Sunday, November 4, 2012

All in with Apple

Well actually more like 98%, but close enough.  Nearly two weeks ago I started the journey of being a 'Mac Guy' (whatever that means).  I certainly don't need rimmed glasses or trendier clothes, but I feel cooler.  

I am currently utilizing all Apple products in both my professional and personal lives.  (I have a desktop PC in my office at the house, but it isn't utilized.)  The purpose of this post is to share my experience, document my rationale for the change, and the benifts / drawbacks. 

Why did I go Apple?  A handful of reasons, but for the professional world it was fairly simple.  I work in an environment where I am fairly mobile.  Throughout the day I am traveling between meetings, between buildings, and have various roles throughout the day.  Sometimes I am presenting, sometimes I am documenting, and sometimes I am collaborating.  Because of the transient nature of my job, I was constantly shutting down, restarting, closing, opening my PC.  The time it took to login, boot up, reconnect to the wireless, etc. was detrimental especially during a day that was filled with back-to-back meetings and visits.  I needed a device that met the demand of my job from a time standpoint.  One that had an almost immediate on, quick shut down, connects the network seamlessly, and is able to access the tools I need to perform my duties.  You might ask yourself, doesn't that sound like an iPad?  It does and I tried that for a bit.  While the iPad met my need when I was simply consuming or collaborating, it struggled where I was leading.  I needed a fully functioning device, with a keyboard, and the iPad was not the device for me 100% of the time. 

Enter the MacBook Air.  Wow.  Meeting all of the criteria that I outlined above.  The only flaw I have found to this point has been my inability to fully utilize SharePoint.  A decent portion of our intranet is within SP, and my MacAir with Safari and Firefox have limited capabilities.  (Thanks MSFT)  I am unable to check out documents and edit without IE, and that requires me to occasionally utilize the old desktop PC to complete work.  (hence the 98%)  I'm hoping for a virtual Windows boot in a couple of weeks, which will eliminate the need for the PC all together. 

What have I found most intriguing about this device?  Pretty much everything.  It is fast.  It handles my applications.  It is light and very portable.  It is trendy.  (ok, that doesn't really matter to me)  The biggest factor has been the portability and increased up-time during my work day.  I find myself still using the iPad, and iPhone throughout the day for various tasks, but the MacBook Air has been a nice addition to the arsenal.  I know Steve Jobs is looking down and smiling. 


Sunday, October 28, 2012

iPhone 5 (and iOS6) Review

Better late than never, but here is my iPhone 5 review.  I've spent approximately 3 weeks on the new iPhone 5 and it is one of the best mobile devices I've utilized. 

Here are the main features that have been of benefit to me:
  • The first thing I noticed in utilizing the device was the size and weight.  The device is much thinner and lighter than previous iPhones.  Because of this I really struggled in finding the right case for the device, as I didn't want to take away from sleek design.
  • The camera is high quality.  (I'm a bit biased on this as my previous iPhone had a scratched camera that forced me to use the reverse camera for all pics.)  I like the feature of taking a picture within a video.  That has come in handy already with my nephew.
  • Siri was a nice upgrade for me.  Since I had the original iPhone 4 and didn't move to the 4S, this was my first interaction with Siri.  I have found her to be mostly useful, when she fully understands what I am saying.  I mostly utilize this feature when in the car and trying to stay hands free.
  • Maps was not as big of a deal as people made it out to be.  I have yet to get lost or arrive late due to Apple's Maps taking me on a detour.  I enjoy the turn-by-turn navigation with audio.  This goes well with Siri.
  • I have found that the audio jack on the bottom just takes some getting used to.  I still can't figure out why Apple made this move. 
  • I'm not a fan of switching to the new Lightning cable.  I'm still adjusting to my additional Apple devices needing an adapter, but that adjustment will come over time. 
  • I did notice the battery drains quicker than it should when on wi-fi.  Because of this (and the nice addition of 4G/LTE) I don't turn on the wi-fi feature that often.  4G/LTE (at least to me) is just as fast as most wi-fi connections, thus I prefer my device to have more battery life than slightly faster internet access.
  • I haven't found a great use for passbook yet.  My only experience was using a United e boarding pass for a flight.  Still not sold on this feature just yet, but that is mostly because of my lack of usage.
Overall, as stated earlier, this is one of the fastest, smartest mobile devices I have used.  For me, it is a fully functioning device allowing me access to my personal and professional world in a quick and efficient manner.   Thanks Apple.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Digital Lockers

The idea of a digital locker for students isn't something new to education.  I've heard people speak to the concept for a few years.  But if the concept or idea isn't new, then why haven't we seen a shift in how our students share their work with colleges, industries, etc? 

We as educational leaders must provide tools to our students that makes their life easier.  We must provide tools that enable them to share their rich media projects, works of art, or writings.  And the ability to share those works must be intuitive for the student, and for the person on the other end receiving the work. 

If your school district hasn't already started investigating digital lockers for your students - start.  Look at existing systems you have in place and see if they offer that functionality.  If they don't, start exploring cloud / web-based systems that meet your student's needs and are cost effective.  This isn't a high dollar investment, but it is an investment that pays huge dividends for our students as they are preparing for life after our institution. 


