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truphone : Are We There Yet?

Several Days After The World Changed

December 15, 2008 · Posted in iPhone, Teaching 2.0 · Comment 

In my last post I addressed the sense of empowerment that I felt from using my iPhone 3G. My enthusiasm has not waned in the slightest. Quite to the contrary–I find it more useful every day. Given that experience, it was inevitable that I should begin thinking about the possibilities of using an iPhone in K-12 education.

The promise for a device like the iPhone in K12 education is limitless. It’s not at all difficult to imagine the way it would transform field trips, project-based lessons, and collaboration. The problem, however, is obvious–you need to sign an expensive cell phone contract in order to use one. Unless a teacher or a well-heeled student with unlimited minutes is feeling generous, the likelihood that an iPhone will appear in a classroom is remote.

However, Apple makes another device with much the same appeal as the iPhone–the iPod Touch. As a wi-fi device, it can function on school or public networks, saving documents for later perusal and running much of the same software that runs on the iPhone. It can load and view and, to a limited but growing extent, edit Office documents. It’s capable of loading and viewing very high resolution documents from the Library of Congress and other reliable educational sources. You can add dictionaries, translators, conversion programs, and other useful utilities. You can download and view movies, podcasts and electronic books on a variety of educational topics. With the addition of an inexpensive microphone, it’s a voice recorder. Add a VOiP program such TruPhone and you can make free phone calls over the wireless network to anywhere in the world. (Sister school, anyone?) As is, it makes an intriguing and engaging teaching and learning tool. It’s missing just two elements that would make it a viable replacment for laptop computers in many cases–a camera and GPS capabilities.

An iPod Touch with GPS would be able to make full use of incredible tools such as Google Earth and Google Maps on a school network. It would allow accurate geotagging of pictures (taken with the hoped-for camera), data gathered on a field trip or information from a sister school. The camera would give students an opportunity to gather data for posters, web pages, slide shows, and other place-based projects and transmit them over a wi-fi network to anywhere in the world. The possibilities are endless.

Either way you look at it–a GPS/camera enabled iPod Touch or a phone-disabled iPhone–this is a device that would have as much of an impact on K-12 education as the original Apple desktop computer did back in 1978. I hope someone is listening out there…

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