Slam That!

I had the chance to take one of our Year 6 classes this morning while their teacher was away. This class is part of our BYOD iPad program where every student brings their own iPad.  Borrowing the Slam idea from the Google Summits, I got them to do an App Slam. Every student was given an opportunity to voluntarily participate, and they had 2 minutes to share an app, game, tool, tip, etc with the rest of the class. I said it could be anything at all, just something that they enjoyed using and would like to share with the class.

I was amazed at just how eager they were to do this, and they were figuratively falling over themselves to add their name to the list of presenters. As they each did their slam (which of course they had to end by shouting the word Slam!) I added their name and the thing they demoed to a Google Form. After the last student presented I simply published the form, gave them the short URL to access it and let them vote for their 5 favourite slams.

It was a lot of fun and a great way to let them share what they are learning with their iPads.

appslam2

I particularly liked the fact that, of all the apps and games and things they shared, I was only previously aware of two of them. Part of the magic of having a BYOD approach to our use of iPads is that the kids are discovering apps and things that I would probably not. It’s pretty clear that the students feel far more in control of their own learning when they are the owners of the technology.

I also found it interesting that, when we allowed our kids to bring their own choice of iPad, they brought in a diverse range of iPad configurations. Some were using older iPad 2s and 3s, some had newer iPad Airs, some chose to use iPad minis. Everyone seemed to have a different kind of case, with lots of different styles and colours and types. Some had chosen to use bluetooth keyboards because they wanted to, others were perfectly happy with the standard on-screen keyboard. The thing is, had our school decided what type of iPads, cases and accessories they should be using and dictated the size and configurations they should be, then a significant number of our “customers” would have ended up using something other than what they actually wanted to be using. If we take a one-size-fits-all approach to giving technology to kids, we run the risk of making choices that disappoint our end users.

Is BYOD the best approach? I don’t know but I thought this next fact was food for thought… I was talking to a teacher yesterday from another nearby school that also went 1:1 iPad, except they took a non BYOD approach. Their iPads were school provided, highly locked down, kids could not install their own apps, and they were being used for little more than digital textbook readers. In their first year of operation they had $14,000 in damages!

In contrast, we’ve had virtually no damages at all. It turns out that students look after their stuff when they own it. What a concept.

y6appslam

Nothing New Under The Sun

The recent decision in the Apple/Samsung debacle has really got me thinking about a few things. If you read my last blog post you’ll know that I feel somewhat disappointed in Apple’s seemingly bullying behaviour towards a competitor. I suppose I feel like this because I have had such a high opinion of Apple for so long and this is just not what I expected from them. The hashtag #boycottapple was trending globally on Twitter for a while this morning so clearly a lot of other people were equally unimpressed with the whole thing.

Realistically, I know it’s more complicated than that. The fact is that Apple is a company, not a person, and companies are ruled on business decisions, not emotions. There is no doubt that Apple brought amazing innovation to the phone business with the release of the first iPhone and that numerous competitors immediately changed their design ideas in order to compete. And yes, quite a few of them probably copied some ideas. I also understand that Apple has a responsibility to their shareholders to protect their intellectual property, and so they probably had little choice but to pursue Samsung and teach them a lesson that to copy is not acceptable. There may have been other options on the table for Samsung to license some of these technologies and ideas, paying Apple for the right to use them, but no deal was reached. Whether that was because the price was unacceptably high, or some other reason, I don’t know. The point is that no agreement was reached and Apple had to act to protect their patents.

Which is the real issue here. The patents. Let me point out that I’m not a patent lawyer, so I won’t pretend to understand the finer issues of IP law, but it seems quite obvious to me that the US patent system is set up in a way that allows ideas to be patented that many reasonable people would not see as patentable ideas.

Slide to Unlock images from the Apple patent applicationTake the slide-to-unlock feature for example, Apple’s method for unlocking a touch screen device. You can read the full patent application here (pdf, 418kb) which describes the idea behind the slide-to-unlock feature.  The application is titled “UNLOCKING A DEVICE BY PERFORMING GESTURES ON AN UNLOCK IMAGE” and takes 35 pages to explain the rationale, background and method for sliding a finger across a touch screen to unlock it. Again, I’m not a patent lawyer, but surely for an idea to be patented it needs to be original, and not have prior art. If it’s been done before by someone else, then how on earth can it be a patentable, original idea?

