The iPhone in education


You’ve probably seen the brouhaha about Apple’s newly-lauched iPhone. When you first look at it may be tempted to dismiss it as an over-priced, over-hyped MP3+phone combo, and wonder how long it will be before you get to confiscate one. But you will be wrong.

It is the iPhone, not Windows Vista, not even the $100 laptop, that points the way to the future of educational computing. I don’t claim any originality in making this prediction, btw; I got it from Berthold Weidmann, director of NetLinc, back in 2001. It was already clear to him (perceptive chap) that something like the iPhone would evolve.

Before I go on to the benefits of the iPhone, I need to resolve the obvious objection: it’s too small to do anything useful. No. It’s too small for you to do anything useful with. Your students overcame that when they put their existing mobile phones at the heart of their social lives. They dealt with the small keyboard by learning predictive text. And the small screen? Well, even a speed reader can only ‘fix’ a few words at once. They simply developed the habits of dexterity to deal with it.

Back to the benefits. I predict that the iPhone, and its descendants and imitators, will replace desktops and laptops as the workhorse educational computing device, because:

  • Adoption. Every kid will carry one of these voluntarily long before they all have laptops, or you have enough desktops in the school.
  • Portability. Ever tried playing football on your way home carrying a laptop? But you’d do it with a phone in your pocket, wouldn’t you.
  • Connectivity. It’s got both GPRS and wifi. So you don’t have to think about how you are connected, you just are.
  • Flexibility. It’s borrowed one thing from the desktop computer; OSX. So it runs real programs. Lots of them.

Having said all that, I already hate the thing. First, because I don’t trust Apple not to hobble it with proprietary deals. And second, because of that grim mini-QWERTY keyboard. There are so many better alternatives. Even a conservative faux-QWERTY solution like Tengo would have been twice as good as what they’ve got. But there it is. I doubt the iPhone will make it to the UK for a year or so anyway; perhaps they will have a more civilised input method for version 2.


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18 responses to “The iPhone in education”

  1. I think homework on a mobile phone is outrageous!!!!!
    Children in the 21st century may be computer literate but completely illiterate when it comes to everyday communication. My child will learn to red & write way before I’ll let an institution brain wash my child into an illiterate mobile phone using child!!!! And we wonder why the world is in the state it is?!!!

  2. i feel encouraging children to commmuincate in many differnt varietys is imporant, but i dont agree with home work over a phone. how can full reading and writing skills devlop if all you have to do is press buttons an read in short hand. think of what it could do to childrens health also. thiers eyesight and the ever so intresting debate to brain problems. stick to paper pens and computers.

  3. i think it is good for children to communicate using different methods, but it is not healthy for children to get too used to communicating using a phone. its bad enough in exams that they sometimes forget their writing skills and use slang. its also not fair for those children who dont have acess to phones or don’t have the skills to use them

  4. I think that using a phone to do homework on is pointless. It doesn’t allow children to use proper english as they will refer to text language which will affect their spelling abilities. It is also not fair on other children who do not have one of these phones to do their work on.

  5. I have similar views to the majority that encouraging children to learn using a number of different methods is very important as it gives them a wider range of knowledge and helps them to develop. But these sort of gadgets being forced upon them isn’t always the way to do it as they may just want one because someone else has one not for the learning side of things. It is also cost for the child’s family this may cause stress between them if it is un-affordable.

  6. i think that it is important for children to use different methods of communication because technology is becoming more and more important, and so will therefore help them in their later life. However i also think it is more important for children to learn how to spell and write properly because using text language oftern makes them forget how to spell words correctly, which has become more apparent in recent SATS and GCSE exams.

  7. I feel that it is important for children to explore the different ways in which they can communicate with others, I also feel that being educated oon the technology which we have is a positive, this helping children make the most of what they have. However I also feel that children carrying these phone things is dangerous and may increase the number or muggings or attacks on children.

  8. The idea of doing your home work on your mobile phone is ridiculous, the main reason being is not every child will be able to have an I-phone mainly because they may not be able to afford one on these so called super I-phones.
    For the boys and girls who are able to have this phone and attempt to do homework on it, I feel that their English will suffer greatly, not only this but all so their communication skills also.
    For the boys and girls who do not have a phone, I feel that it could raise social issues, such as status in ‘the play ground’ which in turn I feel may lead to bulling. I hope this idea does not catch on.

  9. I think using ICT has become more common in the past few years and will continue to develop and be influential in people’s lives. Due to an increase in good technology e.g. computers in school, i think it will be valuable to young children to learn how to use them as soon as possible.

  10. Just 1 comment regarding OSX programms: surely, iPhone is running OSX, but looks like it will not allow to install any 3rd party software, thus it will not run any educational software that’s not written and installed by Apple.
    Another thing, the phone and its screen are small, good teacher wouldn’t ask children to use it for any work.

  11. Rachel F et. al. – it is an interesting moral debate whether kids should use iPhones – but how exactly do you propose to prevent it? The only way I can see is to demand that all homework be handwritten on paper. If you allow students to do homework on the computer (and I think you should) you will have to accept their choice of which computer they use. And this is the point about the iPhone. It’s a computer that fits in your pocket, and which you can use anywhere. That is really going to appeal to kids.

    Incidentally there have been devices (like the Blackberry) around for a couple of years that put email and web browsing in your pocket. All the iPhone adds is a somewhat bigger screen and that essential ‘cool’ factor that will make it appeal to young people.

  12. I think that the biggest problem for most educators in grasping the potential of the iPhone is they see the world of education as it has been for the last 100 years. If you’ve read the article, “How to Build a Student for the 21st Century” from the December 18, 2006 edition of Time, you would be painfully aware of the perception the general population has of education. I know that technology integration is happening every day in our schools, but the barebones budgets that most of our schools live on isn’t enough. MIT has launched two projects: $100 laptop and the OpenCourseWare project to help give away the tools education needs. The biggest problem with the $100 laptop is that it doesn’t fit in your pockent. This means it can’t go anywhere. The biggest problem with the OpenCourseWare project is that the curriculum can’t be accessed from portable devices and a slow Internet connection can really slow down the experience. A small, but growing movement to produce Podclasses is evolving. Since podcasts can contain video, audio and pdf files, students can listen, watch and then print out homework. If you Google podclass and OpenCourseWare, you can read more about these topics. The potential for portable devices like the iPhone is almost infinite. If you add a docking station, you will be able to connect the iPhone to a big screen and sound system, just like you can already do with iPods. My 5-year-old daughter takes my $16 AV cable and connects my video iPod up to our TV all the time. I just my iPod to show videos via my projector in class all the time. I connect my iPod to my Phonic Ear to play kids must and podcasts. The iPod just adds more functions to an educational tool that I already can’t live without.


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