iKnow initiative supports participatory learning

Students can keep their Apple iPads for a small technology fee.

Freed-Hardeman University is a private Christian university in Tennessee. With fewer than 2,000 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 14 to 1, the school is known for cultivating a personal experience in which students are more than just faces in the crowd.

Since 2008, FHU also has been on the cutting edge of using technology to foster a more participatory learning experience for students, through a program known as iKnow.

Here, Betsy Hull Hesselrode, assistant vice president for alumni relations, describes the university’s iKnow initiative and the keys to its success. (Editor’s note: To nominate your college or university for this award, and to read about past award winners, go to http://ecampusnews.eschoolmedia.com/ecampus-of-the-month.)

How does your campus use technology to advance student learning?

We are an Apple Distinguished School—a pretty big deal for a small liberal-arts school with about 2,000 students. Our signature program is called the iKnow initiative. Launched in the fall of 2008, the program blends mobile technology with student learning and campus life.

In the past, incoming freshmen have received a MacBook and their choice of an iPhone or iPod Touch device. This fall, we’ll be giving all freshmen an iPad instead through our refresh of the iKnow initiative, called iKnow 2.0. As part of iKnow 2.0, all faculty will receive iPads as well.

Besides iPads and MacBooks, all students receive Microsoft Office for the Mac. The software becomes the property of the student, as long as the student graduates from FHU; otherwise it must be removed from their computer upon leaving school. And we’ve provided a list of recommended apps for the iPad, such as the FHU Mobile app and productivity tools such as Dropbox and Evernote.

Not only will the iPad play a role in preparing students for employment; we expect it to enhance instruction and improve student learning outcomes. One of the most exciting opportunities the iPad offers is access to interactive digital textbooks. This not only saves money that is normally spent on traditional textbooks, but also provides a more participatory learning environment.

For example, when biology students are learning about a certain part of the body, they can click on the text within the eBook and see 3-D images or real pictures of it. They can see a digital “dissection” of it, without going to the lab.  It adds a whole new dimension of interactive content, and the sky truly is the limit with what teachers can do in the classroom.

I teach Commercial Law and Business Law, and I am able to post videos, movie clips, and different things from the internet as part of my class. Students can look at these things during class, and we can review them as part of a class discussion. The mobility of the iPad makes it great for these kinds of learning experiences.

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