Now take a look at this video of a demonstration of the Neonode M1n, a quirky little device that was not overly successful, but skip to the 4:00 minute mark in the video and look at how the device is unlocked. I’ll wait while you do that…

Look familiar? Sliding a finger across a touch screen to unlock an electronic device clearly existed prior to the iPhone, so how can a patent be awarded for this? You might argue that Apple implemented it differently to the Neonode, but you could equally argue that Android implemented it differently again. And how different does it really need to be before you can argue that it is not just an evolution of the idea that came before, but is now a whole new idea?

In fact, what about the picture on the right, which make the point that the basic idea of sliding something sideways to unlock it is not at all new and has existed in a pre-digital form for a long time. At which point do we accept that a new idea – which clearly has its fundamental roots in an existing idea – is different enough to be considered a whole new independent (and therefore patentable) idea?

Slide-to-unlock is a good idea, no question. Whether they invented it or not, Apple implemented it in a good way that makes sense. If other phone makers had truly wanted to play by the rules they would have looked at what Apple did and said to themselves “Ok, so we can’t do it like THAT… we need to come up with a different way to do unlock the touch screen.” And given the number of really smart people who work in this industry, I have no doubt that they could have come up with some other non-infringing way to do it (and given the ruling in Apple’s favour, they may have to come up with other ways to do it in the future).

And that’s just slide-to-unlock.  There were other, much vaguer, patents that were apparently infringed, like making a device that was rectangular with rounded corners. Or having glass screen that goes from edge to edge. Or the shape of the bezel. Let’s assume that there were numerous patented ideas that other manufacturers looked at and said “well, we can’t do it that way, we just have to come up with a different way to do it”. Presumably, this is what Steve Jobs was talking about when he said he wanted other companies to stop stealing Apple’s ideas and come up with their own ideas. Make it differently so that it’s not the same as Apple’s stuff. This, despite the fact that Apple is obviously very good at taking the ideas of others and reinterpreting them into something different enough, or polished enough, or novel enough, that it might be considered “new”.  A lot of the anger being directed at Apple right now is because of the massive hypocrisy they’re displaying by both simultaneously taking the ideas of others and building on them while doing everything possible to prevent others from doing them same thing to them.

I know that when I get into a car to drive it, I’me very glad that there is a round steering wheel in front of me, and brake, clutch and accelerator pedals where I expect to find them. Whatever car I drive, I’m glad they all work in a similar way. I’d hate to have a situation where every car I got into had a slightly different method for stopping and steering, simply because each car company had to come up with their own way of doing things because they were not allowed to “copy” other cars. That’s not innovation, that’s insanity.

In an interview with Robert X. Cringely, Steve Jobs once famously claimed Picasso said “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. A bit of research online suggests that Picasso never actually said this at all. Jobs never let the truth get in the way of a good story. It turns out that the Picasso myth was actually based on a similar quote attributed to the poet T S Eliot, who allegedly said “Good poets copy, great poets steal.” In an excellent blog post by lawyer Nancy Prager she asserts that the (mis)quote was attributed to Eliot in a 2006 article by a chemical engineering professor called Bill Hammack about fair use and copyright. Further research revealed that the misquote was based on a 1921 essay written by T S Eliot about the playwright Phillip Massinger, which Bill Hammack later decided to paraphrase as “Good poets copy, great poets steal”.

The original Eliot essay said…

One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

In other words, stealing might be ok as long as you make the original better. Or, as Albert Einstein once observed, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”.

I find it interesting that even the story of the statement about copying vs stealing is based on an evolutionary trail of the quote as it morphs from one form to another, becoming variously attributed to different people along the way. Maybe Picasso did say it, who knows? He may have even come across the T S Eliot version. And he apparently influenced the thinking of Jobs with it. Or not. Who knows. Does it even matter?  It seems that ideas rarely stand on their own, and are usually part of a much bigger web of similar ideas.

Perhaps when we hear Jobs misquote Picasso, who was misattributed to Eliot, who was paraphrashed by Hammack, what we should take from the statement is not only that “stealing” is really just about taking ideas and making them better, but also that copying and “stealing” of ideas is a legitimate means by which a culture is transmitted.

