An anecdote of hot and cold

When I returned home after today’s TALL Tuesday session, I discovered that the laptop that I had packed into my overstuffed backpack was burning hot. I had forgotten to shut down, and the battery was about gone, and the machine was very hot to the touch. I actually was afraid for a moment that it had contracted the mechanical equivalent of a serious fever and would require “medical attention” from our Upper School computer “doctor,” Mr. Bekman. Meanwhile, my iPad was coolly unaffected.

So, in my typically impractical way, I began to think about Marshall McLuhan’s distinction between hot and cold media and whether, in some way, that distinction might be analogous to the difference I was beginning to experience between the world of the laptop and the world of the iPad. Wikipedia offers this convenient summary of McLuhan’s distinction:

Hot media usually, but not always, provide complete involvement without considerable stimulus. For example, print occupies visual space, uses visual senses, but can immerse its reader. Hot media favour analytical precision, quantitative analysis and sequential ordering, as they are usually sequential, linear and logical. They emphasize one sense (for example, of sight or sound) over the others. For this reason, hot media also include radio, as well as film, the lecture and photography.
Cool media, on the other hand, are usually, but not always, those that provide little involvement with substantial stimulus. They require more active participation on the part of the user, including the perception of abstract patterning and simultaneous comprehension of all parts. Therefore, according to McLuhan cool media include television, as well as the seminar and cartoons. McLuhan describes the term “cool media” as emerging from jazz and popular music and, in this context, is used to mean “detached.”

The laptop, at least as I and my students have been using it in our English classes, seems more allied with the world of “hot” media (given the ease with which it allows for the hierarchical organization of information) than the iPad, which seems more allied with the world of “cool” media. In particular, I thought of our exercise with the events of the year. The iPad seemed wonderfully adept at creating a highly pixilated, stimulating parade of events, and how easy it is to rearrange the march and create an entirely different parade even from the very same marching events. How different that it is from a print newspaper’s fixed account of the year. But, of course, a print newspaper’s visually fixed account–its rigid, editorially arranged layout–is visual code for the hierarchical significance of events. what the hot medium of a print newspaper offers is understanding; the cool medium of Internet collage offers is stimulating freedom–one participates in the creation of a parade of events. That may be a good thing in certain respects, but unless one knows a lot about the news, it may not lead to much understanding.

One ought to give a lot of thought to making such a cool device featuring all the virtues of cool media the center of a student’s educational world. Does stimulation always promote understanding, or are there trade-offs, and if so, at what points? All I can say is that as a newbie in this world of cool media, I lack understanding and fall back on words, and in this post, there are already far too many of them.

Digital equivalents of the old-fashioned notebook

When the laptop program was introduced in the Upper School (back in 2001) and for some time thereafter, the students’ use of laptops was justified, to a great extent, on the grounds that a significant number of students reported that it helped them organize their schoolwork better. The laptop was extolled by some as an easy, centralized way of keeping track of course documents, class notes and assignments. As we in the iPad TALL Tuesday group explore file management methods on the iPad, I will be curious to know whether the iPad will provide a similar, or even superior, benefit in that regard.

I think we should also keep in mind that the laptop, its nonacademic distractions notwithstanding, was introduced, essentially, as a portable student “office”–a sort of combined writing machine, file cabinet and library rolled into one. Of course, that use of the laptop reflects a very traditional view of school–a sort of office work version of school. While we in the Upper School often like to think we are all about different kinds of academic experiences, I think we would do our students a disservice if we minimize how much schoolwork is still like office work. Of course, it may be that even if the iPad is not as effective as a laptop as a well-organized portable student “office,” it still may be a better educational device if our educational practices become significantly less traditional.

Horse-drawn carriages and automobiles

It’s a cliche perhaps worth repeating that children who have not grown up with the tyranny of fixed type and the keyboard are much faster learners of how to navigate the iPad than those of us who have.

What I would add is that my learning how to use the laptop and Word will probably turn out to have been easier than my making the transition to the world of the iPad. The laptop running Windows strikes me as a glorified typewriter–digitized, of course,and linked to the Internet, of course–but still like a typewriter with many different “pages” open at once, “windows” being the equivalent of pages. The world of the iPad is weirdly “page-less.” It’s more like images on a tv screen that just come and go. I suspect that this is more like pure digitization. In other words, just as the first automobiles were horse-drawn buggies with motors, the laptop world and Windows were sort of digitized improvements on a traditional device (like a supertypewriter). But this device takes one so far from the world of fixed type and the typewriter that it’s like the automobiles that finally were so streamlined they left the very experience of buggies in the dust.

