The First Ghost of Steve Jobs

Like Matthew Sobol, the protagonist in Daniel Suarez's book Daemon, Steve Jobs has come back from the dead to attempt to redefine society. Those who read Jobs' biography know the two areas Steve Jobs wanted to change was television and school textbooks. Well like how the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future changed Ebenezer Scrooge, the first Ghost of Steve Jobs wants to change a stodgy and stuck-in-the-past education with the release of iBooks 2, iBook Author, and the iTunes U app. Whether Jobs' specter will make a positive change remains to be seen.

The most intriguing of Apple's recent releases is iBook Author. This is a free application for Macs which allows anyone to create a multimedia rich book. The primary target is teachers who wish to create their own textbooks that would help their students. Now all those teachers I know who do not like to share their curriculum unless someone pays for it have an outlet to share their great secrets to turn students into super learners at up to $15 a pop. However, I can't wait to see teachers who have embraced the flipped style classroom and teachers who have their students create a book as a review project start having their work popup in the iBooks store. This is a great creative outlet for both teachers and students alike looking for ways to share or celebrate learning. This could be a money maker for schools because students can contribute to a virtual yearbook that actually relives memories and they don't have to work with yearbook publishers. I would like students to become editors of a class companion or textbook and produce updates to a review book during the school year. The only downfall is it currently works with the iPad but I am sure that will change and other other programs will come along that will cover Kindle and other eReaders.

Tech News Today said Apple's education announcement could eliminate schools. While this was an attention getting headline for the show, the iTunes U app could have an impact on schools. I have often told teachers that iTunes U was one of the best kept secrets of education. Where else can one see lectures from universities around the world with the prestige of Harvard, Stanford, and Duke. It now looks like Apple wants iTunes U to become a place where students can retrieve course materials such as syllabi, lectures, and other course materials. While this is an interesting first step to make class materials easier to get on an iOS device, the lack of interactivity will not see iTunes U replacing classroom management systems such as Blackboard, Edmodo, or Schoology.

Like other Apple products, the introduction of iBooks 2, iBook Author, and the iTunes U app are not something never before seen products but are meant to make creating mobile online class content easier to do providing you are on the Apple ecosystem. However, you can bet others will be coming out with similar tools to support Android, ePub (Apple claims to support this but iBooks Author is hazy on this), and Kindle (is it real Android?). Hopefully, like Scrooge's transformation, this offering from Steve Jobs' ghost will transform schools to be more welcoming to mobile devices in the present and future than they have in the past.

Photo credit: everwonderpowdersplunder

Personal Legacy of Steve Jobs

'Steve  Jobs ,RIP.' photo (c) 2011, indigo_girl - license: many in the world, I was saddened by the death of Steve Jobs this week. While many are going on about the contributions he made to computer and personal technology, I want to remember Steve Jobs for what he has done for me as both a person and a professional educator. No, I did not know Steve beyond what I have read about him. I did not have the pleasure or misfortune of meeting him personally and not really  sure how such a meeting would have gone because I heard Jobs could be conceited and a bit of a jerk when he wanted to be. It was Steve Jobs' vision that has touched me.

Steve Jobs had the ability to take the crazy ideas of Steve Wozniak and others and turn them into products that everyone wanted from the original Apple computer to the iPad. When I first put my hands on a computer in 1979, the machines were not nearly personal. They were too limited and too expensive to be in homes of ordianary people. Apple computers changed all that. While I never owned an Apple computer until recently, the computers I did own were certainly created because of the success of Apple in proving computers could help ordinary people.

I have used computer technology all throughout my teaching career. It was Apple, again, that opened the door to what computers could do in the classroom. Now, I could not think of me walking into a classroom as a teacher or student without a computer to assist me. Lately, Apple again will change education technology by making tablets a portable computing device. I already have started using my tablet in my classroom and cannot think of teaching again without it. Soon, students will storm the gates of knowledge armed with their own tablets, smartphones, and other pocket-sized computing devices. This could be an exciting time in education as students learn to use their devices to write, read, research, photograph, video, draw, and be more creative in ways I cannot imagine now. The fact that I currently get paid to teach computer technology to middle school students can be owed to the vision of Steve Jobs.