I think it opens up an even bigger discussion about what constitutes originality, what we mean exactly by “innovation”, as well as the incredible value of sharing.  Perhaps in another blog post…

Why I probably won’t be upgrading to Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion

With the impending release of Mountain Lion, Apple’s new version of the OS X operating system, I’ve been giving some thought to whether I’ll bother upgrading or not. I am, or at least I used to be, what many would refer to as a Mac Fanboy. I still think Apple builds the best consumer computer hardware on the planet, and, so far anyway, OS X is probably still the best desktop/laptop operating system currently available. A few years ago I would not have included the “probably” qualifier in that last sentence, but lately I’m feeling more and more disenfranchised with Apple and their litigious nature and walled garden approach to creating customer lock-in.

It’s not that I don’t like their products. I do. I have several Macs, iPads, iPhones, and Apple TVs. Walled garden or not, they build beautiful products that –  for the most part – do exactly what they claim… they just work. While I don’t always approve of their proprietary attitude to the way they build their products, I understand the design goals that such a hardware and software symbiosis achieves, and I would still rather use a Mac than any other machine. However, just lately I’m feeling more and more disconnected from my “fanboyism”.

Maybe it’s because I had to recently downgrade my home iMac from Lion back to Snow Leopard because it was just consistently running like crap… constant hard drive spinning, excessive memory use and disk activity, and just general poor performance. Now I’m back at Snow Leopard and it runs a lot better. I admit it’s an older iMac, and maybe I never should have taken it to Lion in the first place, but the new features like full screen mode and gestural interactions were tempting me to try them so I upgraded to Lion anyway. In return I got generally sluggish performance, some weird buggy behaviours and several UI features that I thought were rather broken.

So I’m pondering what to do about Mountain Lion. Several people I know who’ve been running the Gold Master tell me it’s quite stable and runs very nicely. While I do usually like to be on the latest versions of everything, I don’t want to go back to lousy performance on a machine that is admittedly probably a little old and lacking in RAM to truly get the best out of 10.8.

But even for my much newer MacBook Pro that should be just fine to run Mountain Lion, as I read through the list of new features and benefits, I can’t say I’m feeling compelled by any of them, even at the bargain price of $19.99.

iCloud Integration: While it’s a nice idea in concept, I have nearly all of the iCloud features turned off. My mail, calendars and contacts are all stored on Gmail and sync directly to my devices from the Google Cloud. It took a little more time to set it up this way using Google Sync, I find it far more reliable than the iCloud way of keeping things in sync.

Notification Centre: I’m not sure I want that big panel of notifications interfering with my workflow. Maybe it’s not as bad as it appears in the screenshots I’ve seen, but it looks very intrusive. I have Growl. It works fine and already gives notifications for most of the things that matter to me, so I’m not sure why I’d want more.

New Safari: I use Chrome almost exclusively. I think it’s a great browser that is actually far more than a browser. The Chrome App Store is amazing, and I really don’t even feel the need to have Safari on my computer at all.

New Mail: I use Gmail at both home and work. I like the web interface. I like that it’s the same on every machine I use, even the ones I don’t own. The last thing I want is all my mail sitting on my hard drive, and I find mail.app to be a bit of a nuisance so I’d be happy to not have it at all.

Gatekeeper: I really don’t want Apple telling me (even more than they do now) what software I can or can’t have on my machine. From what I’ve read about Gatekeeper I would most likely be turning its security settings right down anyway, so I don’t feel compelled by it very much.

Twitter and Facebook integration: I guess this might be useful to have, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. I know how to cut and paste.

Game Center: I Just. Don’t. Care.

There’s other features in the list, but honestly, none of them really jump out and grab me as must-haves. In general I’m not terribly excited at all about the “iOS-ification” of my desktop environment. I like my iPad, but I don’t feel the need for my desktop machines to be dumbed down and made more iOS-like.  I’d rather Apple (and Microsoft too for that matter) focus more on operating systems where security, stability and usability, were the real features rather than trying to make my MacBook Pro behave more like my iPad.

Of course, my rebellion comes at a price. As I write this on my iMac, my other machine is completely rebuilding its Aperture library because the version of the Aperture database that ran under Lion is not backward compatible with the earlier version, so on Snow Leopard I could no longer access my photo library. Annoying. I’m sure that I’ll also have problems with Final Cut X if I don’t upgrade eventually too. No doubt there will be further incompatibilities with other applications (yes, remember “applications”… that’s what they were called before everything became just “apps”) and at some point in the future I will probably have to buy new hardware and move to the most current version of OSX if I plan to to stay on the Mac platform.

