Category Archives: Mobile Computing

Google Glass Review

I guess I am a curious geek, I had to checkout Google Glass the same way I had to have an Apple II in 1979 and an iPhone when they came out. Of course I justified the $1500 Glass price tag because many at the university were itching to get their hands on them as well. I have been exploring Glass for 4 days now and I have concluded that this wearable technology is going to be Big. Not Big because of efficiency or usefulness. Big because they are just really cool.

First to catch everyone up on what Google Glass is – checkout this ABC Technology Video by Joanna Stern.

Unlike the Cyborg like appearance Google Glass generated for her wearing them in the city, I have yet to be asked about them after numerous encounters with strangers in Rolla, MO. However, it has been 6 months since Joanna first shocked people with them. The other side of that coin is that I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they feel fairly normal and do not interfere with your normal vision. You can easily forget you have them on until you want to take photo or ask Google for information.

Google Glass is definitely in Beta testing mode. If you are expecting lot’s of administrative instructions forget it. Your greatest source for answers is the heavily trafficked user forums or as Google refers to them as Explorers Community. A real downside right now is the lack of an IOS app to allow you to connect with your iPhone or iPad but that battle will be waged later when Glass goes public. Since I can’t tether my Glass to an Android Phone I walk around with my AT&T MiFi to provide Internet access, what a geek.

My first intentional public display of Glass came last night for our IT Christmas party, which by the way was great. Santa couldn’t make it but Mrs Claus and an Elf showed up to pass out gifts to the children. So I had a captured audience of IT folks and their families. First observation was that my older staff were more reluctant to checkout the Glass then the younger ones. The kids were the most interesting. It seemed like the teenagers were interested but it did not click for them as quickly as it did for the preteens.

Kids First Exposure to Google Glass

Kids First Exposure to Google Glass

Kids from say 6-12 immediately got it and you could see their minds race with imagination. Notice photo of brother waiting on his sister for a try. He quickly figured out how to ask Google about “Hunger Games”. I was told that the boy never stopped talking about the Glass the rest of the evening and he couldn’t wait to tell his teacher the next day.

I will continue to play with Glass through the Holiday’s but will then start loaning them out to the growing list of Geek volunteers. The bottom line is that there will be new battles over control of wearable technology but market share of mobile devices will be important. Get ready for an Apple Google clash over Glasses.

HTML5 – Most Important Technology for 2012

The most important technology for higher education to watch in 2012 will be the utilization of HTML5. Not because HTML5 offers the most efficient way to handle multimedia, graphic layout or utilization of local resources. No, it is about the adoption of a Web presentation foundation that will stimulate mobile and e-book proliferation to usher in a new era of computing. For mobile it simplifies the playing field and for e-books it allows for the enhancements that have always been expected.

HTML5 has origins back to 2004 and is only now at W3C Candidate Recommendation. The significance of this selection is not specifically about HTML5, instead it is about how HTML5 is influencing the standardization of web development and e-book publishing. HTML5 along with CSS3 and Java have no proprietary agenda and they deliver what this new era of computing requires, access to and presentation of vast amounts of information. We are just now experiencing the explosion of digital content consumption devices. Support of mobile phones to pad type e-readers by IT in higher education is puzzling but will be less complicated thanks to the rallying around the HTML5 standard.

PC World agrees with the 2012 significance of HTML5

Another good article on importance of HTML5 but also on the effort it will take. HTML5 Will Replace Native Apps–But It Will Take Longer Than You Think

Hewlett-Packard Could Still be Great

I was skeptical about HP trying to break into the mobile computing game last summer with WebOS and the TouchPad but I was also pulling for them. They had a chance to be great and they sold out. Now they procrastinate about what should be their next step with WebOS and their PC business. So how close were they? With a real leader they would have been real close. I do believe they were on to something with a line of products that blended the traditional PC which they manufacture with a serious mobile OS strategy. Sure they needed to work out the kinks but the idea was solid. They needed to invest in an app distribution Cloud strategy which would have been challenging but the roadmap was right there in front of them.

