Different people process things in different ways...
After spending what seemed like an eternity in the consumer information gathering stage regarding smartphones, I soon realized from this process that my students were ever so "connected" in the 21st Century (The 21C). They are engaged in constant communication via their smart phone devices. As a Gen Xer, I didn't understand how or why they would want to be "on" 24/7...it just seemed like a burden that I didn't want to carry. But, then, it hit me. As a professor, I do my best to engage my students and bring them into the class, when all the time, all around me, the students were trying desperately to engage me, and bring me into their "culture."
Finally, after years of resistance, I opened my eyes to the 21C, sent my first text message, and quickly upgraded my family's cell plans to encompass all the technology the 21C has to offer by way of the Apple iPhone.
You know, the biggest misconception about the iPhone is that it is a toy. Sure, it's cool to stream my music (I got rid of my XM contract by the way...no need for it, as with the 3G network, you can stream Internet radio all day long), and play with entertainment applications and reference, but, it really is an amazing tool. Prior to having the iPhone, I basically had to look at my laptop all the time to see what my schedule was going to be, etc., like from home. This made me pretty anxious all the time and even apprehensive in the mornings when I was getting ready to leave for work...not so anymore. I have all my information (like a PDA) at my fingertips...it has "freed" me...LOL. I no longer feel so stressed, or have to wait for a laptop to load (aren't we such an entitled group?) to check my mail, voicemail, or email.
There are thousands of "applications" one can load into the phone such as, the USA Today for news, The Weather Channel, Bloomberg Information, AdAge and Yahoo Mobile, Facebook, etc. that really help you have tools at hand to make for interesting discussions in class. The apps are mostly free, with some costing .99cents to $10 or more depending on the app. With the Web browser, Safari, you can do fact checking right in class....pretty cool. Hey, you might as well because your students are sitting there running fact checks on everything you say as well!!!
Smart phones are pricey! The iPhone itself is around $200 and it runs about $160 a month to support it (including a mandatory $30 a month data plan fee) at an unlimited plan (more than I paid for my first financed car!!!). But, I must say, I am a couple of months into it, and feel it is money well spent. Oh, and one caveat, if you are with another carrier outside of AT&T, you will pay switching costs of $200 per phone to terminate a contract early.
The iPhone is truly what you make of it! Mine is a balance of fun and function. Haha, a week after I bought mine, well, yes, of course I had to get my wife one! I think it has helped our communication greatly! Prior to this, I had only sent one text message in my life...now, I text all the time, and have learned a lot about my students and their culture. Just this past week, I have used my iPhone to reset an online exam that errored out on a Sunday leaving one of my students hanging...I received the student distress email forwarded from the online learning system directly to my phone...and within 2 minutes had the student's exam reset...wow, probably the closest an academic can come to being a "hero." Nah, it's just expected of Gen Y! Appreciated, but, expected!
It is my sincere hope that embracing the 21C in such a manner will lead to better communication and engagement with my students. I hope to do even greater things in the future to assist in moving forward with programs, research, and publications in this area. I know one thing for sure...my university is on board and willing to support these efforts. Let's face it, my university president was one of the first in the state of Texas to have an iPhone!!!!
I am hooked on the 21C, and no longer think it is "rude" for someone to text in class or in a meeting...merely a way we have to multi-task to find 26 hours in our 24 hour day!