My personal life has been touched by the influence of Steve Jobs along with my professional one. I use devices whose creation was due to Steve Jobs' vision. Personal music players and smartphones are a constant companion whether I am driving around, walking or running, or doing other tasks. I listen to books, music, and podcasts to entertain and inform me while I do other things. Apps can track how far and fast (or slow in my case) I have gone. A library of books that would normally take up many shelves of space can fit into my pocket. Vast libraries of information at at my fingertips anytime of day or night. There have been many instances where I needed something and all I had to do was use my computer or phone to order the product I needed. If I need to get in touch with someone I can text, tweet, Facebook, talk, or video chat. As time goes on, I am sure I will be amazed at how Steve Jobs inspired devices will be more a part of my life.

The passing of Steve Jobs made me pause to reflect on how much the man has directed my life. As time goes on people will realize how much Jobs has changed society much like Johannes Gutenberg did with the printing press. As he lay dying, John Adams said "Thomas Jefferson lives!" as his last tribute to a man who gave the United States its guiding principals. Today, Steve Jobs lives through the innovations he inspired. However, somewhere in the heavens Steve Jobs is addressing a group who helped shape the world over time, dressed in his trademark black turtleneck shirt and blue jeans. After he talks about all the things he has done he says "And one more thing, it is the iWorld and it is magical." Rest in Peace Steve Jobs.

Left is Right, Up is Down

Every so often we all have to go through a technological refresh. I just seem to do it more often than others which annoys my wife. My latest one happened this past February and March when I purchased a new smartphone and computer. What I purchased would have surprised even me as early as January of this year. However, I wanted to try new things for the experience and challenge different technologies provide. Here is what I decided on and why.

Motorola Atrixphoto © 2011 ETC@USC | more info (via: Wylio)
The first thing I did was replace my beloved iPhone 3GS with the Motorola Atrix 4G. I know I said I loved my Blackberry Curve when it was sent to the technological bench. Now the iPhone? My original plan was to wait for the iPhone 5 and I may still go that way when it ever appears. However, some Android users, including my son, kept after me to try Android. I was reluctant because of the apps I had invested in my iPhone and the thought of spending more money on apps. Another hang-up I had with Android was the limited memory on the phone. This was somewhat solved with Android 2.2 which allows users to store apps on the SD card in your phone. Then there was the learning curve of how the phone would work with an alien operating system. I wish I could tell you it was flawless transition. However, once I learned the basics, I found Android offered users more than iOS devices. The thing I like most is the ability to install widgets on the phone's screen which allows quicker access to apps. If I want to play music on my music app I just press the play button and I have music. Should I need to jot a quick note in Evernote, then no problem. Widgets is one thing Apple could learn to make iOS even better. I do miss some apps like Awesome Note and Netflix and it took me a long time to find a podcast player I liked but for the most part life has been good.

After shopping around and even taking the HTC Inspire home for a spin, I finally settled on Motorola's Atrix 4G. The first thing I noticed was this phone is fast! The 1GHz Dual Core processor really makes this phone zip along. When I went to do something in my iPod Touch 3GS (the iPhone without a SIM card), it seemed very slow. Some Android apps are buggy but no more so than some iOS apps I worked with. I found out that many apps need updating to work with dual core processors which explain some of the crashes. So far I have not been able to take advantage of the 4G speeds because of AT&T and they way they treat one of the fastest growing areas in the state of South Carolina. We have not had 3G in this area very long so I am not holding my breath for 4G (or AT&T's version of it anyway) but I did not buy the phone for data speeds just the processor and it has not disappointed me yet.

