Category Archives: technology

Providing Technology that Students Actually Use

While eating lunch at my desk I opened up the webcam view of our new Nonavitra 6K Visualization Wall we built for use in the library. Three students jumped on the system and proceeded to spend 15 minutes exploring chemical bonding options starting from some periodic table application. I wouldn’t say that it was utilizing hi-res graphics but what was important is that the students were having such a great time exploring. This brings me to what I feel is one of the most important reasons for giving our students access to this visualization resource. The opportunity to explore and gain experience in working with resolution that is typically reserved for corporate showcases or expensive research facilities.

nonavitralibrarySCR-SVRsm

Nonavitra Visualization Wall

The library had an open house a few weeks ago where they introduced Nonavitra and ever since we have seen the reservation schedule for the resource fill up with student groups especially in the evening. In fact one of the first uses for the wall was the rugby club using it to scout a future opponent. But what I love is that student study groups are reserving it.

In the beginning my Research Support team started bugging me to allow them to build some sort of a visualization facility. They wanted to build an immersion visualization experience reminiscent of CAVE2 at the UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL). And yes that would be fabulous but we need to walk before we run, which is why user adoption is the overriding requirement. Last year’s V4DiR focused on 3D data review and the Nonavitra Visualization Wall now allows us to put a powerful visualization resource in the hands of our faculty and students. The one condition that I set was that I would not build a visualization resource that would become relegated to providing campus visitor demos. We seem to be having success with these technology rollouts. The 3D Printer program in the library has been extremely successful. The secret to success is to put your effort into engineering the business process for making the resource available.

IT Facilitating Teaching and Research

Reprint of IT Facilitating Teaching and Research: this article of mine that was recently published in CIO Review Magazine’s Education Edition offers my observations about how IT needs to take a more deliberate role in not just supporting academics and research but also to stimulate it. I used our example of investing in a SAP HANA Appliance and committing staff resources to support the use of it for teaching and research. This has proven to be beneficial even without the opportunity for our Business ERP students to get hands on experience or the Autism Spectrum Identification research project now using it. It has been successful by just expanding our staff expertise in this area.

Nonavitra Video Wall

Nonavitra Video Wall

Now we have a few more of our investments showing potential and all of these solutions have been developed by our student employees. We built a 8×10 ft 3×3 video wall that our students named Nonavitra that we have located in the library so that everyone can use it. Here is the Library Guide describing what it is and the procedure for access. We are seeing use range from the ERP business students presenting their SAP Dashboards, examination of gigapan photos from geology, Electromagnetic Compatibility display from ECE, students exploring NASA Eyes to the Rugby Club using it to watch a video of an upcoming opponent.

MinerFly Drone

MinerFly Drone

We are also looking at mounting a LiDAR camera on our new helicopter drone. Again another example where IT provides a tool that can stimulate research, but IT also owns maintenance and operator expertise that is critical for taking advantage of the drone. We have built a digital signage solution that we call MinerBytes based on the Raspberry Pi computer that is being deployed throughout campus. We are also close to finishing our production version Segway. I will save the Segway story for another post, but again another project which provides incredible experience for students that just might translate into something that can benefit our university.

Research Support and Student Experiential Learning

The pursuit of a STEM degree has gained significant attention in recent years as we evaluate the ROI for a college degree. A recent article in NerdScholar by Yesenia Rascon, “Top 5 Reasons to Apply to a Research University” highlights the importance of experiential learning, access to research facilities and hands on career development quantifies many of the reasons we allow our IT student workers the opportunity to participate in exploratory projects. This all relates back to a culture that we promote for our very successful IT Research Support Services, RSS, group here at Missouri S&T. I have been fortunate to be in a position to carve out some IT budget to dedicate to research support. However, because some of my funding comes from student tech fees I make sure that the students benefit from our efforts. This translates via the hiring of student workers, but extends beyond tradition tech support jobs. We hire students in RSS who seek out that opportunity and we benefit from important support services that they are able to provide to our university. However, we also reward them with the opportunity to own their own research projects. Our staff does offer advice and support but we also let the students fail.