I’ve been using personal computers for a long time. I’ll happily admit to being a “power user” and I rather object to Apple’s insistent belief that they need to dumb down my computer because they think I can’t cope with a file system, or that I should suddenly start scrolling in the opposite direction because it’s more “iPad like”, or that I should have fewer choices available because I need to have the software decide what’s best for me. I still think that, in terms of general usability, OS X has an edge over Windows and Linux, but the gap is getting much smaller. I even bought an Android Galaxy Nexus phone recently  to compare it to the iPhone and, while I still prefer the iPhone overall, it’s not by a very big margin. This monkey has definitely got a gun, to quote Andy Inhatko.

I have to also admit that my impression of Apple might be coloured by the outrageously stupid patent disputes they insist on engaging in. I’m appalled at their puerile and childish behaviour, apparently preferring to litigate rather than innovate their way to more success. Apple, you are better than this. Stop wasting your creative energy worrying about what the other guys are doing, because they are going to do it anyway. You can’t continue to take out injunctions against every other product that looks vaguely, kinda-sorta like your precious iPhone. Just build a better iPhone and stop whining that other people “stole” your ideas, because, let’s face it, you’ve done your own share of stealing ideas over the years. “Slide to unlock” should not be a patentable idea. Active links in an email should not be a patentable idea. Get over it and just build something better.

Taking control of your Calendars: Part 2

Ok, hopefully you’re read Part 1 of this article and you now have your calendars all set up in Google Calendar instead of iCal..  Now let’s get that all synced up to your phone.

One of the biggest benefits of Apple’s MobileMe service it the way it keeps your iCal calendars in sync with your iPhone. Unfortunately MobileMe costs $129/year here in Australia (even though it’s only $99 in the US and our dollar is almost 1:1 at the moment… don’t get me started on that!) The good news is that you can get exactly the same sort of synchronization at no cost by using Google Calendar instead of Apple’s iCal, plus you get all the extra benefits of sharing calendars that only Google’s cloud can offer.

If you’re a Google user then you’ve probably set up Gmail on your iPhone. The trouble is, when you set that up you probably did the obvious thing and went to Settings, selected Mail, Contacts, Calendars and then chose the Gmail option. That seems kind of obvious, but there’s a much better way to do it. When you choose the iPhone’s Gmail option you get the option to set up Mail, Calendars and Notes. Notes? What about your Contacts? Wouldn’t you rather have those?

Setting up Gmail using the Exchange optionInstead of choosing the Gmail option, you should choose the Exchange option. You’ll still use it to set up your Gmail, but by using the Exchange protocols it actually does two important things. One, it allows you to set up Mail, Calendars and Contacts – much more useful than notes. And secondly, it opens up the option to use Google’s Sync Services.

On your iPhone, get started by going to Setting and selecting Mail, Contacts,Calendars. Tap the Add Account… option. Tap on Microsoft Exchange (I know, I know… you’re using Microsoft Exchange to set up Google’s Gmail on an Apple iPhone… how weird is that?)

In the Email field, enter you full Gmail address. You can skip the Domain field. In Username, enter your full Gmail address again. Enter your Gmail password in the password field. For Description, give it a meaningful name, like, oh, I don’t know… Gmail?  Finally, I’d suggest you make sure that SSL is set to On. Tap the Next button.

The phone will take a few seconds to verify your account, and then the screen will expand to reveal a field for Server. In here, enter m.google.com, and then press done.

You’ll probably want to turn on all three options for Mail, Contacts and Calendars. Mail Days to sync can be set to whatever you like… I have mine set to 1 Week. The Mail Folders to Push should probably be set to Inbox.  That’s it.

If you now check your iPhone’s Calendar you’ll see that you now have a Gmail calender in the list. Awesome. If you’ve previously had Gmail set up on your phone the regular way you can (should) delete it, or you’ll have two copies of everything.

But wait a minute… your Google Calendar has all those lovely layered calendars, and the iPhone is only showing one of them. What’s going on? Where are the others?

By default, the only calendar that you see is the Primary one.  If you’ve set up your work Exchange account, your primary calendar will be set to sync with your Exchange account since that’s a limitation of Google Calendar Sync with Exchange. To see the others you’ll need to do a couple of extra steps.

