At a conference this week in Washington called Mobile Learning 09, CTIA, a wireless industry trade group, plans to start making its case for the educational value of cellphones. It will present research — paid for by Qualcomm, a maker of chips for cellphones — that shows so-called smartphones can make students smarter.
Some critics already are denouncing the effort as a blatantly self-serving maneuver to break into the big educational market. But proponents of selling cellphones to schools counter that they are simply making the same kind of pitch that the computer industry has been profitably making to educators since the 1980s.
The only difference now between smartphones and laptops, they say, is that cellphones are smaller, cheaper and more coveted by students.
“This is a device kids have, it’s a device they are familiar with and want to take advantage of,” said Shawn Gross, director of Digital Millennial Consulting, which received a $1 million grant from Qualcomm to conduct the research.
His group is also talking to school districts in Chicago, San Diego and Florida about buying specially equipped phones for the classroom. It projects that wireless companies could sell 10 million to 15 million phones as a result of this effort in the next few years.
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