Monday, July 28, 2014

Surface Pro 3 - user review

Last week, had the chance to have a play with a Surface Pro 3 with attached keyboard. Collation of reviews available via endgadget and techradar.

The powder light grey backing on the tablet looks classy and the matt surface means the tablet is less likely to slip off books / folders when being carried around. The tablet has, by far the largest tablet screen I have worked with. With the larger screen, the attachable keyboard becomes similar to small laptop size and therefore comfortable to use. However, I am of two minds when using the tablet without the keyboard. Although the tablet is light to hold, reading while lying down, with the tablet is less comfortable then with an ipad or surface pro 1. However, the larger screen comes into its own when viewing webpages or Google maps.

The tablet ‘kick-stand’ now has the ability to fold almost right back, so the angle of the screen when used with or without the keyboard attached, can be adjusted. Writing on the tablet is enhanced when the kick stand allows the tablet to sit at a natural angle. I have always been impressed with the predictive text ability to work out my terrible writing. Few mistakes are made even when I scrawl out words. The stylus / pen works well and is comfortable to hold and manipulate.

Tablet boots up quickly and windows 8.1 works well either with touch interface, through ‘cursor’ control via the keyboard touch pad, or through keyboard input.

The on/off switch has been shifted up to the top of the tablet and the windows button now sits on the right side of the screen, when the tablet is used in landscape mode / or attached to keyboard. The new power cord attaches to the right hand side and a tighter fit then with previous surface tablets.

Overall, you pay for higher quality performance. The Surface Pro 3 will no doubt retail in NZ for double the price of, for example of the Aspire Switch 10. You would get a high end laptop for similar price. So important to weight up WHY you need a tablet plus keyboard when a laptop / ultrabook may be just as appropriate. The advantage of the tablet, especially one like the Pro which is set up to be used as a slate, is keyboardless input, quick and easy web surfing and high quality camera/video to record experiences for upload to the cloud. So, as always, important to work out what needs to be achieved and match hardware accordingly.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Acer Aspire Switch 10 - user review

Purchased an Acer Aspire Switch 10 while in Singapore a couple of weeks ago and have been putting it to good use while away (taking notes for blog), travelling and now at work.

The Switch 10 has had mostly positive reviews as evidenced with PC advisor and collation from endgadget. It is basically a slightly more elegant version of the Asus transformer. The price of the Switch 10 is attractive. For the price of Sing$599 you get a tablet running windows 8 and an easily attachable / detachable keyboard. The tablet can be attached to the keyboard either to emulate a laptop, or back to front to provide a screen to share or show /watch content. The 10 refers to the tablet’s 10 inch screen.

The Chiclet style keyboard is not flash but does the job. It takes a few uses to become attuned to the spacing of the keys but after a few typing sessions, touch typing is ‘re’-established. With Windows 8, there is a choice of touch or keyboard interface which can be disconcerting at first. Again, an hour or so of use and routines readjusted to input text via attached keyboard but respond to all others via swipe / touch.
The tablet boots up quickly (especially when compared to the Surface RT) and the apps I usually use run well. I found migrating all the apps through the Microsoft account to be painless. Just enter details during the set up and presto, all the apps etc. from previous Surface Pro transferred across. Each app does require uploading to activate and some (like games) bring you back to the very beginning (sigh). Access to files etc. stored on the cloud via dropbox (my photo archive), onedrive (work files), kindle (100s of books) and overdrive (Christchurch llibrary books / magazines / audio books) was hassle free. One USB port provided although nowadays I tend to go on the cloud and only save essentials like presentations to USB as last resort backup if WiFI is not available. Only mini HDMI so will need an adaptor to connect to larger screen or data show type set up or install miracast.

With the keyboard, using PC based software proved to be straightforward. Having worked with a Surface Pro for some time, the migration between apps and ‘desktop’ productivity tools no longer a novelty. For work, I prefer the familiar windows environment to the iPad which I use mainly for reading and web surfing. Web surfing on the Switch 10 using IE or Chrome is also uncomplicated. When out and about, finding and connecting to Wifi  is clear cut.

The tablet comes loaded with Acer specific Apps but these can be easily shifted away from the start screen or deleted altogether. My main gripe is the provision of only one camera – facing forward – which makes it less useful for some of our tablet projects utilising the video capability of the tablet to improve practice-based learning. We have found sitting the tablet on a table with the screen facing away from the person to be videoed, provides a less intimidating prospect than if the person has to ‘talk’ to the screen. The power connection on the right side of the table is also a bit of a pain when you are using the tablet while it is charging as it tends to fall off easily.

Overall, a tidy and effective package of tablet cum keyboard if you require a light / small piece of hardware to surf the web, read books and work on documents on the go.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Me, Myself and Why: Searching for the science of self - book overview

Me, myself and why: searching for the science of self is a 2014 book by science writer / journalist Jennifer Ouellette.

