Early this morning, after nearly 20 hours of labor, my little sister had her first child. They named her Mia and she is absolutely beautiful. I am already an uncle many times over to children from my wife's side of the family and I love them all with all of my heart -- each of them are so different but are so similar. They are children and they carry with them a wonderful perspective and view on life ... I am blessed.
For some reason it has been a little different with my own little sister. Seeing her last night working to get Mia into the world safely made me so proud of her. Then today seeing Mia and Kitt together was a wonderful sight. Amazing how perfect she seems when holding her ... I remember when we were kids how she would take such good care of all her dolls and act like a little Mommy. Now here she is all these years later a real Mother, but still my same little sister yet transformed in an amazing way. Like I said, I am blessed.
Welcome to the World little Mia!
It is hard to believe for me, but I've been a Mac user since 1984. Yesterday the Mac turned 25 ... that means I've been a Mac user for the same amount of time. I was lucky enough to get a Mac 128K for my birthday back in March of 1984. I recall that earlier that year I had gone to the local Apple dealer, like I was prone to do, and saw the Mac for the first time. I was simply amazed by the graphics, WYSIWYG capabilities, the finder, desktop, trash, and especially the mouse. I recall on that particular day I had talked my Dad into letting me run in for a few minutes while he waited in the car. I came out so excited by what I had seen ... I made him take me back over and over after that. Of course I wanted one, but never thought my parents would actually purchase one. Even though they were both University professors, they didn't seem to get the whole thing.
I remember that they were going to take me out to dinner for my Birthday and before we went out they called me downstairs to open gifts. There were two big boxes and I honestly had no idea what could be inside them. When I ripped them open I found the original Mac and an Imagewriter I. I was stunned ... from that day forward I have been hooked. In the early days I was always wanting to do things with my Mac and I struggled a bit with the seemingly closed architecture. While me friends all had Apple II machines and could write basic and logo I remember having to get a copy of MacBasic to write simple apps. I did all sorts of stuff with MacPaint and MacWrite -- and I remember playing Millionaire in my room for hours with my Dad.
My love of technology comes from that moment in March of 1984 and that one gift opened me up to opportunities to work to change things through the application of technology and innovative thought. I think the people who envisioned and built the Mac back in the day hoped that would happen to people. Sort of amazing for me to even think about how one gift could change and chart a course for someone. So I want to thank my parents for finding a way to give me such and amazing gift and to Apple for having the vision to create something that spoke right to me.
I wonder if other people remember their first Macs and if it was as significant to them?
My Macs through the years ... Mac 128K, Mac SE, Performa 600 (for about a week), LC III, Mac Portable, PowerMac 7200, PowerCenter 180, G3 All in One, Blue and White G3, PowerBook G3, Dual G4 PowerMac, PowerBook G4, 12" PowerBook, G3 iMac, PowerMac G5, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, Intel iMac, and MacBook Air -- somewhere in the middle I've lost track as work and personal life overlap, but suffice to say I'm hooked.
This past week I was in Orlando, FL enjoying the warmth that was the ELI Annual Meeting for 2009. I did my overall recap over in my PSU blog as a travel report ... I also did that to provide some much needed reflection on the whole event and to be included in the PSU travel aggregation. If I had to sum up the event in a few words it would be really easy -- the whole thing left me feeling really energized about the state of educational technology. It seems to me that ELI continues to push the edge of the conference on many fronts. They try new things every single year and work very hard to make the event both comforting and challenging. The level of participation is always high and this year was no different.
One thing that was different about this trip were the number of colleagues that I traveled with from PSU. I was lucky to be joined by Allan, Brad, Chris, John, Carla, and Hannah -- all of us spent time in multiple sessions and lots of time thinking and reflecting together. I think having so many PSU folks travel together worked out very well. We actually took time to talk about what we were seeing, hearing, and feeling around the event. Having that opportunity was a real difference maker. The other thing I am noticing about these events is how many people I am beginning to really know from other Institutions and organizations -- I got to see Bryan Alexander, Alan Levine, Jim Groom, Carl Berger, and so many others. The whole community is coming together in a way for me personally that is hard to explain. All in all it was a blast.
I loved the challenge and opportunity to present with Alan and Jim ... figuring our how to structure a session when all three of us are in very different places wasn't easy. Going in it felt like we hadn't prepared, but in hindsight, the things we discussed have been part of our collective focus for so many years now the prep time wouldn't have mattered.
I got to work with both Brad and Carla on an ePortfolio presentation that generated lots of discussion and some follow-up emails from people. I love to find time to present and share the work of our organization at events like this, so getting the chance to do two was great.
