Almost a thousand incoming freshmen at ACU (Abilene Christian University) received an Apple iPhone 3G or iPod Touch Aug. 16 as part of their first day in college. The deployment marks the first time that a university has introduced the Apple mobile devices as learning tools on such a large scale.
According to ACU, students will use the devices for everything from class schedules and maps to in-class, real-time surveys. During the launch weekend, the school also hosted a number of Apple, AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent representatives, as well as those from other technology industry leaders, including Google, Turning Technologies, eMantras, Dipity and webfirecracker.com.
Dr. William Rankin, associate professor of English and one of the lead researchers in ACU's mobile learning initiative, said ACU has been exploring different methods of teaching with converged media devices since 1999.
"But until the iPhone and iPod touch, we had not seen a device compelling enough," Rankin said in a statement. "Instead of having one or two sources for information, students today have thousands of resources at their fingertips. It is becoming our responsibility as educators to help them navigate the mountains of information and learn how to be selective.
ACU officials said that rather than resisting change that's already old news for students or waiting for the development of new models, the school has embraced mobility and learning.
"We are not merely providing cutting-edge technology tools to our incoming students," said Kevin Roberts, ACU's chief information officer. "We also are committed to continuing research about how technology can benefit learning and better prepare our students for the future. For their sake, it's not good enough just to keep up; we want to lead."
Adam Vital, vice president and general manager of AT&T's wireless unit in North Texas, added, "This is the first time a university and a wireless company have worked together to combine cutting-edge technology like iPhone 3G and education in a way that enhances students' access to educational resources and their overall learning experience."