In a move hinted at during our last meeting of the Spring 2013 semester, the “iPad and Tablet User’s Group” has been renamed the “Mobile Technology User’s Group”. There are several different reasons for this name change I would like to explain.
First and foremost, let me state the goal for our group: we want to be a user-supported community that encourages exploration and implementation of pedagogically sound mobile-technology use at Purdue. This represents an expansion of our previous goals that were similar in intent but related solely to tablet technology. While we had some very interesting discussions about how to implement tablets in the classroom, we rarely discussed putting tablets in the hands of students. Instead, tablet use was talked about in a very instructor-centric way: here’s how to annotate your presentation, here’s how to wirelessly share your screen, here’s how to remotely connect to your home desktop, etc. These were extremely valid topics that merited exploration and discussion, but they tended to exclude student use. This is an understandable side effect of tablet cost, as few classes or programs have the resources to offer tablets to students and students themselves have not widely purchased tablets for classroom use.
Looking at pedagogical priorities emphasized by educational programs on campus such as IMPACT, the emphasis of technology use must move beyond the hands of the instructor. Quite a few students own tablets (one national 2013 survey suggests around 18% and Purdue’s bring-your-own-device numbers are similar), but those numbers are far surpassed by students who bring their smartphones to class (above 80% on both surveys). Even with these numbers, smartphones are mostly ignored in classrooms on campus. While ITaP has attempted to introduce different uses for phones in the past with the Studio Suite of products (HotSeat, Mixable, DoubleTake, etc), linking smartphone usage to add-on applications leads to its own set of limitations. Instead of starting at the app level and determining usage, think about the standard features of almost any smartphone and imagine how features can be used to retrieve information, create content, and interact with the physical (and virtual) outside world.
Some instructors worry about the distraction of technology in the hands of their students. While this can indeed be an issue, it is generally most apparent in traditional classrooms where students are asked to remain passive, listen to a lecture, and take notes. Students who are not engaged with course content are the students spending their time checking reading/posting on Facebook or Instagram. In an active classroom, with group members to collaborate with and tasks complete, that distracting device is suddenly put to use for an academic purpose. Students who tune out the course to focus on their own issues can be quickly identified and refocused on the task by both instructors and peers. In several semesters of interaction with a case-driven classroom of Purdue undergraduates (mostly freshmen), I was never once told by a student group of 3-5 that they were unable to perform tasks due to a lack of a tablet, phone, or laptop.
To go back to the original point, I don’t see changing our group from tablets to mobile technology as a major shift. Instead, I see it as simply an expansion of our focus to include other types of technology that may already exist in Purdue classrooms. This not only allows instructors opportunities to design more student-centered lessons with technology, but it does so without any responsibility for the professor or department to buy, support, maintain, and/or upgrade hardware and software.
I look forward to seeing what our users will dazzle us with this year, and if you have any interest in mobile technology integration in the higher education classroom, I hope you’ll join us. Our first meeting of the academic year is Tuesday, September 24th from 1:30-2:30 in LWSN Hall room 1142.