Sunday, March 29, 2009

One iPhone per Child

As the happy owner of a new Apple iPhone, I am intrigued about its possibilities in the classroom. The iPhone includes many, if not most, of the features of the various bits of technology that were part of our program through CPS's Office of Academic Enhancement; but it also includes additional features that suggest additional uses.

The iPhone has web access for do just about everything one does on wih a web browser. As a sound player, it can do everything an iPod can do, including play video and audio (including podcast lectures and other offerings from iTune U). The iPhone includes a decent scientificThe iPhone includes a camera. Free software turns the iPhone into a sound recorder. The GPS chip provides positioning information, and the motion detector suggests other possibilities (math and science possibilities).

In addition, there are many, many applications (25,000 and growing according to Apple), many of which are free, and many of which have either explicit or implicit education uses. (What about textbooks on the iPhone?)

Better yet, the announced summer 2009 3.0 operating system upgrade will include collaboration features. There are obvious uses for gaming, but the Apple video of the developer announcement meeting showed two developers playing music together using their iPhones.

I called a representative from Apple in their education support program. The conversation went something like this:

Me: How can I explore using the iPhone in the classroom?
Apple: You don't want to use the iPhone, you want to use the iPod Touch.
Me: But what about the features that the iPhone has that the Touch doesn't, like the camera or GPS?
Apple: Why pay the AT&T phone charges just to have a camera?
Me: Are there no options for controlling the phone service fees?
Apple: Without phone service the iPhone is inert. You want to use the iTouch.
Me: Is there some way to control this?
Apple: You want to use the iTouch.

The conversation went around like that for a minute or so. Now I may be exaggerating slightly here, but this was my sense of the conversation, and a sense I have had in the past talking to people from large organizations -- this is what is available period, and that's that. It was clear that the rep was unable or unwilling to consider or explore possible ways around the AT&T service issue. And my school is, after all, a small fish. Her answer was the iPod Touch, period. Obviously, I would need to talk to AT&T about whatever programs they might have or consider for iPhone use in the classroom. A rep at Chicago's Apple Store echoed that, since as he point out, with the iPhone we are dealing with two providers, Apple and AT&T, and the latter is handling the cell network connectivity which is a vital part of the iPhone.

But why not use the iTouch? The iTouch does not have the camera, the GPS sensing, the microphone (although there is a way around this), or the Bluetooth ability. I don't know exactly what technologies are needed for collaboration -- maybe WiFi connectivity will be all that is needed. The camera is a biggish thing though, and the microphone, and there are a number of possibilities with GPS (although I need to experiment with GPS signal reception in our school building; I am able to get a good signal in my upstairs room at home.)

Now an iPod Touch that included the camera, microphone, GPS and Bluetooth -- that would be ideal for the classroom.

I set up a Diigo group and a Diigo list for links on iPhones and the iPod Touch in education, if you want to track links I find.

More on this as I find out more.


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