By Colter Hettich, Features Editor
ACU made multiple appearances in local and national media during the fall 2008 semester – some positive, some less than positive. The launch of ACU’s iPhone Initiative attracted attention from all over the world. As the initiative nears the end of its first semester, ACU’s community and onlookers around the world want to know one thing: is it working?
Dr. Bill Rankin, associate professor of English and director of ACU’s iPhone educational research team, has played a key role in the initiative from its inception.
Rankin and other initiative leaders designated the first semester to familiarity.
“Because it’s experimental, we wanted to set the bar low,” Rankin said. “We wanted to get [iPhones] in the hands of the faculty, get people to get comfortable with the functions.”
About half the faculty, 169, received their choice of iPhone or iPod touch. In addition to covering the costs of their service plan, iPhone-bearing faculty were required to attend two training sessions offered throughout the semester. By not requiring that professors use the iPhone in class, initiative leaders hoped they would use this time to acquaint themselves with the device and, when possible, experiment with the technology in class.
Mike Cope, adjunct professor of Bible, missions and ministry, and Ray Pettit, adjunct instructor of computer science, did just that. Pettit incorporated polls into every meeting of his University Seminar 100 class. Students read anonymous answers on a projector screen the instant their classmates responded on their iPhones. Cope makes documents available for the next lecture in digital form. In Cope’s class, students can carry their Bible and a host of other documents in their pockets.
“We are one of the world leaders in this,” Rankin said. “We’ve got people from 30 universities in more than six countries coming to ACU on Feb. 27 . for a conference on iPhones in higher education.”
ACU is leading on the frontier of iPhone application programming and development as well as campus-wide integration. James Langford, director of Web integration and programming, and a team of programmers and designers used Apple’s dash code to create the myACU mobile portal. ACU unveiled the Web application in August and plans to open-source the code in February, a big step toward collaboration with other universities.
“Right now we’re deciding which license to use,” Langford said. “A lot of what we’re doing [for development] right now is watching and listening.”
Those involved in the initiative welcome feedback and will continue tailoring the initiative to the ACU community. George Saltsman, director of Educational Technology in the Adams Center for Teaching Excellence, expects a time when iPhones will create opportunities for new teaching
methods and increase efficiency in the classroom.
“The capability this device offers is the platform for opportunity,” Saltsman said. “We’re imagining classes focusing less on finding information and more on assessing information.”