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Customer Service At Its Finest

I am usually quite critical of my cellular provider when it comes to quality of service.  I have been a loyal customer of AT&T for 12+ years, and while my experience with people and devices has been mostly positive, my biggest complaint has always been coverage (or lack their of).  This post isn't about AT&T's coverage, and the 3-4 times my conversation would drop from my office to house (8.3 miles), rather it is about a unique experience I had with their mobile app and international services.

While traveling last week out of the country for a personal trip, I realized at the airport that I forgot to add international text messaging to my iPhone.  I had a legitimate need to communicate with family and colleagues while on the trip, so a last minute addition to my plan was imperative.  I quickly launched the myAT&T app on my iPhone and logged in to my account.  I navigated to the 'My Services' area of the app, and scrolled down to the 'International Features' section.  I selected the Global Messaging plan that met my needs and accepted the terms.  Within 30 seconds I received an email to the primary account on my plan confirming that the Global Messaging had been added to my plan.  Also, within another 2-3 minutes I received a phone call from an AT&T representative confirming the change to my plan. 

Now, you might be asking what is so special about this?  All of this transpired within less than 5 minutes.  Less than 5 minutes.  I modified my cellular plan, received an email notification, and a confirmation phone call from the vendor.  If that isn't quality customer service, I don't know what is.  Upon my return from my travels, I used the same process to remove the Global Messaging from my plan. 

In technology, we are always searching for vendor partners who provide quality service such as I have described above.  1.  Immediate access to services and the ability to modify on the go.  2.  Customized notifications when changes are made or updates are provided.  3.  Quality assurance from a support representative.  4.  An intuitive and simple process that satisfies the customer. 

Thanks AT&T for providing a quality experience for this customer during a last minute change.  Now...let's get those coverage areas beefed up in the greater Chicagoland area. 


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kids Today Using 1980s Technology

Interesting video on how today's kids struggle to utilize technology from the 80s.  What will they be telling their kids about technology from 2012???


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Instructional Time

Too often in the land of educational technology we get lost in the tools, their functionality, professional learning, technical features, etc.  What we often fail to discuss with other educators is an essential question:  How does this tool provide more efficient and effective use of instructional time for my students?

At the end of the day, time is invaluable.  We are constantly competing with the social lives' of our students, other initiatives within our buildings that compete for the time and attention of our students.  Time is a commodity.  Anything that can provide a more efficient utilization of our instructional time with students should be highly valued. 

Let's look at a scenario.  A classroom full of students have an assignment requiring them to do research, take notes, and create a media project to share with their peers.  Unless the building already has an established 1:1 initiative in place, or a successful BYOD program (depending on the age of the students), this classroom would be competing for shared resources within the building, i.e. a cart of devices. 

Option 1:  The students check-out laptops that are district resources and proceed to power on the device, wait for it to boot-up, log in to the network, and launch the application (browser, productivity tool, etc.) they are utilizing first.  What is the time to accomplish this above in your environment?  5 minutes?  10 minutes?  You also have to ensure these devices were fully charged when picked up by your students.  Otherwise, students could be scrambling to find a power source to complete their work for that day.  At the end of the period, time must be allowed for the students to save their work, log off / shut down and return the device to its location.  What is the time for these activities?  Another 5 minutes?  So let's assume the class period was 50 minutes.  Right out of the gate you, as the instructor, have lost 10-15 minutes of instructional time.  This is assuming there are no other technical issues requiring you or an expert's troubleshooting.  That is 20%-30% of your entire class period that is lost instructional time. 

Option 2:  The students check-out devices that are district resources that have an instant on.  This could be an iPad, Ultrabook, etc. - any device that allows for the immediate on, with a long battery life - not requiring the lengthy boot-up time and log in process.  Once the students have the devices in their possession they launch the application they are preparing to utilize and begin their work.  What is the time to accomplish this?  1-2 minutes?  At the end of the period, students save their work, power off the device and return it to its location.  What is the time to accomplish these tasks?  2-3 minutes?  Again, assuming the class period is 50 minutes.  You have only lost 3-5 minutes of instructional time, or 6%-10% of your overall time with students for that period. 

Let's look at these scenarios over the life of the project.  Let's make an assumption that to complete the entire project takes 5 class periods.  This includes research time, organization, collaboration, and creation. 

  • 5 class periods = 250 minutes of instructional time
  • With Option 1, students would only have 175 minutes of instructional time.  They will have lost the equivalent of 1.5 class periods.  
  • With Option 2, students would have 225 minutes of instructional time.  They essentially gain back one full class period of work. 
I am not here to advocate a specific device as the 'solution' to an educational environment.  However, I am a firm believer in maximizing instructional time for students.  As our technology vendors continue to provide solutions that have longer battery lives and instant ons - the winners are our students.  Think of what you could do with an 'extra class period' each week as an instructor? 


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Alan November: A Look at Student Learning and Our Future

It has been a few weeks since my last post, but I came across this video today and wanted to share.  It is Alan November speaking to student learning and the future of education.  Well worth the 10 minutes.