Monday, March 10, 2008

iPhone, Mobile Devices & Higher Education

Abilene Christian University (ACU) plans to give all incoming freshman their choice of an iPhone or an iPod Touch. They recently uploaded two videos to YouTube. Titled "Connected Part 1: Social Uses" and "Connected Part 2: Academic Uses." If you work in U.S. higher education you will benefit from watching these two videos. The videos are fictional day-in-the-life accounts. The ACU vision is to make this a reality and that should be doable. Below is the summary from these videos posted on YouTube and the ACU Mobile Learing website under "A Vision of Convergence in Higher Ed."
What might a university look like with a fully deployed program of converged devices like the iPhone? Connected is one possible vision. This fictional day-in-the-life account highlights some of the potential benefits in a higher education setting when every student, faculty, and staff member is "connected." Though the applications and functions portrayed in the film are purely speculative, they're based on needs and ideas uncovered by our research - and we've already been making strides to transform this vision of mobile learning (mLearning) into reality.
It is good to see the U.S. getting caught up with other nations in the mobile device arena, and especially so within higher education. Many believe that 2008 will bring the most significant developments yet in the mobile device market. The cost for mobile devices has been continually dropping, the functionality has increased to the point that even the least expensive devices have quite a bit of smartphone functionality. Most importantly, young people in the U.S. are finally biting. The marketing has been successful largely due, in my opinion, to Apple's amazing marketing of the iPhone. The latest iPhone ads showing students how easily they can access their facebook accounts appears to have sealed the deal for many. And many devices costing much less than an iPhone will do the same. And don't forget Google's Android, which will be a part of many new devices released in 2008.

This will finally begin to impact U.S. higher education. Although higher ed is typically slow to adopt, once others like ACU implement these devices in the way the videos demonstrate, I'm sure others will follow. If they want to keep up and remain competitive, they may have no choice.

So what might this mean in 2-5 years for higher education? Why does it matter? What will it mean for academic librarians and all educators? How will this change what we do?

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