Browsed by
Tag: Thoughts

iPad Notes and Simple Pleasures

iPad Notes and Simple Pleasures

If you know me you know I use my iPad quite a bit and have really since the device came out a couple of years ago.  I even gave my laptop up for a month to just focus on understanding how the iPad could fit into my workflow.  I have written several times about what I’ve learned, but wanted to dive into how functional it has become for me all over again in the last few days.

I have stayed away from getting a stylus as I felt like I wasn’t going to go against the intended design of the device — remember Steve hated the idea, so naturally I listened to him.  But, I’ve been watching friends and colleagues switch to working with the iPad with a stylus and felt it might be time.  What pushed me over the edge was a post by my old friend (and still my goto edutech blogger and idea man), D’Arcy Norman who wrote about his own iPad note-taking workflow … and just like I have for nearly a decade, I listened.

My biggest challenge with the iPad has been around its utility as a note taking device.  I have tried to make Evernote my home as well as the built in Notes app.  Neither really worked.  I am not going to switch to one of those keyboard cases that so many people like — I already use an 11″ MacBook Air so I don’t need a setup that looks and works almost just like that.  I am good at typing on the onscreen keyboard, but I find typing to be only a very small part of what I need to do on my iPad.  I need to be able to grab screenshots and quickly annotate them, I need to draw interface ideas, I need to draw graphs and other representations of data, and I need to make sure I can find it at a later date. From D’Arcy’s post …

I had a bit of a holy crap moment the other day, in a vendor demo. I was taking notes, and wanted to capture a diagram that was on the screen. So I grabbed my iPhone and snapped a quick photo of the screen. I waited maybe 5 seconds, and then clicked the “insert image” icon in noteshelf. I went to my iCloud photostream, and there was the photo I had just taken on my phone. I selected it, and it was in my notes. Holy crap. Couldn’t do THAT with my old notebooks…

So when I read D’Arcy’s post I figured it was time to break down and try a new way of interacting with my iPad. Quite frankly, I have been floored by how well it supports a whole new level of my workflow. I bought a super cheap Pogo Sketch pen to see if I would like this approach … and while the “pen” isn’t up to my standards, it was an $11 investment into moving towards a new workflow.  I will probably quickly switch to the well liked Wacom Bamboo Stylus as I move forward.

Here is an example of how I was able to instantly take advantage of this new approach … I am teaching Disruptive Technologies graduate course again this semester with colleague Scott McDonald and we are engaged in a project that I really need to share more broadly called, “Occupy Learning.” The idea is that teams of students go to specific classrooms on campus and occupy them for a couple of weeks to document the overall affordances of the space — what kinds of practice does it support, what are the limitations, how do faculty use it, etc.  The idea is that they will produce an integrated artifact that is published on the web.  Well, yesterday the two teams shared their first efforts … they were good, but the students wanted more guidance on what the actual outcome or artifact should be.

Mediascape

Since the room we were using has a killer Steelcase Mediascape system in it, we can have a whole bunch of machines easily connected to a huge display at the same time. Switching from my laptop, to Scott’s laptop, to a student laptop, to my iPad is a matter of tapping the switching puck.  Well, with my new stylus I was able to show everyone in class what the artifact might look like … easily drawing and highlighting the difference between embedded media and original text.  Being able to effortlessly do that within the flow of sitting around and having a discussion was a serious “ah-ha” moment.  It was in that moment that I realized just how powerful these types of technologies can be to alter and support discourse, engagement, and workflow.

iPad Sketch

 

While the sketch itself isn’t much, it was an amazingly simple way to make the point in the moment in as natural a way as I could think of.  Moreover, the sketch and the simplicity in which it was produced created a framework for the right kind of conversation around the ideal way to present such dynamic content.  It also pushed us down the path of deeply considering the notions of audience (administration, faculty, students) and purpose (build awareness, help drive decisions, creation of a long term repository of outcomes) in ways that wouldn’t have emerged by trying to draw the picture in their minds with words alone. A simple example.

