Mobile devices head to college

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By Dwane Wilder

Roane State Community College is following the lead of one of its sister schools by utilizing mobile learning devices in the classroom.
Several members of the Roane State faculty are now using iPads to help teach courses, an idea pioneered in East Tennessee by Walters State Community College in Morristown.
“Students expect us to have technology integrated into the courses. I kind of see this as the next step,” said Mike Hill, Roane State’s director of teaching arts and technology and, as of August, director of learning centers and learning support.
“We’re working with getting them in the hands of interested faculty who have a definite idea of how they want to use them. We’re learning as we go. We’re trying to start small and gauge the project as we go.”
Stacie Bradshaw is one of the first faculty members to incorporate mobile technology into the classroom. She has been using the iPad as a learning tool in her education classes for the past year.
Bradshaw, who earned an associate’s degree from Roane State in 2007, a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Tech in 2009 and a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in 2010, is young enough to embrace the change without hesitation.
“It’s kind of second nature for us to use it,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw has 28 iPads at her disposal, which is more than enough to accommodate her maximum class size of 24 students. They were earmarked for her class before she joined the Roane State faculty.
“The proposal was already put in before I took this position, so the first thing I did was purchase them,” Bradshaw said.
“She’s been a real pioneer in this and worked to get her students involved,” Hill said.
Mobile devices are currently available in the nursing and occupational therapy assistance programs at Roane State. The college’s paramedic program also plans to begin using iPads in the classroom.
Professors in the biology, math and Spanish departments have inquired about using iPads
“We’re trying to make sure we’ve got a broad range of disciplines represented,” said Hill.
“We want to feel free to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. We want to make sure we’ve got a good process in place. We are very much in the pilot stage.”
Hill said there are three main criteria used in the evaluating process to mobile learning technology.
• Identify which classes should get them.
• Have a clear sense of purpose.
• Tie them to student learning outcomes.
“That’s our bottom line for trying to evaluate these proposals,” said Hill. “Mobility, that was one of the most frequent remarks. How can it be used to create materials and pull text in from different resources?”
Hill noted that mobile technology is engaging students and making them think more creatively. For instance, mobile apps exist that make it possible to dissect a virtual cadaver.
“We’re moving more and more away from text-based (teaching) and more towards an interactive and hands-on experience,” he said. “We’re learning as we go, and we’re trying to get people to be imaginative and creative.”
Hill hopes members of the faculty using mobile devices as teaching tools in their classrooms will also serve as mentors to other faculty interested in doing so.
Roane State librarian Robert Benson has a pair of special carts — one at the main campus in Roane County and another at the Oak Ridge campus — that allow two dozen iPads to be charged and synchronized at the same time.
“The idea is to wheel this into a classroom and have a mobile computer lab,” said Benson.
Benson also said that, by the end of October, students at the main campus library will be eligible for a two-hour in-house checkout of an iPad.
 “During the next couple of years, I think we’re going to see a lot of faculty looking at e-books as an option,” Benson said. “With e-books, there are multimedia content and quizzes that can’t be found in a traditional textbook.”