Giving iPods to college students – courting high tech, or just courting controversy?

The NY Times reports:

Taking a step that professors may view as a bit counterproductive, some universities are doling out Apple iPhones and Internet-capable iPods to students….

While schools emphasize its usefulness — online research in class and instant polling of students, for example — a big part of the attraction is, undoubtedly, that the iPhone is cool and a hit with students. Basking in the aura of a cutting-edge product could just help a university foster a cutting-edge reputation.

Apple stands to win as well, hooking more young consumers with decades of technology purchases ahead of them. The lone losers, some fear, could be professors.

Students already have laptops and cellphones, of course, but the newest devices can take class distractions to a new level. They practically beg a user to ignore the long-suffering professor struggling to pass on accumulated wisdom from the front of the room — a prospect that teachers find galling and students view as, well, inevitable.

“When it gets a little boring, I might pull it out,” acknowledged Naomi J. Pugh, a first-year student at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., referring to her new iPod Touch, which can connect to the Internet over a campus wireless network. She speculated that professors might try harder to make classes interesting if they were competing with the devices.

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