Cell phones have long been anathema in the classroom, banned as a potential distraction, at best, and as a possible vehicle for cheating, at worst. But lately, educators have begun changing their tune on mobile phones.
Abilene Christian University will hand out Apple’s iPhone 3G smartphone to two-thirds of this year’s entering class of 950 freshmen. Students will be expected to use the devices to brainstorm ideas and get virtual handouts and podcasts during class. Instructors will use them for such tasks as monitoring attendance.
“This is a new platform for learning, in the same way a laptop or a desktop was a new platform,” says William Rankin, co-director of mobile learning research at the school in Abilene, Texas.
Other schools across the country, from Michigan to Maryland and Texas to North Carolina, are coming to the same conclusion â€” that advanced wireless devices can be used as much for learning as for entertainment.