iPods 1 — Handhelds 0

AP Photo/David ZalubowskiThat's the score when we look at this use for Apple's video iPod compared to trying to use a handheld. This is awesome. There is no question as to why someone would want an iPod over a "traditional" handheld when you consider what the Colorado Rockies (and I'm sure others) baseball team has done with collecting and downloading opposing hitters and pitchers video to their players iPods. What else would they use? These players are constantly on the go from city to city, bus to plane and have a lot of down time in the clubhouse and hotel rooms. Wouldn't you want your student's or student-athlete's time occupied with learning this way? This is ubiquitous learning.

It's only a matter of time before schools adopt this type of use of iPods. I can imagine it starting with athletics… I already have loaded my sons wrestling matches on his 60 GB device so he can watch and learn from. I can see football coaches loading "film" on iPods for players to study. It would then trickle to other areas of education as Tim Wilson writes at The Savvy Technologist. (I hope it happens in reverse, but as we can see MLB is ahead of most of education).

If you know me, I have consistently asked the question "why are schools choosing the iPod over a Palm or Windows Mobile handheld?" As I mentioned in my post "To iPod or not to iPod" I mentioned that storage size is a major feather in the iPod's cap. This doesn't mean that a handheld can't handle video, it simply can't handheld the quality or amount of video an iPod can at this time. It also means that handhelds have a way to go until they are as seamless as iTunes and the iPod. This sure to be discussed (and already has) further.

To iPod or Not to iPod?

I have regenerated this post as it is still a raging question in my mind as more and more schools are taking to iPods for various reasons. I regenerate this also to open the question to Mobilemind-ed readers as well as to my fellow educators who are considering iPods as THE solution. As this was a post from another blog… edTech Classroom it may seem dated.

Please comment with your thoughts. – Brian

To iPod or Not to iPod?

That is the question I had after attending a session on the uses of Apple's iPod in education at NYSCATE. Being someone who has experience with using handhelds I found this an interesting topic. Handhelds, as I have come to refer to them, are also known as personal digital assistants (PDA), Pocket PC's, or one of my pet peeves… Palm Pilots. They are, simply, computers that you can hold in your hand (hence, handheld computer). While I think iPods fit this description, I don't feel they are as useful as a handheld computer that runs on the Palm OS or Windows Mobile (a.k.a. – Pocket PC).

The iPod does have features and functions much like a PDA except the ability to input data through the iPod itself. I can use my PocketPC or Palm handheld to do all the things an iPod can do and more. In addition to keeping personal information (i.e.- calendar, contacts, to do, etc.) a handheld can record audio for podcasts, show video, read .pdf documents, create documents, spreadsheets & presentations, and most handhelds can take photos and video with the right accessories. Compare the differences:

Apple iPods vs. Handheld Computers

  iPod Handheld
DigitalMusic Yes Yes
Photos Yes Yes
Video Yes Yes
.pdf Yes Yes
Read/Write Yes/No Yes/Yes
Memory <60GB> <1-2GB>
Phone No Yes
Internet No Yes
Screen Size 2.5" >2.5"

When you compare the functions available on the iPod and on a handheld computer it seems that the handheld makes more sense for classrooms. So why this phenomenon? What is special about the iPod? When the iPod came out 4 years ago there were mp3 players with less than 128 MB of memory. Now Apple offers an iPod comes with 60 GB of memory that plays video. I believe it lies in the marketing. Apple was genius to "rope in" the millenial generation with a cool digital music player with a ton of memory. It seems that the only advantage an iPod has over a "traditional" handheld computer is that it has so much more memory. I don't believe that this kind of memory for a handheld is too far behind. It is cool, it is sleek, the millenials love it and will keep purchasing the next generation iPod. Given the attempt to combine iTunes and a phone [the ROKR] the next generation iPod may look more like a handheld. Only Steve Jobs will tell.

Mobile Classrooms

As this blog grows I hope to have real classroom applications about how education is going mobile. Ian Marsden, in Australia, had his students to a simple activity with their Windows Mobile devices in a Waste and Water Audit of their school's grounds. This is a simple, but important example of how handhelds can make a classroom mobile. You don't necessarily have to leave school grounds to be mobile. Though I can't be sure (I'm in New York), I imagine that Ian's activity was more organized and less time consuming because of the use of handhelds. Would you want to duplicate data entry from a sheet of paper to a computer opening yourself up for errors? I didn't think so. Handhelds are a tool that makes learning fun and easier, as you can see in this example.

How else are handhelds making your activities more organized or easier to accomplish? Send your replies to mobileminded@gmail.com as I get more I'll post them here on mobilemind-ed.com.