Education instructor becomes mobile app creator, keynote speaker and researcher

Posted October 03, 2012

During Mitzi Adams' three years as an instructor in ACU's Department of Education, she has inspired and mentored her students. While Adams still proudly holds the title of teacher, she has also taken on the roles of mobile application creator, keynote speaker and education researcher.

This month, she will present as one of several keynote speakers at a mobilization summit. She will also release her second mobile-learning application while simultaneously launching a new math education research project.

Mobilization Summit

Adams is one of the keynote speakers for the Tennessee Board of Regents Mobilization Summit October 15-16. George Saltsman, executive director of ACU's Adams Center, and Dr. Steven Baldridge, director and assistant professor in the social work program, will also speak.

The Summit will be held at Middle Tennessee State University and provide all levels of the educational community (pre-K through higher education including workforce training) opportunities to explore how mobile technologies can be developed, utilized and maintained to enhance learning. Sessions will focus on general academic subject areas and mobility management, and workshops will be on mobile application and eBook development.

Adams will speak specifically about her journey from educator to mobile app developer. "I don't have a technology background," she says. "It is surprising that I would have anything to say at a mobilization summit, but from an educational perspective, I have something to offer."

Adams, with senior computer science major Clement Ho, has created two applications. The first, Count On it, is a math skills tool released in January 2012. The application helps increase students' recall of numbers through activities and drills, such as an abacus, an adding game and quizzes.

The second application, Musical Numbers, is set for release this month. Musical Numbers takes the abacus feature from Count On It and adds a musical component. Users can "play" a number value and relate numbers to sound. A player who has learned the sound for each value can listen and identify the correct number being played. This application helps students who are auditory learners understand math better.

Adams has high praise for Ho's work. "He has actually led the way in much of this process. I had the idea; he had the skill," she says. "We asked a lot of questions and tried to understand one anther's perspectives. Without Clement, neither of the apps would have been created."

"While most Summit speakers will present from a technological background and standpoint, I am speaking from the perspective of an educator and classroom teacher," says Adams. "The idea for my app came out of the experience of working with children, knowing the challenges they encounter, researching potential causes and solutions, creating an intervention, and analyzing the data. The application was not the goal of my research. The goal was to increase student achievement, and the app proved serendipitous."

Math Education Research

Adams' involvement in math education goes beyond her mobile applications. Adams, along with education instructor Julie Douthit, has received a $3,000 grant from the Center for Research Evaluation and Advancement of Teacher Education (CREATE) for continued research on effective mathematics instruction in elementary schools.

In April, Adams, Douthit and Jennifer Haslup, a second grade teacher from Reagan Elementary School, attended a research consortium hosted by CREATE. After the event, the team submitted a proposal to CREATE for a grant to carry out a collaborative research project in second grade classrooms at Reagan Elementary.

With the grant, the team will study the impact of vocabulary development and how it affects a child's ability to solve math problems. They also hope to learn how children grow in their abilities to communicate in problem solving as their use of math-specific vocabulary increases. The teachers at Reagan will administer weekly mathematical problem solving tests examining vocabulary usage. The young test-takers will record their thoughts in math journals that will be analyzed by university student research assistants.

Learn more about the Department of Teacher Education.