Thursday, May 31, 2007

Great video on Tablet advantages

Just found this Microsoft-produced video targeted at students to convince them to look at Tablets over laptops. It has a fun vibe and mentions several Tablet-specific apps that add value.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

VT continues to lead with WiFi

I was encouraged to hear that fall admissions for Virginia Tech look strong in light of this semester's tragedy. Having visited campus and worked with faculty, staff, and students, I can attest that VT continues to be an extremely engaging and exciting campus.

One area of VT expertise that interests me is wireless networking. In my role at DyKnow, I worked with our team this spring to roll out a software pilot to selected engineering courses using Tablet PCs. Our software has always worked well in a wireless environment due to our client-server architecture, but I had no idea how high the Hokies would raise the bar. After a couple weeks of use, I was elated to see 250+ active PCs using our software on an 802.11g network in a single lecture hall. This was the result of a perfect marriage of scalable lecture software with a special mix of access points, load balancing, and other incredible Internet infrastructure efficiencies, compliments of VT engineers.

But then I thought about the pedagogy of teaching and managing over 250 people taking notes and collaborating in one interactive lecturing space...and my mind started spinning. So this is what we are now tackling together. We are all reviewing how we are doing things because faculty and students should get the full benefit of interaction and feedback in large lecture as well as smaller courses. Look for updates this fall.

Friday, May 25, 2007

DyKnow 5.0 released!

So I have to give a plug here for the annual upgrade that our team has worked so hard to release. DyKnow v5.0 is generally available and the reader software is available here.

I'm especially excited about a couple enhancements that a lot of you requested. First off, authoring is now MUCH more friendly to the keyboard user. Full Text mode will allow the user to natively type and format text on a DyKnow slide much like the experience in Microsoft Word. Anything typed by a DyKnow teacher will instantaneously appear on student screens and will be available for modification by students after the session has been archived.

Second, I am pleased to tell all you folks doing browser-based testing that we now have URL whitelisting in DyKnow Monitor. This basically means that a teacher can customize a URL or domain name that she wants to allow, or whitelist, for students to visit...while every other URL is blocked. Folks are already using this feature to test through Blackboard, ANGEL, or another flavor of LMS. And yes, HTTPS works in addition to IE 7.0 and Firefox 2.0 browsers.

Finally, the feature that I think will be most valuable and have the most potential for growth is Blackboard LMS authentication. No more manual management of DyKnow users and course enrollments! The DyKnow administrator may hook DyKnow up with a corresponding Bb Building Block such that when users enter their Bb credentials into the DyKnow client, we will bring back the user role and and course associations to populate the DyKnow database. This will save system admins a ton of time. Details are here. No, the Building Block does not work with former WebCT systems quite yet, but this integration opens the door to this and other integrations. Look for some cool stuff in the future!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Reasons FOR classroom laptops

This is a good counter to the NY Times article bashing classroom technology. On a related issue, I also found a thoughtful rebuttal by a non-academic addressing those professors banning student laptops or Tablet PCs from the classroom. I agree that throwing laptops into the classroom simply because students demand it or the school wants to improve recruitment will tend to result in failure. As with any big project, putting computers in the classroom takes careful consideration, namely in the areas of
  • culture changing
  • new teaching techniques and training
  • IT infrastructure
  • software for computer control and interaction

Limitless money and good intentions won't guarantee success. In my experience, classroom laptop projects live and die by the shift in the teaching culture that must occur among administration and faculty. And this doesn't happen the same way for everybody. Some faculty are hands on and must tinker with the technology for awhile before a commitment. Others won't budge until they hear directly from peers about their successes and failures. Still others will seem to resist until the end but seeing their administrators "eat their own dogfood" will go a long way in slowly changing these holdouts.

Regardless of your philosophy, one thing is for sure: today's students will accept and adopt technology much faster than their teachers. So perhaps the greatest challenge for teachers is to accept this and enlist student assistance for positive change in the technology classroom. This allows faculty to remain subject-matter experts and students to be empowered learners.