I have now gone full D’Arcy and started using Noteshelf for note taking and the combination of drawing directly to screen and the ability to insert any picture to annotate now gets me to where I need to be.  If I see something I want to describe I can snap a photo with the iPad and annotate it.  If I have an idea about something we are working on, I can do a quick screen capture and mark it up.  Then I can instantly push it to Evernote for longer term curation, post it to Twitter, or send the old fashioned way via email.  Really simple, but really very powerful and what a joy when our tools actually go beyond just supporting our workflow towards enhancing it.  Thanks, D’Arcy (again).

Finding Ways

Finding Ways

Now that I am back from a week acting as faculty in Educause’s Learning Technology Leadership Program I have been thinking quite a bit about the things that went on around me. You’d almost think as faculty I wouldn’t expect to get much out of the experience. I can say that is so far from the truth. In reality I ended up learning more during the week in a leadership role than I have in quite some time.

One of the things I learned (or was reminded of) was what it was like to be the new person in the group. Out of the seven faculty I was one of only two that hadn’t been in that role before. I had forgotten how difficult it was to step into that situation … I am not used to working so hard to find common ground around things I am experienced with. I’m not saying I was on the outside looking in, but I did need to work harder to establish my voice with the group. Upon reflection it has me thinking quite a bit about how hard I need to work to understand this with regard to other people when they are in that situation. Just something I need to spend extra energy on and intend to.

When it was time to work with the team I was assigned to mentor I made a real effort to engage them where they were. I wanted to find a way to ignite some real opportunities to get into the depth of the conversation with them … I sort of let go of the perceived power position that an Institute like this creates between faculty and participants. I spent a lot of time working to be available to them — where, when, and how they wanted me to be. I enjoyed their questions and I really appreciated their approach to a very stressful and demanding experience. The participants are put into teams to create a compelling solution to a large institutional challenge over two and a half days. Needless to say it can create a lot of stress for the teams. I took it on to help alleviate that stress by being available to coach them when they needed it. It lead to an amazing few days of work and discovery with some very smart and engaged people. A real treat!

My Team: Team 3
My Team

What I have figured out over the last couple of days was that I needed to do that to overcome my initial feelings of discomfort with my faculty role. I needed to find a way to deeply engage when I wasn’t immediately able to do that in my other role. I need to remind myself that my role in situations like the Educause context (and ones across my job at PSU) is one that exists in many dimensions. Finding ways to engage where I could allowed me to energize myself to participate in a more holistic way. Doing one well, lead to new energy and confidence to go after the other areas.

I believe now more than ever that it is critical to listen to your own complaints and work to overcome them. That was something I said to the participants in a faculty panel where we were asked to talk about the things we’ve learned as we’ve grown into our leadership positions. I said that early in my career at the University that I was malcontent quite a bit and it wasn’t until I started to find ways to address my own complaints on my own terms was I able to participate more completely. As an example, I used to complain that I never got to work with faculty who were motivated to do great things — that was true until I started to use down time to discover who they were and work to make meaningful conversations happen. Understanding how to address your own complaints is a skill that I believe to be critical as you move through an environment like higher education.

I’ll close by saying that I’d like to find ways to engage with people around here a bit more like we did at the event last week. I loved the opportunity to informally talk to the participants about their work and about my own experiences. I learned quite a bit about myself and those around me … sort of a shame I had to go to Portland to do it. That doesn’t mean I can’t do the same back home. With that in mind I’ll leave an open invitation to get together and talk — doesn’t have to be formal on any level, just looking to find a way to get closer to this around me. Any takers?

Note, this post also appears at my PSU blog. I am sorry for duplicate linking.

A Year with the iPad

A Year with the iPad

It is hard to believe the iPad has been here for a year now. As the device turns one I thought I’d write a little bit about the past year that I’ve spent with It. I had one delivered to my door on this day last year and was immediately impressed with the iPad on lots of levels. When I first got it I committed to spending a full month with it as my primary mobile computing platform to really see what it was all about. After my hands and arms recovered from relearning typing I was very impressed. That month was as much about learning about the new device as it was about learning about what it could be in the future. What I learned was that I could in effect do close to everything I needed on it if I thought hard about the workflow associated with it. Having to think really hard about doing normal tasks seemed frustrating at times, but I have to say it was worth the stretch to build a deeper appreciation and understanding of the device.

