Along the way, it is making the learning process much more memorable. Students really own the material, and that is very rewarding to witness.

Besides the wonderful learning possibilities this project offers to my students, it is also my hope that the creation of an iBook will have a dual contribution to our Department (LAIC). First, it will merge the task-based methodologies followed in our Language Program with the content-based approaches used in the advanced language level classes and beyond, since the production of an iBook is a real task, done in the target language, and based on a high level cultural content. Second, it could be an invaluable experience for those students who will aspire to publish in the Department’s undergraduate Journal, Portales, and hopefully inspire fellow students to aim for that goal in the near future.

I hope that my fellow awardees are having a similar experience—whether they are tweeting about anesthesia or observing their hand movements through Google-glasses—, and that through the incorporation of technology in their innovative projects, their students, like mine, are taking ownership not only of the content of their courses but of their own learning process.

Last Updated 4 years ago


Angelina Craig-Flórez, « Teaching and Learning with Technology: A Common Ground », Hispanic Institute Bulletin, Columbia University | LAIC, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (online), published on April 11, 2015. Full URL for this article
Hispanic Institute Bulletin
ISSN 2377-8873
The Hispanic Institute was founded in 1920 with the mission of bridging academia and society at large. Almost a century later, the Bulletin of the Hispanic Institute for Latin American and Iberian Cultures continues to carry out that mission through new technologies and media. The Bulletin is a window into the Department’s everyday work and how our community, from undergraduate students to faculty and alumni, responds to the challenges posed by a field in constant flux.

With contributions from all members of the department (and graduates), the Bulletin shows how LAIC—in the classroom, through research, and in public interventions—engages with changing theoretical paradigms, the increasing presence of digital tools, and the reconfiguration of the humanities and their place in society.
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