9.01.2010

Things Teachers can do with a Smartphone: Part I

the top and sides of an iPhone 3G S.Image via Wikipedia
It's back to school week in Chanatown, so how's about we get started with a few tips on smartphone usage? Many teachers I meet with are now toting new and improved smartphones, and it's awesome! I don't feel like such a geek (as much) anymore, now that more and more phones are equipped with keyboards, faster processors, bigger screens, and features galore. Heck, even my wife got a new Android phone last week (more on that to come), so I thought it might be useful to consider how a smartphone can best impact a teacher's daily grind.

Email


This one may sound like a no-brainer, but many teachers don't get have their email set up on their phone. Now, I understand and respect those who that want to leave work at work, but for others who are interested in staying caught up and keeping their inbox down (more on how this helps me in a future post), configuring your MS Exchange, Google Apps, or other email account becomes one of the most important things you can do with your smartphone. Checking, responding, composing, and searching through emails are all easily done on smartphones, from the iPhone to those on Android (I love the Gmail setup on my Droid X, but I am looking forward to a few needed improvements in Froyo) In addition, if you use Google Apps at your school, you can manage this account's email through the phone.

Calendars

With Gmail on Android phones comes a nice integration of one's shared calendars. I love having my personal, my wife's, and my work calendar all in one place. Being able to create, edit, and delete events all from my smartphone saves me valuable time on my desktop. When I had the iPhone, the shared calendar interface was equally well designed with each calendar being color coded. On both phones, invitations are easy to respond to, and you can consult all calendar(s) in one sitting. On the Droid X, I had problems getting MS Exchange set up correctly, but this will be addressed in Froyo. In the meantime, the app Touchdown serves as a nice option, and this was available for free through a forum post. +1 for the iPhone as Apple has worked out an elegant and functional Exchange interface out of the box.

Documents

Opening attached documents on both the iPhone and Android phones is easy and viewing them on the phone is a solid experience. On the smaller screens, you'll want to take advantage of the zoom capabilities to examine items in detail. However, for a quick glance at a homework assignment, a meeting agenda, or colleague's paper, both phones' viewers do the trick. Editing documents is a different story. On the iPhone, you'll need to go third-party app to be able to work on a document. The question is will you want to with the limited real estate on the screen. With Android phones, screen size is increasing and with the Droid X's 4.3'' of goodness, I could envision a quick edit on a paper. For MS programs, you'll still need an app such as Documents to Go. For Google Docs, the same is true (even for Android phones), and the Market reveals GDocs as a possible solution.  

It's just the beginning...

So, the above represents the core functionality of how I use my smartphone in my job, and how I would recommend teachers get started maximizing the use of theirs. Things gets more interesting when you begin reading articles, blogging, taking notes, accessing and organizing files, and using the camera/video functionality. We'll take a look at more of these in a future post.
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