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Ringing endorsement for smartphone expert

February 28, 2020

A Bond University academic who champions the use of smartphones in education has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to student learning.

Associate Professor James Birt received the citation this week, in the 2019 Australian Awards for University Teaching.

The citation commended his "sustained leadership in the scholarship of mobile mixed reality innovations to enhance authentic experiential teaching and learning".

Dr Birt has been passionate about technology since his father gave him a computer at the age of two in 1981.

"I've been a gamer and technology enthusiast since the time I could walk," he said.

"These days you are born with access to a smartphone and the challenge for me is, how do we use them in a way that's positive?

"There's a lot of negativity within the educational landscape around the use of mobile devices. People are very concerned about how they're used, and how they influence our children.

"Yet there are such incredibly positive outcomes to the use of mobile-based tools, in particular mobile virtual reality and mobile augmented reality."

Dr Birt received an Australian National Office of Learning and Teaching citation in 2014 and said technology advances since then had reshaped the way students could be taught.

"Even just five years ago we were using head-mounted (virtual reality) displays that could never move from the classroom because they were too large and just too expensive," he said.

"Now every student has a BYO smartphone device in the palm of their hand.

"No longer are we restricted to classrooms. We can take this amazing technology outside to transform and blend and mix the world in a way that we've never been able to in human history."

But the passionate educator warned against getting caught up in the hype around some emerging technologies.

"Currently there's a lot of innovation, but there's also a lot of gimmickry," Dr Birt said.

"We need to be able to communicate the actual benefits of emerging technology so that teachers can understand how to integrate it sustainably and not just use the technology as a gimmick within their classroom setting."

Dr Birt said the accelerating pace of technological progress meant he was never bored.

"It's exciting for me," he said. "There's always something new to communicate and educate the community about.

"In education we have to be constantly evolving no matter what age or gender we are."

Bond University Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Keitha Dunstan congratulated Dr Birt on his citation.

"James is an educator of the future who sees the benefits to be gained from embracing emerging technologies while understanding how student’s prefer to use that technology," Professor Dunstan said.

"This innovative approach to student learning is the backbone of Bond's new Transformation degrees that prepare students for the rapid technological change that will drive the future and for jobs that may not even exist yet."

Established in 1997 by the Australian government, the Australian Awards for University Teaching celebrates and rewards excellence in teaching and learning in higher education.