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UNI Research group works to close the gap between smart phones and the classroom

October 14, 2011

Stephen Hughes, professor, computer science, 319-273-2618,

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-6728,


CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The Collective Interaction Research Group (CIRG) is tackling the question of how to effectively integrate smartphones with classroom activities. Ben Schafer and Stephen Hughes, University of Northern Iowa professors in computer science, and two students, Sean Fredericksen and Aaron Mangel, computer science majors, have been developing software to be used for android-based classroom response systems. The group was awarded a grant from the Grow Iowa Value Fund to help obtain their goals.

Smart phones and tablet computers have become increasingly popular communication tools. These devices go beyond voice-driven communication to an endless stream of information available at virtually any time. The potential for the use of smartphones in college classrooms seems endless, limited only by the imagination of the programmers.

The CIRG has created a system where students can use their android-based smart phone to collectively respond to questions posted by the teacher. The class results are synthesized and may be projected for the class to see and discuss. Through the discussion, students are encouraged to revise their answers until a consensus is reached. Some of the future goals for the project include refinement of the response system, exploration of additional collaborative features and understanding the domain-specific applications. Each area of study comes with a unique way of completing certain tasks, and the group is learning how this technology can be adapted to best serve individual subject areas.

For additional information, contact Stephen Hughes, professor of computer science, at 319-273-2618 or