Mobility in Practice

Today I spent the day with faculty at ACU discussing the use of mobile devices and the technology supporting it.

First up I found myself in a ceramics class meeting with Kenny Jones, not necessarily the first place I would have expected to find mobile learning. Kenny is enthusiastic about mobile devices and he has found new ways of teaching and engaging with his students. He’s also exploited the affordances of the iPhone as a media consumption device replacing traditional print material with videos of tutorials and techniques. It was great to see what was in use just a year or so ago and what is in place now. With the videos students can really get a tactile and nuanced view of the techniques involved in ceramics, which is just impossible in print. They can consume when they need to. so it frees up the students to work at their pace, they can also watch the videos, pause, stop and rewind as many as they need. Kenny has also used a variety of other apps and even using one in assessment to get students to design an augmented reality.

Next it was on to the next meeting with Kyle Dickson and Mike Wiggins to discuss WordPress at ACU. WordPress is the blog engine at ACU and also part CMS/part LMS. It forms the backbone for many courses and provides a simple content delivery platform that is simple and easy to use by all faculty. Developed to be simple to use ACU augmented the existing interface with the installation of a post-by-email plugin which built on faculty’s existing comfort with using email. Mike’s template design really adds a layer of professionalism and visual vibrancy just not found in most CMS or LMS deployments. While the template is structured it provides a range of opportunities to customise and differentiate while maintaining a consistent visual style. The fact that WordPress has been consistently best of breed also means that faulty and students are learning to use tools that are applicable outside of learning and teaching. The team is planning to rollout updates to the WordPress system over the summer which could include getting the iOS app up and running so that content can be directly to the blogs from the device.

My final meeting for the afternoon was with fellow ‘Ossie’ Ian Shepherd. Ian teaches in the school of Business and has been part of a trial of iPads and Inkling text. Ian’s work shows a real passion for improving the learning and teaching in class and he has embraced a range of other technology and practices that give a more robust and rounded student experience. I was quite interested in his work in developing Excel assessment tools and the research he has undertaken. I’m also intrigued by the research being proposed at for the future to collect data on the usage of devices that can be used for analysis right across ACU.

A take home message?

The introduction of mobile devices has created an environment that encourages innovation and exploration. When embraced by faculty the technology can facilitate a better learning experience for the student as well as a better teaching experience for the faculty involved. It’s interesting to note that there is a lot of research now coming out of ACU that could challenge the assumption of no significant difference. Overwhelmingly students feel positive about the technology and they feel more engaged in the courses that use them – which should be considered a significant win by the university.

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