At launch it did not multitask and that was limiting to a degree, but more so in a backward looking way — I didn’t much miss it as the best apps I used built the multitasking in. That was a huge deal for me as I got to see software being rethought for the first time in a long time. That little insight is what pushed me from forcing myself to be an iPad user to actually becoming an iPad user — things are different on it and it is pointless to build comparisons to a regular computer.

So many people look at the iPad as a purely consumption device and that just isn’t the case. I use mine for all sorts of things. I am writing this post on it and would have no problem doing a whole host of other production level tasks with it. I think that comes with practice and working with apps the way the designers envisioned. Sometimes that breaks your own workflow, but this is a new platform. As an example, this weekend I built a new 60 slide Keynote deck on my iPad — a first for me. I was scheduled to be heading to Cupertino to visit with Apple this morning when I had to cancel at the last minute to be home with my wife who got sick in the night. The crazy thing was that I was going to be on the west coast from Sunday to Thursday and I was only taking the iPad. That is huge given I was on the agenda to present tomorrow … I was doing it from the iPad. I am finding that a year after it’s arrival I am now 100% comfortable with the idea that this can really be my primary mobile production and consumption device.

I won’t ramble on about the iPad, but I will share seven notable thoughts from my first year with the iPad …

Number 1. No doubt it has limitations, but the affordances far outweigh the small annoyances. I rarely take my laptop back and forth from work and I almost always reach for my iPad well in advance of the MacBook Pro. Do I still love my laptop? Yep, but it just is too limiting in my new workflow … that sounds strange even for me as I read it back … the laptop is too limiting. I can’t for example easily move between reading, writing, controlling my cable box, cuing up content on my Mac in the other room, editing wikispaces, playing games, or writing a blog post. I just can’t … so many of those apps don’t exist for my laptop in the same way they do on my iPad. At the end of the day, it may actually be more powerful for doing all sorts of things, while my laptop is more powerful for doing very specific things.

Number 2. I visit with new Department Heads at the start of each Fall semester. I did 15 visits last Fall and nine of the folks I met with had iPads. What makes that so notable is that in the previous five years I’ve done this not a single person had a single piece of technology. Yep, only a few months after the introduction over half of the academic leaders I met had already added the iPad to their workflow. I spend a huge amount of time in meetings with lots of people and I am never in a room with fewer than three or four iPads. That is staggering to me — especially for a device that is derided as consumption only.

Number 3. The pilots we’ve done in English are proving to be successful in ways we didn’t anticipate. I think that is really at the core of my own delight with the iPad — I didn’t expect to like it this much. I thought I’d use it for a month and give it to someone else. In general the undergrad and graduate students are finding the device really capable for supporting their work and have found new ways to integrate into their lives. Same can be said for several of the faculty we’ve given them to — they are finding new ways to use apps and the device to change the way they write, organize their scholarship, communicate, assess, and connect. I find that very interesting — the device becomes what they need it be.

Number 4. The iPad still invites lots of stares from people even though it is showing up all over campus. When I sit and work with it in the student union people look and people stop and ask me questions about it. Given how many of these Apple sold in the first year it is surprising that it stills inspires curiosity. My children really still can’t keep their hands off the thing … even after a year it inspires curiosity with each new app.

Number 5. Speaking of new apps, the thing that I am most surprised about is how it seems to become a new object with each new app that I consume. The new iMovie and GaragBand are perfect examples of the iPad becoming new objects via the app interface. When I edit video in iMovie on the iPad I feel like I am sitting on some sort of futuristic version of an old school Grass Valley switcher. So many of the apps I use transform the iPad into something that feels like it was built specifically for that task — browsing the web, reading feeds in Reeder, playing Angry Birds, using Evernote, and almost everything else on my first screen feels like a different device each time I launch an app.

Number 6. Finally, the thing that has continued to surprise me is how it changes and challenges the traditional model of engagement in group settings. I am no longer the techie behind the laptop. I no longer have an aluminum barrier with a glowing Apple logo on it between my eyes and the room. The iPad is not an obtrusive object between myself and the other people in the room. I find that when I ask many of my colleagues they feel the same way — both about their own participation and that of others using the device. The iPad isn’t just a different platform to me, it elicits a very different type of practice. I am more engaged and less distracted.

