I’ve been away from campus for about a year. It feels like I’ve returned to a new place. Smartphone use on campus has boomed, or so it seems. The campus has been jabscreened. Before, there were lots of iPhone users, a good few users of other smartphones. But now, wow. Outside buildings such as Hume or Arts, crossing the campus on walkways, hanging around the library: students are on smartphones a lot. I expect lots are checking timetables, maps. Of course they’re Whatsapping. Facetiming. Skyping. Surely a good few are reading PDFs before class. Many must be checking Moodle from their mobile browser. Tweeting. It’s a striking development, reflecting a changing streetscene more generally.
(Oddly, however, and three cheers for this: phone use in the classroom has really dropped. Hats off to my 3rd years for that.)
What to make of a jabscreened campus? Well, for one thing, it’s got to be time for universities to think seriously about developing tip-top apps for their students. [I’ve got some personal experience of this. It’s awfully hard work. But it’s still early days, technology-wise.] Might there come a day when academic departments – geography, say – have their own in-house app developers? Or maybe one developer shared among a few departments?
An app for a fieldwork course, for example, could work well. Sharing photos, chatting, collaborating in other ways. We run excellent overseas field courses. Staff and students already have plenty of options for interacting, but maybe there’s scope to develop something targeted at that particular event? Can you think of another way to develop an app for a particular type of course or student?