Should RRC be goin' mobile?
There's been much handwringing, consternation, and naysaying in Creative Communications in recent times about whether students entering our program should have to buy or lease a laptop computer when they become a student.
Then I shut my big mouth, and all of the handwringing, consternation, and naysaying stops.
There are pros and cons to having a laptop on every lap, and I could easily debate both sides of the issue: the convenience and compatibility on the plus side, the expense (to students) and reduced attention spans killing the classroom dynamic on the other.
It hasn't been as much of an issue for the Graphic Design program at RRC, which took the leap to laptops years ago, got on its high horse, rode out of town, and never looked back. Come back, Shane!
Will the iPhone replace the laptop?
But today I had lunch with Anvil Digital creative guru and CreComm grad Carly Thompson, and we discussed a wide range of issues, from our server's interesting fashion choice - a fuzzy, warm-looking winter sweater with a big hole in the front for no other reason than to prominently display cleavage - to the direction of the communications industry.
I'll pause here to let you get the sweater/cleavage image out of your head. Gone? Let's move on...I'm Roger Lodge, and this is Blind Date!
I had the communications industry on the mind after a very interesting meeting with the Creative Communications advisory committee yesterday, which is made up of industry leaders in the broadcast, ad, PR, and journalism industries.
We went around the table and discussed the future of the business, and it became quite clear that "Mom, dad: something's changed." It's no longer enough to just be a reporter who hands in a piece of paper at the end of the day and goes home, or a person who can't write, but can read the news because he or she looks great on TV, or who "knows how Twitter works" but doesn't actually use it.
Like we didn't know this already: being a communications professional - journalist, PR, advertiser, media producer - means being connected, online and otherwise, 24 hours a day. Shooting video. Tweeting. Blogging. Uploading. Downloading. Moderating. Writing. Commenting. Podcasting. And then doing the job that used to be "the job."
As Carly and I discussed these issues, we couldn't help but notice our iPhones on the table and had a eureka! moment at the same time: "Forget laptops," we said in unison, like much of the dialogue I read in radio ads this semester (ha, ha!), "CreComm should be an iPhone program!"
The man comes around
It may sound insane coming from Mr. Anti Cell Phone himself, but as I - and everyone who owns an iPhone - knows it's not a cell phone, it's a laptop computer in mobile form. Hell, it's even better than a laptop.
I currently use my iPhone to:
- Take and send pictures;
- Shoot video and post it to YouTube wirelessly;
- Send and receive emails;
- Use Twitter;
- Use voice-activated Google. No kidding. And it works!
- Get the news through apps (the Times, USA Today, BBC, the Globe and Mail, Telegraph, ITN, CBC Radio, NPR News, Time, Huffington Post, Consumer Reports);
- Record podcasts for AudioBoo;
- Follow stocks - they don't call me "Moneybags Larsen" for nothing;
- Watch video and films (YouTube and the NFB app is incredible);
- Text message my one friend who sends text messages;
- Write and publish mobile blog posts using the BlogPress app;
- Play music (uDrummer, TonePad, iPod, iTunes);
- Follow RSS feeds (all of the blogs you see on the blogroll to the right of this page);
- And sometimes to even talk to people.
Is this not the job description of a communications professional, and are these not the tools we need in order to attack the multi-faceted jobs that run and ruin our lives?
I hate to imagine a classroom of students and instructors all checking their text messages at the same time - like some of those laptop classes I see when I walk down the hallway: students and instructors staring silently at screens, ironically, just like the dudes in the Apple 1984 ad.
Even worse is the idea that no one has to come to school anymore, because we're all "connected" online. As anyone who has taken an online class can attest: no one ever learns anything "attending" class by watching a video - it's like eating a meal by looking at a photo of a buffet.
But if we take care of the "rudeness, engagement, and attendance issues," then everything else is pretty good. The iPhone 3GS is more affordable than a laptop at $300 and all of the great apps are mostly free, though the monthly Rogers fee is prohibitive around $80.
As many of my PR students pointed out in their recent research papers, the college spends tens of thousands of tuition dollars a year on printing a student newspaper; since it's inevitably going to go online, shouldn't the school's reporters and editors get iPhones instead? Rise up for the iPhone revolution!
Smartphones for smartpeople
Apart from that, the iPhone has other uses in the academic environment: the University of Saskatchewan has its own, free iPhone app - iUSask - that allows students to find their classes, get library books, and check their grades, and the University of Missouri makes the iPhone or iPod Touch mandatory for its journalism students.
An RRC app would be pretty cool; we could find out what's on the menu at Prairie Lights, how construction is going on the new Culinary Arts building, and who hasn't been selected for Breakfast with the...aww, forget it.
Of course, the iPhone could just be a flash in the pan, but I don't think so. As I've said before, a quick trip to the U.S., where the iPhone was released first, shows that practically everyone has one, from kids to senior citizens.
As well, the next generation iPhone is going to probably blow our minds with all of the even niftier things it can do.
Before you know it, you won't be sneaking peaks at your iPhone during class, the iPhone will be the class. Take that Marshall McLuhan!
What would you do?
So, if you had your druthers, would CreComm be a laptop program? An iPhone program? A none-of-the-above program?
And how much would you be willing to pay extra in tuition in order to have access to the new technology and technical support?