With the closing of several Google services I've been thinking about some of the content I (and a bunch of other people) publish across the social web. So much that I want to get some ideas about what many of you think about it all. If you step back and think about how many new people are joining and actively participating in social networks, one has to consider where we go from here. What do we do to protect the emergence of our meta identities -- each crafted in small pieces across many networks. As a simple example, take a look at the emergence of Facebook with adults ... according to a new report issued by the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s December 2008 tracking survey:
The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years — from 8% in 2005 to 35% now.
That is a whole lot of people creating lots of real data about themselves and their relationships. Even if you don't worry about closures or server meltdowns, consider the following from a post on Read Write Web:
The most obvious example of this loss of access to lifestream data? The inability to access anything beyond beyond page 162 on Twitter. No matter how many times you've posted, you cannot go back any further than 3240 tweets. So, every new public message you send removes one from your history. (To see this in action, simply add "?page=162" to the end of any Twitter user's default URL.) Those who had seen Twitter as a journal of sorts for recording fleeting moments for posterity, suddenly found those moments just as fleeting online.
I've talked to lots of people who think that their Twitter streams belong to them. The reality is that we are trapping our thoughts, relationships, and content in someone else's microblog. It has bothered me since we used Twitter in my CI 597C course -- much of the course dialogue happened in the backchannel there and much of it is lost. Clearly this only one small example, but I am guessing you get the idea.
So I am curious about what kinds of strategies we should be considering as we continue down this path? I doubt the answer is to stop participating -- the ship has left the port and it isn't coming back in. What do we think?
Last night I attended my doctoral course in assessment here at Penn State. I was surprised that I was a bit anxious as I walked into the room. I guess it comes back to the fact that I was a student and not the teacher for the first time in quite some time. I've been teaching courses at Penn State off and on for the last eight years, so the notion of sitting on the other side of the equation left me feeling a bit vulnerable (I think that is what I was feeling). I've been quietly working on my doctorate for the last couple years -- slowly plodding along, but exclusively by doing independent studies, taking courses online, or by getting credit for teaching. This is the first time I have been a student in a real classroom in quite some time, so being a bit nervous was a natural feeling. I am lucky enough to be taking the course from my advisor and friend, Dr. Kyle Peck and his wife, Dr. Catherine Augustine. Both of them are easy going and very smart. They put us at ease -- all nine of us.
After I got into the flow I found class to be rather relaxing -- I was able to leave email and daily demands alone for a good three hours as we talked through some very basic concepts related to assessment. I think my positions at the Institution have afforded me unique views into the issues we'll explore so I felt as though I was at a bit of an advantage. I have either been a practicing instructional designer or leading instructional design teams for the last 12 years so that has also given me experience in the things we were talking about -- made me immediately ready to dive in. I think I will be able to add value to the class on a few levels and am looking forward to exploring it all as it progresses.
With that in mind, I am going to try something a little different as I move through this experience ... I am going to use this space and my PSU blog to attempt to open the course up to those not in the room through my thoughts. I am begining to wonder how I can use an open set of tools to invite others into my learning and see how it impacts my own thoughts and outcomes. I'll be writing weekly reflections, tagging content in delicious with insys522, making new YouTube videos asking questions from the course, creating podcasts, and more. These aren't assignments ... no one is directing me to do this.
My own personal reflection from the experience last night has pushed me to ask some new questions about teaching, learning, and community engagement. I am curious about what more I can learn by almost redesigning things as they happen to me ... sort of looking at design as a mind tool. Will I create deeper meaning for myself through this practice and will it have any sort of impact on people in and out of the course are two issues I am eager to explore? Those are just two of the questions I am considering as I walk into a fresh field of snow -- no footsteps to follow on this one for me. I'll do my best to be as transparent through the process and I welcome any and all comments, feedback, encouragement, or whatever else gets thrown my way. So, in a sense I am inviting you to engage in a semester long experiment with me to see what learning and sharing in the open can mean. I hate to say it, but even if you don't show up I will -- but I certainly hope you do! Anyone up to take the plunge with me?
For most of what I do I rely on a bunch of free online applications -- I've written about it before, so there's no real need to rehash the story. But today as I was scanning feeds I came across a post at Read Write Web, Google Giveth, and Taketh Away that has me thinking about it all a little bit. The post tells of Google either closing or stopping work on several free web-based services ... clearly they aren't their most popular ones, but with Google Video, Notebook, Jaiku, Catalog Search, and Dodgeball all going away it makes you pause and think about how much a bunch of us are relying on open and free services to do all sorts of things.
