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:
Todayâ€™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 devicesâ€”as well as any laptop computerâ€”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 starthere.ctap8.org 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Download the ZiPhone application for your computer.
- Use iTunes to Restore iPhone to it’s factory settings.
- Use ZiPhone to Jailbreak Your iPhone. (Just press the Jailbreak button. The application has pretty straight forward instructions if you need them, too.)
- 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.
- 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)
- Have fun!
By the way, if you ever need it, the default username is root and the password is alpine.
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.