Sunday, February 19, 2012

I'm excited about an opportunity

At the recent learning at schools conference (learning@schools) in Hamilton, New Zealand, I had a lengthy chat with Nick from Lenovo.  He impressed me with the technology which he was representing, and we've set up a demonstration test period of a month during which I will put one of their Android Thinkpad tablets through it's paces.  I am now at the stage of huge anticipation at the arrival of my demo model.  Here's the product tour which has more of a business flavour but gives you the idea:

It will be useful to give you some background info...
...about myself so that you know the perspective I'm commenting from. I teach at a co-educational, decile 8, state secondary school and have been in my current position for 8 years.  I am an electronics and physics teacher but have experience in teaching science, maths, and physical education.

I also coach and practice parkour, and am physically active on a daily basis.  I run, cycle, and walk more than many others I know.  Having an active and vigorous lifestyle, I was attracted to the rugged build quality of the Lenovo products and I am keen to see how they perform in practice.

I am also on our school's e-learning committee as an active member, and have presented a number of times on new technology, assisting with the professional development of other teachers.  You can see a recent video presentation I gave on the use of Twitter as a classroom tool here.

What is my experience with tablet devices?
At the beginning of 2011 I purchased a cheap Android tablet to experiment with in class.  The functionality of that device was severely limited due to it's earlier Android 1.6 operating system and low resolution screen.  The low resolution and overly small 7 inch screen meant that I could only write a small amount on the space available - not enough to be really useful.  Sharing was easy via wireless network, and searching for data online was also easy.  However, the versions of Android prior to 2.2 didn't want to connect to large networks that required a proxy and this made it almost useless at school until we changed to an open system recently.

Differentiated learning
Being a highly adaptable teacher who is super keen on differentiated learning, I envision using tablet computing as a way to meet the needs of individual students in an easy and fun manner.  My ideal use is to be able to walk around the classroom using a tablet to help individuals with their particular questions and ideas.  For example, I want to be able to quickly search the Internet for great resources and demonstration videos to speedily view.  This will demonstrate quality search skills (or at least as quality as I can make mine) and how to filter the masses of information available online in an effective way.

As physics is often about solving problems, I also hope to be able to use a tablet to record the problem solving process that I demonstrate using a screen capture video tool and audio recording.  Currently I can do this using an interactive whiteboard and CamStudio.  An example of the process is here.  The ability to quickly and easily record an answer to every single individual question, tag/label that video recording for ease of searchability, and then upload it online where students can easily access the answers they require, is incredibly powerful.

The more that I can make myself rewindable, the more access that students will have to improve their learning skills.

Why Android?  What about iPads?
I like the attention to detail and innovation in design, but I struggle to make Apple work with the sort of creativity and innovation that suits me.  Due to their strong restrictions on sharing media (I believe this is a result of privacy protection for the big music/movie companies that sell through iTunes), Apple makes it harder than I like to share other media, including the media that I create and distribute for free.  I'm not going to bash Apple here because I think they suit a lot of people, but for higher level education and encouraging true innovation I'm leaning much more towards Android and other open source devices.

So what's coming on this blog?
Expect to read about my experiments, my reflections on the Thinkpad tablet, and any constructive criticisms that I think will help improve the development of the device for future educational use.

As always, I encourage plenty of comments and conversation surrounding my writing.  I value your feedback and would love to hear of any experiments that you think I should attempt while I have the tablet.  Please share this blog with your networks so that we can all get the most out of this opportunity!

Thanks for your contribution!


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