I wonder what would happen, if economic times continue to worsen, to other services that more people use? I know I would have a really hard time going back to paying for simple things like word processing and note taking applications -- especially ones without the advanced syncing I've come to expect. I would also hate to see the innovation going on in the web-based application universe start to die. I am guessing YouTube killed Google Video, but Notebook was loved by many and existed as a powerful add on for FireFox -- in other words, it was an app without real competition. My current favorites include Evernote, Google Docs, and LaLa ... all free, but with some sort of revenue model sitting there for advanced features. I just wonder how much energy to dedicate to them given they could go poof in the middle of a massive economic downturn. What happens if Yahoo jumps out of the delicious or Flickr business? I (and a boat load of others) would be SOL.
I know it isn't restricted to free online apps ... many of us used HyperCard for years and Apple killed it. Remember Claris Works? Gone as well. I shouldn't worry too much, but watching the mighty Google just decide to stop offering tools gave me a little pause. What should we be doing?
Since my last post focused on the potential rise of light weight portable computing systems -- Netbooks, iPhone, and cloud services -- I thought I'd try to follow it up with a list of my must have tools that have enabled me to live more that way. This is just a simple list from my point of view and I doubt it is the same as what somebody else might find necessary to do their jobs. I'd love to hear from you what you think are the next generation of tools that someone living on a light weight portable device might require.
With all of this it is important to note that I also have two other machines I use regularly. I have an iMac on my desk at home connected to a series of hard drives that store pictures, documents, media, and most of my important stuff. It gets backed up a handful of times a day with a combination of TimeMachine and Apple Backup ... I even move a hard drive off site for pictures every so often. At work I have a machine on my desk that I use while there ... the only real reason I use it is because it is connected to a 30" display that lets me get so much more done in short bursts. I don't think I could do without that as my MacBook Air will not drive the display or I would give up that machine altogether.
My job has transitioned mostly into the world of administrative tasks -- lots of meetings, budgets, proposals, notes, and the like. I no longer spend much time writing any sort of code, editing large images, or editing audio and video. I'm not saying I don't do those things from time to time, but my daily grind is built around the production and consumption of information in a mobile environment ... I read a lot, I write a lot, and I spend all sorts of time fighting with my calendar. So with that, here are my new top five "must haves" for living in the new mobile computing Universe (ignoring email and calendar software completely):
Evernote has become one of my most valued tools. I haven't ponied up for a paid account, so I am using it for free ... I'm not sure I will pay, but the new features of the premiere account have my wondering. I love that I can take, find, and share notes from any platform in an application that is client based but syncs beautifully via the web. The image search is amazing and I just bought a new iPhone case from Griffin with a macro lens adaptor so I can take pictures of business cards and store them there as well. Having things where I need them -- no matter what machine/device I am on is critical. I couldn't imagine going back to a world where I don't have Evernote.
My blog is still a very important part of how I keep things together. I'm not talking about the WordPress platform at all ... as a matter of fact I use my WordPress blog for personal reasons, while my PSU blog is powered by MovableType. Both serve similar functions, but I have worked out (in my mind at least) a rationale for when I use what. Without the blog space, things get crazy fast. I need a place to write and reflect ... it is just part of how I work through things.
At work I use a couple of wiki services to keep lots of information up to date. At ETS we have a MediaWiki installation in place for project updates and content creation. At PSU we have a pilot implementation of Confluence that is becoming the defacto place for our larger organizational work. I don't think I'd be able to really function without some sort of wiki service. Just too critical to easily create and share content in an environment like that.
This may seem like a cop-out, but I am going to lump five online services into one must have ... Flickr, YouTube, La La, Facebook, and BaseCamp are all part of my day to day workflow in huge ways. My Flickr Pro account is a critical piece to my online archiving approach ... I use Aperture at home and tag my favorite pictures with five stars on import. Usually a couple times a month I move those pictures, at full resolution, to Flickr for a social off-site back up solution. I've been using YouTube as a backend storage location for all my video (I no longer keep it on my laptop after import/editing) ... I love that people are there and that I can generate online conversations without any real overhead. La La is a killer online tool that has allowed me to stop carting around gigs of music on multiple computers. They have a nifty uploader that searches your music library and unlocks those songs for online listening. FaceBook has completely replaced email with distant friends. I now keep in contact with a specific network of folks via the FB platform ... I can chat, share pictures, links, updates, and all sorts of stuff without opening any other apps or services. I can see how down the line I could move more of my life to FB. BaseCamp has become the go to place for project management tasks at ETS and I love that I can get to it anytime anyplace. I could never go back to MS Project ... even without the gantt charts, BC rules for me.
