Linking education to the iPhone may seem like a huge leap but in two to three years it will be obvious.
Really I’m not talking about the iPhone, its about the iTouch (which is the iPhone without the phone bit) and what I’m really focusing on is the technology that drives it: the multi-touch screen; high quality graphics and sound; WiFi allowing it internet access anywhere. All this in a unit half the size of a DVD box. It may be expensive and only available from Apple but over the next few months, similar but cheaper products will be appearing. In two years time it will be bigger, better and everywhere.
This technology is not the only factor at play. Basic skills such as short-term memory and rhythm are showing themselves to have unexpected and significant impact on general levels of success. (See Intelligent Insights and Tick Tock Talk for more). Now couple this with the popularity of Dr Kawashima braining games on the Nintendo DS and the potential for a small, handheld education device is amazing. The One Laptop Per Child is setting the standard for creating robust, affordable devices that are suitable for children. Next may be the One iPhone Per Child or as it should be called, the iLearn.
This may seem unlikely and there are certainly a number of problems to overcome. Not least is that brain training hasn’t been conclusively be shown to work other than in limited areas. We need proof that learning how to playing a memory or rhythm game actually helps in the classroom. RoboMemo and Interactive Metronome have pointed the way with ADHD but more work is need. There also needs to be an open standard that has a long-life so schools can buy from multiple different suppliers knowing they will work together and that they are not going to be redundant in a couple of years.
The potential for an iPhone type device is amazing. The iGuitar and the iAno show just how much is possible on these devices. Being WiFi ready, an iLearn can download new content and enable group learning games. The teacher can easily have a master control unit that overrides or turns off the iLearn when required. All this could be done on a laptop now but laptops are fragile and, for a five to ten year-old, they are bulky. A small unit, the size of a paperback book would make it a usable size but manageable for small hands.
What the iPhone represents is a new class of handheld devices that allow real interaction with their users. Tiny keyboards and unreadable screens are a thing of the past. What we are finding out about the brain gives us unprecedented insight into how we learn and what intelligence really is. Some day soon, these two forces will combine in the iLearn.