Archive for April, 2008

Jailbreak Your iPhone (for Educators)

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Two weeks ago Mike Lawrence and I were at the Leadership 3.0 Symposium, where we made sure to pop into a presentation by Kevin Silberberg, Ed.D., Superintendent of Standard School District:

Today’s progressive administrators understand how affordable handheld technology can help them efficiently manage data. This session explains and demonstrates how you can collect classroom observation data via Apple iPhone and iTouch devices—as well as any laptop computer—and record, store and access your data anywhere, anytime, via the Web.

In essence, Kevin and his team from CTAP Region 8 built a beautifully streamlined web app (about 2 MB of php code as I understand it) that is optimized for the iPhone and does away with the need for administrators to “synch” their handheld. I got the impression they would host your data or else give away the code to use on your own servers. Got to to register. Good stuff.

Even better, one of the team, who preferred to remain nameless, showed Mike and I his “jailbroken” iPhone and explained how easy it was to do. The value in it was obvious within about 60 seconds of seeing his phone… um, I mean his cutting edge computer. He was gracious enough to meet Mike and I after the session to walk us through the process – in exchange we bought him a couple of O’Douls. ;)

iPhone is Different

I’ll explain the process below, but first I want to explain why iPhone is Different. I know longer think of this thing as a phone, but rather as the most advanced computer I own. So what’s so different about iPhone? In short, it’s multitouch, it knows its orientation (thanks to the accelerometer), and it knows its location. I can’t stress how much this changes things, and how many new things it allows “the computer” to do. I have no doubt this is the future of 1:1 devices in education.

It’s Multitouch

Multitouch allows a whole new brand of applications, like those offered by Moo-Cow-Music, including a Piano (that allows recording and playback), a Guitar, and a Drumset. (Click on the video below to see a video I shot of Mike Lawrence and Hall Davidson playing a duet on two iPhone pianos. You may have to crank up the volume. I’d love to see a whole band of iPhone instruments: a piano, two guitars, a drummer.) One of the most powerful uses of computers in education is to encourage student creativity, and this kind of application opens whole new doors. By the way, for more on the importance of student creativity, watch Sir Ken Robinson, who keynoted the Lead 3 event. You might also check out Tap Tap Revolution, a game that demonstrates what the multitouch screen is capable of.

It Knows It’s Orientation

Obviously this is handy for little things like turning the device to read or view in wide-screen mode. But like the multi-touch screen, it also allows a whole new class of applications. My favorite straight forward example is iLevel, which might be particularly useful for teachers hanging posters or bulletin boards or for students building models for final projects. Mostly, I think it demonstrates how new things are possible. If you have your iPhone, you have your Piano and your level in your pocket… not to mention all that access to the Internet business! I also like Sketches as an example; it’s a drawing program (also good for kids, especially if coupled with Capture to save the drawings), which is modeled after an etch-a-sketch – so if you shake the device the picture is cleared. :)

It Knows Where It Is

Hopefully by now you all know that iPhone got a cool new killer app (or killer feature) in the January software update. Push the little button in the lower left corner of Google Maps and iPhone triangulates your position based on cell tower signals and wifi signals. It puts me squarely in my office at home… and is far more accurate than a regular map search. So this has made a whole host of new applications possible.

Geopedia brings you Wikipedia articles about things that are near you. Twinkle brings you tweets (from Twitter) that are near you. There are several apps that bring you nearby Flickr picures (including Geopedia). And this is the coolest, however scary: using Navizon you can see where your “buddies” are. You sign up for an account and then set your iPhone to update the Navizon servers – then you invite buddies who do the same (and accept your invitation). There goes the need for the “where you at?” conversation. When I demonstrated this to workshop participants in Orange County on Tuesday it was cool to see that Mike was up in Oakland.

I suspect all phones will have this soon, and “good, our kid is in school” will be a frequent experience for parents. Of course, this has the same limits it did in Star Trek: The Next Generation; if Ensign Barkley was causing trouble, he probably left his communicator in his quarters so you couldn’t be sure where he was. Presuming this feature is used for accessing information rather than tracking kids, though, I think it is extremely powerful – and they’ll love it. I’ve barely got my mind around GPS in education, but I dare say this offers up far more possibilities, particularly with the seamless integration with online applications.

And More

On top of all this, it’s still the multimedia (audio, visual, tactile) Internet device we’ve already come to love as the iPhone. In addition, there are applications that unlock many of it’s hidden features. Mobile Finder gives you access to the file system. You can even instal AFP for file sharing, or Apache to use your iPhone as a web server (it is an OS X box after all). There’s several applications like Snapture that open up new functionality for the camera (sorry, still no video). And Vnotes allows you to record (and send) voice memos. I was only ever half-heartedly on the iPod in education bandwagon, but I’ll lead the iPhone in education charge.

