Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
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
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will instantaneously appear on student screens and will be available for modification by students after the session has been archived.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
- 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.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Thursday, May 3, 2007
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
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
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.