Academic journal article College and University

Mobile Technology and the Unsettled Ocean of Student Services

Academic journal article College and University

Mobile Technology and the Unsettled Ocean of Student Services

Article excerpt

Imagine for a moment that we live in an ocean among an abundance of aquatic life that populates a beautiful underwater world. We call this world 'home/ These oceanic surroundings are all we have ever known. While this world has its everyday challenges, for the most part we love it! Everything we need to sustain ourselves - food to eat, a place to rest, familiar creatures whom we know and understand - is available here. We know what to do and how to succeed in this world.

Then one day something enters our world and changes it profoundly. It is still our home, and yet it feels so very different!

Mobile technology is one of several currents that upset our relatively placid world of admitting, enrolling, advising, serving, and graduating students. "Now hold on a second!" we say. "WeVe been involved with technology since we began in this profession! Technology is not really new to us!" But we know the disquieting truth: With mobile technology, so much is new - indeed, foreign - to many of us, and it is being delivered at an exponentially faster pace than other technological revolutions before it. Things are different!

Our task as participants in this changing environment is to understand our altered world and respond.


For us, creation in 2008 of an iPhone app for Stanford called iStanford gave us a deep and penetrating look at the changes mobile technology presents for our campus. We want to share with you alitile of the iStanford story.

A free mobile app, iStanford is available to anyone. It was initially developed to run on the iPhone and iPod Touch, but the app is now available on the Blackberry (Droid and other versions are being developed).

We must begin our story with a confession: We could not have been successful had we obeyed all the laws - the givens - of our time-honor ed profession! Indeed, we would not have begun the project at all. Our decision to do the project was an intentional choice to understand what was changing our world; it was a choice to take an adventure: We wanted to see if we could connect our Stanford administrative systems to the iPhone, an iconic device that had only recently been introduced - with great fanfare-to the marketplace.

We haven't always been quick to adopt the new. And one of the things very different about the new Ocean we live in' is the pace at which new technology engulfs us.

Our story began when Tom bought an iPhone. Like so many others, he found that his iPhone provided a breakthrough user experience. He loved its ease of use and the way it maximized the user experience. Once Tim saw how much Tom could do with his new tool, he ran out and bought one too. We both observed how many people were using iPhon es on campus. Then, during one of our brainstorming sessions, Tom held up his iPhone and said, "I wonder what we could do with this..." The 'we' referred to our role as university administrators. Could administrators use the iPhone to provide administrative services ? Tim noted that the iPhone already interacted with very large backend systems to present news, YouTube videos, weather, maps, and the like, and that at Stanford, Web services and RSS feeds might be keys to 'releasing data' from PeopleSoft. Two rather addictive dreamers started to dream.

Tom contacted our campus Apple representative, Sylvia Herrero, who put us in touch with one of our undergraduates, then sophomore Kayvon Beykpour.

When we sat down with Kayvon in April 2008, on the advent of the release of Apple OS to worldwide developers, we realized that we were dealing with a special person. Smart, ambitious, results oriented, and charismatic, Kayvon also expressed a profound desire to do something significant and lasting for Stanford. He already had formed the company Terribly Clever Design (TCD) along with a few other Stanford students. During our first meeting, we outlined the initial four functional components, or 'tiles,' of iStanford: courses, athletics, maps, and directory. …

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