Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oh the times they are a changin'

I just finished up a few hours work porting the RLab web site over to this new blog. The old site was a hybrid effort of some dreamweaver, Photoshop and a blog. There were a few reasons for the change:

Let's face it, is more reliable than any service we can put up in a business or a school.

Blogger and other similar web sites have all the issues figured out with serving up the info on multiple browsers, especially those on mobile phones.

It's free.

Students wanted to make the site more compatible with rss feed readers.

Students wanted to include the ability to have readers comment on posts.

Foremost, though listed last, students will be adding a significant amount of content here this year.

While I'll miss regular dreamweaver sessions, Photoshop tinkering and such, it's more the nostalgia I'll miss than anything. I started out creating web pages back in the day writing HTML code with notepad. Focusing on content will be a gas as will posting from this phone during class. Blogger has many custom layout options, like the ones at for instance, that make it very easy to make changes as well as many other templates and custom build options. We'll see what happens.

Mission accomplished.

As I mentioned before, I picked up an iPhone this summer. I've spent some time with it as a reader... using it to soak up books, blogs, podcasts and journals out there that I used to read on a computer. The result? I'm reading more. It's been stellar. I still enjoy the feel of a book, the pages, etc but... This has been more convenient for me, easier on the eyes - hey I read a lot and the text size on the phone is adjustable, as is brightness, portait or landscape layout etc. Podcasts in particular have been great to have more readily available on the go. An iPod aint just about music ya know! As I mentioned on another post earlier, having an iPod, a phone, web access and apps like this all on one device has been just the ticket.

That gets us onto a few other similar threads.

I dove into facebook this summer. Many thanks to some former and current students for showing me the ropes. I've discovered I should have jumped in long ago. Now, I'm not advocating that it beats a good sit down chat, but let's face it, it sure beats conventional mail, email and smoke signals. I stayed away from it for so long only because I felt I had no time to dive in and not because of the fact I teach and coach. I've always felt and still advocate that you shouldn't post things online you don't want people to see. It's really that simple.

That brings up the concept of "friending" in facebook. When I jumped in I was surprised how many friend requests I recieved. Many folks have contacted me to be friends who I barely know. Some of those requests are still waiting in the confirm or ignore space. Well discuss this in the Lab quite a bit this year. In all, facebook has been a stellar communication tool an I'm looking forward to using it more. Go figure.

After a summer of wailing on an iPhone and all it's mobile connectivity and literacy power, facebook and a slew of reading, I've come to the same conclusion: mobile computers are still no substitute for a laptop. While its convenient and there are numerous opportunities for creativity, collaboration and literacy, a laptop has far greater creative potential. Two things pull to the surface as I sit here: 1. Folks that don't have this sort of access are really missing something. 2. Students in particular are at a distinct disadvantage if they don't have access to a computer... Because school is supposed to be a creative place rather than just a place to access information isn't it? Therein lies the discussion on "institutional vs personal" computing." Putting the personal back in personal computing makes the most sense.

Now, it's not to say that iPhones in education or netbooks for that matter are not worth their salt. It's just that a computer, with all it's potential and power to create, program, edit sound and video, to draw, etc is better. I don't believe waiting for devices to evolve further will get us closer... Otherwise we will never stop waiting.

We've been discussing laptops here for education for four years and I'm hoping the discussions move forward in this coming school year.

Yes, I'm interested to see how the Apple tablet computer rumors sugar out.

We switched to Google Apps this past year and the results have been stellar. We increased reliability, ease of use, the number and depth of tools available and the training material, shifted IT support staff time away from hardware and configuration time to working with people and... It was all free. We have more money to direct toward bandwidth and other educational needs. We've also participated in many Statewide discussions and chats with other schools. Mission accomplished. Well, almost...

One last item remains with Google Apps here and that is in the functionality of the Google desktop, commonly known as iGoogle. The functionality was disabled last year due to the fact that some controversial material could be added... Swimsuit flashcard style shows sort of stuff. What were hoping to bring forth this year is that we'll gain far more by talking about creative use than denial of service. The aggregation of data, the ability to essentially "create your own newspaper" far outweighs the other concerns. Building user sophistication will get us further. In just two days of tinkering with folks on iGoogle in the Lab we made some great strides and then it was shut off. Discussions should resume soon.

This lends me toward another thought though. As tools get more integrated will we need instituitional email any longer? We are already seeing sites integrate with each other. I use Twitter and now it's possible to send my "tweets" (posts on Twitter) to facebook and delicious ( It's pretty common for folks to forward mail from seperate accounts to one they routinely use. Many folks I know forward mail from multiple accounts to one single one and then sign the note with the appropriate "from" signature. Google Voice is headed in this direction on the phone side, giving you the tools to be your own phone hub... ring all your phones at once, route certain callers to certain phones... for free. How long will it be before academic institutions are challenged to abandon their email systems? We shall see. For now, the tools are not integrated well enough and there's great power in having access to lots of tools (we could go back to the laptop for students thread here but I'll move on... you get the idea).

Writing this on a phone while I sit on the deck overlooking the water on Lake Champlain still seems surreal to me in a way. So does sending it to the new RLab blog on this phone and having it publish to the web. So does using the same device to check the start time and pitching matchups for the upcoming Red Sox game, moving over to check my email... All while I take a picture of my sandals for this post... all while I listen to big band music on earphones.

Hey... I was riding my bike the other day and I answered the phone, talked, hung up and used voice control to switch playlists on this "phone" all without touching the device itself, just a little control pad on the head phones. The song that came up? The Times They Are a Changin' by Bob Dylan...

... They are... thankfully...

... And I love it. It's one of the most exciting times in the history if the world, in education and in the quest for literacy and knowledge. I'm in. Are you?

Sent from batphone.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009