Learn to design an iPhone application


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Say you want to learn the inner-workings of creating an iPhone application. There’s a class for that.

Next semester, the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in coordination with the computer-science department, will feature a new course in which students will work to create an original application for the iPhone.

Apple’s original iPhone emerged in June 2007, and it has, arguably, revolutionized the concept of the smart phone. This is mostly because of the thousands of applications one can use on the device, in addition to its touch screen and high-speed capabilities. Though the iPhone remains exclusive to AT&T, other cell-phone manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon, coming up with their own touch-screen competitors.

The idea of creating an application for the iPhone sparked journalism-school Director David Perlmutter into action. In July, he proposed the idea of a new course to computer-science Professor Jim Cremer, as well as Steve Buttry, the C3 innovation coach for Gazette Communications. In September, several computer-science and journalism faculty members held meetings to brainstorm the course, resulting in the spring 2010 offering.

“I thought of it as an expression of our interest in finding new ways to integrate content creation and the newest communication technology,” Perlmutter said.

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In a time in which budget, faculty, and other cuts are the norm at many colleges and universities, the idea of adding a course may appear counterintuitive. The iPhone-application course is being taught on “overload” in the computer-science department, Cremer said, which means that it will be taught in addition to the faculty’s full course load. However, Perlmutter, Cremer, and Buttry believe that having such a course is too important not to add to the curriculum, and Cremer said it’s “worth it” to have the exciting new opportunity.

Despite the course’s being brand-new and only available to relatively few students, there is the hope that having a class such as this will spread to other academic departments at the UI. Outside of journalism and computer science, Perlmutter and Buttry see classes of this nature being relevant in the areas of advertising, health promotion, and business, to name a few.

The course will allow students to work together on creating an application, which may prove to be the real experiment. Having students from fairly different educational backgrounds on the same project will help them expand their horizons, Cremer said, which “can be extremely valuable for their futures.”

“My sense is that when people from different disciplines work on a project together, they start off with quite different ideas about the ‘boundaries’ of the design space,” he said.

Because the ability to operate several types of technology is becoming ever more vital to the proper functioning of a modern journalist, this course is one, Perlmutter said, he hopes will add to the skills needed to obtain jobs in the communication industry.

“Increasingly, those jobs require not just thinking, writing, and picturing conceptual skills but becoming a ‘one-woman/man band’ of technology applications,” he said. “They need to be the storyteller and the IT guy.”

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