Nuevo MacBook PRO!photo © 2008 Marco Paköeningrat | more info (via: Wylio)
My next technological upgrade actually caused some of my friends to raise their eyebrows. I bit the bullet and got a MacBook Pro. The reason was simple, I wanted a upscale performance laptop that would give me many years of service. My son will graduate high school (hopefully) in a couple of years and will need a good laptop to take to college (again I hope). While my Acer Aspire One netbook gave and still gives good service, I wanted something larger and with more horsepower. Plus, when I went shopping for PC's the selection was large and somewhat disappointing because they did not have the Sandy Bridge processor. The Mac I selected has Intel's latest processor, Thunderbolt connectivity which is Intel's answer to USB 3.0. Of course there needs to be some Thunderbolt peripherals which have not come to market yet. This is how new it is.

When I announced my Mac purchase my Facebook and Twitter sites went nuts. Some of my friends, thinking I was a die hard Windows man who would only give up his PC when they pried it from my cold dead fingers, welcomed me from the clutches of the darkside of the computer force. I don't know why people thought this because I have wanted a Mac for years. Ever since I saw Garage Band I started drooling over Macs but the machines are darned expensive. Finally, I had the money and had run out of excuses so I bit the bullet and got one. So far I have not missed the Windows system at all because I have a Windows 7 machine at work. Actually, I could lose that HP and not miss a beat thanks to inter operable programs and cloud storage. Plus, I have not had needed to make expensive software purchases. The most expensive programs I purchased was iWorks 11 and Scrivener. Garage Band is everything I expected it to be and more. iMovie has been a pleasant surprise. Safari and Chrome gave me trouble when I needed to show a full webpage I was mirroring during a presentation but the new Firefox came through. Finally, the battery life has been incredible! I rarely have to take my charger with me when I hit the library or Starbucks.

They say that change is good and I have had my share of change in the last year. I guess I needed new challenges in technology with both my smartphone and computer. Now, I believe I have the resources to tackle new challenges like learning how to program with students using Scratch and for iOS and Android apps on my own. While I still draft some writings on my smartphone, it is nice to have a larger platform to write than my netbook offered. Perhaps I can use that famous Mac creative ability to squeeze that great American novel that is supposedly in all of us or get back to producing some creative videos and audio projects. At least one can dream.

Who will program the iPad?

I heard a bit of disturbing news while listening to episode #1211 of CNET's Buzz Out Loud Podcast this morning. Apple rejected an Scratch application for the iPad because as a programing platform it could alter the functionality of an iPad.

For the sake of those who do not know what Scratch is, it is a programing language created by MIT. The purpose of this language is to teach basic programing skills to children with the hope to inspire some of them to become the programers of tomorrow. Scatch uses blocks that peform certain tasks. Children assemble the blocks in various orders to make things happen when the program is executed. I tried Scratch and to me it feels more like a video game than a programing language. I seriously doubt it could affect the functionality of an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

This is Apple being Apple which is unfortunate in this case because they like to market themselves as an education friendly company. I hope they take another look or come to some agreement with MIT to allow Scratch on the The Apple devices. With the current attitude who will program Apple devices in the future if children are learning programing on Andriod devices?

A Date Long Remembered?

Will April 3, 2010 be a date remembered in the history of education? The Apple iPad was released today and I got to take one for a test spin at my local Best Buy. I must admit it is an impressive device but is is it the holy grail of education technology?Only time will tell but I plan on waiting a generation or two before I invest in one. Also, Apple's competitors will respond with devices of their own. Prices will go down, displays will improve, and features will be added to tablet devices. It is also possible the iPad will be another failed attempt at tablet computing. These questions that will be answered in the coming months or years. However, it is possible the day of students lugging textbook laden bookbags and having their own computing device may soon be over.

Perhaps April 3rd wil continue to be the day people continue to talk about great April Fools jokes like Google changing it's name to Topeka or bemoan bad jokes like South Carolina replacing teachers with robots (Wonder who came up with that one?)

The "New" Face of Education?



