AT&T awards $1.8 million contribution to ACU to expand mobile learning initiative

Posted May 11, 2010 Underscoring its commitment to education, today AT&T announced it has awarded a three-year, $1.8 million contribution to Abilene Christian University, to support the expansion of ACU's mobile learning initiative.

Building on more than a decade of work and research, ACU's pioneering efforts in mobile learning are advancing the understanding and use of mobility in education throughout the world. The goal of the initiative is to enhance faculty teaching and research through increased student engagement. Additional benefits include more effective interaction both within and outside the campus community.

By harnessing the power of mobile broadband, ACU is able to foster new opportunities for learning, content creation and experimentation. The process is further strengthened by easy participant access across next-generation digital platforms.

Mobile broadband is transforming education. Teaching and learning can now take place in the classroom – or virtually anywhere. The use of mobile technology is allowing students to conduct research, receive homework alerts, answer in-class surveys and quizzes, get directions to professor's offices and stay current on their account balances – even to check the cafeteria website to see what's on the menu for lunch. The result is a more engaged and enjoyable learning experience.

ACU's campus provides a real-world laboratory to assess the impact and interaction of new technologies and new mobile learning strategies. AT&T's contribution will support building the infrastructure for three interrelated initiatives that will serve as a laboratory for the ongoing exploration of mobility in education. The contribution will fund facilities and personnel to provide students and faculty with access to the resources they need to create academic projects. The three initiatives include creation of the AT&T Learning Studio, development of a K-12 Professional Development Institute and expansion of ACU's Mobile Learning Research Program.

Leadership in innovation can drive economic success, but America's leadership is at risk due to the alarming high school dropout rate. In a recently released study by Civic Enterprises and Peter D. Hart Research funded by AT&T ("Raising Their Voices"), parents, students and teachers were brought together to discuss the fact that nearly one-third of all public school students fail to graduate with their class -- 1.2 million students each year.

Mobile learning strategies can connect students in both K-12 and higher education to their peers, challenge them with real-world data and involve them in real-world conversations. At ACU, not only do students widely support the campus-wide mobile learning initiative, 90 percent of the faculty considers it to be an educational success. In 2009, the New Media Consortium recognized ACU as a "Center of Excellence." Building on its track record of success, ACU has just launched its Leadership in Digital Learning degree through ACU's Graduate School, Embanet and ACU Online.

"For centuries, limited access to information has kept students from maximizing instructional opportunities," said Phil Schubert, Ed.D, executive vice president of ACU. "Today's widespread access to information provided by global data networks and converged mobile media devices means our students are engaged in the learning process. With AT&T's support, we are poised to advance our vision and expand the boundaries for learning even further."

"Whether in K-12 or higher education, mobile learning strategies open up a whole new world of possibilities to transform instruction and drive learning outcomes. ACU's mobile broadband vision is making a difference in how students learn and they are committed to sharing their experience with others to contribute to the growing mobile learning community," said Xavier Williams, senior vice president, GEM (Government, Education and Medical) Markets at AT&T. "AT&T is committed to advancing the mission and cause of education. We are proud to support ACU, and look forward to collaborating with them to help shape the next generation of innovators, fueling this country's future success."

"ACU is advancing mobile learning beyond its own classroom walls to help other institutions in Texas, the U.S. and around the globe," said state Sen. Troy Fraser. "ACU is also helping students and faculty use next-generation digital technologies more effectively. These activities are critical if we're going to transform higher education in the 21st century and educate our students to lead in the global marketplace."

The AT&T contribution will support three interrelated initiatives over three years:

  • The AT&T Learning Studio will be a curricular laboratory designed to support mobile media experimentation and a center of innovation related to the educational uses of media enhanced learning materials in traditional and mobile settings. The studio will develop new learning tools and provide students, faculty and future teachers from all academic disciplines with new ways to publish their work and participate in their communities. Based in ACU's library, the studio will include recording booths for the capturing of podcasts and interviews, editing bays for audio and video creation as well as media screening spaces and a production studio with high-definition recording capabilities. Trained technical staff will be on site to support students as they hone new styles of communication and develop class and public projects.
 
  • The K-12 Professional Development Institute will help facilitate the training of primary and secondary teachers around the world in new media usage and in the deployment of mobility for teaching and learning. The focus of the institute will be introducing mobile broadband learning to K-12 teachers. To date, ACU has received statements of interest from school districts that represent over 20 million students. The institute will include a prototype classroom overseen by two full-time professionals in ACU's Department of Teacher Education.

  • The Mobile Learning Research Program at ACU conducts research on the effectiveness of mobile broadband learning initiatives and strategies. AT&T’s contribution will support the work of the Mobile Learning Research Coordinator and provide faculty stipends to increase ACU's Mobile Learning Fellows program, accelerating and expanding the university's research agenda directed at studying the benefits of mobile learning strategies. This research will refine best practices among thought leaders and will assess the validity of mobile learning and innovative teaching techniques at ACU and partner institutions. ACU will share research findings resulting from this project with the K-12 community as well.

About ACU's Mobile Learning Initiative
Abilene Christian University launched its mobile learning initiative in 2008 based on Apple's iPhone and iPod touch. The initiative creates opportunities for students and faculty to experiment with new forms of social, informational, and media access on next-generation digital platforms including the iPad, on which The Optimist, ACU's student-run newspaper is now available. ACU is a founding member of the Consortium for Innovation & Research in Converged Learning (CIRCL) a free community-supported network of researchers, professors, teachers and other education professionals who are engaged in mobile and converged learning practice and research. In 2009, the New Media Consortium named ACU a Center of Excellence for its mobile-learning program. Also in 2009, Forbes magazine rated ACU in the top seven percent of colleges and universities in the USA. Nearly 5,000 students attend ACU, including about 630 graduate students, from 50 states in the United States of America and 60 countries.

Learn more at ACU's mobile learning initiative page, the ACU Connected blog, The Optimist website and www.opencircl.org.

About AT&T
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation's fastest 3G network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet and voice services. A leader in mobile broadband, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verseSM and AT&T │DIRECTVSM brands. The company's suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world. In domestic markets, AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive are known for their leadership in local search and advertising. In 2010, AT&T again ranked among the 50 Most Admired Companies by FORTUNE® magazine. 

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About Philanthropy at AT&T
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives and partnerships, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2009, $155 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs.


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