Mobile Applications and Adaptations
|Project Abstract|| In 2004, Muhlenberg College received an HP Technology
for Teaching grant to encourage the transformation of learning and
teaching. This project systematically extends open source collaboration
tools, including groupware and content management systems to assess the
effectiveness of “always available” wireless access
and mass customization in introductory science courses. In each phase,
tools and technologies are deployed to successively broader audiences,
and we compare student and instructor satisfaction relative to
traditional course delivery methods.
|Rationale|| This project leverages existing expertise in
innovative learning environments, mobile technology, support for
disabilities, open source software, and product development to serve as
a test bed for broader use of mobile technology at Muhlenberg and
|Pedagogy||This project has changed teaching in a variety of ways, which can be grouped into several themes. Most significantly, there is less lecture, and a broader spectrum of discussion, interaction, and hands-on activities. At one extreme are unstructured activities such as note taking and use of Internet resources. In the middle are less structured group activities involving writing and problem solving. At the other extreme are more structured workshops and tutorials. There is also more use of collaborative tools and processes, including collaborative design, task tracking, version control, and reviews. In some cases such tools need to be scaled down or otherwise adapted for academic settings.|
|Technology||This project has used technologies at three levels. First, in discipline-independent course management and collaboration, using the Moodle course management system, wiki platforms, and other tools. Second, in discipline-specific collaboration on team software projects, including tools such as SubVersion and Trac. Third, in individual student work related to the overall project, including applications of and extensions to open source projects.|
|on Learning||Courses using course management and collaboration tools were rated equally effective, more organized, and less difficult. Of students surveyed, 100% rated wikis positively for storing and sharing information, and 70% rated them positively for communicating with other students. Introducing students to commonly used tools and best practices earlier in the curriculum better prepares them for the future, and helps them appreciate and understand the social and organizational aspects of software development. In individual student work related to the overall project, students gained experience in areas such as Linux configuration, programming languages, user interface design, MVC architectures, and the dynamics of open source development. We are still working to extend the project to larger courses, other disciplines, and to a wider range of disabilities.|
|on Teaching|| The changes described above have had several
significant outcomes. We continue to present conference workshops and
tutorials on using wikis to support teams, and on GUI prototyping
techniques (see below). We continue to document group activities
involving writing and problem solving, for use by others. Appropriate
courses contain more emphasis on user needs analysis, graphical user
interface (GUI) design, and usability testing.
These changes would have been difficult or impossible without the HP grant, since the wireless laptops make it possible to integrate activities when they are most appropriate, rather than when rooms or other facilities are available.
One current challenge is matching activity types to student experience levels and to course content. For example, activities typically need to be more structured in introductory courses than in advanced courses.
|Other|| This project has revitalized Muhlenberg’s CS program, and
catalyzed other developments. We now have a larger CS teaching
classroom with wireless access, a video projector, and 10 Linux
workstations. We revised the CS curriculum to include a new
project-based software engineering course and a capstone seminar, and
existing courses use more interactive and hands-on activities. We are
proposing a new informatics major, which should appeal to a wider
variety of students. Despite declining enrollments, more students do
summer research and other independent work. These changes make the CS
program more visible and appealing, particularly to prospective
We are excited by the connections to broader issues of reading, writing, critical thinking, and communication, which are particularly valued in the liberal arts. Identifying and developing such practices helps students and faculty to see common themes and how technical and non-technical disciplines relate to each other. This prepares students to work on interdisciplinary teams, which are increasingly common.
Finally, we are encouraged by the College’s increasing shift toward more effective uses of technology. This project and others are stimulating conversations and experiments across disciplines and even between institutions. For example, the science division is collaborating on a proposal to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to use modeling and other quantitative techniques in introductory science courses. We were able to loan 4 HP laptops to the library for an experimental loan program which has been very successful.
|Contact Information|| Clif Kussmaul, Associate Professor of Computer Science
Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St, Allentown, PA 18104
|Project Page on HP Community Wiki site|
|Publications and Presentations||