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August 31, 2010

California University of Pennsylvania Integrates Smart Phones into Class Room Teaching

By Madhubanti Rudra, TMCnet Contributor

Apart from being used as a means of communication, the mobile devices are performing many other tasks to add speed and ease to the fast-paced modern lifestyle. They have even found their way to classrooms. With Cal U Fusion initiative hitting the campus, mobile devices are no longer the forbidden objects in the classroom, at least at California University of Pennsylvania. In fact, the professors in this institution are encouraging the students to use smartphones and handheld devices, such as the iPad or iPod Touch, to access information, take notes or keep up with current events. Credit goes to the Cal U Fusion, a campus-wide mobile technology initiative that has been designed to explore innovative ways to use handheld devices as tools for teaching and learning.

The Cal U officials have cited a few instances of how the initiative is helping the students and faculties at this state-owned university in rural southwestern Pennsylvania:

-Cal U students in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences study plant and animal life using the iPod Touch in place of bulky field guides.

-In meteorology classes, a Cal U professor can alter his lecture when students learn – via their smart phones – that the National Weather Service has issued an alert.

-Cal U students increasingly refer to handheld devices instead of traditional notes when they give class presentations. Professors, in turn, snap photos and videos with their cell phones — and incorporate the images into their lessons.

-A mobile website includes a "people finder" that lets students connect with professors by e-mail or phone.

In addition of making the classroom experience more engaging, the mobile technology and specialized “apps” are making the campus life safer and more convenient at Cal U, which serves 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students. A campus navigator for instance helps newcomers find their way, and NextBus uses the University's mobile website to show when a shuttle is on its way.

Apps can also be used to pre-order food from a Cal U dining venue, tapping PayPal (News - Alert) accounts to cover the tab. This smart phone app is specially designed for the convenient of the busy students, who have to grab their meals on the run.

And to top them all, there is Emergency Button app, which allows the students to sound an alarm and summon police y using any GPS-enabled phone.

A four-day orientation program was organized to make the new students familiar about Cal U Fusion. As the fall semester opens today, Cal U officials estimate that 99 percent of students and 97 percent of professors carry cell phones. Roughly one-third of that group already uses smart phones to send text messages and access the Internet — and their numbers are growing.

“Mobile technology has the potential to reshape our ideas about how professors teach and students learn. With Cal U Fusion, we intend to bring 21st-century technology onto our campus and into our classrooms. Our students deserve nothing less,” Cal U President Angelo Armenti, Jr said.

Madhubanti Rudra is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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