And don’t worry if I didn’t link to every app you want. You’ll find them all in the new Installer app on your iPhone once you jailbreak it. So, about that…

Jailbreak Your iPhone

Here are the simple steps to Jailbreaking your iPhone. It’s amazingly easy (and safe). You can synch your phone before you start. Then, if something does go wrong you can restore it to factory settings and then restore your data. You can even take it in for service after restoring and no one would know you ever had the iPhone out of jail for a while. ;)

Follow these instructions and you’ll be playing with all these apps in no time:

  1. Sync your phone. You’ll get back any data that’s synched with your computer. Because you will restore it as a “new phone” you’ll lose little things like your favorites, but you can recreate them from your contacts.

  2. Download the ZiPhone application for your computer.
  3. Use iTunes to Restore iPhone to it’s factory settings.
  4. Use ZiPhone to Jailbreak Your iPhone. (Just press the Jailbreak button. The application has pretty straight forward instructions if you need them, too.)
  5. One the phone has restarted, use iTunes to sync your phone with your computer as a “new phone” (don’t use your old profile). But of course you already have service with AT&T, so don’t try to set that up again.
  6. Use the new Installer application to add any of the applications you like. This application querries “source” servers on the internet to bring you lists of applications you can download and install right on your iPhone – without any need to sync with you computer. It’s as easy as browsing categories of apps, clicking on one you like, and then clicking install. On wi-fi this is amazingly fast. On cell signals it can be merely quick. Once each application is installed, you’ll need to “log out” and “log back into” iPhone by going to the home screen. It’ll kick you out, but just slide the slider and you’re back in. Be sure to add the following apps as they open up all sorts of other functionality and lay the foundation for more fun applications:
    • BSD Subsystem (Enables Unix core, allowing you to install other apps)
    • MobileFinder (From iClarrified source)
    • SSH (So you can install AFP later)
    • AFP (So you can file share with your Mac)
    • SummerBoard (So you can install different themes)
  7. Have fun!

By the way, if you ever need it, the default username is root and the password is alpine.

Potential Issues

I had a problem early on with cookies not saving correctly, but I hear this is not limited to Jailbroken iPhones. Happily, using Mobile Finder it is easy to fix the issue. Go into your home directory (using the “~” button in the upper right of Mobile Finder). Go into the Library folder. Select the Cookies folder. Modify it so all users have read/write/execute access. Do the same thing to the Cookies.plist inside the Cookies folder.

Other than that I haven’t had any issues. My battery life has been reduced and I have to restart the phone from time to time, but I attribute both of those things to a significant increase in usage. And I think it’s totally worth it. Incidentally, I’ve learned you can do a hard restart of the phone by holding down the home button and the top power button – and then sliding the power off. Then simply turn it back on.

The only other potential issue is that when software updates are released for the iPhone in the future, you may need to once again restore the phone to factory settings and then apply the update before jailbreaking it again – and you may need to wait a few days for the programers to update the ZiPhone software. And who knows what the future holds with the official Software Developers Kit and new applications they plan to release in coming months. Still, you can always restore to factory settings and get back on the official bandwagon.

Now I’m hardly an expert, but I’ve found the benefits of Jailbreaking the phone and installing these new apps to be worth far more than any headaches, which have mostly just been a learning curve. Shoot me a comment or email if you want any help with this – and particularly if you start using it with your students or in your roll as an educator.

Links for 2008-04-26

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Links for 2008-04-23

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Links for 2008-04-15

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

A Student Not Engaged…

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Walden University provides a “course shell” in eCollege to serve as a resource for all students who have the same faculty Mentor. One of the few requirements of participating in this forum is a monthly discussion. This month the prompt provided was the following:

How can we apply technology to better implement an effective response to intervention (RTI) in the classroom?

Not being familiar with the term, I looked it up on Wikipedia and Google. I then let some time pass before returning to the topic… and found myself writing the following, which I think turned out to be worth sharing here:

After coming back to this topic, I realize that RTI doesn’t seem as if it would be an approach that would resonate with me, and now that I’ve owned up to that reaction it can inform my response.About a year and a half ago I heard a particularly effective director of educational technology say to his lead teachers, “a student not engaged is a student not learning.” This was in a California district stuck in Program Improvement due to low test scores (which were primarily a function of their large population of English Learners). Unfortunately, the additional assessment burdens the teachers were under would do nothing to solve the fundamental problem of engaging their students. This pioneering director urged the teachers to use technology creatively to engage their students – rather than set their technology aside to spend more time on assessment and intervention focused on “the base program.”

