J school mulls over new mobile technology requirement

Associate Dean Brian Brooks said a faculty committee will consider an Apple iPad requirement.
The School of Journalism strongly urges students to purchase Apple computers and an iPod touch for their freshman year. A faculty committee is discussing potential changes to the mobile technology requirement for freshmen.

A faculty committee in the School of Journalism is reviewing the school's mobile device requirement, which requires students to own a handheld multimedia player with Internet connectivity, to decide whether it should be modified in the future, potentially as early as the fall 2012 semester.

Brian Brooks, the journalism school's associate dean for undergraduate studies, said he urged the committee to take a look at new devices that might better suit journalism students — specifically, tablet computers like the Apple iPad.

"We're definitely taking a look at the iPad going forward," Brooks said.

Convergence journalism professor Mike McKean heads the committee, which he said is called the Innovation Committee, consisting of faculty and staff from all the departments in the journalism school.

He said the committee could potentially recommend multiple options. They could decide the current requirement is sufficient, or they could decide that a tablet computer would have better applications for classes at the J school.

In addition, McKean said the committee will decide whether to recommend a particular brand or model of device or to allow students to choose between multiple platforms.

"It depends on whether we'll have a use for it in classes," he said. "Are there enough assignments where this would be useful?"

Currently, the journalism school recommends Apple's iPod Touch, though no specific brand or model is required as long as the device can play audio and video and access the Internet.

"It's possible nothing could change in 2012," Brooks said.

The 2012 fall semester is the earliest time any change in the requirement will be implemented, because any decision must accompany acceptance letters for incoming students, Brooks said. The next batch of acceptance letters will be sent this winter.

"We have to make all these decisions ahead of time so we can let all the incoming freshmen know what to do," Brooks said.

Any recommendation made by the Innovation Committee would have to be approved by the journalism faculty, McKean said.

McKean said the committee performed a survey of students about mobile technology. The results of this survey will factor into the faculty committee's decisions.

"Students say they want mobile technology, but there's no consensus," he said.

McKean said the survey revealed students were in favor of open standards.

The results of the survey will be released in a presentation at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Dr. Edward C. Lambert Seminar Room in the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

"We're going to talk about the results and what they mean," McKean said.

MU alumnus Andrew Dumas said his capstone project consisted of extensive reviews of Android and Apple mobile devices and applications and research for potential classroom applications of mobile devices.

"The whole idea was, we wanted to come up with ways for people to make use of (them)," Dumas said.

He said he did not think the journalism school should change the mobile device requirement.

"A smartphone is fine," Dumas said. "It's probably better right now."

Convergence journalism professor Amy Simons who is teaching a section of the journalism school's Fundamentals of Multimedia Journalism class this semester, said her class required mobile devices for an assignment.

Students in her class were assigned to find and produce a 75- to 100-word story and two photographs using a handheld mobile device.

She said a smartphone or similar device is sufficient to gather and produce content, but a tablet would be better for editing photographs and videos.

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