Number 7. I can finally use a device all day long without worrying about needing to charge the thing. My MBP is good for a good four hours, but that is far short of all day. I spent nearly the entire day working today on my iPad and it is just now sitting at 7% battery … and unlike my MBP that 7% will last me another 45 minutes easily. That means that faculty and students can actually be mobile all day and not need me to install power outlets in every seat of a classroom. That is an important shift for technology use in education.

So at the one year mark I must say I am impressed. Is the iPad the best of what will become? Probably not, but if one continues to ignore the form factor and the affordances then I think you may be missing the point. Make whatever argument you want — it is closed, it is just a big iPhone, it is only a consumption device … it doesn’t really matter, in lots of ways it is the future. It might not be a bad idea to spend some time unpacking some of what makes it interesting for yourself.

This Blogging Stuff is Slow

This Blogging Stuff is Slow

I am really starting to wonder what I am doing hosting my own WordPress install … I used to absolutely love tweaking things, trying out new plugins, remixing themes, and all the other things that go along with running your own install. But times have changed and I find myself more times that not fighting against my own installation. On top of that, I am really struggling with the lackluster performance and limited feature set. I know some of it is my dirt cheap shared hosting service, but even this process, you know writing in this editor just seems so outmoded to me.

The rise of one button publishing and drop dead simple services is taking its toll on my patience for the WordPress model. Every time I play with new services like Tumblr and Posterous I notice just how lame my own environment is for quickly posting and capturing thoughts, links, pictures, and just about everything else. I hate to say it, but I don’t like having to log into my dashboard and write — it feels like using a course management system. What I hate is that I come across something as I am in my normal workflow that inspires me to collect and share it. With my WP environment that means opening a new tab, going to my blog, logging in, copying/pasting a URL, grabbing a quote from the original article, writing, and then publishing. That is a lot of stuff to do and it reminds me of the world we put students in with our learning spaces — read content, log into CMS, find you course, switch to a discussion forum, write your thoughts, save, then go back to your work. That is all a bit insane and it kills flow.

I have the quickpost bookmarklet for WP in my browser bar, but it takes so long to load up and just lacks the functionality that I’ve come to expect by using Blogs at PSU, TypePad, Tumblr, or Posterous. Those are all infinately smarter and faster. I now more than ever need an environment that works the way I do and I have to say I am feeling like WP has fallen behind my needs. I’m sure it works perfectly for others so I’m looking for a blogging platform holy war, I’m just saying its model is dead to me.

Now, what to do? I have years worth of data here and it is really cheap — and I know I am getting what I pay for. I’d like to keep my domain, but I am done with managing my own environment. I’m contemplating a major switch to a new service. Right now, TypePad is the leading choice … it is a killer hosted solution that is fast, reliable, can publish to my own space, and has all the major features of the new kids on the block (killer email posting, one button publishing, and a community). The thing I want to say is that I am concerned with switching is that these new environments are coming to market so quickly and they can come and go. I need to be able to get my data in and out quickly and easily. Even if the platform space itself becomes commoditized, my content and publishing habits are not.

Getting from here to there is daunting, but I think I need to jump. Advice?

A Little Social

A Little Social

I noticed something a little different the other day as I was browsing my feeds in Google Reader — a new “X people liked this” icon and link.

reader_like

The thing that is interesting is that the link then exposes you to the usernames of those who liked the post. It is easy to add yourself to the “I like” list too … just click the “Like” link under the post text. This is a lot like the simple functionality one sees in the activity stream on Facebook.

reader_like_people

The other thing that Google Reader is doing is let you follow people. I am assuming this is less like Twitter and more like being in a Delicious network. Instead of overtly broadcasting that I like something to the whole Internet I can review the things people I am following are marking as interesting to them. This is an important step into building some strong link relationships between smart people and the content they consume. By following people in your network I think it will be easier to build a personal recommendation engine of sorts. If I trust someone enough to follow them then I am guessing I find their conversations interesting — and in this context the conversation starter is the fact they’ve shared something they appreciate.

Since I mentioned Delicious in this context I wonder if people will latch onto the idea the Reader environment could be a better place to pass along content? I don’t yet have a sense, but I am betting if Google added a “bookmarklet” type thing that would post content into the reader environment this could be successful. I don’t use Google Bookmarks much, but if they integrated more easily with the networks I am bound to establish in Reader I might.

