When it comes to the crunch

6th June 2008 at 01:00
Have you been lusting after an iPhone and thinking you can't justify it in your personal life, let alone wondering how you could use it at school? Think again
Have you been lusting after an iPhone and thinking you can't justify it in your personal life, let alone wondering how you could use it at school? Think again. With the launch next week of Apple's new 3G iPhone, now may be the time to consider how to explore new routes to educational ideas through handheld technology.

Mobile technology has moved in a new direction since the release of the Software Developer Kit (SDK) for the iPhone. This means that basically anyone can now write software to run on an iPhone. And anyone could mean you - or your pupils.

The clever thing here is that Apple is encouraging small-scale developers to write and share ideas without having to have big money behind them.

You choose the selling price, and keep 70 per cent. Apple takes 30 per cent towards the cost of hosting and marketing the software application. If you offer the product for free, then Apple doesn't charge any fees. The user gets it for free, and you get it marketed for free - to the world's iPhone users through Apple's App Store, a way of finding applications on your phone that is similar to iTunes.

So how does any of this apply to schools? Well, back in the Eighties when BBC computers were finding their way into classrooms, a hugely innovative and committed range of individual teachers and educators began to write programs to run on them. Apple's SDK could well open up a new route to explore educational ideas through handheld technology - and maybe the programmers this time round won't be the teachers, they could well be the technically literate pupils in our classrooms.

"But the costs of the mobile contracts that come with this phone are enormous," I hear you say.

The good news is that all of this also applies to the iPod Touch, a version of the iPod that has the same touch-technology as the iPhone. You can connect it to your computer, and applications that use the killer features of the iPhone such as the Accelerometer (which senses tilt and movement of the phone) and the multi-touch display will run on the iPod Touch, as it features both of these amazing technologies too.

The potential to tear up the assumed distinction between games and educational software is huge, and if the government or an interested commercial sponsor was to put some money into funding teachers or pupils to develop ideas alongside established games companies, the UK could expect a vibrant new side to the e-conomy.

Sean O'Sullivan is head of Frank Wise School in Banbury, Oxfordshire


The Apple iPhone is a mobile phone that doubles as an iPod, playing music, videos and movies on a 3.5 inch screen. It can be linked to your contacts list on a Windows PC or Mac and voicemails can be accessed in any order. Plus email and a Safari web browser.

Costs: 8GB version pound;269, 16GB pound;329. No costs were available for the 3G version at the time of going to press.

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