I’ve been waiting patiently, but couldn’t take it any longer as I’ve watched more and more friends whip out their iPhone 3G to get a GPS fix on our location or perform some other mundane task sliced, diced and served on the micro-mobile-super computer that is the iPhone 3G. I know, I’m late to the party, but from the perspective of a technophile, I have to admit I’ve felt very much like Batman’s understudy in these situations. Ultimately, I just couldn’t wait for Veriiphone5zon and Apple to make nice.  I honestly don’t know where to start and I’m not accustomed to blushing, so I’ll simply share where I see potential as it relates to learning apps on the iPhone in general.  But first things first: I’m now convinced that any dialog about the iPhone should begin with a mandatory effort to share one’s favorite iPhone apps.  In that vein, the list below highlights my top 10 learning or educational apps for the iPhone, and attempts to point out where innovation and learning potential inherent to each app might paint a picture of potential future approaches in the world of online learning experiences.

Chris’ Top 10 Eductional Apps for the iPhone

1. Touch Physics by Games 4 Touch

A glimpse of the future now: seamless, motivational learning that is fun, kinesthetic and fully accessible. Learn about friction, gravity, mass, angles and other principles of physics via a clever game that allows you to exercise agency on both the physical and mental level–suitable for just about any age over 4 years old. I’m completely intrigued by the category of “Doodle games” (games where you draw objects on the touch screen that instantiate themselves in the game). These games open up a world of possibilities for any subject and seem like the perfect convergence of device, content and user motivation.  I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention Geared by Bryan Mitchel–an extremely elegant interface that allows the user to manipulate spinning gears around variables of distance, proximity and speed.

2. Kindle for the iPhonekindle1
Of course you lose some ergonomics when compressing the Kindle into the iPhone shell, but the distribution system for e-books (especially those in the public domain) is wonderful. This app has a clever interface, lots of free books and access to the Amazon catalog via a “get book” button.

3. Abc Pocket Phonics

It’s not so much that my five year old adores this application (he does), but it’s what this type of application represents. For language acquisition, the approach is a highly compelling supplement and the touch screen features allow users to trace letters while listening to the sound or word.
Need to learn Chinese characters? Try eStroke Chinese Characters

4. iSeismometer

seismo

This application brought back memories of the first time I realized that the Wii controllers house an acceleramator and a gyrometer to measure motion and tilt. This application allows the iPhone to react to various types of external motion. This app provides a very innovative way to learn about how motion is translated into a digital representation.  You can submit your data directly to a website that associates your location with your seismograph data.  Can you think of some learning contexts for this technology?

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What did I learn about E-learning development when I worked at Netflix six months ago? Before I share some thoughts, let’s look at the numbers.  Just this year, Netflix sales have topped 910 million dollars with 414 full-time employees at the helm. Seem improbable? Welcome to the 21st century and the consumer side of information management as a service—as these numbers suggest, it can be extremely profitable. Sure, Netflix also pays workers who ship DVDs and answer customer service lines, but the main focus of the 414 full-time employees is ultimately to tame the customer-facing website that enables the latest movie titles to land in your mailbox or play on your computer.  netflix_logo_1

Is it possible to design viable E-learning courses at a company like Netflix where business moves at the speed of light? The quick answer is “yes,” and “no.”  Having an amazingly short development timeline constantly forced me to isolate the most important steps of the deliverable creation process and collapse as much of my process around these key areas.  Content review, prototype evaluation, user testing? Check, check, and check.  High-end aesthetic treatment, dynamic navigational scheme, lots of formative evaluation? Not so much. A lightning fast development model is usually the only option on the table for an environment that is adverse to process and time expenditure since its web-based “storefront” reorients itself as quickly as a desert landscape in a windstorm.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this business model: Who doesn’t love the service that Netflix brought to the market?

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