iPhones and iPads on Campus

The search for killer apps goes on

Follow up to an earlier post on Abilene Christian University providing iPhones to all students and a follow up on implementation a year later. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a conference looking at the use being made of smartphones and tablets in different parts of university business, again drawing on Abilene’s experiment:

At Abilene Christian, one of the most popular uses of iPhones has been to turn the devices into so-called “clickers,” using an app that lets students use their phones during classes to buzz in answers to quiz questions or discussion prompts. But even fans of that approach acknowledge that turning classes into something like a game show is not appropriate for every subject, and that a clicker app makes more sense in large lecture classes than in small seminars.

The simple answer is that no one “killer app” has emerged that fits every professor’s teaching style, every research discipline, or every administrative office on campus, according to several people who attended the meeting. (And of course, many professors have no interest in the smartphone craze—at Abilene Christian some professors turned down free iPhones.)

Instead, college professors around the country are finding unique ways to use smartphones, as well as highly portable tablet computers like the iPad, that work well in certain situations but do not represent a revolution in educational practice. At least not yet.

So, no killer app but does there need to be? As the remainder of the article notes, there are many ways this technology can be used to enhance the student experience, to help with classroom delivery and to support university professional services. There is a vast range of possibilities and it is this, rather than any single app, which is perhaps the most exciting thing.

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How the iPhone Could Reboot Education

Follow up to post a year ago on the big iPhone giveaway at Abilene Christian U.

How do you educate a generation of students eternally distracted by the internet, cellphones and video games? Easy. You enable them by handing out free iPhones — and then integrating the gadget into your curriculum. That’s the idea Abilene Christian University has to refresh classroom learning. Located in Texas, the private university just finished its first year of a pilot program, in which 1,000 freshman students had the choice between a free iPhone or an iPod Touch.

The initiative’s goal was to explore how the always-connected iPhone might revolutionize the classroom experience with a dash of digital interactivity. Think web apps to turn in homework, look up campus maps, watch lecture podcasts and check class schedules and grades. For classroom participation, there’s even polling software for Abilene students to digitally raise their hand. The verdict? It’s working quite well. 2,100 Abilene students, or 48 percent of the population, are now equipped with a free iPhone. Fully 97 percent of the faculty population has iPhones, too. The iPhone is aiding Abilene in giving students the information they need — when they want it, wherever they want it, said Bill Rankin, a professor of medieval studies who helped plan the initiative.

via Wired.com.

So, sounds like progress but will be interesting to see how sustainable this is and whether it leads to real changes in delivery and student learning.