Okay, I guess I have become an Apple Fan Boy, drinking the Kool-Aid Steve Jobs sold at yesterday's iPad announcement. My wife is almost ready to divorce me because I told her we are getting one of these and there will be no discussion about it. My teenage son will have something new to hate me for because his days of having the coolest and latest technology are numbered. Sometime in March I will be standing in line on what is sure to be a near freezing raining days waiting in line to get an iPad. After that I will be headed for the unemployment line because I missed too much work. Yet, I do feel compelled to get an iPad. This is the type of device that will eventually change face of education as we know it.

Funny but I do feel a bit of irony that we are actually headed backwards in time. Students used slates such as the one pictured for various class assignments in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. Colonial students carried a tablet called

a Hornbook. The name of these books comes from the animal horns used to make the learning device. These are the probably the first educational materials to have "apps". The apps might include the alphabet, numbers, vowel and consonant sounds, and the Lord's Prayer. Later tablets became truly interactive because students could write on them using chalk. Students used these devices to learn to read and write for many years until Big Chief notebooks and actual real books became the staple of all classrooms.

So what does the iPad have that could revolutionize education? First off the device is realitively inexpensive. With the $499 starting point it is in the reach of many families. As time goes on this price is sure to come down. Look at what has happened with iPods over the last few years. Other companies, such as Google will also manufacture similar devices which should lower the price. Next  it has a book reader with titles you can purchase from the iTunes Store. During his demonstration, Steve Jobs said textbooks would be coming.

Apple says the device weighs 1.5 pounds. Expect lots of studies to come out for the first time again about how textbook laden backpacks are harming the backs of young people. The iPad can surf the web which means students can access more information than what is in the textbook. Expect an explosion of apps for education to go along with the over 140,000 apps already in the iTunes App Store. Video and audio can be shared to create a true multimedia experience.

While the iPad is not a perfect device, this is a huge step in the right direction. There are some things that should be on future models. For examples, a webcam would be nice for adding to presentations or distance learning. An ability to show the screen on another display such as an interactive whiteboard would be nice too. There are some other tools that could and probably will be thought of as time goes on.

Get ready teachers, students will want to bring them to class. Administrators, teachers will want class sets. Network Administrators, start figuring out how to tie this devices into your networks. Everyone, start thinking of ways for students to use them productively. The educational device of our ancstors is making a comeback.



Concealable Death by PowerPoint

BlackBerry Presentation Device

RIM announced a presenter which allows PowerPoint slides to be shown using a BlackBerry wirelessly. Video is beamed either by VGA or S-Video. A limited number of transitions and annimations are supported and notes can be viewed on the BlackBerry. The $199 device is not compatible with Pearl 8200 or Curve 8300 phones. Looks like I will be getting that Bold 9700 after all. Also, think of students coming into class ready to do their projects via their BlackBerrys. I have not seen an iPhone device that allows wireless presentation yet. For Roadwarrior types, will this mean confiscation by the TSA because of the danger of death by PowerPoint? Source: Engadget

Example of Augmented Reality

In earlier posts I mentioned the concept of Augmented Reality which is taking media such as a photograph and putting some form of data over it. Guess AR works for video too as seen in the video below. 

This is the Parrot AR.Drone which can be controlled by an iPhone over a WiFi connection. Source: TechCrunchEngadgetMashable

Stop that or I will take your iPhone away!

It seems like the iPhone apps overlords at Apple have gone crazy and loosened their morals. First was a "safe" sexting app and now an app that shows people naked as a Jaybird. If you see a group of adolecent males pointing an iPhone at girls in the hallways this is what they may be seeing:

Actually, the app just superimposes a headshot on a body with underwear. iPhones cannot look through clothing yet but you get the message. Reminds me of the adds for X-Ray glasses you used to see in comic books. Should students be referred to the principal? I would. Source: CNET

Books on they way out? Teacherbytes December 30, 2009

I hope everyone had a great holiday but is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come pointing its bony finger at the demise of traditional, paper books or students armed with smartphones invading your classroom. Is doom and gloom what some teachers see as more technology comes their way and they can't seem to stop it? No but here are glimpses of what the ghost is pointing to.