Will Hewlett-Packard find the will to be great again or will they just fade away as one of the once great technology companies. This can be asked about a few other the once great technology companies; Microsoft, IBM or Dell who still have a chance, unlike the many others who no longer exist. But it is the leadership component that answers this question and leaders aren’t hired they emerge. Come on HP, you are not dead yet, you can do it, let someone lead you to greatness again.

Does “The HP Way” still exist?

Bill Hewlett & Dave Packard

So do you think Hewlett-Packard’s change of course away from mobile and PC manufacturing is a wise change or have they lost their rudder. On the surface it probably looks wise especially to the stockholders, but how can this be positive for the company? What happened to the HP I used to work for from 87-94. I worked for an HP when Dave and Bill exerted influence upon the company. Stockholders were proud to be a part of a great company, satisfied with decent dividends. Innovation came from HP Labs and profits came from just-in-time manufacturing. A diversified company provided great strength as the strong sectors carried the weaker ones only to be repaid when their need came. HP was a great company then, do the employees today still feel that way?  Does “The HP Way” still exist?

Carly Florina took over the helm at HP from Lew Platt in 1999.  Carly had all but destroyed Lucent and definitely did not protect the HP assets. Mark Hurd took care of one of the most important HP Ways, Integrity. And now Leo Apotheker wants to transition HP over to the high profit margin past of software services. Where do you think HP is headed?

So does HP’s ride cause us to compare what Apple might be in for? Apple is probably in good shape for a while with a true Apple leader in Tim Cook taking over under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs. A bit like Lew Platt taking over HP. How long after Steve passes on will Tim Cook be allowed to maintain the Apple culture. Consider how attractive Apple’s wealth will become to their stockholders. Not that I care greatly about Apple being protected, but I do worry about the fall of great American companies. But today I worry about Hewlett-Packard.


Relevant Article: What HP Must Do Now For CIOs

The decline of the HP Way turned off employees. Now HP must clarify its strategy to worried enterprise customers.

Culture Change seems to be Buffering our Technology Change

I have been observing IT listserv comments about what concerns they have for this year’s returning class. Seems like the traditional problems of software provisioning and student computing standards are more complicated this year as we deal with mobile devices and radical changes like software being sold via personal App Store accounts. Of course Apple is the real reason for all of this uncertainty.  Whether you like it or not mobile computing blending into traditional computing is not designed for IT management. But do we need to manage it?

I am intrigued this year by institutions that dictate or distribute computers to their students. Of course that is because this is the first year in 20 that we will not be doing that. So of course we are a bit apprehensive about what the start of classes might bring in the way of computing problems. But we just aren’t sensing any concerns yet. And I think that is because at the root of computing issues is software not the computer and our culture here appears to be far more tolerant to software options. We seem to have our major computer application issues under control via the provisioning of specialized labs, typically for engineering, music and graphic arts. The only area where I have a specific software concern is for School of Business students to have MS Excel. I can still load MS Office on a student computer but I doubt that we see more then half the new students take us up on that.

Why are we not seeing more concern about how we will satisfy the computing demands of our new students?  The overriding reason has to be based on a culture change. Isn’t it really habit and fear that cause us to be so concerned about controlling our computing environment. So a major culture influence has to be our moving so heavily to Apple over the last 4 or 5 years. This has caused many to accept alternatives approaches to computing tasks, meaning acceptance of a wider array of software. Hence we have reduced the fear component. Then I think our moving to Google Apps a few years ago for faculty and students without any real initiative laid the groundwork for acceptance of alternatives. Alternatives that were driven by convenience especially when we moved everyone to gmail last year. But we never pushed anything we just enabled it. Yes there has been a huge adoption of Google Services which must be contributing to this culture change. And now that we have eliminated the laptop program I think my community has remained calm because of this culture change.

George Saltsman, Ex. Dir. of the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning at ACU, and I have done some presentations lately along these lines and I like his observation of IT over the last few decades.  In the beginning IT evangelized for more computer use. Then as everyone adopted our tools we focused on controlling that use. Now we are learning to embrace their computer use. I’m not sure if this will continue to play out but the stage is set. Something we always say over at GeoAid, “Change is inevitable, Growth is a choice”. 

