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Tag: computers (Page 2 of 3)

Is This What You’d Call a “PC”?

I’ve been working on a presentation for the VSTE Mobile Learning Conferences (one next week and another the week after), which means I’m paying more attention to anything related to the subject at hand.

Like this view of the tablet business from the president of Microsoft phone division.

The use of the mobile OS would be “in conflict” with Microsoft’s notion of having the full speed of a computer in any design, including truly mobile tablets. He insisted that users would want to do PC-style activities on a tablet and saw Windows 8’s networking and printing support as being important.

“We view a tablet as a PC,” Lees said.

Interesting. I think I’m doing a “PC-style” activity, namely writing this post, on this iPad right now.

Anyway, I suppose it really depends on what you want, when, and how you want to do those PC-style activities. Certainly I’m not going to write the great American novel on this thing (not without using a bluetooth keyboard) or work with complex spreadsheets.

But I can edit video, record audio, and create music, as well as do a whole host of other things that a few years ago would be considered “PC activities”. And more functionality is being added every day, some of which would be difficult to do on your standard PC.

So, while the concept of what is considered a computer is getting fuzzier, the remarks of this exec makes very clear the distinction between Apple’s concept of post-PC devices and Microsoft’s dedication to more PCs.

I rather like the post-PC vision.

iPad First Impressions

I’ve only had this new device for a little over 24 hours so this won’t be much of a review. More like a collection of random thoughts and observations.

First, as with every Apple product I’ve owned in the past ten or so years, the iPad has a real solid, quality feel to it. Excellent design and execution. Is it worth the price when “more capable” netbooks are lower priced? It is to me.

I’ve read all the complaints about no camera but I don’t care. I’m not sure I’d use it anyway. Besides there are several good tools for voice communications and that’s enough. It will probably come in a later revision, although I wonder if someone could build one that plugs in the dock port.

The other big negative in most reviews is the lack of multitasking. While I agree the iPad (and iPhone for that matter) needs it, that’s likely something that can be fixed in a software update. I can wait.

The on screen keyboard is actually better than I expected. I won’t be writing the great American novel on this thing but for short blog posts (like this one), Twitter, taking notes, and the like, it seems to work very well.

During EduCon, the weekend after Apple made the big reveal, I tweeted that the iPad looked like it would make a good conference computer. When you combine the great portability with the more than adequate functionality and excellent battery life (I’m still working with the charge that came out of the box), this is going to be ideal for long days in buildings with limited power outlets.

So, is this the device that transforms education, saves newspapers and magazines, and revolutionizes media? Probably not. It will depend on whether those institutions try to use it to prop up their failing business models.

However, I do believe the iPad will turn out to be the beginning of a major shift in the way we look at computing/communications tools.

Complain about the lack of content creation tools if you like, as some I follow on Twitter were doing before it was even on sale. I suspect they will come as this type of device evolves. And evolve it will.

This is just the first of many iPad personal computing tools I will own, each gaining more capabilities than the previous generations, the same way laptops have developed in the past twenty years.

Anyway, bottom line is that I’m happy with my iPad so far. Your mileage may vary.

To Microsoft or Not to Microsoft

Continuing with the set up of my new MacBook Pro comes the question of whether or not I install Office.

It’s not a matter of cost since I have access to a copy (legally!) through our district’s license.

And I certainly have enough memory and hard drive space, even for a bloated, clunky package like this one.

But do I need it?

For the most part I don’t use Word, instead doing my writing in TextEdit, Apple’s excellent text editor, and increasingly in Evernote and Google Docs.

I already have an older copy of iWork which seems to open the fancier Word documents I receive just fine and it has an excellent spreadsheet program that handles Excel just fine.

iWork also includes Keynote which beats the hell out of PowerPoint for the few slide show presentations I give.

So, why do I need Microsoft?

I know that eventually I’ll set up a Windows partition on this machine, mainly so I can access those few features of Outlook I can’t get to with the outstanding Exchange support in Snow Leopard.

Plus web resources created by our IT department that only run in IE and those occasional files that come my way created with Publisher, the lame attempt at a page layout program that comes with our version of Office.

Ok, I guess I’ve talked myself out sullying the Mac side of this new machine with Office. :-)

But if anyone can think of a good reason to install that package, I may reconsider.

The Right Person For the Job

The Department of Homeland Security needed someone to be the deputy undersecretary of the department’s National Protections Program Directorate.

That’s government HR speak for the person in charge of making sure the government’s computers are secure and protected from cyber attacks and all kinds of malware.

So, who did they decide was the right person for the job?

Reitinger comes to DHS from his job as chief trustworthy infrastructure strategist for Microsoft, a job that required him in part to help develop and implement strategies for enhancing the security of critical infrastructures.

In other words, DHS picked someone who was responsible for making “trustworthy” the operating systems and software many people in the security industry feel are largely at fault for providing the many holes allowing all those cyber attacks and malware to do their thing.

We call that irony, kids. :-)

At least his qualifications are an improvement over the last person who held the job, continuing a major theme of the Obama administration.

And, if you think about it, if anyone knows where the bugs are buried, it would probably be Mr. Reitinger.

Learning in Your Pocket

It’s interesting how instructional technology gets into the classroom.

A lot of the choices are made by people other than teachers: principals, IT folks, tech specialists, superintendents.

But in my experience, the stuff that actually sticks around, the tools that actually get used and impact kids, is completely determined by teachers and their students.

Which brings us to our big boss who got an iPod Touch for Christmas (coincidentally so did his boss) and since then has been asking a lot of questions about how the devices could be used for teaching and learning.

As a result, many people in our office are now carrying Touches and a group has been tasked with creating a pilot project to put them in some schools.

While I think the iPod Touch could be an excellent learning tool (my iPhone certainly is), I’m also the resident curmudgeon about such things so naturally I have a few concerns about this initiative.

For one thing, in the discussions about the mechanics of using handheld devices with groups of students, it’s clear that many people around here are looking at the iPod Touch the same way they do our current laptops.

Almost exclusively we use computers as group technologies. We have a bunch of them in a lab and then bring in a bunch of kids to use them for some teacher-designed activity.

Or in schools that have laptop carts, we wheel them into a classroom, pass out the units, and then proceed, again largely with group activities.

However, the iPod Touch, and other pocket computing devices, are intended for personal use. They are designed to be customized, personalizing the user’s experience so, instead of everyone seeing the same desktop, we all see ourselves in the device.

In addition, many people in our group (as well as in the research I’ve done) seems to be trying to transfer our traditional classroom uses for computers onto these new device formats.

Of course, some of those applications may actually be appropriate (please, not the “blaster”-type learning games) but instead I think we need a new approach.

We need to come at this from the angle of how portable communications devices like the iPod Touch might be used to individualize instruction rather than continue to homogenize it.

And then there’s the matter of who we have on this planning group. Or rather, who’s not there: teachers and students.

In this case, that deficiency can be easily fixed.

We just need to find people who are already using these devices in our schools (our IT department sees several thousand a day on the network) and invite them to tell us how they use their iPod Touch.

Undoubtably they, especially the kids, will give us some insight we can’t get any other way.

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