Reading edutech blogs, one might think that the iPhone is the only mobile platform out there. As a happy BlackBerry user, I have resisted the urge to try out what is apparently the greatest device ever. Nonetheless, running a school tech department, I felt an obligation to at least try one out. Fortunately, we came into a free iPod Touch as a result of our annual, huge order from Apple.
Before you get too excited, let me state for the record that the iPhone is a more capable device than the Blackberry. It can do more (and do it better). Its graphics are superior, the screen is larger, and the glass keyboard isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The camera shoots better pictures, and you can watch TV shows on it. RSS and Twitter text is more readable and easier to navigate.
Now that we have got that out of the way (phew!), let us consider a different question. What functions do I need in my mobile device?
On my Blackberry, I run:
- Address book
- GMail for a hosted domain
- Google Maps
- Google News
- NewsGator Reader (RSS)
- Opera web browser
In other words, I can interact with practically all of my information sources from this device. I can blog, twit, photo, and so on. I can pay attention to either work or personal mail, depending on the day of the week. I suppose I could play music, but ever since I shortened my commute to 5 min, I don’t need to. When consuming information, I prefer text to audio and video, or at most a page of text supplemented with other media.
I paid $0 for the Pearl with a new AT&T service contract.
Adding the handheld to our school BlackBerry Enterprise Server took about 5 minutes.
I recharge the battery every other day.
To download new BlackBerry applications, I typically just Google what I want and download it from the manufacturer’s web site (i.e., like any other download). Click Install, and I’ve got the application.
I spent about 20 minutes trying to determine whether I could avoid registering the product with Apple and still download the 2.0 software update. I could not.
$9.95 for the software update for a device we just purchased? I couldn’t just pay the fee and download the software. I also had to create an iTunes Store account in order to pay the fee.
Applications are only available through Apple. That seems scary. Every installation requires my iTunes password, even for free products. Why?
Apple says that they now fully support mail for Exchange servers. Except that it doesn’t work for me. Microsoft Entourage can access our Exchange server great through HTTP. Why can’t this iPod?
If I want push email, we have to install an Exchange ActiveSync server. I doubt this is as simple as Apple’s diagram might suggest.
Let’s focus on teaching and learning
It’s easy to get seduced by all the gadgetry out there, but this takes time away from our main purpose of building capacity to support teaching and learning. I’ll stick with the BlackBerry (for now).