College technology requirement limits student choices

My post on a college requirement mandating students to have an iPhone or an iPod touch led to a comment that by requiring an iPhone one is required to purchase an AT&T phone plan.

That AT&T phone plan requirement has been a criticism of Apple since their partnernship was announced when the iPhone was launched. AT&T may not be the best plan for the student (or others, for that matter).

One of my students was enthusiastic about her iPhone — taking photos and going online. But she said one of the main reasons that she and her parents wanted her to have a cell phone was for safety, so she could call them if she had any car problems during her drive through rural Florida to home. AT&T had dropped coverage during her drive, thus defeating one of the main reasons for her to have a cell phone.

Before lecture one day, I needed a student with a smart phone to help me in contacting a guest speaker, as I didn’t have my iPhone with me. A student on the front row assisted me in doing an online search for a business phone number and then calling the business. A student sitting next to her looked on wistfully and said, “My phone can’t go on the Web.”

“But I bet you ate on a plan where you have unlimited minutes with your family and friends,” I said.

“Yes, I do,” she said and brightened up.

With an iPhone, the student will have apps and wireless (among other features) that can be assets for learning. But the AT&T plan may not be what the student needs or can afford. The AT&T plan can be more expensive than other cell phone providers, especially for some of the features college students really like (like unlimited texting and phone minutes). So those hidden expenses need to be considered by the college establishing the iPhone/iPod touch requirement and by the students and their families who will be affected by such college requirements.

If the college says that a student can use an iPod touch and not an iPhone (and thus avoiding having to purchase a phone plan), then the teachers need to remember that and not make assignments that could be done with an iPhone but not an iPod touch, such as taking photos. [Pictured are some of the many cell phone choices — Apple iPhone, Samsung Rant, Sony Ericsson Walkman phone, Motorola Rival and Blackberry Curve.]

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