Archive for February, 2008

I regularly follow about a dozen technology-related blogs. Most of it is a mind-numbing bore (I can’t bear to read another analysis of the Microsoft/Yahoo deal!). However, occasionally I see something of interest. This week I saw two things that might have real future implications for our program at Mater Dei.

  • I’ve actually been hearing about this for a while, but this week I saw this short video demonstrating a projector built in to a cell phone. I’m not sure about the classroom implications for this, but I like the idea that presentation will become more portable and less formal. Here’s the link (luckily this video doesn’t get blocked by school filters!
  • There are rumors going around that HP is going to release an ultra-mobile PC similar to the eee. Here’s the link.  Though the article discloses no details, I was intrigued by this quote from a source at HP, “you won’t even need to consider this purchase. You’ll buy it like a handphone without a thought”. If we get to that price point (probably between $200-$300) the computer becomes a “disposable” commodity. The other interesting thing for me was the claim that this new machine will offer significant improvement in battery life; music to my ears!

Well, I’ll be watching for these products. If you see things that you imagine having a school-side application, post the URL here or on the Ning site.

Confessions of a Fanboy

Author: GDhuyvetter

The term fanboy is used to describe an avid enthusiast, one with blind loyalty too his or her chosen subject. In the field of technology, this term is often associated with early adopters, those who are quick to acquire and embrace the latest technology. It can be used pejoratively in a “boys with toys” sense, though many early adopters proudly claim the title.

I suppose that it’s no secret that I am intrigued by new technologies. I enjoy reading about new gadgets and new software, and I get a charge out of learning all the capabilities of a new machine . Many of you have experienced my annoying insistence on showing everyone whom I can find the latest piece of equipment or software. I appreciate how polite you are, smiling and saying, “That’s great,” probably also thinking, “Humor him, and he’ll go away.”

I struggle myself sometimes trying to determine what is a spirit of innovation and what is geeky admiration for all things shiny. I am very aware of the suspicion with which some view enthusiasm for technology, and I understand it. There have been many mistakes and misjudgments along the path of educational technology, and much of what passes itself off as educational software is little more than games in school clothes. It is much safer to maintain an ironic disdain for technology because most things will not succeed.

However, not succeeding is an important evolutionary step. The first projection cart I ever made carried a desktop projector and monitor, and overhead projector, and an overlay that allowed the computer image to faintly be seen on a screen. It weighed over a hundred pounds and was a monster to move from room to room. I was very disappointed, but that cart taught me things that I used in the first rolling projector carts and the eventual classroom AV systems that we have today.

As we contemplate radical change like integrating laptops or other computing platforms into our academic programs, I think we all have a healthy fear of failure. The stakes are very high. The last thing I want is a bunch of expensive white elephants cluttering student backpacks and lockers. I’m not suggesting that we plan for failure of course, but we have to be willing on at least a small scale to experiment with the untried.

So I think we need to continue to be fanboys and fangirls. Personally I prefer the label avant garde. It sounds much artsier and it captures better what we are trying to do. Avant garde artists push the envelope of what is acceptable. Many times they go down wrong alleys and dead ends, But other times they discover the tools and ideas that shape the future.

I wrote all the earlier entries in this blog on the eee PC, since I want to see how practical it is as an editing tool. However, for this post I’m writing on my BlackBerry Pearl. The keyboard on the phone is not nearly as easy as my desktop (or even the eee). I suppose I’ll have thumb cramps by the time I finish, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the BlackBerry recently, and I decided to let form match theme for these reflections.

I carry this phone with me all the time. Recently I’ve become more aware of all the things it can do:

1. All phone functions (duh!)

2. It can take and send (somewhat poor quality) pictures

3. It syncs with my school calendar

4. It has all the usual utilities like a calculator, address book, and note pad

So far all pretty ho-hum, but as a smart phone the Blackberry has a whole second set of capabilities:

5. I can send and receive email from my school and home accounts. BB is known for this “push” email which comes directly to the phone

6. I can access the Internet. The browser shows full pages, and I can zoom in to read and work on any section I want. I also use a reader to quickly access and read new stories and articles from my chosen sites

7. I can access and operate my home and office computers. I can bring up either desktop and operate the mouse and keyboard. This isn’t the best way to run a computer, but it’s great if I need to access a document or run Aeries.

8. I can load PowerPoint files and send them via Bluetooth to a projector. When I’m doing presentations, I don’t have to bring a laptop

9. I can edit documents and spreadsheets. I wouldn’t want to write the WASC report on the 20 key keyboard (though I could purchase a portable Bluetooth keyboard)

10. With the media player I can listen to music or podcasts and watch videos and movies. The small screen isn’t optimal for video (the movies with subtitles are really tough!), but I found it a lifesaver on the plane

11. I can use Google maps for directions. In fact without a GPS the program can identify my location on the map with 1000 yards throug triangulation of cell towers. I can also quickly find the nearest Starbucks!

So, what’s the point of all this? I suppose what I’m suggesting is that all this computing ability is and will be carried around by our students ALL THE TIME.

What are we doing to prepare them for this?