Don't get me wrong. I love my iPhone. I love the apps. And I think that putting powerful mobile computing device like that in the hands of as many people as possible has the power to really transform teaching and learning, in ways that 1-to-1 laptop initiatives have yet been unable to achieve.
But that being said, I often feel like we spend too much time swooning at the beauty and power of the smartphone and not enough time developing tools that work on the old clam-shell phone, particularly when it comes to educational apps.
Facebook gets it. The social networking giant announced this week that it was releasing an app aimed at feature phones, "to bring Facebook to the most popular mobile phones around the world." Of course Facebook gets it though. The company is on a quest to make us all users of the site.
So how can we translate this to the educational sector?
One way, obviously, is through building sites that are mobile-friendly and aren't reliant on the Android or iPhone app market.
Another way: build tools that utilize SMS.
Twilio Meetup at Knewton HQ: Texting and Education
In the rush to build cool apps, I think we often overlook text-messaging. Our students don't. They send thousands of texts a month. As such, I'm always on the look out for innovative uses of text-messaging, as I really think there's tons of opportunities here to build cool tools.
Many developers working on building services that use telephony -- making and receiving calls and text-messages -- turn to Twilio, a company that offers these as part of its API. For its part, Twilio does a great job supporting the developer community, with meetups and contests (not to mention an awesome team and product).
Recently, Twilio held a meetup in New York at the headquarters of the test-prep company Knewton, and no surprise some pretty interesting projects were showcased, several of which were built by the Knewton folks and had an educational event.
(But I'm rather partial to the one built by Flat World Knowledge developer and Stony Brook student Jonathan Gottfried who built a notification system for the university's Humans v Zombies game.)
One of the many critiques of efforts to allow cellphones in the classroom as expressly educational devices is that it will simply enable most students to have access to the simplest of polling and quizzing tools.
My response: then build better tools.