Another sign of the apocalypse

Some will see this as another sign the apocalypse is coming but on December 25th Amazon reported more e-books were sold than physical ones. Before you head off to your bunker to wait out the doom you should realize the Kindle was the most gifted item in the history of Amazon. While in the near future traditional books should not worry but if more e-readers are coming, and speculation says 2010 will see a flood of them, then will we have neighborhood bookstores by the end of the coming decade? Yes but they won't look like they do today. Source Engadget and Mashable.

More on Pico Projectors

Pico projectors started coming out in 2008 but have not made much of an impact yet. The biggest reason is you almost need a completely dark room to see a mediocre picture at best. This is starting to change, slowly. RoyalTek announced the RPJ-2000 which is supposed to be the first of five new pico projectors coming out in 2010. The $315 device can project a 65 inch image at 640x40 resolution with 14 lumens of brightness. A very dark room is still needed but it is getting better.  You will also need a $43 converter kit if you have a Mac. Pico projectors can be useful for teachers who are not assigned to one classroom or does not have access to a regular projector or does not want to lug around a projector. Source: Engadget

What can you do with a pico projectors?

Other than the obvious Logic Wireless has the 150LGW Projector Phone. This little device sold at Skymall (the catalog you browse waiting for your plane to take off) will set you back $499. The projector is said to project an image up to 64 inches but no word on resolution or brightness. The phone is built to be a portable office with dual SIM card slots so you can use it on different carriers and Quad Band GSM. Software for the Symbian-based phone includes a Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF viewer. This is the second phone to be bundled with a projector. The other phone is the LG eXpo which will offers a projector as an option. Cell phone use in classrooms is coming, just think about the first time a student pulls out one of these to show their project. Source: Engadget

Get it while it's hot!

Apple dropped the price of its entry-level MacBook to $728 for educators and students. It is not known how long this price drop will last so if you still have some Christmas cash left and are wanting to dip into the Mac waters this might be your chance. Source Engadget

Verizon sees slates everywhere

Last week OLPC announced they are working on a thin tablet PC for the education market. Almost everyone is speculating on the rumored Apple slate computer which is supposed to be announced early next year. Well Verizon apparently wants to take advantage what many think will be next computer craze and make sure you can access the Verizon network on slates like you can on some netbooks. Source: CNET

Easy Shot Videos

Concord Keystone is going to announce the Easy Shot Clip camcorder at CES next month. Specs on the $70 camcorder is it can shoot 640x480 at 30 frames per second. The 2GB memory will allow for up to 2 hours of video. All this will be in a 2-inch package you can hang around your neck or mount in various places. This could be useful to have to quickly shoot video of class activities that may be unplanned. Source: Engadget

Odds and Ends December 18, 2009

Today marks the day most schools start their holiday break. Two weeks to rest and recharge the batteries for the push till the end of the school year. Hopefully, you will have a restful and happy holiday break.

3-D Heading this way

One of the biggest trends is the production of 3-D movies. While 3-D movies are nothing new, they have been around since the 1950’s, technology has made them easier to view. If you have ever been to Disney’s Philharmonic or The Muppets in 3-D at Disney World you know what I am talking about. The latest big screen version of A Christmas Carol and Avatar are pushing the 3-D viewing pleasure in select theaters this holiday season.

Naturally, the next step to help sell home videos is for home electronics to take advantage of 3-D technology. CNET reported the Blu-ray Disc Association has settled on a standard for Blu-ray devices to use. It will only be a matter of time before 3-D Blu-ray devices will start making their way into schools to add a different perspective to some lessons. Eventually, all kinds of educational titles will feature 3-D. Think how this might effect Science, math, and social studies.