Our students also earn the right to attend national research conferences such as the annual SuperComputing and Great Plains Network. These opportunities provide them excellent presentation experience which we utilized this summer by having our students conduct a workshop for the CyberMiner camp for high school students. We asked them to present their current projects to about 50 high school juniors and seniors. We designed the workshop to encourage the campers to engage with our students and it was truly an inspiration Geekfest showcasing our future technology leaders.

Here is a quick glimpse of the projects they presented and a sense of the workshop.

MinerBytes or Digital Signage Project

MinerBytes or Digital Signage Project

MinerBytes which is a digital signage project based on using the Raspberry PI computer connected to any monitor with access control given to designated administrators. This was a project conceived by a biology student last summer and this summer we are preparing it for version 1 production deployment on campus and in our community. Somewhat of a surprise to us was that this project generated the most interest by the high school students as they were intrigued by the coding behind MinerBytes.

Drone Project in Initial Phase

Drone Project in Initial Phase

The Helicopter Drone Project is in its infancy which was good to be able to show the campers how a project gets birthed. We don’t know where this project will go but we believe we should be on top of the explosion in use of drones. We have ideas for using it in creating virtual tours.

First Segway Prototype

First Segway Prototype

The Segway project started out last summer and has proven to be the perfect multi-discipline opportunity for our students. With a heavy electrical, mechanical and software development component we have had many students involved with this one. Our students presenting the Segway gave the campers some excellent advice based on their experience in designing the controller boards which they fried more then once. They told the campers what they appreciate most about their opportunity to work on these projects is that they are allowed to fail, and that has been their greatest learning experience.

Video Wall built by Students

Video Wall built by Students

The Segway prototype moved to a production design this summer which offered an excellent opportunity to display how they used SolidWorks design software on the new Video Wall that RSS built this summer. The Video Wall currently named MinerView is built on solid computer video display principles but was built from scratch with special attention given to the structure to mount the 9 55 inch high resolution monitors. The students had just a few hours to assemble the video wall in the classroom used for the workshop.

Using Video Wall for Engineering Design

Using Video Wall for Engineering Design

The Video Wall will be used in the upcoming Research and Technology Development Conference, #RTDatSandT on September 15-16 where representatives from Indiana University and the University of Texas will show off the latest in visualization techniques. RTD2014 is another great opportunity for students at S&T.

Video Wall to look at Mt Everest

Video Wall to look at Mt Everest

Of course the Video Wall has many uses and will be an important addition to our Library where it will be made available to the entire campus for visualization. We already know that it will be instrumental as a foundation for our Business and Information Technology department’s ERP Center.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what is possible if your Information Technology department combines the needs of the university with an opportunity for experiential learning.

This New RSS website presents the students projects very well.

Ready for next Affordable “Big Data” Visualization Strategy

I’m looking forward to what will be presented at CES 2014 in the coming week.

CES 2014

Consumer Electronics Show 2014

The larger higher density TVs with curved options may answer some questions for what is the most effective investment in visualization technology. We are going to invest but I do not want to buy/build a video demo facility as has been the eventual outcome for most university CAVE type investments. We have the tools and know how to package, render and present huge data sets but the justification comes from the visual interpretation of the data. The ability for a human to interpret and identify trends or anomalies in their data is the goal. That justifies our research, not huge walls of TVs displaying pie and bar charts.

Unfortunately technology is moving so fast that investments may become obsolete before they actually pay dividends, justification for caution but not for procrastination. Maybe the real goal of our research will be to define the greatest ROI for visualization. I sense that a combination of some affordable large curved Quad HD screens could be just as impressive as the million dollar CAVE designs floating around now. We will focus on Visualization at our Research Technology Day next September and hopefully we will be ready to show our next version of V4DiR, Visualization in 4 Dimensions in Rolla. We are combining this investigation into visualization with our investments in “Big Data” which is already paying dividends to our Computational Science activity in Chemistry. This is the fun part for a CIO.