Clearly I still need to edit and create documents, so I do use the Google Doc tools to do word processing, spreadsheet work, and more and more, presentations. I do have iWork on my machine and I do my high end finishing work there, but on a day to day basis I spend most of my office-like productivity time in Google Docs. I do use the collaborative features, but I mainly use it to open and create new Word-compatible documents.
I am guessing there are other tools I use, but this list pretty much sums up what works for me. One that I am still working with and am starting to really like is Dropbox. It creates a local, synchornized folder on each of your machines that lets you move files back and forth. I also have a Mobile Me account that should do the same, but I find the iDisk piece of that to be really too slow. Before I'd pay for Dropbox, I'll give Mobile Me another shot. At any rate, that is my list ... I am curious what tools people find are must haves for managing a mobile existence. Any thoughts?
I have been thinking about the trend towards really small and really cheap laptops -- Netbooks, as they are referred to -- and their use of web-based applications for productivity. I had our IT group order a Netbook (from Dell) before the Holiday break so we can start to better understand the overall affordances of underpowered, cheap, portable machines that manage to do the things most students really need to do relatively easily.
Students tell us that they spend a majority of their computing time checking email, updating Facebook profiles, and logging into ANGEL for course related stuff. We also know that most (upwards of 90%) of our students come to campus with laptops only to leave them behind in their dorms or apartments. They claim they are too big and heavy to carry, the batteries sort of suck, that our classroom desks don't support them appropriately, and that we don't put power where they need it. This could all be set to change this year with the introductions of not just hardware that fits their lifestyles, but cloud-based services that are ready to compete with desktop applications.
If you walk into a Target store (or go online) you'll see sub $500.00 Netbooks mixed in with the iPods and digital cameras. This is a shift from the notion that computers are something special, not just another piece of consumer electronics. I told several people before the Holiday that I thought we'd see a decent percentage of our students return from the break with newly purchased Netbooks just waiting to see how they run in our (and their) enterprise. As long as they can install the PSU Cisco VPN they'll be able to connect to the wireless network in most places, so I am guessing they will want to find ways to take advantage of the new machine sitting in front of them.
They already indicate they spend a lot of time on Facebook (23% of the students who use FB at PSU report spending more than 5 hours a week on it), so I am guessing they are really familiar and comfortable with the idea of storing things in the cloud ... even if they don't fully understand what is going on. This is an indication that if a service emerges that makes their lives more meaningful they will adopt it quickly. This is constitutes an opportunity for us to market some of our emerging services to a new set of eyes and ears (I am thinking of Blogs at PSU and Adobe Connect in particular).
I am betting the use of Google Docs is rising, but is still relatively small compared to Microsoft Office -- with an ultra-portable that will change. Right now I am guessing most students still write in traditional analog notebooks -- with an ultra-portable that may change. The adoption of collaborative tools by faculty has been slowly increasing, but with more students able to actively participate online while in a classroom we'll see a sharp increase there as well. Will the Netbook prove to be the tipping point towards greater utilization of the online services many of us spend quite a bit of time taking advantage of? I am betting on yes.
Aside from Netbooks, the notion of the really powerful hand held device is set to explode as well. The iPhone and now the iPod Touch have emerged as real computing platforms. There are limitations for doing much of the work a student needs to do in a classroom -- namely typing -- but that is merely a hack or a dock away from being taken care of. I almost wonder if the Netbook is a little late to the party ... will iPhones and iPod Touches get the market share first? Perhaps, but no matter how you slice it up the landscape on our campuses is starting to change in a radical way and it is a real opportunity for us to promote technology for teaching and learning in new ways.
I spent at least half of this past year living mostly on a MacBook Air and I have been very happy with my transition to a mostly cloud based portable experience. I don't have Office, Adobe PhotoShop, or many other large apps running on it -- and I don't miss them one bit. I have adopted Google Docs, learned how to use Apple's built in Preview App and iPhoto to do image editing, taken lots of notes in Evernote, listened to my music online at La La, and have used this space and my PSU blog as an outboard brain with much success. I've found relying on local storage as being a limiting factor -- and I am betting that more and more students will move in this direction this year. We are finally seeing the alignment of hardware, interest, and online services come into focus ... I think this could be the year we all start to really get it. Anyone have any thoughts?