iPhone 3G and the cloud. The game changed this week.

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.

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9 thoughts on “iPhone 3G and the cloud. The game changed this week.

  1. I can’t wait for the day when I can walk into a classroom with a room full of students who each have their own amazing mobile device like an iPhone! (Or, perhaps in my current position, I can’t wait to train staff further about the exciting ways they will be able to use devices like iPhones with their students!) It is clear to me that both media players and mobile phones have a place in education – we are kidding ourselves if we cannot recognise that. And “cloud computing” – what an exciting and amazing concept that is! The future is definitely in mobile devices and cloud computing.
    Andrew, it is very lucky that we don’t work in the same school as I am pretty sure that I, along with your students, would be drooling over that iPhone! However, I’m hanging on for just a bit longer to see what comes next…
    🙂

  2. Hi Andrew

    I agree that the iPhone is sexy, that it clearly sits in the desired path (I heard your talk today at the VASSP conference) and that it is very user friendly. I have some funding from Australian Flexible Learning framework for a project called MEET (Mobile Electronic Employability Tool) and am currently trying to collaboratively choose the right phone/pda to use with kids to map their learning in the workplace. I have looked at the iPhone, also the iMate and waiting to look at the new HTC Diamond. I want the kids to access the internet for a whole range of purposes, to be able to make and listen to podcasts, make and view videos, view and take photos, write about their experiences and do as much as they can on the mobile device before uploading onto a website. The thing I am not sure about is whether the iPhone will accept third party software and therefore whether (at the moment) it has the flexibility I need. For instance it does not do video but you can add that facility on, however is it only Apple apps which can be added as present? What do you think? Linda

  3. One of the things i like best about the iPhone 3G is the many many 3rd party apps that you can install. If you visit the iTunes store you can see how many there are (literally hundreds). Apple controls which apps you can put on the phone – they have to approve them before they appear on the store – but the apps are developed by third party developers. Some are free, most are a few dollars. But many are wonderful. I think Apple seems to do this to ensure quality control… (“ensure” might be too strong a word, lol).

    You are right that the iPhone does not do video (yet). I am given to understand that there is no hardware reason for this but just that Apple has not built that into the software. There are third party apps that do it… but i think you have to jailbreak the phone to let them work (in other words they are not officially approved by Apple). Hopefully an update to the iPhone OS in the near future will include that and a few other features that are also missing.

  4. I have one now Douchy and fully agree with your comments. I have asked my IT man at school to learn the web interface for filemakerpro…we use this for our record keeping at school. if he can get it going we will look a getting each staff member an iphone…big cost but endless benefits.

    Don’t suppose you know anyone with expertise in this area that I can get my IT man to speak with.

    Keep it up.

  5. You’ve discussed some of the more complex functions of the top-end phones here, but I’m convinced that there are heaps of basic applications that teachers should be employing now. These are avaialable on most bottom-of-the-barrel phones that many secondary students currently have access to.

    I’ve posted a vodcast about my thoughts over at smrinp.globalteacher.org.au (which is the blog for innovation and next practice in SMR). It would certainly seem though that cloud computing will be common practice in the near future.

  6. Hello,
    I’m mesmerized by your knowledge and musings about schools, technology, where this is all headed, etc and after visiting my prac students out in the schools after teaching them tons of great ICT skills, I must say that I am frustrated and discouraged about the way our schools are managing the learner environment for most students. The archaic and narrow thinking of most schools that I have been to recently have confirmed for me why kids are unengaged and dislike school! It is extremely boring and uninviting and stifling! You are absolutely correct about the communication needs of our students, the need for change, and the wonderful impact that using these wonderful technologies could have on our students. However, the miniscule incremental changes that are occuring are abominable! Our schools operate as though we were in the 1950s or earlier-would we be happy to have no access to telephones, internet, AC, laptops/computers, etc at home? Absolutely not! But everyone associated with schools (parents, some teachers and administrators) are happy to let the status quo remain-It must change and it must come from a high level-the grass roots movements will help, but vast changes in the schools need to be made and it must be across all barriers. The only thing that will actually fix the schools at present, in my opinion, is a vast revamping of the entire system. I have sat through classes in primary and secondary recently and thought, ” Why are they learning this?”-No relavance at all! For example, pirate clothing-What relevance does that have to anything??? So…. there is my rant! Good to get it off my chest-I’m ready for the revolution!

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