Producing “Big Data” Scientists

I wish that I would have attended the Big Data in Higher Education Conference at SUNY last week. Harper Reed @harper, former Obama campaign CTO, was the keynote speaker and according to the Chronicle review, he told it the way it is. ‘Big Data’ is Bunk. His message highlighted how the Obama campaign utilized analytics from “Big Data” to help win the election. And it sounds like he presented how higher education could take advantage of this technology but that the vendors for “Big Data” solutions were using the term “Big” to mostly sell big computers. I agree that we don’t need huge computer resources to utilize “Big Data” analysis concepts. However, we are going to build a Big Data system that probably leans toward an In Memory model. I also realize that higher education rarely utilizes “Big Data” effectively for business or academic advantages but that is a discussion of its own.

Harper also offered some advice in another session, “Data Scientist: the Sexiest Job of the 21st Century,” which hit home for me here at Missouri S&T. We are currently building a new cross discipline program around the buzz term “Big Data”. We have our Business and Information Technology, department contributing to the client end including the tie in to ERP. We have Computer Science and Computer Engineering focusing on the infrastructure, data models, analytic algorithms, programming and visualization needed to produce the kind of data scientists that Harper said he wants to hire. This is why I came to S&T, to help a world class STEM institution create products that can help change the world.

Higher Education will be OK

The change that is taking place in higher education right now is fascinating to watch. There aren’t many century old institutions that you get to watch go through dramatic transitions. The newspaper industry is well into a transition and it could offer great insight for us in higher education.  The recent commentary in the Chronicle by Byron P. White, “Take it from an Ex-Journalist: Adapt or Die ”, put it into better perspective for me.  Today many in higher education do admit that change is coming, however, the time line is seen as distant and the actual change is minimized. Is higher education an industry that fits W. Edwards Deming’s advice given to the auto industry as competition was on the horizon, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” The world is embracing new digitally driven options that challenge our existing higher education process. This change is not dependent upon higher education’s permission nor it’s demise.

So do we deal with this impending change by dabbling around the edges of the debate? The few institutions that are rolling the dice of transition to a new model are generally motivated by desperation. Most of us are just talking about what this change might look like. And that talk focuses heavily on the high visibility topics such as course delivery, student success or the rising costs. Look at the conversation generated around the MOOC phenomenon which is just the evolution of the online course delivery debate. Most have missed the point, MOOCs are not a threat to higher education but MOOCs are creating the disruption that in turn is exposing our weaknesses. We need to deal with our weaknesses but by no means is there an inevitable doom. I would rather assume that we could come through this time of change stronger then ever.

What are our weaknesses? This is where we get into trouble. Higher Education governs themselves by non authoritative committees. Decisions are made to insure the good for the most, least amount of change and with minimum risk for those deemed responsible.  What I am saying here is that even if we know what our weaknesses are it would be rare to announce them with detail that could lead to a solution. We tend to just try harder but there are exceptions. At every university it is easy to identify those who are capable of making a difference. They happen to be the most respected faculty or staff at the institution. But wait, most respected who possibly have solutions should be in leadership. No, it doesn’t always work that way.  Remember, avoiding change carries the ultimate trump card. So those who could lead have generally tried only to retreat out of frustration. This cycle has continued over time validated by the guiding principle of Academic Freedom.

Again, what are our weaknesses? I think the major weakness is our lack of understanding or acceptance that the  higher education business model has changed. The model we know and love has provided a valuable product desired and required for success. There was no competition because we controlled the primary ingredient, “information”. But the Internet has changed that, thus providing an alternative path to success. This does not mean that our path is diminished, it just means we have competition. I think this relates more to the competition the auto industry faced rather then the newspaper industry. The US adapted and built competitive automobiles by taking advantage of technology. Unfortunately the newspaper industry is competing against technology. But the critical step is to acknowledge the threat.

I do believe higher education will be stronger then ever. Yes competition will probably eliminate the weak, but that will mostly be the result of poor business practices. Those of us moving on will have new opportunities to improve our rankings. Higher education must continue to offer the foundation that fits the community it serves. We focus on the development of the mind, body and soul but we also fine tune our academic product to meet customer and market demand. And we neutralize the threat from technology by embracing it. The threat to higher education is the avoidance of change.

