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Faculty Spotlight: Kathryn Riley on Teaching and Learning with the iPad Pro

Kathryn RileyOver the past few years Swarthmore ITS has created a learning community with a small group of faculty called the Teaching with Tablets program. As part of the program we offer faculty a chance to use an iPad Pro or a Microsoft Surface Pro for academic purposes over the course of a year. Through this community of faculty we’ve observed that teaching with tablets has shown exciting potential for supporting blended learning, increasing student engagement, and reducing the administrative overhead of teaching. Throughout the program in an attempt to spark interest and ideas, we invite faculty to share their different uses for the tablets and the apps they find most helpful.

Today, we wanted to highlight some of the work Assistant Professor Kathryn Riley of the Chemistry and Biochemistry department. Kathryn has been using the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil for her Foundations of Chemical Principles (Chem 10) class since Spring of 2018. We asked Kathryn a few questions about how she’s been using the iPad Pro in her class.

What is the name of the app you’ve been using for your class so far?

Explain Everything

How do you use this app with the iPad Pro during class?

I prepare slides for class in PowerPoint, then upload them to Explain Everything. I also create slides where I can solve example problems by writing the problem and leaving space for my answer.  During class, I annotate the slides in real time, and I solve the problems in front of the students. After class, I export the slides from Explain Everything as a PDF and upload it to Moodle.

How have you seen this activity help your students in class?

By doing example problems this way I improve visibility for the students (the projector is visible to all students, while the board is sometimes hard to see, and I’m not blocking students view with my body while I’m writing).  It also allows me to have more eye contact with the students. I face them while writing on the iPad, and particularly when I’m solving example problems, I can scan the room and look for confusion and questions. From the student standpoint,  I think they like being able to essentially download lecture notes and worked examples. One student commented, “It’s nice when you go over practice problems in class then upload the notes on Moodle. That way i can pay attention in class and not have to worry about getting everything down.”

Interested in Learning More?

Are you interested in learning more about the Teaching with Tablets program? Please fill out our interest form below to be apart of the Teaching with Tablets program for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Teaching with Tablets Interest Form

If you have ideas about using a tablet but would love to further discuss, please reach out to the Academic Technology team at, we’d love to talk more!