Meanderings about Going Mobile with My Classroom

The Go Mobile! Challenge from my Flat Classroom Certification program might have triggered some of the newest, freshest material and ideas for me so far. I have to confess that when it comes to mobile technology, I always feel a little behind the curve. I have had a mobile phone for some time, but until the last year or so really only ever thought of it as a phone, despite all of the ballyhooed developments. I suppose this is in part to my having to delay my purchase of a smart phone. More recently, I have been playing with a bit more seriousness.

Since the introduction of the iPhone, my interest in the smart phone really began to manifest. I know the idea had been around for some time before that device, but it wasn’t until the iPhone that I suddenly thought that there was something cool about them. A Blackberry and the ability to sift through email and maybe a calendar just didn’t seem to justify the cost to me. Were I still in the corporate world and someone else was paying for it, I have no doubts that I would have had some kind of smart mobile device and probably would have been relatively interested them. As a teacher, having to foot my own bill, I got pretty choosey quickly.

Like everyone else, the iPhone got my attention. Problem is living in New England, AT&T is pretty lousy service. I used them when I first moved out a here a few years ago with terrible results, and I wasn’t convinced that so much improvement had happened that it warranted signing back up with their contract. Here Verizon “Rules the Air.” So I wait, patiently, for Apple’s exclusive deal to expire. Despite all of this, during the summer, I sat down one afternoon and figured out how to jailbreak an old iPhone my best friend had given me.

While the phone service does not work on the thing, which is fine with me, I can do everything else with it. The camera and microphone works, as well as the ability to add any apps via wi-fi access. Until the announcement of the new iTouch, I was convinced collecting as many as I could and using them in class was going to be a boon. Still collecting some has a lot of potential, mainly because they are free. At this point, I have two with two more in the pipeline. However, the new iTouch offers all of the same features and more, all the while being shiny and new. Thus, I am planning on drafting a grant proposal in the near future to secure a few for my classes.

My keenest interest in using them is the prospect of having a single mobile device to create videos and multimedia artifacts. While my school has a fair number of computers, we are not one-to-one yet. So adding iMovie to the new iTouch is something I am definitely interested in testing. To be able to do all of the simple things on that single handheld device is pretty exciting. Yet, this is only one, simple, and relatively obvious kind of application.

Another possibility that has been growing on me is finding new and interesting ways to leverage the use of Twitter. Until I started playing with the renegade iPhone, I had only ever really used Twitter from a computer. Now I find myself checking it via the mobile device and feeling that it is a more natural interface for using it. Unfortunately, I cannot type on those things with near the speed or accuracy as a full size keyboard, and I don’t even have Snicker bars for fingers. Ultimately, I keep thinking that there has to be some more interesting ways to use Twitter in the classroom, even better than some of the uses I have already encountered, which for the most part have seemed a little pedestrian. Of course, I believe that it was recently blocked at my school, so I may have to do some lobbying.

Of course the fact that email is now a staple application of most phones, be they smart or relatively still dumb, offers additional possibilities. My regular mobile phone can be used for email. Yet with my jailbroken iPhone, I have some more wide open email kinds of applications. For one it is much easier to type, although still not ideal. One specifically that I am already contemplating is some way of folding Posterous into my existing class web presence. Since it allows posts directly from email or the their iPhone app, a smart phone may not be a necessity. I also have been playing around with a text messaging app as well.

While all of the apps available with the smart phones are attractive, what I have been contemplating more than ever is using SMS more in my classes. Simpler, elegant uses tend to gain my most immediate interest. So somethings like Poll Everywhere is definitely something I will be playing around with this year. Also, I am considering using Yahoo Messenger for SMS for reminders and updates.

Yet I can already see a decline in email usage in most of my students. They will use it but somewhat begrudgingly. SMS is where they are actively engaged and may offer some interesting experiments. So anyone can lament about making things even easier for students, but I would rather opt for meeting them where they are and seeing how far we can go together. So, I am thinking more than anything that I will ask them to design some possible uses. Methinks there will be more to report on this front.

Apart from that, I think I will be reading Liz Kolb a lot more regularly, as well as investigating the Australia’s MiLK and these additional resources.

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