New Era of Data Visualization is Upon Us

Big Data is a term being thrown around a lot lately, probably because it is so easy to acquire or generate huge datasets for just about everything. And when I hear scientists discuss this trend the conversation always seems to end up with the need for better tools to interpret or visualize the data. As the new CIO of Missouri S&T I inherited a data visualization project that was started by my Research Support Services group to help one of our geophysicist’s interpret his data. At first it was help with running ParaView, an open-source, multi-platform data analysis and visualization application. Projection solutions were setup and a front end data filtering and a loading tool was created. Enough work to show real potential and earn the team of students nice recognition at last year’s SuperComputing 2012 Conference.

Last May as a new team of students was coming on board for summer work we took the data visualization system to the Great Plains Network Conference where it was again highly acclaimed. The system, now called

Visualizing Four Dimensions in Rolla

Visualizing Four Dimensions in Rolla or V4DiR is now anchored by the front end software referred to as Transformer. This front end, as explained by Nick Eggleston, a junior computer science major from Maysville, Mo., who leads the project is a computer program to allow the software to show how data progresses over time. The program will also allow users to manipulate the format of their data and combine similar sets of data. The recent article reprinted in Science Today on V4DiR explains more.

I throw out all of this buildup about V4DiR to announce that I believe we are ready for a new era of data visualization. One that might actually justify all of those expensive video display monuments that have primarily been used for marketing. Maybe the concept of the virtual immersion CAVEs are truly ready for prime time. My investment has been minimal up till now but I am ready to invest heavily when I validate the most effective technology for this new era. We hope to explore this in more detail at our upcoming Research Technology Day at S&T. Join us, registration is free.

Caution to the Wind

I have recently driven from Oregon to Missouri which is where I draw my motivation for this post. My journey with family and dog was about 2200 miles taking me through my old Colorado stomping grounds. It was interesting to observe the status of some of the energy producing concerns that I used to be a part of. The coal mining and the electric generation that I was a part of is still there and from what I understand it doing well and cleaner than ever.  New on the landscape were the hundreds if not thousands of wind turbine farms. Nothing new, they have given me a sense of pride for the frontier innovative spirit that they represent. But what I saw on this trip caused me to question that spirit.

Our Monuments to What?

Our Monuments to What?

Wind turbines have gotten larger and larger; hence they now dominate the landscape where they exist. Do you know why they are larger? From what I understand it is in search of greater efficiency or justification for the investment. That may help justify the investment but what if it does not pan out? What if we never reach an ROI that is not dependent upon subsidies? What if we find out those bigger turbines create bigger operational problems? I mention this because I estimate that I saw more motionless turbines then spinning turbines. Justified if the wind is not blowing, but have you ever been in Wyoming when the wind was not blowing? It may have been a light wind but it also looked like many turbines were beginning to age. I concluded that motionless wind turbines are not as inspiring as those that are spinning.

My point is one of caution. Wind power may very well be a great option, but how much thought has been given to the opposite. What if we discover that these wind farms don’t return a profit based on total cost of ownership? What will happen to those turbine monuments? What might people say about their deteriorating shells a few hundred years from now. Aren’t blogs great for tossing out these totally random thoughts?

First Encounters with Internet Technology

The following post is my essay I submitted for peer review for my Coursera course, Internet History, Technology, and Security by Charles Severance. The question to be answered: Write an essay about how you first encountered the Internet or an earlier networking technology. Describe the technologies you were using, some of the activities you did “on line”, and tell us how having a new form of communication changed the way you think about the world.

The first two weeks of the course have been an enjoyable stroll down technology memory lane. If you are interested I believe you can still get in the course. Here is my essay:

I was a young chemist sparked by the discovery of computer programming at the end of my college career and then ignited with the purchase of an Apple II computer in 1979. My obsession with this new computational freedom motivated me to open my own computer store with a college buddy in 1980.

