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Mobile Learning Shines at New Education Summit

“Most of our 5,000 students have never lived in a world that isn’t connected,” Kevin Roberts, chief planning and information officer at Texas’ Abilene Christian University, told delegates at the inaugural Next Generation Education US Summit, which took place in Pasadena, CA, earlier this month. “They take bits and pieces of information from all over the place so it made sense to try and reach out to them in a format that they all understand.”

Three years ago, Abilene broke new ground when it began a progressive program of providing all students with either an Apple iPhone or an iPod Touch. “It’s all about putting the digital world in students’ pockets and delivering content in a way that makes sense and engages with them,” said Roberts.

That includes using blogs, podcasts and Web sites to access information in the classroom context, including a political science class that used handheld devices to locate the source of a breaking national story. Other more practical applications include using the gadgets to receive homework alerts, find out where professors’ offices are, check cafeteria account balances, and participate in classroom surveys. The initiative has also grown to include features aimed at faculty, such as classroom management tools that reside on the mobile portal and allow instructors to take attendance, post assignments, and conduct student polls.

Roberts told summit attendees that bringing the mobile world into the classroom has been met with a positive response from both students and faculty. “It’s provided a channel for new learning, for embodied, subjective, dialectic, and broadly interconnected communication. Around 90 percent of staff have said they use the technology at least once a week in the classroom, while the uptake by students--who are given either an iPhone or an iPod touch but have to pay for the cellular account themselves--has been 100 percent.”

The mobile campus was just one of the issues raised at the new Next Generation Education US Summit, hosted by GDS International, which attracted the leading voices in the United States higher education sector, including Philip Long, CIO of Yale University (CT), Andrew Wasser, associate dean from Carnegie Mellon University (PA), and Karen Cator, director of the Office of Education Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

The summit also featured a range of workshops on everything from creating collaborative learning environments, cloud networking, and harnessing the power of social networking.

Another Next Generation Education US Summit will be held Nov. 1-3 in Savannah, GA. The C-level event is reserved for 100 participants and includes expert workshops, facilitated roundtables, peer-to-peer networking, and coordinated meetings.

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About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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