"Do you think today's communication students and professionals need to use and understand mobile technology and apps?"I posted this question on Twitter today after receiving an email from a great student and writer for Red River College's newspaper (yes, it's still actual paper!), The Projector.
I'm told that there's going to be a point-counterpoint piece in an upcoming issue about CreComm (the program in which I teach) introducing a "mobile technology" requirement this year.
My first reaction: really? There are people - communication students - who don't think this is a good idea? You can come out now, Ashton!
Here's the requirement, as it was sent out to first-year students with their book list (second-year students don't need to buy a mobile device, though I still think it's a good idea to have one):
You'll note that no one's cramming an Apple agenda down anyone's Adam's apple - you can also use a BlackBerry, Android, or anything app-based that you like (the cheapest is an iPod Touch, as it has no requirement that you sign up with a "cell-phone provider" and you can use the school's Wi-Fi for free).
"Can I use an iPad instead?"The iPod Touch is good for mobile email, watching video, playing music, reading news apps, downloading and reading books, mobile blogging, podcasts, tweeting, monitoring RSS feeds (like classmates' blogs), being plugged in to what's going on, and understanding the “app” landscape.
"Yes," I said to the genial first-year student who emailed me the question.
The reason behind this move is very simple: in CreComm, we want our grads to have a competitive advantage when they apply for jobs, and - when they get hired - be tech-savvy when they come up with solutions to all kinds of communication and marketing problems, like "How do we save newspapers?" (Link jumps to related discussion on Graham Hnatiuk's great Progressive Winnipeg blog).
Our new grads' best competitive advantage over "old veterans:" understanding how to use and harness new media and technology to benefit their client or employer.
For support, look no further than WIRED's new article about the traditional Web being supplanted by mobile devices and apps that deliver us a more-focused and cost-based online experience.
I should also note that this technology has become standard issue in colleges and universities across North America, including the University of Saskatchewan, which has its own, awesome app.
The much-worse scenario is hearing back from grads: "Why didn't you guys teach us the stuff we need to know to get a job?!"
I don't want to teach or study at that school!
The cost/return ratio
An iPod Touch is $329.
Over the past three years, in my classes alone, we've eliminated two, gargantuan textbooks, which used to cost students an additional $400 - they were big, heavy, hardcover, American, and, if the information was useful, they were intensely dull. That's right, I said it!
To put a fine point on it, the good taxpayers of Manitoba subsidize Red River College students to the tune of 80 per cent of the actual cost of educating them. The tuition for one semester of CreComm is about $1,200 a semester - not that much higher than what I paid to attend the program in 1993.
I also note that I recently discovered (on MTV's the College Life - great show!) that one semester's tuition at U of Wisconsin, Madison is $12,000. We've competed with this very same school at the AAF ad competition many times before - its students are indistinguishable from CreComm students in every way - age, skill level, aptitude - apart from that kick-ass accent (on both sides!).
A tuition and college education is an investment - I know, because the return on my degrees, certificates, and diplomas, in terms of lifetime income alone, is great, as I imagine it is with most grads.
Let me put it this way: before CreComm, I shot my BB gun at cars. After: billionaire! Ha!
To me, the debate comes down to this: $329 or your competitive advantage in the communications industry?
As for my tweet: "Do you think today's communication students and professionals need to use and understand mobile technology and apps?"
One hundred per cent agreement from my tweeps. My favorite response, from CreComm grad Jack Rach: "Yes, and everyone else needs to understand as well."