These are my notes from the EDUCAUSE 2007 Annual Conference session, “Using Student-Centered Technologies to Enhance the Curriculum,” by Chris Penniman (Director of Instructional Technology, Director for Instructional Technology, Connecticut College) presented in Seattle on October 24th, 2007.

In this session, Chris described a research program at Connecticut College called the Digital Enhanced Learning Initiative (DELI) that focused on how students use common technologies for instructional purposes. In the study, students in selected classes were provided with a “technology kit” that included such items as a digital camera, iPod, and all necessary peripherals. Students and instructors participated in an orientation session where the data gathering expectations of the study were set. Students then reported out during the semester via focus groups. Chris shared some interesting examples of student work and provided some preliminary results indicating that the technology may be enhancing learning and improving overall retention.

I attended Chris’ presentation primarily because I am very interested in what she called student-centered technologies: those tools that most of today’s students bring with them to campus (e.g., MP3 player, cell phone, camera). Although she provided all DELI students with the same tools, the underlying assumption was that such tools could eventually be integrated into the curriculum based on the expectation that all students already own them. This raises familiar issues that institutions with existing device mandates have been wrestling with for years, such as the digital divide and the cost of supporting a wide variety of personally-owned devices. WSU is a laptop mandate campus that requires most of its students to lease one of two laptop models from the institution, paying $1000 per year. Are we approaching the point where these devices are pervasive, affordable, and standardized enough that we no longer need to mandate specific devices or ask students to purchase devices from us?

It seems that there are still compelling reasons to maintain an existing device mandate program. I think it’s still the best way to ensure…

  • Standardization on a specific hardware configuration that meets predetermined academic needs, creating a predictable and supportable academic computing environment.
  • Continuity of functionality and performance across a student’s entire career, including maintenance, updates, and technical support.
  • Complete ubiquitous access for all students at all times.

However, I am looking forward to the day when all of these goals can be achieved by relying on personally-owned equipment that students are free to select themselves and bring with them to campus.  I think we are getting closer.