The book uses parts of Ouelette’s biography to work through the three parts of the book. The first section Me – covers the basis for who we are.  The second part covers myself – how we perceive our self image; the last part why – explores reasons for what we are here for.
Each chapter now briefly summarised:

Prologue introduces Ouelette’s story and the rationale for writing the book.
1) What’s bred into the bone discusses the history of genetics and its contribution to (the nature part) of who we are.

           2)  Uncharted territory is a quick romp through the history of neuroscience.

           3)   Moveable types covers some of the ‘nurture’ part of what makes us who we are. The premises of psychology and personality are introduced and discussed.

       4) Three and I’m under the table uses individual’s reactions and tolerance / intolerance to alcohol to discuss why we are all individuals. There is no one exactly like me.

      5) My so-called second life raises the issue of virtual identities, the virtual me. Implications and possibilities are discussed.

      6) Born this way explores gendered identity, what makes us a man or a woman and leads into discussions on relationships between the sexes.

      7) Feed you head uses LSD to explore role of neurotransmitters  and how they work in our brains, contributing to who we are.
       8) Ghost in the machine looks into what is actually in our brains – our personality, our soul our all? Or not.

       9) The accidental fabulist brings things to a close with how our individual narratives, the life we lead contributes to who we are.

The book is written in a conversational style covering a wide range of topics. What it does well is introduce lay people to a range of contemporary understandings on what makes us tick.

The book has a comprehensive bibliography of over 50 pages and an index.

Friday, July 11, 2014

IAL 2014 symposium - day 2

Day 2 begins with an online keynote via Skype from Professor Andrew Ng from Coursera and Stanford University. He talks on 'the online revolution: education for everyone'. Covered characteristics of MOOCs along with advantages and social responsibility model to provide access to learning for all.  People all over the world, regardless of social status are able to access courses from 18 of the top 25 US universities and 29 of the top universities in the world. Courses usually have video lectures and computer graded quizzes. Peer grading process available to instructors. Some instructors use project-based learning. Most students (75%) have batchelors degree and most 20 - 39 years old (62%). Future is to provide on-demand content rather than have set start / finish dates.

After morning tea, the concurrent sessions begin, I attend Siddharth Jain's from Playware Studios Asia Pte. Ltd. presentation on 'learning how to play and use gamelets effectively - challenges and strategies for creating engagement in training skills development'. Introduced the free authoring tool to build virtual simulations called 3Dhive. mobile learners proposed to like multi-tasking and access to bite sized information. Preference for relevant, visual and hands-on content which is always available and cross-platform. Future learning requires creation of multi-layered short form and crowd sourced content. Every learning process feeds into another learning process with frequent reiteration of continuous content which is multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual. Need to make use of the emergent nature of content. Proposes educational games as a means to assist with current learning needs. Creation of games via commercial companies is too expensive for education. 3D hive developed to provide a solution- a free educational game development platform. emphasis on experiential learning as a means to transfer skills through guided experience, immersive environments, simulated role play etc.

Second concurrent session is with Dr. Michael Choy from the IAL who speaks on the topic of 'enabling mindfulness and learning at work: a learning design perspective'. Uses the concept of learning from errors. Proposes DELeTe (designing errors in learning and teaching) as a way to learn to difficult skills and dispositions. DELeTe not to be used in an ad hoc way but carefully deployed to promote reflective and transformative practice. Modelled an example using a case study to illustrate how DEleTe can be deployed to confront learners' with a non-standard situations.

After lunch, the first keynote of the day is from Professor Jack Whitehead (University of Cumbria) on 'improving learning and practice in the workplace through living theory'. Living education theory is a form of action research drawing on individuals' lived experiences. A way to evaluate own practice and then through reflection, draw up action plan to improve. Provided links to his website which archives a range of thesis as examples of how practitioners  from diverse backgrounds and discipline areas, use living education approach to improve professional practice.

The second keynote of the afternoon is with Professor John Field from the University of Stirling on 'building social capital for lifelong learning in the workplace'. Focus on the informal learning occurring through work. Defines social capital as the 'networks, norms and social trust that facilitate co-ordination and co-operation for mutual benefit' - Putnam. Social capital is difficult to measure. Both in formal pre-higher education and through adult learning programmes, civic engagement is highly correlated to higher participation and positive outcomes.

After afternoon tea, the last keynote of the day is with Dr. Lee Kwok Cheong , CEO of SIM Global Educational on 'CET- for IT, by IT'. Sharing the future Infocomm plans training within the ITC sector to develop agile IT professionals. As with other industries, manpower challenge is to attract, retain and upgrade. Currently still a mismatch between school preparation and work demands. Need to have a more open and accelerated professional development, not just completion of a 4 year degree. Suggest open learning platform for modularised online learning and testing. Accelerate through part-time degree integrating work projects, awards with a bond period to employer and support of company-led training and centres of attachment to provide off-job training and mentoring.

Institute of Adult Learning (IAL) Singapore Symposium - Day 1

Today and tomorrow, I am in Singapore for the IAL biannual symposium. As usual, a well organised event with over 500 participants and presenters. I presented a keynote 4 years ago and met a few people who remembered it!