Livescribe glitch

Livescribe CEO Jim Marggraff sent an e-mail out today apologizing for the problems it’s new App Store beta has been causing the whole Pulse system. I blogged about my use of the Live Scribe Pulse Smartpen and I still love using it. The pen works just as advertised recording my notes and syncing audio for playback by touching a point on the notes with the pen. However, the Livescribe Desktop and Livescribe Online have more work to do. I had problems uploading a one-page note with audio to the online site. While on the subject of the online site, it would be nice to access my pencasts without having to go through the desktop app. (CNET)

iTunes U reaches 100 million downloads

One of my goals for 2010 is to better promote iTunes podcasts and iTunes U to the teachers at my school. Apparently, iTunes U is no longer the best kept secret of educational resources. CNET reports iTunes U recently reached 100 million downloads. For those of you who may still not know, iTunes U features lectures, instructional videos, and other educational media from schools, colleges, and universities from around the world. iTunes is just not for listening to music and you don’t have to have an iPod to make it work.

Underwater Volcano Caught on Video

CNET has some incredible video and photos shot from a robotic submarine of an underwater volcano erupting. This is the first time an underwater volcano has been recorded. Geography and Science teachers can probably find lot’s of uses for this media in their lessons. Here is some video from NOAA and CNN.

Martian Invasion Warning

Last night I was listening to Orsen Wells and the Mercury Theater on the Air's adaptation of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds. This is the 1938 broadcast over the CBS network that created nation-wide panic as listeners believed Earth was being invaded by Martians. When I first heard the broadcast in the early seventies it scared the wits out of me. From that moment on, I was intrigued that a radio broadcast could panic not only a little kid but the entire nation.

After the broadcast, Orsen Wells told reporters there was no intent to create the chaos that ensued during the hour the play aired. Wells also said he was surprised people would believe there was an invasion from Mars. Years later, Wells told the BBC that he secretly wanted to demonstrate that people were too willing to believe what they heard on the radio and later television. Script writer Howard Koch, who later won an Oscar for the screenplay of Casablanca, reflected Well's sentiment in a PBS All Things Considered interview (Part 1, Part 2). Koch claimed that schools were doing a poor job in teaching kids how to think for themselves.

Could a hoax on the scale of what Orsen Wells pulled off in 1938 happen today. The answer is yes. In fact it already has happened. CNN posted a report that Apple CEO Steve Jobs suffered a major heart attack. This report triggered a massive sell off of Apple stock driving stock prices way down for about an hour before the hoax was revealed. It was later learned a teen posted the fake story CNN picked up as a joke. This story also raised concerns about the validity of "Citizen Journalism." The lesson here is in this day of near instant information, people should check the validity of sources before acting on them.

As far as an invasion from Mars is concerned? Orsen Wells said at the end of War of the Worlds, "If someone rings your doorbell and is not there, it is not Martians. Its Halloween. Happy Halloween everyone.

War of the Worlds Broadcast Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

Educational Good and Evil: Apple's New iPods

With the September 5th iPod announcements Apple may have, or should have, started a discussion on how their products should be received in the classroom. Schools across the country are coming up with policies regarding electronic devices such as mobile phones and music players. These policies range from zero tolerance and confiscation on site to students may have the device as long as it is turned off and kept out of site.

Tne Apple products that should have schools rethinking their stance on electronic devices: the iPod Touch and is brother the iPhone. Let's put aside the phone and music players functions for a moment and focus on the Internet feature and its value to the classroom. The iPod Touch and iPhone have the ability to receive Wi-Fi which allows the devices to connect to the Internet wirelessly. The Sony Play Station Portable also has the capability to connect to the Internet wirelessly. This means another portable device that can be used to conduct Internet searches and use online apps such as Google Docs. Unlike the PSP, the Apple devices do have keyboards for easier input.

The problems with the iPhone and the iPod Touch are being a phone and a music/video player. This means administrators will have to weigh the benefits of Apple's devices and eventual clones against the devices seen as disruptions in the classroom. All-in-one devices which have Internet, phones, music players, etc... are only multiplying. Another thing, while the cost of both the iPhone and iPod Touch are still prohibitive for the average student they are cheaper than previous devices with similar features. It is just a matter of time before students will have devices that have educational benefits (Internet, writing tools, book readers) in the same package with educational taboos (phones, music players, texting) stuffed in their book bags. Now should be a time to start thinking about they will be received when they come to school.

ARS Technica article

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