“As instructors, it might behoove us to take a look at whether we want to require a hardcover textbook or a data plan [for phones],” he said. “It’s not going to work on every subject, and it’s not going to work in every department, but we need to look at it.”
This set my mind churning.
First, a bit on my perspective:
I work at a major university. I am a gamer, as well, who happens to dislike using cell phones because they are noisy, distracting, and demand your immediate attention. They are also very audio-centric, which doesn't mix well with my heavy preference for writing and visuals: I want to type and read, not listen. I will confess that, out of my phone-hating bias, that I didn't bother TRYING to learn how to send a text message on my phone until I was sitting bored in a car in a parking lot 5 months ago, and only did so because I knew it would be text-based.
I am an odd mix, certainly: a (relatively) young phone-hating gamer who works in distance learning at a university. I can respect that phones have their ingrained place in the American society, however, given the way that they interconnect people in places where a computer's internet access isn't assured. When it comes to learning, connectivity is key.
Requiring a data plan??
Why would a college instructor do this, specifically, for their class?
- They themselves are heavy phone users
- The school is in an area with good cell phone signal
- The curriculum doesn't require a lot of software programs that a phone would be unable to run
- There is no guaranteed wireless connection around campus/dorms/where-ever the class may be spread, as may be the case with a school spread through a town
To be honest, if I were ever confronted by an instructor who told me I have to get a data plan for my phone in order to retreive online class materials, I would balk. For one thing, I would have to get a new phone that would allow me to type better. And a larger screen that could reasonably read the websites without converting it all into ugly chunks of plain text with horrible formatting. And a better scrolling option. And I'd have to remember to charge it and take it with me every where. And I'd wonder why my teacher is so interested in being able to send me emails or class announcements while I'm out on Friday night with friends.
At that point, I would say, "A laptop would serve me better. Why is a laptop with internet access not enough? Why should I get a phone data plan instead?"
Some may argue that it'd not be a big leap to require a data plan, "Everyone already has a phone, and most already have a data plan." I'd have to argue against this. I was forced to get a cellphone by my then-fiancee during college because of safety reasons: I was doing field work and he wanted me to be able to call out if there was an emergency. As someone who enjoys backpacking, I couldn't argue with his reasoning. Within the first year, though, I lost it down a hole in a huge field while doing soil sampling. I still go camping and expect my cell phone to be a durable, rugged, preferably water-proof lifeline to emergency services. A blackberry is unlikely to survive me very long. (EDIT: Rhii tells me Blackberries aren't the delicate flowers I make them out to be. :) I stand corrected.)
Aside anti-phone wierdos like me, there are those who can't afford one, or can't afford the data plan. Locking an international student into a phone plan for the sake of making sure they can check email on the sidewalk just makes me squirm. Buying textbooks for a class is painful enough, but at least a $80-$160 book (and that's on the high end) for one class is cheaper than a $60/month data plan for dealing with heavy email attachments and web use. A class that doesn't need a textbook would otherwise be a financial breathing point, saving the student money, but instead it would be filled with an even more expensive data plan.
This is in addition to the basic computer requirement held by any major university, because a phone's not going to be able to run the necessary software to create presentations, spreadsheets, or term papers. There are also special software packages like AutoCAD, ArcGIS, and Photoshop and design studios. Some classes/programs even require Tablets.
Why not a laptop? Laptops come in all sizes and power, and can have internet access of their own. Computers are required for most American college students, anyway. You can get a cheapo word-processing, internet-browsing laptop for the same price or less as that little iPhone, and it'll still weigh less than most text books. You can get a decent laptop and use it for internet access, while it can also run programs you want/need (like if I want to play WoW while sitting in a cafeteria), both in the classroom and for recreation.
I don't like it.
I'm not saying that there aren't some people who like data plans for their phone; there are certainly some out there who find it more convenient to have a pocket-sized web browser. Being able to price-check or look up reviews while standing in the store is always a bonus.
REQUIRING a student to get a data plan for a phone (when some may not even have a phone) for a class, however, is a little extreme, given the current cost compared to already having a computer requirement.
So, I guess I'm just left baffled. As time goes on, phones and laptops are becoming more similar, and the lines between them are blurring. Requiring a student to have both with internet access for the sake of a single class just seems like asking too much, financially. I just can't understand the reasoning of requiring, specifically, a phone data plan for a class that will span all of 3 months, when a student may instead prefer to keep their internet access mobile via a laptop.
So I'm throwing this out there. I know we, as gamers, tend to rely much more heavily on having a good, strong computer: do you have a data plan on your phone, too? Is it used enough to be worth the money you spend? If you were a cash-strapped college student who had to buy a laptop for a whole degree program and were then asked by a single class to also get a phone data plan, would you complain, or think it unfair to those students without data plans already?
Or, perhaps, is the quoted person assuming that the student won't have a computer? Have I been spoiled in my perspective by the computer requirements at my own and other major universities? (EDIT: the quoted person's university has computer requirements, as well!).
I think that rather than requiring a data plan, the class should simply require reliable internet access.