Thursday, April 30, 2009

iPhone to Your TV or Data Projector? Yes.

Walt Mossberg (of the Wall Street Journal) apparently doesn't know about this (WJS 4/30/09 p. D2).

Or maybe it's his minions who didn't google right. (Sometimes other people publish under their own byline but with Walt's name up top. Is that like a movie being produced by one person but directed by another?)

In any case, it must be pretty hard to figure out if Walt can't figure it out, because he's a hepcat. (And if you know what hepcat means, you're too old to be reading this blog. I bet Walt knows. I love teasing Walt, because there are so few things to tease him about. Also, he's kinda cute.)

So let me give you the lowdown.

Buy yourself some Apple iPhone component AV cables. Or Apple composite AV cables. Which you use depends on the inputs on your TV or data project: composite are more backwards-compatible, component more up-to-date.

Yes, they're a tad dear, these cables: nearly fifty bucks. But they get the job done.

With these cables (and the included power supply) you can output some iPhone (and iPod) stuff to a TV, display or video projector.

Yes, only some.

Basically, you can show a video file or play a photo slideshow.

The original Steve Jobs sales pitch for iPhone in which he projected the whole interface--well, that suggests the capacity is in there somewhere but is normally disabled. Maybe a jailbroken iPhone could do it? With the right app? Or maybe Jobs didn't want the iPhone to cannibalize his own laptop business. In any event, this is one particular cat I wish they'd let out of its software-dis-enabled bag.

But the photos slideshow option means you can convert Powerpoint to jpeg's or tiff's, store them on your mobile device, and then give a presentation entirely from your phone. Forget bringing your laptop, just bring the phone and cables.

Yes, you'll need big font for this--so don't overcrowd your slides. And the normal Powerpoint jpegs are too small: in Windows I print to tiffs using Zan Image Printer (another $50--it adds up).

Or you can make a slideshow into a movie (using iPhoto or iMovie, for instance) and let that run in the background as you give your presentation.

(My Stanford handout, replete with details for students about how to check out equipment, is here and has some additional tips.)

I've done this in presentations at Stanford for over a year now--and trained students to do the same. (Yes, college undergraduates are ahead of Walt Mossberg in some ways--it's just a generational thing, we'll have to get used to it.)

And I gave a professional conference at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in Philadelphia in 2008 using this setup. In-the-know techies swooned afterwards like it was a parlor magic trick: "How did you do that?" (Kind of like when in 2001 I gave a talk at the same conference that I then streamed to the web. I love me some toys.)

With this approach, you have simplicity, lightweightness and sexiness going for you. It's a conversation-starter--or a distraction, depending on the topic. So use these tools wisely--as always.

--Edward R. O'Neill

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Forget Bookmarks.

That's in the imperative.

I mean:  don't collect bookmarks in your browser.

Doing so means a browser synch tool, and they're mostly browser-specific and unwieldy, I find.
Instead, make most of your bookmarks public.

I use delicious.  You add a link to your browser that takes you from any web page to a delicious page that adds the prior page to your delicious bookmarks.

You tag the pages with whatever's relevant for you or others--"learningtechnology," "instructionaldesign," "xml," the like.

Now you can find all your tagged pages anywhere you have a web connection.

AND anyone else can browse your tags or see those tags when tagging a page themselves.

Saving and sharing become the same thing.

Want students to collect and share bookmarks?  Create a class account--it's free, and have everyone tag pages.  

Want to send someone your links about javascript?

Tagged with javascript and API?


No more browser plug-ins or bookmark synching.  No more sorting bookmarks into a tree structure.  Just click, tag, be done.

Your bookmarks:  anywhere.

(Yes, you can make private ones, too.)  

--Edward R. O'Neill

Friday, April 10, 2009

Positive and Negative Educations.

How often in higher education we fail our brightest students.

I had dinner tonight with a friend.  He dropped out of a rather prestigious private university--after several years.  (He gave it a good go.)

He loves technology.  He programs now.  He has his own startup.  And he wants to write educational applications that are also social media--or vice-versa.  

He knows the universe of social media.  He's insightful.

The fact that he wants to help higher education is rather surprising--given that he left formal education some time ago.

I asked him what his best educational experiences in college were.
  • I had learned, for instance, in my senior thesis how to explore my own ideas and to write them with pleasure and some degree of art.
  • I had learned in my junior theater project how to make decisions to communicate with an audience--and how the failure to make decisions damns your work to muteness.  
The exact stories are probably more interesting than the conclusions.  But I learned what was interesting and meaningful to me, how to develop my own thoughts and work, what my criteria for success and failure were.  

He was hard pressed.
  • He said that he took classes thinking he would be interested and ultimately learned that he was not.
  • Or he learned that a professor's statements undermined their own authority:  he was disabused with authority, and that was what he learned.
These are important lessons.

You could call them negative education:  learning what you don't like or want, what is not the case, what is not to be believed.

Positive education, by contrast, is represented by growth towards personal goals of self-fulfillment through engagement with others and with a pre-existing body of thought.  

Whether with technology or without it, positive education is difficult to foster.

And when we fail to attend to students' needs, they get an education alright, but not the one for which we might have hoped.

--E. R. O'Neill