I was asked to talk to a class of Grade 10 students at Belmont Secondary School on how to effectively use mobile technology (smart phones & iPod Touches for example) for their home work and research. Here’s the handout I gave the students. In preparation for the class the teacher offered to conduct a short survey for me (and emailed me a summary of the results) so I could get a feel for the following:
- What mobile technologies they own.
- What technologies they currently use for homework and research.
- How frequently they use school or public libraries for homework and research.
The survey was conducted in December 2010 by 6 classes at Belmont Secondary School, consisting of 143 students in grades 10, 11 and 12. This sample represents about 10% of the student population. Some students owned multiple devices (here is a summary of the survey data).
She said that she’s lost everything… I’ll never forget the afternoon I helped a law student configure her new laptop. Most students are excited as they setup a new computer, but not this one. I asked her if she was happy with the new laptop, and she said she was, but that earlier in the week a fire in her basement suite has destroyed her 2 year old laptop along with all her digital photographs, mp3 music files, class notes, term papers, including the one she had been working on, and that was due the following week. I gently asked if she had been backing up the data on her hard drive or not. She said that she had started backing up at the beginning of the school year, but that the backup was on an external hard drive, and the external drive had been destroyed in the fire as well. A very sad story.
So what did I recommend that she do to backup her new laptop? Follow the 3-2-1 Backup rule: Read More
That said, here are my current crop of favourite iPad apps:
- Kindle Reader (free) – Amazon’s eBook reader has the biggest selection of current books at the moment. I have read close to 10 books on my iPad and love it as an eBook reader. I appreciate the ability to re-size the font size, look-up words instantly with it’s built in dictionary, and sync my furthest read location to my iPhone. That said, there are a number of books that I cannot buy in digital format (are you listening W.W. Norton & Co, publisher of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels?).
- Flipboard (free) – “A personalized social magazine.” It is the easiest and most user friendly way to browse your twitter feed (if you have one), or browse the online version of the Economist magazine for example. In addition you can see the twitter comments that people have made about the articles. This is a difficult app to explain, but once you’ve used it you’ll love it.
- Air Video ($2.99) – If you already have a video on your desktop computer, but you don’t want to have to spend the time and effort into converting it into an iPad friendly format, Air Video allows you to simultaneously trans-code and stream the video to your iPad or iPhone over your wifi network. This works wonderfully when you’re at home, but will not work when you’re on the road. Even so, Air Video is a app I use on a weekly basis.
- Read It Later (free) – Similar to Instapaper ($4.99), Read It Later allows you to bookmark articles that you’d like to read later while browsing news on your PC, Mac, iPad or iPhone, and then download those articles to read later on your iPad or iPhone. In the case of the iPhone, it re-formats the article so that it can be easily read on a small screen.
- Kayak (free) – If you’re looking to travel, Kayak is a great tool to see what flights are available at what price. It’s hard to explain how pleasant the software is to use. I’ve found myself using Kayak at times even when I’m not traveling just to see how much it would cost to travel to Brazil, “just in case” I was able to go. In this case the iPad software is much nicer to use than the Kayak website. Even if you don’t end up purchasing your ticket through Kayak, it’s a nice place to start your travel plans.
- Navionics Marine: Costal B.C. ($29.99) – If you are a sailer or boater with an iPad 3G or iPhone, Navionics Marine software is a must buy! The iPhone version of this charting application costs only $9.99, and it is well worth the money. I wish I had the 3G version of the iPad with it’s built in GPS hardware so I could use this software on my iPad as well as my iPhone. Not only does the software track your cruises, but gives you access to tide and current information. Once your done on the water, you can upload your cruise track to Facebook.
- iBook (free) – Apple’s ebook reader is very similar to the Kindle software, except that the book selection for purchase is much smaller, but you do have the ability to view PDF documents and ePub books in iBook. I use both the Kindle Reader and iBook depending on what I’m reading.
- Adobe Ideas (free) – Want to draw a quick sketch or doodle? Adobe Ideas is the app for you. Even if you can’t draw, you can always import a picture, and then trace it before exporting the drawing. Fun and functional.
- The Economist (free) – I love reading the economist, but having it on my iPad makes it much easier and convenient to read. It also allows me to listen to the stories if I don’t feel like reading them.
What are you favourite iPad apps?
At the last conference I attended, at least 20% of the people with laptops were using NetBooks this year. The reason why I took notice, is because at the same conference the previous year there was not a single NetBook in sight. So what is a NetBook? How do Netbooks coompare to Laptop comptuers?
- NetBooks typically have a small screen than a laptop: typically 10″ diagonally rather than 13″ or 15″.
- Netbooks also usually have slightly smaller keyboards, although the Dell Netbook I have been using has a keyboard almost the same size as my MacBook Air keyboard.
- Netbooks typically have slower processors and less memory than laptops (Photo Shop and video editing won’t work well on them).
- On the plus side, Netbooks usualy weigh less than laptops, and in some cases (as is with my Dell NetBook) have a longer battery life than most Laptops.
- Netbooks also cost a lot less than light weight laptops, but are close in price to lower end bulky laptops. My Dell Mini 10 cost $329 CDN.
Admittedly the CALI conference attracts a pretty geeky crowd of law school technical staff, law librarians and law professors, even so, going from 0% to 20% in one year is impressive.
So what do I think? I agree with Michael Dell’s assessment that for most people a NetBook makes an excellent companion to a desktop computer. If you need to travel, or take a laptop to a meeting, a Netbook will do an excellent job. After a couple days of use, I started to get claustrophobic in the very small screen space that the NetBook provides (in my case 1024 x 600 as opposed to 1200 x 800 on my laptop, and 1920 x 1200 on my desktop computer).
My recommendation for students, staff and faculty would be to get a full size desktop computer for your home or office, and then use a NetBook for classes, travelling and meetings. If you use Google Documents, or DropBox for synchronizing files, you’ll have everything you need to work on no matter which machine you are using.
Ever wondered how much it costs to run your computer? That depends on how energy efficient your computer is, and how much electricity costs in your city. I can at least tell you how much it cost me to run my Dell Dimension 4600 in Victoria, BC, Canada.
To start with, I had to get something that would allow me to measure the amount of electricity that my PC was using. The best gadget I found for the job (maybe I should say the least expensive gadget I found) was the kill-a-watt. It is a great little tool that you plug into an electrical outlet, then plug in the appliance that you want to measure, and within a couple of minutes, you’re done… you know how much electricity the appliance, or in our case computer, uses.
So how much does it cost to run our home computer all day and all night? The total cost is $60 per year. Electricity in Victoria, BC costs $0.0633 Canadian per Kilowatt Hour (kWh). In California the average cost is about $0.12 US per kWh. So to run my computer in California would cost $114 per year, or $9.50 per month. If we only ran the computer during the day for 12 hours a day, we could cut the cost of running it in half to $57 per year (in California).
This made me think about where I work, and how much we could save if we turned off our computers at night. In my building at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law, we have about 120 computers in the building. Most run 24×7 so that they can get windows updates at night. The total cost of running those computers per year is about $7,200. That’s a lot of money!
If we were able to only run the computers during business hours (say 10 hours a day) we save $4,200 per year! Something I’ll look into. I just need to get the computer updates happening during the day… I wonder if my boss will split the savings with me?