The BlackBerry Academic Program, sponsored by Research In Motion® (RIM®), provides free teaching resources – including free BlackBerry® hardware – to a variety of academic institutions around the world in order to help them deliver effective mobile education. One of these academic institutions is Pace University (Pace) in New York City, where Associate Professor Dr. Christelle Scharff is encouraging students to develop mobile apps that address real-world challenges.
Pace recognized the importance of mobile solutions early on, offering its “Mobile Development and Entrepreneurship” course beginning in 2008. Its mobile courses are built on the principle that what’s significant about mobile development is its potential to create useful tools that improve people’s lives both locally and globally. “In the different courses and projects offered at Pace,” says Dr. Scharff, “students worked on real world projects that impact the community.”
Pace encourages students to look at the potential impact of mobile applications beyond their local campus community. Over the past few years, students from Pace have worked on capstone projects with other students in India and Senegal. “Capstone Projects” are assignments where students work, often in small groups, to solve a real-world engineering problem. One of the applications developed through these capstone projects was TargetFirstGrade. TargetFirstGrade is a BlackBerry application designed to assist first grade pupils in practicing essential skills in math, reading, writing, and geography. It is also available in French by the name CibleCI. The application is designed for students in emerging countries, where classroom sizes are traditionally larger (around 60-80 pupils per class) and teachers are unable to provide consistent attention to individual pupils.
A pilot project is planned for TargetFirstGrade/CibleCI in elementary schools throughout Senegal for the 2012 academic year using 20 BlackBerry® Bold™ 9700 smartphones provided by RIM. “What is interesting is that the application has been developed as a collaborative effort of students from different countries, and this collaborative effort has the potential to change the way that pupils learn and teachers teach,” says Dr. Scharff.