Welcome. Here's your iPhone

An interesting article in the New York Times, Welcome, Freshmen. Have an iPod, highlights the increasing occurrence of students being given iPods or iPhones to assist in their learning and help facilitate course and school administration.

There is, as noted, the additional marketing ploy:

Basking in the aura of a cutting-edge product could just help a university foster a cutting-edge reputation.

And good on them. Why not take advantage of the way students want to learn and do learn in the ‘informal’ manner of social networking, interaction and sharing?

Four institutions have indicated that they would be issuing iPods or iPhones to new students this semester. There are plenty of others who are actively investigating the use and trialling it in smaller numbers. One of these is the already established iPhone programme at ACU.

Reactions to these exciting initiatives are unfortunately mixed, as one can imagine if you cast your mind back to what university lectures were like for you! Feeling threatened anyone?

Robert S. Summers, who has taught at Cornell Law School for about 40 years, announced this week — in a detailed, footnoted memorandum — that he would ban laptop computers from his class on contract law.

Ban laptops! And we are not even talking about phones yet! Oh no! Hang on… he continues:

“I would ban that too if I knew the students were using it in class,” Professor Summers said of the iPhone, after the device and its capabilities were explained to him.

It’s not the technology mate, it’s how you use it! No wonder the students are bored. Wouldn’t you just pull your iPhone out and engage yourself? A student states:

…that professors might try harder to make classes interesting if they were competing with the devices.

Thankfully, they are not all dismissive of how this technology can engage and motivate students and transform the way you teach:

“We had assumed that the biggest focus of these devices would be consuming the content,” said Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Duke.

But that is not all that the students did. They began using the iPods to create their own “content,” making audio recordings of themselves and presenting them. The students turned what could have been a passive interaction into an active one…

The debate of using mobile phones in education is ongoing. I see their use as inevitable and look forward to being in a situation where I can utilise them. But I am not an expert in this field, just an interested observer. I have blogged previously on how I think the iPhone would make an excellent tool for accessing and creating your eportflios, but it would best to click one of the links below!

Firstly, you might like to point our browser here to read a summary of How mobile phones help learning in secondary schools by Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young or download the full research report, to get her expert opinion.

Alternatively head over to another 2008 efellows blog to get ongoing insights into how mobile technologies can enhance the learner experience.

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