Today's  symposium opened with an IAL video presenting IAL's role in Singapore's continuing education and training (CET). A welcome from IAL director, Ms. Hui Mei San followed by the Minister of Manpower- Tan Chuan-Jin's opening address. The Minister is particularly interested in deploying flexible delivery to the CET sector, to continually up-skill the workforce. Interest in deploying MOOCs and mobile learning as way to deliver to a diverse sector.

A panel presentation by 6 of the presenters to the minister (including myself) provide the minister with an overview and examples of symposium offerings.

The first keynote is from Dr. Shahid Yusuf, chief economist at George Washington University School of Business, on 'growth in small advanced economies- the role of continuing education and training'. Need to continually train to increase productivity. Covered structural transforantilnof economies, implications of growth and tech change for labour markets and efficacy measures to prepare workers in developed economies. Lower productivity across all countries will only exacerbate. Solutions suggested include good macroeconomic growth policies backed by trade, innovation and green infrastructure development policies.

Second keynote is with Dr. Matt Bower 'using augmented reality technologies to enhance classroom learning'. covers a link between AR and adult learning principles. Authentic and situated learning opportunities availed to develop flexible learning. Camera, microphone, touchpad, GPS, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope and clock and be used to create learning opportunities like instant translation from source visuals like signs. Examples of location based AR and games etc. Presented to show possibilities. Usually in the form of customised guided learning. Perfectly situated learning and ability to transcend physical barriers.

Concurrent sessions begin after lunch. I present next, so attend the session in the same room by Mr. Rahul Varma from Accenture on 'extracting  the most out of on-demand access to content and learning through digital and mobile devices, or any other technology platforms, to create new ways of learning and learning delivery' - short vimeo covers some of the material from this presentation. How people learn is changing, curated intelligence, mobile, social, video explosion, big data and visual engagement. However, might be too many options, how to choose? Philosophical approach to delivery is 'time away to learn, learning all the time' through regional hubs, network of connected classrooms and highly interactive virtual training delivered anywhere which is on demand, on the job and on the go. Uses 'learning boards' to provide democratic, personalised and fast learning solutions. Online access to personalised internal and external self-study learning including expert video,ebooks, self study training et. Boards can be shared and accessible to other learners, creating social networked learning. Boards curated by subject matter experts, in bite sized segments allowing ease in addition of new modules and refreshment. Learners are able to follow, endorse, share and comment, providing selection of most useful boards and incentivising curators to keep boards relevant.

My presentation is on the 'project surface tablet' initiatives. The first semester interim evaluations indicate some direction for institutional BYOD strategy, need for continual staff and student capability building, some pedagogical shifts possible through introduction of technology, and need to have clear pedagogical approach to inform TEL.

Then attended session with Nelson González from Declara and Susan Mann from Education Services Australia on 'learning as a service: data analytics for a new collaborative adult learning ecosystem. Rationale for addressing present skills imbalance of the present and long term skills shortage through learning ecosystems recognising formal and informal learning for not only individuals but work teams and organisations. Used scootle community, a PD platform for teachers to achieve better teaching practice across Australia. Scootle produces a range of analytics to help understand how it is being used to collaborate. The analytics also help teachers identify groups they may be interested in joining by location and interest. data minded on what is searched, what is clicked etc. Building personalised recommendations for individuals. patterns of collaboration also become better understood leading to user generated pathways being incorporated into future platform development.

Next, with Ms Lai Poi Shan on 'development of the learning facilitator competency instrument (LFCI)'. A tool used for self assessment through online rating and peer validation through feedback to video submission. 6 key and 2 sub competencies with practitioners' indicating importance of 'professional image'. elearning was perceived as least important and competency in this area judged to be low. Pros and cons of video validation evaluated with only 4 practitioners. Self assessment was safe but limited in impact for some. Videos provided sense of ownership but quality of videos uneven. Reflection better and validation found to be useful. Difficulty in bringing together all competencies into one video.

After afternoon tea, two more concurrent sessions. First up David Yao - Kydon Learning Systems Institute - on 'transformative perspectives to workforce training and learning'. Covered effects of the avalanche (volume, variety and velocity) leading to challenges of choice and analysis, globalisation (death of the tyranny of distance and increase in connectivity) and speed of technological change. Increase in complexity of work as mundane predictable work now digitised. Need to transform all aspects of teaching learning die to inter relationships between the aspects of people, technology, organisation, curriculum and content.

Last session of the day with Raja Chowdhury from Lithanhall Academy with 'transforming challenges into opportunities: a case study on just in time cooperative education'. Advocates learning needs to be open, engaging, collaborative, engaging and non-administrative. Cooperative learning brings together traditional and work integrated learning. Place and train programme used as example. Programme retrains business or IT to combine both into enterprise managers. Study nights and weekend and work in the day.

Networking drinks and dinner close a busy day.