Mobile Learning 09 Conference, Day 2, iPhone Project Presentation


Some notes about the iPhone Project at Abilene Christian University, aggregated from the Bill Rankin’s and Brad Crisp’s presentation as well as a discussion I had with Bill the night before:

ACU is a small, private university with about 5,000 students. They’ve done some restructuring of their funding (eliminated dorm labs and landlines) in order to fund the iPhones (they gave one to every freshman this past fall) as part of ACU Connected. Content is delivered to students by way of a secure portal (Safari browser only), built by programmers on campus. There are all kinds of things they’ve been able to do with the iPhones, including attendance (automatic email to those absent), drop box for files and assignments, polling/quizzing, etc. One of the things that Bill noted was that communication between professors and students has increased.

Keys for all of this to work is a combination of access and information.

Comparison to medieval education that was very personal and customized (tutor system). This changed with Gutenberg’s press, that allowed students to all have the same books and eventually led to the factory model of education with standards based education and high stakes testing. The book was initially seen as a disruptive force. It changed government, religion, education. When looking at technologies, people make the same arguments. The iPhone project has sort of changed that again by allowing students to access information that is tailored to their needs.

  • Student social trends: are participating, not just receiving. They’re creating, communicating, assessing.
  • Student tech trends: mobility, connectedness (no more pdas but smartphones), media richness. This sounds a lot like the iPhone: iPod, phone, internet

97% of students at ACU already come with phones. So how does that impact life and learning (video).

Learning paradigms: collaborative, distributed, integrated, evaluative (how to assess information), engaged. CONNECTED

The project was a community vision, not just a faculty/admin led project. Students have been heavily involved.
Early faculty buy-in. 42 part of a pilot group, 5 mobile learning fellows.

Device distribution: 2:1 iPhone (no laptop program at ACU); other schools with laptops see a  2:1 iPod Touch to iPhone preference.
ACU distributed 957 devices to freshmen, 169 to faculty, 182 to staff.

Prelim research has been pretty positive:

Attitude: use of mobile device as part of my college experience is

  • Extremely positive 63%. Over 95% had some positive reaction.
  • Week 3: some drop-off
  • End of semester: about equal. About 90% still favorable. Extremely positive to a little under 50%

Does the device make a difference? iPhone v. iPod Touch. A tale of two devices? Preliminary results only, need to investigate this more.

Preference: iPhone (2/3) v. iPod Touch (1/3). Why?

  • iPhone: want new device, carry only one device, already have an iPod (35, 16, 8%)
  • iPod Touch: more affordable (33%), already have phone service.
  • Stepwise regression showed indicators such as : iPhone more useful; AT&T contract is too expensive; difficult to switch prior contract, …..

How frequently did you use this mobile device this semester?

  • 98% at least once a week. For academic work it was 71%. For entertainment 95%.
  • More usage by iPhone users than iPod Touch. Most are carrying it to class, but not as much used for collaboration or communication.
  • For social activities the numbers are much higher, social activities, socializing, communicate with parents. The device here does matter.

Is the choice of device a matter of cost and will this create two different populations? If so, will this push these two populations further apart? This is an excellent and very important question they need to investigate more, as it is a concern.

Impact on mobile device on

  • Overall ed experience (positive: 82%; negative: 3%)
  • Academic work (positive: 63%; negative: 5%)
  • Social activities (positive: 86%; negative: 2%)
  • Entertainment (positive: 96%; negative: 1%)

Social connections bleeding over into academic work, and how do you measure that?

Impact during class seen as mostly positive.

Social impact: social activities, relationship with friends, and parents.

In sum, overall positive attitude, room to grow in academic area in use and impact, watch the device differences.

Use of tools: not necessarily every class session, but when appropriate.

Built most of the portal locally. Now there is an app store and an SDK.
First step of a four-year plan, they’ve got a long way to go.

It takes time to change the university culture. (hype cycle graph). Example of ipod use at Duke (foreign language yes, calculus, no). One way to address this is the ConnectEd Summit on Feb. 26-27.

Would like to see some results from faculty, differences by discipline (people in theatre and arts are using it a lot, hard sciences use it as calculator and web stuff).

Trying to reimagine the classroom, hasn’t percolated down to all faculty yet. Factory model classrooms don’t work. Metaphor of schools as factory is biggest challenge and impediment to using new technologies. Instead, Rankin used the analogy of Radiohead that released its last album as Garageband tracks,  you mix them yourself.

Importance of community, e.g. for tech support and expertise. Leverage that first …


Image Credit: “Capitol Butter”, my camera phone :)


2 responses to “Mobile Learning 09 Conference, Day 2, iPhone Project Presentation

  1. Pingback: To Touch or Not to Touch…. « Ubiquitous Thoughts

  2. Pingback: Mobile Learning Round-Up, Week 36 « Ubiquitous Thoughts

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