I Feel Like I Should Have This Figured Out

I Feel Like I Should Have This Figured Out

With all the drama around claims that blogging is dead I find myself more confused than ever about content production, sharing, and everything in between. As someone who embraces the whole idea of sharing stuff, you’d think I wouldn’t be at such odds with myself over a few basics. I find myself constantly struggling with the notion that this blog can be the home for nearly all of my stuff … yet I go out and start a photo blog, start pumping content into Tumblr, and ignore posting to the one place that is under my control.

photo_blogI’ve been really trying to figure out why I find it so difficult to use my own space right here to post one liners, links to interesting things, pictures I really want to share, and these longer posts. Blogging is not dead in my mind as there should always be a place to track ideas and share thoughts. But as I engage in more and more online communities I wonder why I can’t just settle on something instead of continuing to fracture my online identity across Facebook, wordpres.com, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and on and on.

I understand the value of the embedded community, but at the end of the day everything I post here automatically finds its way to Twitter and everything that finds its way to Twitter finds its way into my Facebook profile. Those are probably my two largest sources of visitors and consist of the people I am looking to share stuff with (other than the handful of people who either show up here every now and then or subscribe via RSS). So, I ask myself again and again why can’t I see this space as a place to just drop pictures, videos, links, and random short thoughts? I just can’t seem to figure this one out. Anyone else in that boat?

Tag!

Tag!

We’ve been crazy about making tag stickers for all sorts of events. We use moo.com and take images that either we create in house or ones people coming to the events submit to us. Last summer we had some really cool ones made for the Learning Design Summer Camp from personal icons people submitted to the wiki. A few months earlier, we had an amazing set of them made for the 2008 TLT Symposium that became quite the popular item around campus and beyond. I even stuck some to my laptop and the back of my Cinema Display!

My Laptop. Credit ghbrett on Flickr.
My Laptop. Credit ghbrett on Flickr.

For one reason or another we chilled on the tag stickers at this year’s Symposium and instead got a bunch made that were really designed to be a save the date. I have to say I missed not getting a brand new killer book of them, but seeing that I still have a bunch left over from the last several events I think I’ll live. Well, here is the really strange thing … and this is a little beyond odd. I was in the Men’s bathroom in our building on campus the other day and I noticed a tag sticker under the toilet seat. I’ll have to say it shocked me, but it is a hell of an advertising location — either that or someone is trying to tell us something. Either way, you can now save the date for March 27, 2010 for our next TLT Symposium. We just landed Michael Wesch as our opening keynote and I know the program and planning committees are already starting to do their work. Perhaps this new sticker location is the work of the marketing and communications committee?

Odd Placement
Odd Placement
Short and Sweet

Short and Sweet

Over the last couple of years most of us have become ultra familiar with link shortening services like tinyurl and bit.ly to save extra characters when using Twitter or for sending out really long URLs in emails. I’ve heard lots of thoughts on how to make them better and have had more than one conversation about why they could lead to the end of the web — I think that is probably greatly exaggerated. The argument goes something like, if everyone uses [insert service name here] to share their links and that service goes away, we have no real record of where we were linking to. I have seen instances where tinyurl has been down or eaten links so I’ve moved away from it.

I have been using bit.y a little more often and this morning took the time to explore what I think is really powerful — the dashboard style view into what is going on with those links as soon as you send them out. Essentially bit.ly provides you with some nice anayltics into how many clicks you get from sending them out. What I don’t know (but would love to experiment with) is if the person who clicks on bit.ly shortend link is also signed into the service, do I get to see that person’s username? That would be incredible as part of an open edu focused approach … I could essentially replace the same kind of click through tracking an LMS offers by simply passing URLs through an authenticated service.

Click to See Detail
Click to See Detail

What is interesting to me is that this is yet another very simple piece to a very open and flowing LMS concept — I’ve written about the New York Times TimesPeople toolbar before as a simple way to push resources to a cohort … now in cooperation with something like bit.ly URL tracking I am getting a solid way to see what is going on with those resources. Nothing to earth shattering here, but a little something interesting to think about over the weekend. Anyone have a bit.ly account and want to experiment a bit?