On your iPhone’s mobile browser, go to http://m.google.com/sync and select your device (you can set up multiple devices, such as your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad)  On this page you’ll see all the secondary calendars you’ve set up on your GCal. Just tick the one’s you’d like to appear on your iPhone (up to 25 of them) and then tap the Save button at the bottom of the page. Done.

Now if you go back to your iPhone’s Calendar app, you’ll see all the secondary calendars in the list! Make sure there’s a tick next to all the ones you’d like to appear in your calendar list and you’re good to go. You now have perfect realtime syncing of calendars between your Google Calendars and your iPhone. Just like MobileMe gives you, but without the cost.  You also get your Gmail Contact list showing up on your phone’s address book too.

Speaking of contacts, once I decided that this Gmail mail/calendar solution was a clear winner, I also exported all of my contacts out of Apple’s Address Book on my Mac, then imported them into Gmail’s Contact list. It was silly maintaining two lists of contacts, and although there was a fair bit of overlap of the same people in my cloud-based Gmail Contacts list and my Mac-based Address Book, they were still two different sets of data, which used to drive me crazy. A single list of contacts makes much more sense, so by importing everything into the Gmail contacts and enabling that as my iPhone’s primary address book, it combines everything into one place. Of course, there were duplicate entries, but that was easily fixed in Gmail but going to the Contact list and from the More Actions menu selecting Find and Merge Duplicates. Too easy. I now have one single list of contacts, stored in the cloud, always up to date, and accessible from anywhere.

So far, I’ve got my school Outlook calendar feeding into my Google Calendar, aggregating it all into a single cloud-based calendar, and syncing it all back to my iPhone and iPad (as well as every computer I use). Perfect!

But what about iCal? I do still find iCal handy as there are occasionally times when I’m not actually connected to the web. Google Calendar doesn’t have an offline mode (yet!) so it would still be useful to have access to my calendar via iCal. If only iCal could pull its calendar data directly off the Google cloud…

It can. Here’s how.

iCal PreferencesBack on your Mac, open up iCal’s Preferences. Go to the Accounts tab and click the + button to make a new account. Under Account Type choose Google, then enter your gmail address and password. Give it a moment to validate that, then go to the Delegation tab.  As long as you’ve set your secondary calendars up at http://m.google.com/sync, you should see all your secondary calendars in the list. Tick the ones you want to appear in iCal and close the Prefs panel.

The secondary calendars will appear momentarily in iCal under a Delegates fold-down triangle. Each delegated calendar will be hidden one level down under an alias to itself, but just click the small triangle to reveal it and make sure it’s ticked. You now have a fully synced iCal calendar, including secondary (delegated) calendars, that all emanate from your single, source-of-truth Google Calendar. The best of all possible worlds!  The only thing you might want to do now (for both iCal and GCal) is spend some time picking better colours for your calendar layers. (It’s a bit annoying that the colour schemes don’t carry across, but hey…)

One last thing. I actually have my school email set up directly on my iPhone by creating an Exchange account and hooking it directly to our Exchange server at work. This means I actually duplicate my work calendar, getting two copies of it in my iPhone calendar list – once via the direct connection to the Exchange Server, and once by the indirect connection through Google Calendar Sync and via the Gmail setup. However, I deliberately do this because having the direct connection to Exchange gives me near realtime syncing to the school mail/calendaring system, whereas the via-Gmail connection often has a lag time of up to 15 minutes or more. But its an easy fix to go into the iPhone’s calendar list and untick the GCal copy of the calendar leaving only the direct connection, and now I really do have a calendar system that works perfectly and all without spending a cent on MobileMe.

Hope this helps some of you… If you use any of this, let me know how it works out for you!

Inventing the Wheel

Rob is a music teacher friend of mine who works in the NSW Southern Highlands, and he dropped me an email this afternoon asking if I knew of any schools who were thinking about using iPads.  His school is moving forward with an iPad trial and he was wondering what resources might exist that would help them avoid “reinventing the wheel”.

As it turns out, I’ve been seeing a lot of iPad related information lately so I thought I’d post a reply here on the blog rather than just reply to Rob in an email, just in case some of the information is of some use to others.