Bragging about our Mobile Portal

iGFU Main Menu

We were one of the earliest institutions to release a mobile app, iGFU, back when the iPhone was initially released. And we had high aspirations for doing much more with mobile development mostly because I had a talented developer who wrote the original version of the geocaching mobile app for (see previous post). Well, shortly there after we started implementing PeopleSoft and there was no time to think about mobile apps any more. However, now that we are making great progress in utilizing our PeopleSoft portal we found that it was extremely easy to use that as a foundation for a new and improved iGFU mobile app.

iGFU is similar to all the other university mobile apps or portals, but I do have to say that ours offers exceptional content and value, even though I would be prejudiced. The reason I believe this is because I feel that it leverages the critical needs for a customized portal and we produced it essentially for free thanks to my developer squeezing it in to task list and the acquisition of icons from a recent graphic arts alum. The key is that we provide information that is useful to a mobile university user such as news, course catalog, food menus, campus events, mapping, etc. But the kicker is the access to our PeopleSoft ERP data as this student view shows.

MyGFU access from iGFU

Now for some details: this is just a web app written in PHP with the different functions called from PeopleSoft. The functions are setup pretty much as you would for the PeopleSoft Portal. Presentation manager creates the structure drawing from an oracle table holding the specified data. And then it is called and presented by the PHP code. Since it is all controlled under PeopleSoft we can easily toggle a function on/off and designate the security access roles. When lists are involved like for a professor to see their class roster, that is also an easy call. Because we auto-create our course identifier in Moodle we can also grab whatever we want out of our LMS for students and faculty. The most interesting function may be the survey tool that allows a professor to easily solicite response from class with results displayed live. This is all made available because we are working with an advanced ERP solution built upon today’s web principles.

Responseware for Class

I’m not trying to promote iGFU as the greatest mobile portal but I do think it is important to put development of a mobile portal into proper perspective. It should be a web app so that it runs on all devices and can be centrally managed. Keep it simple, what is not accessed from institutional data sources, should be easily maintained by content owners such as with a shared document. We use a simple spreadsheet layout to allow conferences to build their schedules out.

iGFU is a very young service and we are quickly becoming aware of the desires for enhancements and content placement. So now the real work begins in deciding just how we want to manage this service. Probably best to let everyone assume that modifications are difficult. Maybe that is the real advantage of an commercial version.

Embracing the Widespread Adoption of Consumer Technologies

I’m heading off to Ft Lauderdale tomorrow for a CIO Technology Summit where I am presenting a session entitled ”Embracing the Widespread Adoption of Consumer Technologies”. This will actually be a session following one focusing on how pervasive mobile computing has become and my goal will be to stimulate discussion on this topic that may change the landscape of higher education IT organizations.

Embracing adoption of consumer technologies does not sound unusual, however, what we are really talking about is embracing an adoption of mobile technologies that is moving so fast that it is breaking all of our old rules of IT management. But we are dealing with a different customer today and that is the real dilemma. This reminded me of my post about a year ago, where I talked about how Higher Education’s influence is changing. That post was referenced up by Marc Parry at the Chronicle using this quote:

Are universities losing their influence over the tech sector?
Yes, argues Greg Smith, chief information officer at George Fox University, in a provocative post on his blog.

This article generated significant discussion on the CIO forum and it diverged into many interpretations that had nothing to do with my real point, however, Parry summarized it accurately.

The influence stemmed from how students’ computing experience would affect their future buying habits, he says. As evidence of its decline, he points to how Apple “has not been catering to higher education with their shift to the new iPad consumer line,” and how Microsoft seems relatively unconcerned about universities as it tries to retain its business and government markets.

The point was, that our students were already committed to consumer technologies by the time they hit our campuses. That was not the case just a few years ago. So now a year later we brace for the coming academic year with real questions about how we will support the widespread adoption of consumer technologies. But this is moving way to fast due to the mobile computing influence along with many new variables such as E-Textbooks and the changing roll of our faculty needing to be coaches more then lecturers. IT has always catered to the academics by dictating technology  specifications and required software. However, that control is not only being questioned by our students but I am starting to question whether we need to dramatically shift the IT focus to coaching as well.

