I’ve had an iPhone 3G for a week now. I have to say, I love it. I think, personally, that the iPhone changes the game as far as education and mobile devices is concerned. OK, Its not the first smartphone with web browsing, email, etc… but it is the first smart phone that I think will appeal to a teenage demographic. Why? Because its cool. Because it’s also an iPod. Because the graphic user interface is slick and sexy, and because students are currently carrying an iPod AND a phone, now they can carry the one device that is both. Because students WANT iPhones. Since I got mine…students have been drooling over it (not literally – I don’t let their saliva get anywhere near it!!). A number of my students have already decided to buy one. Now if students start carrying smart phones around, that will have a significant impact on their ability to access and share information. I think we are witnessing a pivotal moment in education.
But it’s not just it’s lovely GUI and svelte styling. What has impressed me most about the iPhone is it’s integration with Apple’s “MobileMe” service. Despite Apple’s rocky launch of MobileMe I have found it to work almost seamlessly.
MobileMe is an example of cloud computing. Rather than storing your files (emails, calendar, contacts, internet bookmarks, etc) on your computer’s hard drive, you store them on a server (or cloud) that you access with any device that has an Internet connection. For example, my calender, address book, bookmarks, email are now all in that cloud. As a result I can add an appointment to the calender on my computer and when I look at my iPhone it is there. There’s no need to plug the iPhone into the computer to sync them, they’re just always in sync. I started writing this blog post using my computer and here I am working on it using the wordpress application on my iPhone. If i delete a bookmark from my iphone, it is also removed from the bookmarks in Safari on my laptop. If I add a contact to my address book on my iPhone, it is already added to the address book on my computer/s.
It’s not perfect (yet) but it’s close enough that I can see the future. And I think that cloud computing and devices like the iPhone will have a profound effect on teaching and learning in schools. How long will it be before we see most kids with a device like this in their pockets? Not long, I don’t think. That made me start thinking about the implications of this on classrooms and schools. Here’s my list, but I’m sure it’s far from exhaustive.
1. The cost of computers will fall because a computer or device will need less and less storage space and processing power (storage and processing being done in the cloud instead of on the local computer). Also since students will buy these devices and be paying for the internet usage, the cost to schools will decrease even further.
2. Banning mobile phones and iPods in schools will be even more absurd than it is now, as these devices will now enable students to research, write blog entries, email, manage and share calendars and bookmarks. If we ban iPhones and other similar devices, schools will (at best) become increasingly irrelevant to students’ lives and (at worst) be standing in the way of our student’s learning potential. That’s a position I don’t think schools can afford to be in.
3. Schools that permit students to have and use iPods but not mobile phones will have to rethink that policy, as convergence is now a reality.
4. Student use of blogs, discussion boards, Instant messaging, social networking sites and chat will get a shot in the arm as students can blog on the bus ride home or leave a question or comment on a discussion forum while snuggled under the covers in bed at night. (The adaptive keyboard in the iPhone makes it possible to type really quite quickly compared to a conventional mobile phone).
5. Schools (whether they face the fact or not) are losing their ability to filter internet content that students are downloading while at school. So blocking sites like youtube is now as ineffectual as it is impossible since the iPhone has a youtube browser built right into the main menu! Instead we need to find other ways to promote the cybersafety of our students – and in my opinion, education is the only way to do that.