Integrating Technology Even Further at ACU

Here’s a piece of news that should inspire universities across the country (hint, hint): Abilene Christian University has recently announced that they will be providing all incoming freshmen with either an iPhone or an iPod touch.

“At ACU – the first university in the nation to provide these cutting-edge media devices to its incoming class – freshmen will use an iPhone or iPod touch to receive homework alerts, answer in-class surveys and quizzes, get directions to their professors’ offices, and check their meal and account balances – among more than 15 other useful web applications already developed, said ACU Chief Information Officer Kevin Roberts.”

ACU’s article mentions that 93% of their students already bring computers with them to school, but they are providing their freshmen with these pocket computers on top of what they already own.  Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a very good idea.  Not only is Abilene providing their students with one of the coolest new toys to come from Apple, but they really are integrating it into their students’ lives.  They have created apps that will help the students in classes, and it sounds like teachers are actually going to use them.  This is the biggest problem I have seen in college – people come up with some great technology that could help to expand the classroom experience, but very few teachers actually use the system.  For example, one of my favorite pet peeves is the teacher who does all his lectures on PowerPoint, but goes so fast you can’t write anything down, and then refuses to post those notes to a website he or she already has up and running anyway.  But enough about me.

“Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, ACU provost, said, ‘This is exciting to me, not only because we’re giving students new tools, but because we are transforming the learning environment.'”

And, in my opinion, they really are.  This idea is perfect for the productivity-minded student who has to have everything with her at all times, and can now put it in her pocket; but it’s also perfect for the organizationally-challenged student who will be able to receive homework reminders anytime, and for the teachers who want to take attendance but can’t be bothered to ask 100 students to sign in.  Oh wait, maybe that last one’s a bad thing.

I think that ACU has the right idea on how to get through to this generation.  Think about it: they’re aiding and encouraging the constant connectivity that sometimes defines this age group, and they’re giving college students free stuff.  It doesn’t get any better than that.
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