Students And Their Phones

3 07 2012

I think I must be one of only a few professors who allow students to use their phones while in class.

Of course, I must add a side note clarifying that I seldom, if ever, actually teach in a classroom. But when I do (and if I ever do again), phones are allowed. I know that SXSW attendees tweet with reckless abandon throughout speeches; it is likewise OK if my students are updating statuses, tweeting, texting or surfing the web.

Except on tests.

I think my lax policy stems from the fact that I use my phone wherever I go also. Multitasking is my middle name. As long as it does not disturb others around me,then I am OK with it (and with you doing it as well). I don’t use it in movie theatres (the light is annoying), but many other places are fair game. Oh, and for the record, I try to not use it when in the company of other people (such as dinner), unless there is an absolute emergency.

Notice also that not once did I say a thing about talking on the phone. No, I am referring to using it for its myriad other purposes. If my 14-year-old is reflective of her cohort, talking is so lame anyway. No one actually talks on phone these days, Dad.

The fact of the matter is that college students are in a relationship with their smartphones. Judging by Mashable’s Infographic, they would essentially be lost without them.

The implications are huge, because as today’s college students grow older and are replaced with yet another generation of tech addicts, it means that there will be an increasing number of people for whom living and using the phone (for whatever purpose) are synonymous. It will be up to businesses to figure out how to speak to a growing number of people for whom television and computers have less and less relevance.

Which is another way of saying that the future invariably holds much more marketing coming at all of us via our smartphones. It may be the only weay some companies have of reaching their target markets.

Does this mean that advertising budgets must increase? No, not at all. As each new communication medium has come along, it simply means the advertising pie gets sliced into ever smaller pieces. And businesses will have to decide how to allocate their budget dollars.

This does not necessarily mean that more and more companies are going to start shifting money from traditional media to social. In fact, it may not happen at all, depending on the company, their product(s), and the effectiveness of the advertising vehicle. Earlier this year, General Motors decided to cease advertising on social media, and instead take a more old-school approach. But while they have ditched Facebook’s paid ads, it doesn’t mean a thing about their free corporate Pages.

As I have too many times lately, why pay for something when you can get it for free?

Still, the general trend will continue to be toward smartphone advertising (in one form or another), because that is where people’s eyeballs are glued. And if you do find yourself in one of my rare campus courses, use it freely but with discretion. I mean, unless you happen to receive a really compelling coupon or something, at which point I may have to confiscate your phone.

Dr “Professor’s Perogative” Gerlich


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