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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Abilene Christian University creates classroom response system for the iPhone

According to a recent article, during the fall semester, Abilene Christian University became the first university to provide iPhones and iPod Touch devices to the entire incoming freshman class. Since then, programmers at the university have created several applications for the devices to connect students and teachers in more ways in and out of the classroom. Some examples of the applications include: attendance, calendars, campus maps, and weekend activities. Another useful application is similar to a classroom response system or “clicker” because it allows professors to poll the students during class to gauge how well they understand the topic. The application developed at the university is more advanced than other systems because it allows for free-form response questions rather than just true/false and multiple choice. According to William Rankin, an English professor at the university, by including this application on the iPhone, the disadvantages often associated with response systems are taken care of including the need for students to purchase a separate device and remember to bring it to class. Since students carry their phones with them for communication purposes, they are more likely to always have it with them in class. This may help resolve the problem of multiple clickers in the classroom. Students could download a clicker app rather than buy a whole new clicker. Thus, the new clicker market, and secondary market for clickers – both which arose just within the past couple years – could disappear just as quickly. There is a concern though – what happens to students who cannot afford an iPhone/Touch, or institutions that can not provide iPhone/iTouch to every student? Will the cost of not doing so be greater than the upfront investment? Or will such devices be required in the way that many institutions now require a laptop?

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