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The University of Maryland, Oklahoma Christian University, Abilene Christian and Freed-Hardeman have announced that they will give out Apple iPhones and internet-capable iPods to their students this fall. The universities are of the opinion that these devices will help students with online research and polls. Also this opens up the possibility of new and novel ways of collaboration and learning.

Though the prospective students are excited about this, a number of professors are not so happy since they think that this measure would prove counterproductive. The professors argue that in addition to the laptops that students bring into classes, these additional devices would add to their distractions and may negatively impact the effectiveness of lectures.

Even though the devices would be free, the students will still have to pay for the mobile phone service.

Some critics have also warned about colleges tracking students through these devices. According to Apple, tracking would not be possible unless the students permit it. The colleges have, of course, officially said that they have no plans of tracking students.

So the biggest gainer in this is Apple. This choice made by the colleges when comparable devices were available from other manufacturers like Palm, RIM, etc. goes on to establish the cool factor that has become synonymous with Apple products. The younger generation easily identifies with these products and gains more peer acceptance through the ownership of one. Quite an achievement for Apple.

I guess the four colleges mentioned would also see an increased number of applications this year.