Drones, phones and iPads at Semester at Lake Tahoe

A new era of learning emerges with cutting-edge classes and free distribution of technology to University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe students

Drones, phones and iPads at Semester at Lake Tahoe

A new era of learning emerges with cutting-edge classes and free distribution of technology to University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe students

As the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative, an education equity program providing free iPads to all eligible University students, expands to the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, so do the possibilities for creative expression. Teaching Professor Chris Lanier is incorporating an array of digital technologies into his video production class, including the iPad, this fall Semester at Lake Tahoe. Lanier’s course uses iPads as the control for the Mavic 3 drone which students will learn to operate. Additionally, much of Lanier’s course is framed around the iPad’s teaching, notetaking, illustrating and organizational capabilities.

“The iPad weaves it all together in a wonderful way,” he said. “In the art class we introduced the Pro-Create drawing experience – and we used traditional tools as well. Some students were resistant to the iPads at first, then they would take off with it as they saw the capabilities.”

His students make full use of the geography of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. During field trips in the Tahoe and Donner areas, students learned drone safety and etiquette, as well as strategies for capturing visually dramatic drone footage.

“The drone class was unparalleled with science and water at Lake Tahoe – kind of like an eco-journalism class with so many ways to connect policy and the environment,” Lanier said. “In some ways it's a video class with a strategy for storytelling that uses composites of terrain that connect to ground footage.”

The students used the shoreline of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Meadows, Donner Summit and Martis Valley as both backdrops and subjects to tell their stories.

In the Martis Valley, they explored and told stories of tribal petroglyphs. On Donner Summit they layered the history of Chinese labor building the railroad train tunnels and coupled it with the world-known tagging by the tunnel artists.

“The drones capture people's attention,” Lanier said. “Moving in the air gives a sense of geography, and people watching the video will hang with a drone shot for 20 seconds while other shots might lose attention. They help activate the landscape, the places around us to help build a connection with the land.”

University of Nevada, Reno students have the opportunity to spend an entire semester at Lake Tahoe for the first time this fall. Lanier’s Video Production course is open to Semester at Lake Tahoe students. Students will learn not only to operate a drone and the iPad, but will also learn how to use DSLR cameras and smartphone cameras to develop professional-level videos. Students interested in Semester at Lake Tahoe are encouraged to fill out the interest form before August 1. After submitting the interest form, a student advisor will reach out for a follow-up conversation.

About the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative

Equipped with free iPads, taught by innovative teachers and inspired by the splendors of nearby Lake Tahoe, students are participating in powerful new learning experiences at the Wayne L. Prim Campus.

All full-time incoming freshmen and transfer students at the University receive a free iPad Air and instruction in the best uses of dozens of pre-loaded applications, including all Semester at Lake Tahoe students who have not yet received an iPad.

Launched in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for equal access to technology and digital tools among students, the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative today has distributed well over 8,000 iPads — including almost 300 instructors who incorporate the technology into their courses.

The iPad technology is used across the University and provides a common learning platform for tasks as simple as scheduling class projects or as complex as the design of engineering projects.

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