First, a quick apology for the lack of updates. It’s been a particularly busy few months and I’ve had no time to create the next installments of the PowerPoint series. They will return, I promise, but I want to make sure that I do them just exactly perfect and don’t want to skimp on the details. So, they’ll have to wait until I’ve got the time to devote the attention to them. But what can’t wait is the live reporting from ITC. I’m fortunate enough to be representing Mercer County Community College at the 2012 Instructional Technology Council’s e-learning conference in lovely Long Beach, CA.
The conference started this afternoon with a presentation from Dean Kohrs, author of Hacking College (Dean’s work can be found at www.hackingcollege.com). Dean’s talk “Higher Ed: There’s an App for That” provided an appropriate and exciting start to the conference.
The discussion began with a brief review of how institutions scrambled to create a wired infrastructure to accommodate this new thing called the “Internet” back in the 1990’s, only to create a wireless infrastructure to accommodate the explosion in wireless web access a few years later. But now, with most students coming to campus with high powered smart phones in their pockets, the infrastructures are quickly becoming obsolete. While the need for WiFi access on campuses isn’t going to go away anytime soon, the fact remains that our students do indeed come into the classroom with some pretty powerful computing devices in their possession and these devices come equipped with high speed Internet connections. These smart phones are potential game changers for higher education, and the challenge to institutions and instructors is to create courses which will take advantage of the power offered by these devices.
Kohrs then went on to discuss 6 disruptive properties of the iPhone 4S (which exist in other smart phone technologies as well) and how these properties can be utilized to further enhance higher education.
- Interoperability: One of the key features of the iPhone 4S is the ability of the apps to work together with one another, and also the ability of devices to communicate with one another. Rather than taking notes in one app, taking pictures in another app, and doing research in a third app, then taking the results and using a 4th app to combine the information into a single usable form, the new technologies allow users to perform all these tasks in a single location.
- Geolocality: Not only does the phone know where it is and where it’s going, the phone knows which direction it’s facing, what’s nearby, and can be easily used to bring this information (plus a whole lot more) directly to the user quickly and easily. Case in point, the StreetMuseum app from the Museum of London, which takes the museum out of the museum and brings it into the streets of the city.
- Augmented Reality: In addition to the contributions AR makes to the Geolocality elements of the discussion, AR can also help users compile and sort information with more precision and less work. Business card readers which allow users to scan business cards into the app, the OCR’s the information on the card, adds the information into the contact list and even keeps track of when and under what circumstances the contact was created. Also (a student’s dream app to be sure), QuickCite allows students to scan the UPC code of a book and create accurate, properly formed citations on the fly.
- Cloud Connectivity: Siri, the main innovation introduced with the iPhone 4S, doesn’t intuitively possess all the answers to any question the user may pose. Rather, Siri consults the cloud (Wolfram Alpha, Google, Yahoo!, and Bing) to gather the information the user needs exactly when they need it. Each time a query is run through Siri, the query is added to the Wolfram Alpha database, which then uses the query to create further data for analysis and integration. The machine feeds the machine.
- Extensibility: The relatively inexpensive phone can be quickly adapted to become a camera which can take pictures of specimens under a microscope, store and catalog the images, and upload them to the web or an online class. The “Up” device connects to the phone and transmits data about the user’s physical activity and statistics into the phone so that it can keep track of a users health.
- Security: The phone knows where you are and who you are. It also knows what you’ve done and keeps tracks of where you’ve been and what’s in it. By syncing the phone with the school system, the user’s identity is never in question (thus eliminating one of the primary vexations to online instructors), and pirated software is practically impossible to install and use on the device.
Globalization is, according to Kohrs, the democratization of technology, the democratization of information, and the democratization of finance (finance being just another form of information). The challenge we face is how to best embrace the technology and information at our disposal to democratize education.
Obviously, this is a brief and woefully incomplete review of the high points of Kohrs’ presentation, but hopefully they convey a reasonable image of the presentation’s primary concepts. I encourage you to investigate his ideas further, visit his website, check out his book, and get ready to move forward into the next new era!
As always, comments, questions, concerns, or (gentle) criticisms are always welcome.