Is the time right for iPhones in Ed Tech?

A growing number of kids in our school have iPhones, or at least iPod touch models. They're everywhere at WPI, where I'm finishing up my masters.

A growing number of kids in our school have iPhones, or at least iPod touch models. They're everywhere at WPI, where I'm finishing up my masters. Most students aren't using them for much in the way of academics, but as I increasingly use my own phone (a mere LG enV) for web browsing and the price of smartphones (or at least smarter phones like the enV) comes down, I have to wonder if these might not be reaching a point where they could be really useful in Ed Tech.

Their complete portability obviously makes it easier for kids to sneak them out in class, but as the relative richness of the Web experience they can provide increases, their real utility seems to increase as well. I can read Google Docs and Spreadsheets, quickly look up information sans laptop, and Tweet with ease. The iPhone, in particular, has an intuitive and powerful interface and a large enough screen to allow meaningful browsing.

While there aren't many applications that allow users to edit or enter text yet (aside from mail apps), new functionality is emerging all the time aimed squarely at mobile markets. Sure, ULPCs allow full PC functionality in a nicely-sized package, but a shirt-pocket-sized package has a lot of appeal.

Previous efforts to provide students with iPods have largely fallen flat, although plenty of instructors provide podcasts of lectures. However, it seems that the time may finally be right to provide more educational content via cell phone.

Many readers have suggested that smartphones have a greater place in developing countries than even the XO and the Classmate since cellular service is widespread even in many developing countries. Is this the case? I'm not suggesting that iPhones can replace a full-featured computer, but I am wondering if they could combat the laptop wall in so many classes.

What do you think?

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