I’ll preface it by saying that I think there are a lot of things in education that could certainly use some reinventing, and maybe this is a good chance to do it. There seem to be a lot of schools looking at how iPads might fit in so it may be a little early to avoid the reinventing and instead take advantage of the opportunity to do some inventing. While there are plenty of lessons about 1:1 learning to be gained from the last 20 years of laptop use in schools (and we should leverage everything we’ve learned from that history) the iPad is a different enough device that it’s causing us many of us to stop and think about how we might do some reinventing of what it means for learners. I remarked to someone recently that it’s interesting that nearly every school implementing iPads is still referring to it as an “iPad trial“. We’re all trying to figure this out. With it’s unique form factor, light weight and slim design, the touch interface and thousands of apps to explore, the iPad seems like such an obvious fit in education, it’s just a matter of fitting where. It’s a classic “solution in search of a problem”. It seems apparent that it ought to be an ideal device for educational use, but nearly everyone is still hedging about with a “trial”, rather than just biting the bullet and going ahead with full scale iPad implementations. This “reinventing” isn’t a bad thing, because it means we’re thinking outside the box, looking for the right niche, trying to figure out how this clearly amazing little device will find the right fit in schools.  Sometimes new wheels need to be invented.

We run a laptop program at my school and we had a meeting a few days ago to evaluate the progress of it. We all agree that students having their own device has caused some fundamental shifts in the way our kids learn, create and interact with content as well as the way teachers think about designing learning tasks. There’s no doubt that it’s a good – no, a great – thing and has opened doors to a different kind of learning for many of our students. Many students have remarked to me that the couldn’t imagine going back to the non-laptop days. It’s great to hear that, although I still don’t think we’ve really begun to leverage the full advantages of being 1:1. We’re still learning too.

But there are downsides to carrying technology around. The added weight of carrying laptops and textbooks (yes I know we should be able to get rid of textbooks altogether, and we will eventually, but change can be painful and we are still in transition on some of this stuff). The fragility of having a computer in your bag and the inevitable damage and breakages can be a problem. Laptop battery life is fine when the machines are new but gets steadily worse over time, which then opens a whole can of worms regarding charging once they can no longer get through a whole day on a single charge.  Traditional laptops are fine, but if only they were lighter, thiner, more compact, more durable, with less moving parts and good battery life.  Sound familiar?  No wonder the iPad strikes so many people as an obvious solution in schools. It’s has so much of what we’re looking for in a device!

I love my Gen 1 iPad, but until the release of the iPad 2 I wouldn’t have entertained the original iPad as a serious contender in education. It was the classic debate between it being a “content consumption device” versus being a “content creation device”. I want kids to do far more than just consume content, I want them to create it, and iPad 1 lacked far too much in this area for me to take it seriously. However, with the recent addition of cameras, enough grunt to handle tasks like video editing and multitrack audio recording, display port mirroring and a number of other big improvements, it’s getting to the stage where it could be a contender for a student’s main computing device. Maybe.

I’m still hedging a little and saying “could be” a contender, because I think it still depends what you want to do with them. With an iPad as your primary computing device you’d still need to be able to live without Flash (which admittedly is becoming less and less of an issue thanks to HTML 5) and the limitations of mobile Safari and the very ordinary way it renders some pages.  Safari doesn’t play nicely with our Moodle LMS because, being Webkit based,the browser don’t show the toolbar buttons in Moodle 1.x. I’m sure 2.0 fixes this, but right now, it’s a problem for us.  I also find Safari does some weird things with forms and text fields. Overall, I’d really struggle with it as my main browser.

There are some issues with the way some third party iPad apps interact with school firewalls and, unless your school runs a transparent proxy, there are likely to be many apps that simply cant get through to the web. This is likely to be a problem. I also have doubts as to whether the pseudo-multitasking is really good enough to be used as your primary computing device, and there are plenty of time when I feel very unproductive because of it. Sometimes, I just want a “real” computer.

There’s also licensing issues to consider as Apple haven’t been very clear about just how apps can be shared and deployed on a school basis, as well as a lack of what you might call enterprise-level imaging tools. There are quite a few nuts and bolts issues like this that need to be thought through if they are to be used on a school-wide basis. Apple’s own view seems to be that iPads are not really an enterprise device, they are a personal device and they aren’t designed to be “managed” in the same way that laptops would be.

However, all that aside, there are still enough intriguing things about the iPad, and enough potential advantages, that I totally understand why schools are running “trials” to try and figure out just where the real limitations lie and just how they might be made to fit into a school situation.

