Do I really need a smart phone?

My phone is not smart. It is entirely functional. It is small and has the battery lasts for a week at a time. I can call, text, and take photos intermediate quality.

Hailing from Finland, the 90’s Nokia phones are the standard I compare all my phones. And I am not alone in this. While the drawbacks like short battery life, breakable screen, and high cost still deter me from investing in a smartphone, I am starting to feel that I should get one. Just to get by in the society.

Ability to constantly check work e-mails, take photos for your insurance claim, record video for a class project, and to fact check claims on-line would make life a bit more convenient. It would make the web more accessible to my every day life. While reading snippets from “War on Learning” by Liz Losh, I was relieved to see the third guideline for developing pedagogy in the digital world. Not forgetting the old technologies like paper and pen, glue, and markers as valuable and sometimes vital tools is an idea I like. I really cannot afford to buy a smartphone.

This dilemma with my finances in connection to smartphones always makes me think about the assumed privileges of the students. Can we really assume they all have fast internet access when they are at home? Does everyone have a smartphone? Does everyone have their own computer to install programs on? Are they comfortable or allowed to use the family data plan to research controversial issues?

The economic divide can wreak havoc on a student’s class performance. Even if there are ways to work around the lack of a smartphone, the advantage gained by having one can be tremendous. Setting students in unequal positions from the start is harmful for the whole learning community. If I was required to use a smartphone in one of my classes, I would drop it. No matter how interesting it could have been. Loss of students from a class this way limits diversity effectively. And this concept illustrates to me how discrimination, even the subtle kind, has huge effect on any class from the start.


Inclusiveness statements on organizations websites always seem so philosophical and poetic. Like a interior decorators plan designed to look pretty. Today’s inclusiveness and diversity statements should be something more serious. They should be more than just a standard slapped on a website.  Everyone should be able to take part in higher education despite not having the same privileges some of us have. Or indeed – smartphones.



3 thoughts on “Do I really need a smart phone?

  1. Susan Watson

    I think the price (literally) that we have to pay for smartphone access is ridiculous. My contract runs out in December and I am weighing my options. My bill used to be $50 and is now $100, which seems exorbitant to me, a single person who is a public school teacher. Others value smartphones so much that the price doesn’t matter, but do I want to keep it? I don’t know. Staff at school who do not yet have smartphones always act sheepish about it. So how do our students feel? Most are children in poverty. Some have smartphones intermittently (gotten from who knows where). It surely is a divide that will only get larger over time.

  2. mari Post author

    Thank you for the comment Susan. I agree that $100 is a steep prize for a phone and a data plan. If one cannot afford to have this luxury item in high school, it is unlikely they will have one in college as tuition and other expenses are added to the already strained finances. We need to be extra careful when planning the classes and activities that are technology heavy to be fair to all students.

    It is interesting to ponder if some majors like IT actually expect students to really own the technology they use in advanced classes. The technical tools might be required for the profession and learning it, but in the end the employer will provide the tools needed. Should the students still foot the bill for technology during their training?

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