|Incoming freshman at the University of Missouri's journalism school will be required to buy iPods Touches or iPhones. (L.G. Patterson/ Associated Press)|
School's iPhone requirement stirs debate
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Gadgets such as the Apple iPhone and the iPod Touch are mainstays on college campuses - largely because they help students escape the pressures of the classroom.
Now the nation's oldest journalism school is asking students to buy those or similar devices. Not to listen to indie rock or watch clips from "The Daily Show," but to download classroom lectures or confirm facts on the Web while reporting from the scene of a plane crash or town council meeting.
The new rule for incoming freshmen at the University of Missouri School of Journalism appears to mark one of the first times an American university is requiring undergraduates to buy devices like the iPhone. The policy has spurred a debate about the limits and possibilities of technology as well as corporate influence in academia.
Skeptics say the school is getting too cozy with Apple Inc., though administrators point out that they don't benefit financially from the policy. The university gets a 10 percent discount on Apple computers, but other vendors such as Dell Inc. offer the same deal.
Among the uses envisioned: students listening to lectures at the gym or walking to class; using wireless Internet access to verify information while reporting stories; and watching instructional videos.
Clyde Bentley was one of nine journalism professors who voted against the policy (with 40 in support) at a recent faculty meeting. His primary concern was saddling students with an additional expense. He also questioned whether students who rely on portable devices to listen to Vampire Weekend will embrace the journalism school's intended uses.
"I had a student say that he used his iPod to get away from me," Bentley said, recalling previous attempts to offer podcasts of his lectures.
Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, likened the debate to discussions several years ago over whether colleges should ask incoming students to buy PCs or laptop computers - by now a largely moot point.
"It really shows how both journalism and education are changing in transformational ways," Cole said. "The biggest effect the Internet will have is not how we play or communicate, but how we learn."