Laptop Required: Teaching Online While Mobile

It was not terribly long ago that I had almost completely rid myself of carrying a laptop. I was able to keep a desktop at home, a desktop at work, and a tablet for those times I was traveling and really needed to get online for something more involved than checking my phone.

laptop on tableHowever, that was then, and teaching online courses has tethered me to a laptop far more than being a sysadmin ever did. My dream of whittling my bag down to a tablet and various other small materials is essentially dead. Current online teaching platforms require a laptop to be effective while doing some of even the most mundane of tasks.

This is not a real complaint, more of an observation about how our tools are dictated by the platforms and the assumptions developers make. While my students could effectively handle most of their course from a mobile device (and I have in mind to work toward making the courses I have complete control over as mobile friendly as possible), the teaching experience still requires access to at least a laptop, and often a desktop with multiple monitors.

When Steve Jobs spoke about the stratification of computing into different categories (traditional PCs as trucks, tablets as cars, etc.), I thought the metaphor was apt, but I hoped to be able to stick myself into a car when it came to mobile computing.

Instead, I now carry a crossover in my bag so that I might be able to get work done even when I am away from one of my desks. While it works well, part of me wishes I could still stick with just a hatchback.

Not Going Back

App-pocalypse Now by Jeff Atwood got some play last week around the web last week (or was it the week before, I can’t keep track of these thing) and it has been sticking in my mind since then.

  • I do not want to go back to the web-centric world for all applications. The idea that every application should be and live on the web does not excite me in the least.
  • Content-only sites do not really have a need (most of the time) for a separate application. Responsive web design has allowed many sites to work really REALLY well in just the excellent browsers the main platforms have been providing. The web as a content-distribution platform for text-centrci documents is excellent. That is what it was originally made for and I think it excels in that regard. That would eliminate a huge portion of the ridiculous app banners and popups that almost every site seems to want to push on people.
  • Do not confuse what is best/easy of the developer for what is best/easy/wanted for/by the user/consumer/customer. They are not always the same.

I think that is the main gist of it. I was going to originally just tweet this out, but it would have been too much for poor Twitter and I’m sure that Phil would have complained about me spamming his timeline again.

Thanks Phil!

Mobile-er

I’m making a rather major change to how I view and use mobile computing. Up to this point mobile devices have been a really nice companion to have around and I prefer to use things like the iPad and iPhone for some tasks, but I’ve never really been “all-in” when it comes to using them for more than just “nice to have” tasks.

UnknownThat’s going to change.

Today I had a box on my desk and inside of that awesome box was two things:

  • cheap Photive iPad Air Smart Case
  • 32 GB iPad AIr

In my mind I’ve had the idea about going with desktop + iPad as my main computing platform for today and the future. I’ll hopefully write about how it goes as times continues unabated. Here is what I am thinking at this moment.

  • I went with the iPad Air over the iPad mini with Retina display for one simple reason … typing. I am hoping to do a lot of typing on the iPad and I surmised that the full-size iPad would make big difference and so far I think that was a smart move. Typing is much more comfortable on the Air than it ever was on the iPad mini.
  • The cheap Photive case is going to get replaced with something better. I have a CaseCrown Omni Case coming and should work better. I’m hoping the construction is better along with being a 4-fold cover instead of a 3-fold. I think the 3-fold works well at the iPad mini size, but the added size of the iPad Air really needs that extra fold.
  • I’m now in the market for a good, high quality bag to use as my daily carry bag. Right now I have a cheap-ish backpack that I used for a 13″ MacBook Pro that worked really well, but it is now too large for something the size of an iPad Air. I’d love a good canvas or leather bag that will stick with me for years. I’ve had a ton of cheap nylon bags in the past and they wear out, I want something to “wear in” this time.
  • The A7 is freaking amazing. It is so fast compared to the A5 I was used to on the iPad mini. That, alone, is almost worth an upgrade.

I will have more to say, obviously, along with some more ideas on how to incorporate the iPad and iPhone into our growing farm operation in the future. This will at least give me something to start with.