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Cell Phones on Campus

An Essential Annoyance

These days the mobile phone is both an essential part of our apparel and an unending annoyance. They help us keep in touch with our families, our friends, and the office. But what about those times we are forced to listen to other people's conversations while using public transportation or dining out? Then there are those inconsiderate beings who forget to set their phones to vibrate while attending the opera or poetry readings. Sometimes we wish we could go back to the time before cell phones were invented.

Classroom Hindrance?

One more place where cell phones have been considered an out of place hindrance is in the classroom. In addition to diverting the students' attention from the lesson at hand, instant text messaging makes cheating a breeze. But some educators are changing their views on cell phones and the classroom. Abilene Christian University, for instance, will be handing out smart phones to 2/3 of this year's new crop of 950 freshmen.

Instructors will use the phones to take attendance and the students are expected to use the phones to receive podcasts during class, obtain educational materials from professors, and network with other students on ideas during classroom time. According to William Rankin, co-director of mobile learning research at the Abilene, Texas facility, "This is a new platform for learning, in the same way a laptop or a desktop was a new platform."

The Texas school isn't the only educational facility to decide that getting with the cell phone as an educational tool makes good sense and universities all across North America are coming to the same rapid conclusion. And well they should, since a recent survey of 700 teenagers found that 71% of the teens have cell phones while only 59% of them own computers. University students own cell phones at an even higher rate. It seems only logical to enlist the phone for the cause of education instead of continuing to ban them in the classroom.

A recent analysis of the cell phone as an aid to education suggests that smart phones will soon come to be seen as much a part of the educational experience as a student's book bag. The great thing about cell phones is how little space they take up and how much less they cost than laptops. In fact, Abilene Christian experimented with having students use laptops in the classroom and found the screens created too much of a student/teacher barrier.

Mobile phone companies and their carriers welcome this newest role of the cell phone and even have visions of selling smart phones right on campus. According to one research project, smart phone sales are expected to reach 70.3 million units by 2012 from a much more modest figure of 18.3 million in 2007. As of now, sales of mobile phones for the purpose of education are only a fraction of total iPhone sales, but are expected to reach 20-25% within the next few years.

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