Scientific Frontiers Grand Opening 1981

Computer Store Looks to Future

I was programing on an HP 85 and we sold mostly CP/M based computers. Commodore emerged as our main microcomputer product line. A product that we tried to sell which I totally believed in was the “The Source”, it may have been the first online consumer service. Readers Digest believed in this enough to pay 6 million for the service in 1980. It was touted as a self-help service with a Google type dream search of that time. Access to the UPI newswire and conceptually encyclopedia type information had me believing it would change the world. However, technology was based on 300 or maybe 1200 baud acoustic modems with very few local call options. The cost per line of knowledge never built an acceptable ROI, but I do believe we saw the future. I still have one of the coffee mugs that we gave away for promotion.Source Mug

During the same period of time when I owned the computer store I travelled to Las Vegas to attend “Comdex”, pretty sure it was the fall of 1981. I was mostly interested in the battle lines that were forming between Apple and this new IBM PC. But at that show I remember checking out the Xerox Star workstation, famous for presenting the concept of the Graphical User Interface. I was impressed but did not get it. I remember scoffing at the idea of linking your hand via a mouse to activity on the computer screen. Oh well, I was not as imaginative as the Steve Jobs who did see the potential.

After the computer store and a fling with the Oil Shale boom and bust, my career moved to Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Valley, in 1987. I was in heaven, driving through the bay area at that time was like perusing a live PC Magazine. By then I believed in Windows and actually did a lot with HP’s New Wave interface. The Bay area was exciting up until the earthquake in 1989. That combined with the effect of California’s Proposition 13 on public school funding caused me to request that HP move my young family to Cincinnati in 1990. I was a systems engineer supporting the LIMS and LAS market segment, that is Laboratory Information and Instrumentation Management which matched well with my chemistry background. My early viewpoint of the “Internet” was shaped by how great the open access to DOS and Windows apps via the BBS services had become. Do you remember the “Wildcat BBS” software that was the engine for most of those services?

Access to the BBS services in the early 90’s was exploding into viable business opportunities. I used to maintain a “Best of the BBS Apps” floppy disk where I would store the coolest PC tools and screen savers of the day. I would always be asked by my customers for the latest copy of that diskette. The Hayes Smartmodem was reliable, affordable and fast enough to open the door for the geeks of the day to explore the potential of this new world of information. This reminds me of the second technology opportunity that “I did not get”. It was probably late 1992 when a co-worker of mine in Cincinnati was involved with a BBS out of Dayton, OH. He asked me one day if I would be interested in an opportunity to link his BBS to ARPANET a connection he had via a friend at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. There was some cost involved and as I remember access was limited to a small number of users, but my question was more about what value ARPANET would provide. I could envision the potential of public access to what the academic community was playing with and open source collaboration seemed to be alive and well. I didn’t see how a path through ARPANET was going to help. But it wasn’t about ARPANET it was about seeing the potential of what soon became the World Wide Web, WWW. We were actually talking about developments taking place in this arena since we were playing with the early concept of HTML and the MOSAIC project in our X-Terminal environment.

It is fun to look back and second guess. There were lots of winners and losers. Remember Ashton-Tate’s dBASE or VisiCalc? I never thought Microsoft would amount to anything and with respect to the Internet they really didn’t. I remember how brilliant I thought Bill Gates approach was to the Internet in wanting to carve out a cost per transaction. Trouble is he never could gain control of the connection. Oh well, it was fun writing this assignment for my Coursera course “Internet History, Technology, and Security” and I am definitely interested in how this peer review grading is going to work.

Academia, you can still change the world

The acceptance that higher education is going to change is fairly unanimous at least in the circles I walk. Everyone has different ideas about what that will look like but change does appear to be inevitable. Unfortunately the reasoning behind that consensus seems to be the agreement that higher education is broken. And for the most part my colleagues have a good understanding about how it is broken. What concerns me the most is that our academic community does not appear to have any interest in fixing what is broken or possibly influencing the impending change? I am not even sure they believe they will have to change.

Maybe I’m just naive in believing that this multi century institution of higher education can be forced to change. But I base my concern on the fact that technology appears to be the driving force and the trend for technology disruption appears to be definitive. There is an obvious economic model for higher education that is becoming less and less justified. Traditional government support is not only bailing due to resource limitations but I am sensing a loss of pride in what higher education represents. If the people do not believe that investing in higher education is justified then change will come quickly.

Recent government acceptance that competency based degree attainment was equal to credit hour based degrees is a prime example. I am not saying competency based learning is not a valid option but it just seems like acceptance of this as an equal is moving way to fast. This is what I sense as the loss of pride. And this is where I would expect the higher education community to become more engaged.  I will give credit to those promoting change like the Gates Foundation, but what about our higher education community of esteemed scholars that should be more concerned about their livelihood.

