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.