He also firmly believed that “a teacher with access to technology who is not using it, is not teaching ‘the base program’ as well as he or she can.”

These two ideas form the basis of my response to this prompt. I believe technologies that engage and motivate students by offering opportunities for self-direction, inquiry, discovery, and creativity are the best way to meet the needs of all students. One of the most significant things I’ve heard said about 1:1 laptop programs is that when you walk into the classroom, you can’t tell who the Special Ed students are or who the GATE students are… because everyone is fully engaged and working at their own level.

Some technologies that might be readily available to most teachers and which might help provide this sort of individualized engagement include commercial off the shelf videogames with educational value (such as the Sims series, the Tycoon series, or the “Age of…” series of games), read/write web tools (such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts), and multimedia creation programs (for editing images, audio, and video). These things are nearly free and ubiquitous and ought to be used creatively in support of the base program.

I wonder how some of you might react to this prompt or this response… and I particularly wonder if any RTI experts might take me to task over the approach I took. In any case, I look forward to any feedback you all might offer.

UPDATE: Scott Smith of Visalia Unified School District is the director in the story above. He is also the current board president of Computer Using Educators.

Recent Workshop Wikis: Sketchasting and More…

Friday, April 4th, 2008

I’m in the middle of two weeks of relatively intense workshop activity and realized I haven’t been sharing my workshop wikis here lately. So, here are the agendas (with links to everything I mention and materials if applicable) for each of the recent workshops that I have permission to share:

Sketchcasting – This workshop was based on the latest tool I found to share with teachers using Tablet PCs. In essence, is a web-based sketching program that is actually responsive enough to work well with a Tablet PC pen and which allows users to save and share their sketches online, complete with narration. It’s like being able to save what happens on the whiteboard – erase the board and keep going as many times as you like during your narration.

Picasa in Education – This is the latest version of my workshop for helping teachers get the most out of Picasa. The wiki includes links to documentation, a checklist of hands-on topics to cover, and links to many other resources including instructional strategies with a digital camera aligned with Marzon’s instructional strategies that work.

Movie Maker in Education – This is a similar workshop, but for Movie Maker. The wiki includes links to documentation, inspirational ideas for classroom use, and more. I even suggest ways to extend Movie Maker’s functionality using Audacity, Photostory, Zamzar, and a Flip Video. (Don’t get too excited… these are one line suggestions with a link to the tools.)

Blog If You Love Learning – This is the latest version of my blogging workshop. Some of the examples are old, but they’re not dated. I’m still very passionate about leading this workshop and sharing these ideas with teachers. For the first time I got to include the new Blog and User Creator at

Organization Skills – This is a new one for me, and the wiki is mostly just an outline of ideas and activities. The purpose was to help teachers using Macbooks (who are going 1:1 with their students next year) to better organize their digital lives, at least professionally. Perhaps some of you will have additional ideas or better links to add. :)

Search Learn Share: An Introduction to Google in Education (Day 1) – Over three Saturday mornings I’m introducing teachers to the content shared during the Google Teacher Academies (which are more of a lightning quick train-the-trainers format). I’m excited about having the extra time to work with teachers so they can apply the various tools in their work as educators.

Internet Awareness and Safety – I haven’t actually updated this workshop yet, but I’ll be leading it next week at the Leadership 3.0 conference, and it is in need of an update… so there will be new material up there in the next few days. I’m still proud of the balanced approach this workshop takes and I look forward to sharing it with administrators next week.

More… – I’ve shared links to many more workshop wikis on the Workshop Topics page of this blog.

I’d appreciate contributions or feedback on any of these. And of course, feel free to use them as long as you abide by the Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons license on any original material.

Links for 2008-04-04

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Links for 2008-04-02

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008
  • Official Google Docs Blog: Bringing the cloud with you
    Exciting news from Google on Monday: “We know that many of you have been waiting for offline access to Google Docs, and I’m happy to tell you we’ll be rolling it out over the next few weeks, starting today with a small percentage of users.”
    (tags: googledocs)
  • Journler – Wherever Life Takes You
    A journal & GTD application ideal for students, Journler includes an iTunes-like interface, multimedia features, smart folders, iLife integration, and more. Unfortunately, this once donationware app will now require a license in the next release. It ma
    (tags: productivity)
  • Simple Private Exchange
    There are many ways to share files on line, but Jeff Utecht recently posted on twitter about this particularly easy service.
    (tags: collaboration)