Change is going to come in the form of withdrawal of support. For state institutions it will be reduced appropriations and the promotion of more cost effective online delivery solutions. As these once impressive institutions of higher learning lose their edge I fear that they truly will not be able to respond with a competitive solution.  A crumbling of intellect and infrastructure will threaten sponsored research while lack of attention to changing pedagogy will leave teaching instruction outdated. The traditional academic leadership does not have the skills for the business change that will be required. So what is one to do? Keep your head in the sand or try to change the world. Come on academia, you can change the world.

Distance Education of the Future

I came to Missouri S&T a little over a month ago and discovered that our Distance Education Program really was that, courses delivered over a distance. My initial thought was how outdated that was, actually still trying to deliver a bricks & mortar experience to students afar. Isn’t that where online learning got started? What I found out was that Distance Education has come a long way.  We deliver courses anywhere in the world with an equivalent  experience approaching that of physical presence in the classroom. We do this with technology and sophisticated television production style studio classrooms. And we have a lot of them.

Of course the opportunity to deliver a true classroom experience to a remote student works very well for many of our STEM, typically engineering courses. For example, offering aerospace or nuclear engineering courses to specific industrial sectors is a valuable service. Leveraging our metro campus to allow highly renown adjunct professors to deliver courses across our university is a critical strategy. So how does this all fit into the trends pushing online and blended learning. Does the MOOC craze cause concern? Actually I find S&T in a very unique situation. I have long been a proponent of improving traditional classroom delivery with blended learning techniques. I agree with the overwhelming research that shows that blended learning translates into more effective learning. But now I get to look for ways to improve Distance Education with blended learning tools.

Let me break it down. We deliver our courses to the remote student with the highest quality of virtual immersion into the actual classroom. We rely on the finest streaming video and phone conferencing tools. Many classroom cameras offer our small army of video production operators great license to produce the ultimate immersion experience. The instructor is equipped with numerous feedback mechanisms that do not interfere with what would be their normal lecture. They do need to adapt to the use of a green screen but once that occurs I think the instructor really appreciates the more flexible presentation options. All of this is captured in HiRes HD video file made available for replay or to build asynchronous delivery options.

Our unique opportunity is that we started with the highest quality classroom experience packaged for digital manipulation and distribution. New tools like Kaltura for multi format video distribution or inline video mastery quizzing allow us to enhance this experience for the asynchronous model. We are not approaching this from the need to create more affordable course delivery, but instead we strive to offer a more valuable course delivery model. Isn’t that what the elite universities are really trying to do with the MOOC experiment. They know they must discover and incorporate the most effective components of blended learning to ensure that their Bricks & Mortar product will always be the most desired. I am more excited to be approaching this from the other direction.

WiFi AP in a Box

We are responding to a new technology request that I believe will set a trend for Higher Ed tech support. The typical IT help desk is about solving basic computer hardware issues. I have mentioned in the past that I see this trending toward technology coaching. But IT service units have also been about classroom tech support. In the early days this was about delivering technology such as projectors or video capture equipment. In recent years we have been making strategic decisions about permanent installation of this equipment when usage demand justifies it. The new trend is deployment of additional WiFi access points to respond to the need for increased WiFi demand, typically driven by higher density.

AP in a box that you can checkout at the IT Service Desk. Why is this going to trend? I would guess that most IT operations have dealt with the WiFi failure scenario where a gathering of a larger then normal number of WiFi clients with a critical access need experienced less then satisfactory performance. The most recent for us was a certain program wanting all of their majors to take an online test provided by an external entity. In their eyes this was entirely possible. All of their students use laptops. WiFi performance has never been an issue. So why not ask all of these students to come to a specific room so that they can take a semi proctored online exam. That translated to about 50 students in a classroom, but it really translated to about 100 devices in that classroom due to phones, etc. And of course the classroom above and the students in the hall were also competing. We have a very nice Aruba based WiFi deployment but these types of perfect storms will overwhelm most every well designed WiFi system.

How can this AP in a box work? It works because of our more intelligent AP that can use Auto Configuring to set their frequency zone and limit conflict with surrounding APs. I am thankful that this is easily accomplished by our Aruba system. Now we have to work out what this “AP in a Box” will look like.

