Jailbreak Your iPhone (for Educators)

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 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.

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.

10 Responses to “Jailbreak Your iPhone (for Educators)”

  1. Chris Bell Says:

    Great post Mark! I have to say that I’m now convinced that it’s time for me to jump into the iphone waters. Apple should thank you ;)

  2. What Caught My Eye Today 04/27/2008 | Notes from Millie D Says:

    [...] Jailbreak Your iPhone (for Educators) [...]

  3. vincent Says:

    Hi I have deleted mobilefinder by mistake so i need the application zip so i can install by ssh -since my installer icon is not visible can you help me find the app zip or tell me how to start installer with ssh

  4. nori Says:

    help me- i am leaving K-12 after 26 years. i have worked with NO superintendent who could fathom what you propose. i look hopefully towards teacher prep @ the university level (knowing full well it is another world of resistance).
    i have followed your research closely for 3 years, and leroy jenkins be damned, am *on board*, have aligned myself with 21st century realities, and still feel terribly sad for my 7 year old daughter. visionaries are nice- but futile.
    PLEASE prove me wrong.

  5. Organic Learning » Blog Archive » EdubloggerCon and the Blogger’s Cafe at NECC Says:

    [...] Although the sessions were great, my favorite part is when I saw Mark Wagner’s message somewhere about meeting up in the Blogger’s Cafe. Thanks to Bud Hunt, I joined the stream there and watched learning happening in the best way. Not only were they playing with Mogulus and CamTwist, it was great to see Darren Kuropatwa trying to join in virtually. I don’t think he succeeded, but the learning was great. Thanks to Jeff Utecht for his refections on the whole day and the event at the Blogger’s Cafe. I even gained new inspiration to jailbreak my iPhone. [...]

  6. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Post-NECC Reflections (With Thanks and an Apology to Steve Hargadon) Says:

    [...] In the wake of all the blogging about the “edupunk” movement this Spring, I found a sort of DIY or hacking theme to my experience at NECC this year. By far the one thing I shared with the most people was how to jailbreak their iPhone. I think the power of this device is awesome (for users in general and for educators or students specifically), so I was happy to go through this so many times – and to help people truly “own” their phones, which are probably the most feature rich computers they own. Despite the good luck others had with the WiFi, I also found myself “hacking” my way into network access, by repurposing Mac Mini’s driving conference displays as access points and by accessing other’s password keychains (with their permission). I suppose in a way, several of us also “hacked” the edubloggercon and the bloggers cafe when we voted with our feet and created spaces for more informal conversation. I’ve always been a fan of subversive teaching. It’s why I wear a tie when I present; the more conservative you look, the more radical things an audience will be receptive to hearing. So this is the second lesson I’m taking away for my own efforts as a professional developer – and that I plan to pass on to teachers: [...]

  7. iTouch The Future…I Teach Myself « Thumann Resources Says:

    [...] If you are looking to Jailbreak your iPhone – check out Mark Wagner’s blog. He is a fellow Google Certified Teacher that I had the pleasure of meeting in person at NECC in San Antonio last week. He has some great posts on the topic. [...]

  8. EduBloggerCon09 and the BarCamp model | ISTE’s NECC09 Blog Says:

    [...] Wagner (known to many NECC bloggers’ cafe participants as the DIY jailbreak guru) shared on his blog following EduBloggerCon2008 a sentiment I think many of us felt: I think every [...]

  9. el rey Says:

    i have a iphone 3g,, firmware 3.0.1 (7A400)… Ziphone is currently not available, so i did another route, i downloaded redsn0w 8.0 and firmware iPhone1,2_3.0_7A341_Restore… i got it so far… then i opened up the redsn0w app and hit browse….it tells me to find the previous file,, i did,, i hit open and it takes me to two folders,,,.fseventsd and firmware… i need help plz..

    el rey

  10. Mark Wagner Says:

    Hi, el rey. I don’t have experience with your problem, but posted a question on Twitter just in case any of my colleagues can help: http://twitter.com/markwagner/status/4017213529