Site Search



Share | |

Bruce Wald, Information Writer

Posted on September 2, 2010

At California University of Pennsylvania, professors aren't telling students to turn off their cell phones in class.

In fact, a growing number of faculty encourage students to use smart phones and handheld devices, such as the iPad or iPod Touch, to access information, take notes or keep up with current events. It's all part of Cal U Fusion, a campus-wide mobile technology initiative that has begun to explore innovative ways to use handheld devices as tools for teaching and learning.

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.

As mobile technology finds its way into classrooms, customized "apps" are making campus life safer and more convenient at Cal U. A campus navigator helps newcomers find their way, and NextBus uses the University's mobile website to show when a shuttle is on its way.

Busy students use a smart phone app to pre-order food from a Cal U dining venue, tapping PayPal accounts to cover the tab and grabbing their meals on the run.

With the Emergency Button app, students can use any GPS-enabled phone to sound an alarm and summon police.

New students learned about Cal U Fusion during a four-day orientation program. 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," says Cal U President Angelo Armenti, Jr. "With Cal U Fusion, we intend to bring 21st-century technology onto our campus and into our classrooms. Our students deserve nothing less."