Scenes from the cellphone culture

President Obama was heckled last night by a man shouting, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” That’s a news story today.

But check out the crowd when the camera pulls back. Nothing can happen anymore without dozens of cellphone cameras capturing the moment.

It’s hard to overestimate how the cellphone is changing our lives. Once considered an evil, some schools are using them as educational tools.

The Detroit News today documents how teachers in Michigan are having students use them to get kids interested in Shakespeare, for example:

Once considered a distraction best banished to lockers during the day, cellphones increasingly are becoming an educational tool. While some high schools still ban phones in class, some districts — such as Plymouth-Canton and Chippewa Valley — are allowing teachers to explore the benefits of instant class connectivity and feedback.

In Palmer’s English class, for example, students can text full-length responses about “Romeo and Juliet” to a website that allows him to simultaneously display the best responses on the board.

Science teachers can send students on nature hikes to use their camera phones to photograph their findings. Even using the social media network Twitter can teach students how to write in haiku, said Patrick Dickson, an educational psychology and educational technology professor at Michigan State University.

“We’re in a world where people have to learn continuously and they’re not going to just do it in classrooms,” Dickson said. “More and more learning is going online. If they want students to remain economically viable, our schools have to teach them how to do this.”

In New York today, an experiment is beginning to provide cellphone service in the city’s subway system. It’s the last gasp of a dying civilization, some people insist. From a New York Times blogger:

Their forecasts are rooted in a lesson painfully learned over many years: For leather-lunged cellphone addicts, no subject is too inane and no personal detail too private to be withheld from anyone within a 100-yard radius. When you think about it, it is a small miracle that we’ve had no reports of a murder committed by someone who snapped after listening to one high-decibel phone conversation too many in which every third word was “like.”

Others advise the gloom-and-doomers to get a grip. This is really more about providing wireless Internet access than enabling phone conversations, they say.

And in a move that will strike terror into the hearts of teenagers everywhere, TG Daily writes today, India’s telecoms regulator has today introduced a cap on the number of text messages that can be sent from a mobile phone.

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