An iPhone Experiment

Today, I am trying an experiment: writing a blog post from my iPhone. Chances are you are wondering just how far behind the curve I am, but not in this case. It’s true that the WordPress app for the iPhone is infinitely more comprehensive than it was a year ago when I first acquired it. But I was more interested in discovering what it feels like to take something I can do in my sleep with a laptop and deal with it in a different environment.

The truth is I’m trying to get into the heads of my students better.

Here’s the thing. Our students are not dumb. But many if them are what I call functionally computer illiterate. You know what functional illiteracy is. It’s the guy who can read traffic signs, and license plates, and street signs, and can read the title of a book and the stuff on his driver’s license. But when it comes to cracking a book, or a newspaper, or a magazine, the words on the page congeal into a hardened mass that he can’t understand without tremendous effort. And, since people tend to follow the path of least resistance, he just walks away. The experience of reading eludes him. After a while he stops caring.

Our students are not that different in this one respect. Many of them own PCs and use them proficiently but many don’t. But the ones that aren’t fully computer literate are smart phone savvy. They can make their phone of choice flip over, beg, and ask for a tummy rub. Unfortunately they don’t have the ability to write term papers on their phones.

At least, not yet. And at least a few would if they could.

I’m not suggesting that such a thing would be wise even if it were possible but consider this: SirsiDynix already offers the ability for an iPhone or Android phone to search online catalogs by way of the BookMyne app. Considering that smart phones and PCs really aren’t that different under the hood, what further levels of integration are possible?

Anyway, I’ve learned a few things from doing this. One, blogging from my phone, while sort if neat, is annoying. The distractions are endemic. In the twenty or so minutes I’ve worked on this I’ve received a dozen texts from three different people and one phone call. All force me to either deal with the distraction and kill my train of thought, or shove the problem to the side for later. Second, There is a certain uneasiness to this activity and I’m not sure that its’ something that can be ignored. That makes me wonder whether my students have the same discomfort when they sit down in front of an unfamiliar (or barely familiar) PC and open a new document in Word.

Something to think about.

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  1. Maryjane Heyer says:

    Well… I find that changing the notification settings on my iphone means that my various distractions go through triage before I know about them – minor things, like emails from everyone not on my VIP list register as a simple buzz; texts from my friends (I don’t get a lot of texts) come in as a banner at the top of the screen which fades as I ignore it or can be tapped for immediate response; emails from the VIP list come in as a special sound and a special buzz accompanied by an alert in the middle of the screen that demands actual attention. There are many iterations on this. So, yes, distractions on the phone need not be… distracting. (if you know how to make your phone sit up and beg for a tummy rub.)

    I would still not attempt to write a term paper on my iphone – I would edit it from my iphone. (and I can, the app is called “Pages” and can be combined with iCloud, to form a powerful tool.)

    To get into the question of dealing with an unfamiliar computer – I take a creative writing course at the moment in of of those “smart rooms” that have a huge bank of computers all running Word – my processor of choice, as it happens, but every single time I sit down, I have to tweak the damn settings because the text is too small on the screen and the ribbon gets in my way, and it’s just all wrong. The great thing about my phone is nobody can change the settings but me. I think the ideal situation is an improvement of the tablet so that students can bring it with them to class – it needs to be more fully integrated into the classroom environment. And goddamn it, the publishers need to stop whining and get on the stick about making their books available for tablet, without all the nickle-and-dime-ing that they are currently doing to disincentivize the transition. (cheaper books would make the cost of the tablet a lot easier for cash-strapped students to bear.)