An aside: For the K12 schools that make it to 1:1, I think it is completely unrealistic for boards or senior adminitrators to demand quantitative learning gains in the first couple years of a laptop program. This statistic requires longitudinal data and a carefully controlled experiment PLUS grade improvement is only one indicator or outcome of a successful laptop program. I encourage administrators to bear this in mind when defining outcomes for success. Kershaw County School District has done a good job of managing these expectations and measuring other results such as digital equity, attendance rates, and student confidence. To learn more about metrics for success, visit CoSN's Value on Investment (VOI) site.

A video of Dell's Tablet PC

A friend sent me this video link of Dell's pre-release Tablet. I'm hearing that this will ship end of '07...not soon enough for many Dell loyalists.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tablet PCs still making waves after 5 years

Education and tech guru Ken Collura went with his gut in 2002 by choosing Tablet PCs and has been leading the way since then for his diocese, his state, and schools around the world. As a friend of Ken's, I can attest that he gets probably 15 calls per week from peers about his program. Now Microsoft has released a case study on Bishop Hartley High School's experience that clearly explains how the program has played out.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Using a Mac and a Tablet PC?

Check out this post by a Microsoft MVP about his use of both a MacBook Pro and a Fujitsu Tablet PC. This is not the first time I've heard about someone using both Apple and Microsoft-based computing devices and being happy with both. Huh? Are these folks splitting their allegiances?! Perhaps not. It seems to me that this ultimately comes down to the Tablet PC.

It's no secret that the iPod (and possibly iPhone) craze is leading the PC-domintated business and ed tech communities to take a closer look at Mac computers. This, combined with the Intel chip set, lower exposure to viruses, and improved virtualization software (Parallels Desktop) seems to be good for Apple.

Due in part to these factors, I'm seeing a lot of fresh Mac vs. PC discussion on K12 school listservs. Mac skeptics point to the higher cost and inferior accidental protection / service plans, especially for 1:1 programs. Mac fans counter with better OS stability and the "cool" factor among students. At the same time, [Microsoft] Tablet PC models are being compared and many teacher pilots started.

For Microsoft, the Office Suite and other productivity apps continue to be dominant. Because of this, PCs are still the overwhelming choice for business and many schools. Vista holds promise with a more intuitive UI, integrated Tablet ink, and a Google-like desktop search utility but I think the jury is still out on overall stability compared to OSX. My main point is that in light of the recent charge from Apple, I think Microsoft should be putting more of their eggs in the Tablet PC basket.

The Tablet PC answers several of the shortcomings of users who are mobile and understand the power of digital ink. And yeah, yeah, I've heard the rumors of a Mac tablet for 18 months. Still, I think Microsoft should continue to take this seriously by investing more in marketing the Tablet to schools and consumers, exerting more pressure internally and on partners to push the Tablet price down to that of a comparable laptop, and continuing to support ISVs in developing compelling apps for the Tablet (for the record, they have been very supportive of DyKnow). Sure, Apple would probably release their own killer inking apps with a Mac tablet, but Microsoft currently has the advantage in terms of experience as well as support from the software community. I think Microsoft can keep leading in this form factor.

As for now, I am content with my ultra-fast HP Compaq tc4400 Tablet PC as my primary machine.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


If you love technology and you haven't heard of woot!, it is about time. Cheap prices, unusual technology, and hilarious commentary makes this a "daily must visit" for folks in ed tech. Add to this daily podcasts, RSS, and a forum and you just have to bookmark this in Favorites.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Teacher Tablet PC Workshop at Hunterdon

Our friends over at Hunterdon Regional High School in New Jersey have teamed up with Toshiba to share their Tablet PC faculty professional development this summer. Tablet PC Academy will be held July 10-12.

Rob Mancabelli and his team (which formally included Will Richardson) have done an amazing job of motivating their teachers to take up Tablet PC technology in combination with wireless projection and software like Windows Journal. They currently have over 200 teachers using Tablets in the classroom. I have a hunch that student Tablets are on the horizon. In my opinion, this, combined with a collaborative app like DyKnow Vision software is when the Tablet technology transforms learning.

Noted in their research study, one teacher said, "This has been the most fun and exciting [time] of my teaching career--after 14 years, that's saying a lot." It is my impression that Hunterdon will bring workshop participants through part of their own proven Tablet PD / curriculum and will even loan out Tablets to participants who don't have one.

On a related note, Cincinnati County Day School also hosts several popular Tablet PC workshops each year but they tend to focus more on how students use Tablets, too.