So, with that little preamble of thoughts about the iPad, here are a few resources for Rob.  Hope you find them useful, mate…

Hope that helps a little. Let me know how it pans out for your school, and how that wheel gets invented. You might let Kerry Smith know too, and she can add you to that list of schools running trials.

CC Image: ‘iPad with Dandelion
http://www.flickr.com/photos/68217628@N00/4675262184

ADE is No Go

Sad MacOk, I’m a bit greedy I know… I applied for both the Sydney Google Teacher Academy and the Australian Apple Distinguished Educator Program. It would have been nice to be part of both. I was thrilled to bits to find out that I got into the GTA program last week, and then was full of anticipation to hear back about the ADE program this week.

Unfortunately, I missed out on getting into the 2011 ADE Program. I mean, I know it’s really competitive and all, and I’m not for one moment trying to take anything away from those that got into it – my hearty congratulations go out to all of you who made it, including friends like Helen Otway and Allanah King. They are absolutely deserving of their place in the program. Well done to you both, and to everyone else who was accepted.

But I’ll be honest with you… I was quite frankly a little surprised when I read the email. As brash as it might sound to say so, I thought I had a pretty reasonable chance of being accepted into the ADE program. Perhaps my optimism was buoyed a little too much after having being asked to keynote at all 5 of the Apple ITSC events last year, or having the Australian ADE Program manager suggest to me that I “should definitely apply”. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations. Maybe I was being just a wee bit too cocky about the whole thing. I’m not sure.

Just like the App Store approval process, there is no transparency to the ADE selections. There is a list of criteria, and a rubric to assess your own application – both of which I thought I would do ok on – but you never find out the reasons why you did or didn’t get in.

At first I thought perhaps that it was because my school is primarily a PC school (although we just handed out 70+ MacBook Airs to our Year 6 kids for their 1:1 program… the thin edge of the wedge?)  But then I heard of several other new ADEs who work in non-Mac schools, so maybe that’s not it at all.

Someone suggested that being accepted into the Google Teacher Academy the week before might have played a part. The rivalry between Apple and Google has been getting more and more intense over the last year or so, so maybe Apple would prefer to keep their distance from anyone associated with Google. But then, I’m sure I know other Google Certified Teachers who are also ADEs so maybe that’s not it at all either.  (However, note to self – and others – if you ever apply for both programs again, perhaps don’t blog about it until you hear back about your applications. In hindsight I wish I didn’t post my application videos until after I’d heard back from both Apple and Google. Just in case.)

The email from Apple said “we hope you will apply again for the ADE intake in 2012”.  I might. I might not. I’m not sure. I’m not sure exactly what would be different with next year’s application. I can’t imagine being any more pro-Apple, any more passionate about education and technology, any more active in the online space. I just honestly don’t know what else I’d add to this year’s application, which was apparently not enough.

Anyway, I’m not upset, I’m not bitter and I’m not annoyed. Just a little perplexed, and I’ll admit, a little disappointed. Although I thought briefly about installing Linux on my MacBook Pro, I probably won’t. Probably. 🙂

However, now I’m really looking forward to the GTA.

To be an ADE

I’ve always aspired to be an Apple Distinguished Educator, but I’ve never actually done anything about applying for it. As far as my own personal computer use goes, anyone who knows me knows that I am most definitely a Mac guy, but I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to apply to be an ADE because most of the schools I’ve worked in have been primarily Windows schools.  As they say, one should never assume.

While it’s true that many – probably most – ADEs work exclusively in Apple schools, apparently it’s not always the case.  While chatting with someone from Apple a while ago I mentioned this, and they replied that the ADE program is aimed at recognising teachers, and does not necessarily focus on the type of computers used in the school that teacher works at.

To become an ADE you obviously need to be active in certain ways that help spread the message about technology and it’s value for education.  You need to be passionate about the ways that digital technology (and pretty obviously, Apple digital technology in particular) can make students more engaged and creative.  You need to demonstrate some degree of innovative practice and a reasonable level of experience in the classroom. I hope I can do all these things. And you need to fill in the appropriate forms.  I’m pretty sure I can do that part.

Oh, and you also need to make a short 2 minute video that gives a bit of an insight into who you are and what you do and what you might bring to the party.  Apparently the video is pretty important.  I gave it my best shot.

Anyway, I finally got my ADE application in for this next intake of teachers (a few days before the deadline too! Woohoo!) so my fingers are crossed.  If you’re interested, here’s the video.

http://vimeo.com/18546117