Seton Hall University, a college located in New Jersey, is conducting a highly intriguing experiment: providing a smart phone free of charge to each young man and woman entering as a freshman this fall. The intent behind the initiative is to see if the phones can be used as a collaborative learning tool that will keep students actively learning and in close contact with university resources even when they are off campus.
All students were provided an identical device, a Nokia Lumia 900. In addition, they all received a service plan for the phone that was pre-paid, removing what is the last bar to cell phone use for some students: the monthly cost of making calls and accessing the internet. Dennis Garbini, who serves Seton Hall University as vice president of administration, estimates that the technology itself is far from novel for most students since about 80 percent of them have probably used a smart phone before.
Most likely, many of them even own a phone of their own that they will no longer use any longer. This brings up the possibility that the college could also use the initiative to promote responsible environmental values, teaching students the importance of recycling electronics; e-waste, as it is becoming known as the problems it represents spread.
For now, however, the college seems content to focus on how their ‘free phones’ initiative will influence learning inside the classroom. Some professors are skeptical that students will use them properly; they expect that students will be constantly texting during lectures and discussion sessions. Students, on the other hand, insist that the professors will just have to trust them.