So what about this iPad

What a great day at home observing Good Friday which is a vacation day for us. It is raining with no chance of improved weather so I’m catching up on all sorts of correspondence and web surfing. Oh, yes and my dog is at my feet. So what about this iPad? Yes, I’m very excited about picking one up tomorrow morning. I held off for a week on the iPhone and I do remember being in line to buy Windows 95 way back when, so choosing to go to the store is as much about the task as it is the experience. I am really interested in the type of crowd that will be there. I will probably do a post based on observations and feedback. So what about this iPad.

If you know of me and George Fox University you may understand that our decision to offer the iPad as an option to the MacBook for incoming students was a simple decision influenced by the changing technology landscape. The fact that we were first has generated a lot of publicity which has spawned a number of commentaries and interviews. An interesting forum, not so much for promoting our decision to offer iPads, but more for the stage to talk about the future of academic computing. Most Higher Ed CIOs do not enter into these conversations, and those that do tend to have focused agendas, I tend to be more speculative. And if I look back on my career it is my track record. But I also look back and realize that I have always been right and I think that is because I have always been able to view my job from the outside. I have been in Higher Ed for half of my career and time spent with HP and various other jobs even as a chemist has helped keep me on the edge. That said let’s recap: “So what about this iPad”

We do not need to spend time addressing what the Apple iPad has or does not have. It has all that most of us need to function very effectively in this Internet driven world and it optimizes those features at the expense of the less important. The biggest issue for many is that it is no longer a Microsoft driven world, so get over it. A common evaluation: “The iPad is designed more for consumers rather then creators”. Yes, but the creators it is not designed for is a very small percent. I think this is again more about accepting our changing role as technology users. This is an issue for the geek who defines their worth from their computing prowess and many more of us who want to believe we are of that level as well. Nope, being Web 2.0 savvy does not classify us as power users and it is OK to have a base computer for those times when we do need to power create.

How does this translate to higher education? Our students are primarily information consumers and the reason the iPad is the perfect tool is that the Internet is the primary information provider. This has been creeping up on us but it has been easy to ignore or control. Our students typically bring their laptop to class and we have gotten past the apprehension that it will be misused. It has been easy to observe the value of Internet assisted collaboration in our online courses. Now we have to acknowledge and adapt to that value in the classroom. The professor becomes a mentor for all of this information rather then the deliverer. Faculty can deal with this and can thrive, they just don’t like the work it will require for them to transition. I believe the iPad will be the device that will define this transition.

The iPad will be Successful

I probably should be posting everyday if I wanted to keep everyone up-to-date on the many discussions and issues circulating around our investigation of the iPad as our university’s recommendation for a student educational technology device. But I took 5 days out to celebrate my dad’s 95th birthday and now the SuperBowl will require some attention. Go Colts.

So a quick update – the excitement that the iPad has generated was summed up well by our President who was in Washington DC during the Apple iPad event where he observed that the iPad announcement received more media attention then the State of the Union Address. Many who fear the change that the iPad will bring have argued for what it can’t do. Here is an example: “but it does not do handwriting recognition” or “it does not have a camera”, “it does not multi-task”, etc. So let’s be clear – the iPad is not a Tablet, or Laptop, or iPhone. It is an iPad and it is not intended to be like anything else, it is a NEW and innovative technology.

Many play the skeptical role questioning whether it will be successful and they are content to wait and see. I say the iPad has no risk of failure, worst case it will be successful if nothing more then as a replacement for our love affair with having a morning newspaper. There is a reason why the book publishers are embracing the iPad and this is different from the music industry and the iPod. First, the music industry did not see or understand what hit them. Second, the iPad comes in as the second or third generation eBook reader that solves most of the problems. Third, the business concept has already been defined and Apple is not the enemy, Amazon and Google have been.

So I need to allocate enough time to fulfill my obligation as a die hard Colts fan this weekend and then I have to present a proposal to my university for why I believe the iPad would be a more effective education technology device then the current MacBook that we give to our students. However, the iPad has no chance of winning that role without the support of our faculty to leverage the iPad’s technological advantages in the classroom and on campus.

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