When we can hold a universe of information in the palms of our hands, how does that change the way we learn and communicate? Mobile Learning at ACU is an initiative that studies how mobile technologies can be used to enhance learning.
Mobile Learning at ACU
We’re pursuing the future of learning because we know our students will live and work in a world that doesn’t yet exist – a world whose challenges and possibilities are only now beginning to unite. If we can offer students the advantages not only of seeing the new world these changes will create, but also of pioneering that world for those who will come after us, then we’ve done something truly valuable. This is at the heart of ACU’s mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.
We’ve endeavored to imagine a world where classes become untethered from the stony isolation of four walls, where information is accessible in new contexts and situations, where learning becomes truly mobile, permeating our students' lives.
The ACU mobile-learning initiative is built upon the theory that humans learn best when they are in community – collaborating with others in a learning environment without boundaries. A technological solution that aims at increased learning must enhance communication and convergence. ACU seeks to connect learners through engaged, collaborative, distributive, integrated and evaluative models, all of which combine to produce a profoundly connected learning experience.
Since 2008, ACU has been recognized nationally as a visionary leader in campus-wide exploration and 1-to-1 deployment of iPhones, iPod touches and iPads. In fact, ACU was recently one of the first universities in the nation to be named an Apple Distinguished School.
In 2013 the university expanded its mobile-learning initiative to every department on campus in two ways. First, each first-year student is required to purchase an iPad2 or newer device. Second, faculty members across campus are focused on infusing the curriculum with iPad-enhanced teaching and learning. Students are encouraged to purchase their device through the Educational Purchase Program at The Campus Store during ACU’s Passport, the freshman orientation weekend. Additionally, the university purchases devices through Apple’s Educational Purchase program and provides an iPad for each faculty member every two years as a part of the ACU’s Computer Replacement Program.
Support for this 1-to-1 deployment has led to national recognition of the innovative and sustained partnerships between ACU’s Educational Technology and Information Technology divisions. With an Apple Distinguished Educator directing the AT&T Learning Studio, and many other faculty who were awarded Mobile Learning Research Fellowships through an AT&T gift, ACU has lead conversations on the impact of mobility in education, discovering new ways to make learning more engaging, and developing new teaching resources that allow teachers and learners to leverage mobility through iPad, iPhone and iPod.
In the year since his appointment as ACU’s provost, Dr. Robert Rhodes has led the next phase of the mobile-learning initiative to propel campus thinking beyond the distribution of a device toward the integration of the use of student-owned devices into many courses on campus. His goal is to adjust campus culture away from the iPad as a subsidized supplement to teaching and learning and toward the iPad as an essential element of ACU’s academic ethos.
When first-year students arrive on campus, Rhodes promises them that this important next step will allow teachers and students to collaborate more easily in and out of the classroom, to interact with updated texts and apps to enhance learning, to create new media, and to use the infrastructure already available on campus to share findings and creations. He tells them: “You will be able to share ideas and thoughts instantly with your classmates and professors, and collaborate on projects from your dorm room, the library or thousands of miles away at one of our Study Abroad locations.”
Under Rhodes’ leadership in 2013, about 30 percent of first-year courses have been redesigned to engage the students deeply through use of the iPad. The courses are the university’s most populous, including Quantitative Reasoning, Intermediate Speech and Rhetoric, Lifetime Wellness, Life and Teachings of Jesus, and Cornerstone (a required first-semester course). Cornerstone students’ only textbook is a custom iBook produced by ACU faculty and available as a free download from the iBooks Store.
Social Computing and Spirituality
Dr. Richard Beck, ACU Mobile Research Fellow and chair of ACU's Department of Psychology, presents groundbreaking research on the cognitive effects of social networking and how it relates to spirituality.