ZAGG Keyboard & Case

The best keyboard I’ve found for the iPad (thus far) is the ZAGGfolio Case/Keyboard. The keyboard layout has enough room between the keys to allow me to type pretty normally. It also holds the iPad at a good angle for typing. So, it’s a great “laptop substitute”, in a pinch. What gets cumbersome is when I want to use the iPad as just a tablet. That requires me to either turn off the keyboard (so as not to press the keys when I’m holding it or it’s sitting on my lap with the keyboard facing down…) or I have to slip the iPad out of the case. Neither is a very elegant solution. That said, having a keyboard always available makes things like posting this blog entry much easier for me. I finally feel productive using the iPad!!

Reflection: Jan 10th

It’s useful to download those appps that others share. (Good Reader $4.99, Notability, Evernote, Dragon, etc) I got excited by knowing how to use Pages and Keynotes. Pages is like Word in PC while keynote as Power Point. However, the downside of using these apps on iOS is when I email myself those documents, it doesn’t open on my PC because the operating system is different. If I use Mac, will I be able to open those documents?
In past two months, I have been using iPad with my middle school and upper school classes. 🙂 with 6th graders, we play writing games, learning extra new words off apps. THEY LOVE IT.
With AP Chinese students, we use 7 million App to have discussions and ask students to translate what they see in the video into Chinese. It was a challenging task but they were engaged and productive.
There are also some useful Chinese teaching/learning apps. I can use them as tools in teaching. There is an app of chinese legends. Not only it reads, but it tells you the definition of a word you don’t know. The dictionary is included. AMAZING.

Really making a difference!

Tall Tuesday # 3 has made a huge difference in the way I am thinking about my IPAD. Learning about storage and actually understanding the way the IPad functions in comparison to a lap top was really eye opening. I don’t usually understand technical explanations about these types of things, but the way Roman explained it in layman’s terms really made sense! Thank you Roman!

I am also so intrigued to try out a group iPad experience with my MS visual arts classes. I can invisage games even to break up long classes, and what possibilities to improve kids understanding of art history and artistic styles. It could get kids so excited to talk about art and compare and contrast their findings by having them move about the room. I love the idea that it will also get kids up and around and not sitting the period. My mind is racing with ideas.

Thank you Roman and Jim

Still in the tunnel, but I think I see light up ahead…

In my experience, so many apps I’ve tried are so close to what I want, but not quite useful enough. For example, I was thrilled to discover that EasyBib had a citation app. It was disappointing, however, to discover that it will only cite books and frustrating that I have yet to get the barcode recognition feature to work. Moreover, certain websites I use frequently have some slight variations that have prevented me from using my iPad with a class. For example, the citation tools in our Gale databases do not work the same on the iPad version of Safari as the MacBook version of Safari.

On the bright side, I think I might be able to make library circulation even faster simply buying a USB extension that I can plug my scanner into. One of my favorite things to do is check books out to students from within the stacks by simply typing in the book’s barcode. Checking in is far more cumbersome this way, so I always do that on our old desktop PC with the scanner attached. Any excuse to not use that PC seems worthwhile to me. It would also be interesting to do inventory with my iPad at the end of the year. My laptop isn’t heavy, but the iPad is much easier to carry in one hand while scanning books with the other. I think its time to go shopping.

Trying out the blog

This entry was written a long time ago…just wanted to see how to use this blog.

Reflection: day 1
My first concern is that I may not get enough sleep tonight because of the novelty of using an iPad. There are so many amazing things about this technology! When I look at my students’ digital science journal, the experience is completely transformed on the iPad. The interface of google sites was made for this. There is an intimacy and ease that is absent when using the laptop on these sites. I’m excited to grade their next lab entry using this iPad.
Questions: Is there an application that would enhance the skills my students are learning in 7th grade science, such as making detailed drawings of their microscope observations, collecting data for experiments, analyzing their findings and their peers’ conclusions, collaborating on designing experiments, and showing the process of designing and conducting an experiment for their science fair project. Are there apps that would enhance my students’ understanding of the content? Are there apps or ways of using the iPad that would facilitate my assessment of their understanding and skills? And provide more immediate feedback on their work?
In addition, how could this technology be used to address student needs? For example, are there benefits to having access to an iPad for students with visual impairments?
Final thought…can this technology foster a learning experience for 7th graders that is more creative, collaborative, and focused on critical thinking?

Later that evening…
It startled me when I opened the iCal app and my calendar was already up to date. The app had collected data from the iCloud and distributed it to the appropriate places before I had already thought of it. It was unnerving at first until I realized how it had been faster and smarter than me. I am the one in control, right?

enjoying the time to play

One thing that I like about this TALL is that it is very practical, and even though I know I’m barely scratching the surface of uses for the iPad as a teaching tool, I appreciate the built-in time to play with the tecthnology. I sometimes have felt overwhelmed by the possibilities and by the thousands (and thousands)of apps available, but these guided activities like today’s timeline and the sharing of apps that we each have found are very useful.