When the smartphone gets a little smarter…

I guess you know you’re a real nerd when you start counting down the days towards a smartphone firmware update. While I’m no Apple fan-boy, I have been an avid iPhone user for the past year, and I find that with each new month I’m discovering new applications for my work as a teacher, blogger, traveler and musician.

Anyway – one of the most exciting technology experiences for me these past two weeks on holiday in New York has been the new bluetooth keyboard functionality of iOS version 4. Having purchased a compact bluetooth keyboard at the start of my trip, I’ve been amazed at just how many occasions the combination of this little contraption and my iPhone effectively replaces a laptop.

Sure – web browsing on a mobile phone has never been my penchant. A tiny screen really does limit what one can take in, and I definitely see the merits of light-weight tablet devices for consuming and creating web content. But it is hard to go past the basics on the iPhone – notes, email, calendars, contacts and so on. What is really exciting is that by using a bluetooth keyboard, many of these processes become so streamlined that it’s possible to park oneself on a park bench for a few minutes and quickly flick off a handful of emails to colleagues, type a page or so of a blog draft, add some addresses to existing contacts and even write a lengthier update to one’s Facebook status! Of course, this is the point where I say something cliched like “I happen to be typing this whole blog entry on my iPhone with my new bluetooth keyboard.” Well – I happen to be typing this whole blog entry on my iPhone with my new bluetooth keyboard (yes – it does text selection, cursor keys and copy-and-paste all with the same shortcuts that you know and love).

In terms of school, I see real applications for this with the so-called “dumb” terminals (where an internet-ready computing device is connected to a monitor and keyboard which may or may not be also connected to a network). As smartphones become more a part of the landscape for everyday people, it’s possible to imagine a school where device convergence means that the computer that is – among many other things – the video camera, currency converter, textbook, music library and link and connection to online learning network of teachers and students across traditional boundaries; this computer fits in the pocket so easily. At the same time, with the focus on cloud computing and device agnosticism – such a device may enhance learning but there are many others that can and will be used in its place.

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About Michael

Cellist, singer/songwriter, school teacher, nerd, recent scooter enthusiast and failed philosopher.
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