I go back to a recent post on support for mobile computing: “Our previous management of student computing is not wrong it is just not needed any more”. This just means that our support needs to transition and we can still govern the timeline, but it will be different. And I think our greatest challenge will be helping our faculty deal with this.

Time to Support Mobile Computing

If you follow my blog you know that I tend to get interviewed frequently by Tech Trade news services about trends in Higher Ed IT. Mobile Computing is a common topic especially with my rather unique involvement with the distribution of laptops and iPads. These interviews continue but they tend to be looking for the old easy story. Why, what, when and how is your mobile initiative going to impact your community. If their story really doesn’t have much meat beyond just writing about examples then they tend to back off when I tell them that we are getting out of the device provisioning business.

We are also going through our University’s Board of Trustee meeting right now and they are hitting me with these same questions because the impact of not spending $650K on laptops does interest them. However, they are very interested in the real reason which is that technology is moving so fast right now that we should not be trying to control it but rather support it. Support, as in, a major upgrade to our managed WiFi campus solution, a major upgrade for media enabled classrooms that anticipate that students will have mobile computing devices of their choice. And investment in a different style of public computing or information commons that are geared to supplying the 10% of computing needs that our students should not have to worry about.

I say it is time to move into this new era of personal computing. Our previous management of student computing is not wrong it is just not needed any more. Access to information in Higher Education is pervasive. We accomplished a major goal and it is OK let our children leave the nest. Sure we will still offer them support and advice but we need to shift our focus to embracing this new era. We need to focus our support on our response to mobile computing. How do we help our faculty redesign their pedagogy to leverage this “Information at their Student’s Fingertips”?

ACU’s ConnectEd Summit offered great insight

The ACU Connected Summit was extremely valuable to anyone asking questions about the impact that mobile computing will have on education. I feel good about my university’s strategy to prepare for an onslaught of many different mobile devices. Our getting out of the device distribution business does fit where Higher Education should be. I do think that K-12 may be ready for device distribution especially when tied to e-textbook distribution. Of course the summit was dominated by Apple devices, primarily the iPad. But the iPad is the current benchmark, I just worry that the iTunes tether needs to be relaxed to make life a little easier for our IT Service Desks to be able to effectively support them.

The opportunity to listen to Steve Wozniak casually address us on random nerd topics was quite comforting. Observing a geekier geek then yourself is uplifting in many ways. I liked Karen Cator’s energy, our Department of Education could really use it. But it was Adrian Sannier who I really wanted to hear. As I expected his new identity as Pearson evangelist does adjust his rudder a bit, but he is still out there on the edge telling us what we all want our Academics to realize. I do think that his connection with Pearson provides added credibility for his predictions for the demise of textbooks, bookstores, LMSs and let’s hope not Education.

Hear what many of us had to say about Mobile Computing’s effect.

Another star of the Summit was the unveiling of the AT&T Learning Studio. Yes it is a dream to most of us, but it does provide a very nice template for those dreams.

Looking Forward to ACU ConnectEd Summit 2011

I’m off to Abilene for the 2nd ACU ConnectEd Summit 2011, appropriately titled “Turning the Page, the next chapter in education”. I’m looking forward to meeting Steve Wosniak, wondering if Adrian Sannier’s Pearson perspective on “burn down the libraries” has changed and will Karen Cator offer hope for how the Department of Education is dealing with all of this mobile computing change. Those of us who have actively participated in the mobile transition remember the 2009 ACU ConnectEd summit as an event that shaped the initial explosion of mobile computing in the world. However, today that explosion has spread far beyond our educational borders. So this summit is still extremely important for how education opens the next chapter but we are no longer as influential. And this is most evident in that we are reacting to the mobile transition rather then influencing it. But that is just economic reality.

We academics may not be influencing the mobile effect in our world, but we may understand it better then most. Over the last few weeks we have witnessed unprecedented political change in the middle east. And we cautiously attribute some of it to social networking allowed because of mobile communication. We know it is not as simple as jumping on Facebook and joining the revolution. However, there is a deeper understanding of the power of social networking and collaboration that may very well have come from our halls of learning. It is this power that I hope to better understand and mentor for the good of teaching and learning with a greater responsibility for how this may influence our world and our future. Looking forward to some stimulating discussions over the next few days in Abilene, TX.

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