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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

5 Essential Tips for New iPhone Owners

Portrait of a woman using an iphone.
Ok, you've had your iPhone for a while and it's changed the way you interact with the 'Net. You feel more free, more able to do just about everything online. But there are still some simple things you wish you knew how to do. Like getting that pesky caps lock to actually stick for more than a character.

Well, here's how to do that and a few other things you might find useful.

1) Caps lock
Simply double tap the shift key. It turns blue. Away you go. Tap it again to deactivate. When Lainie Rowell showed this to a group of iPhone users at BLC '09, an audible gasp went up in the room. I mean who knew?

2) Go to top of screen
After you've been scrolling for a while through your emails or in a third-party Twitter app, simply tap once on the status bar (way up there) to get to the top of your inbox. Don't feel bad, I see many Blackberry owners who don't know they can simply press "t" to go top of the screen and "b" for bottom--instead of wearing out their trackball.

3) Zoom
Rather than spread or pinch with your thumb and forefinger, simply double tap on a column or picture to zoom in. Double tap again to zoom out. Same taps toggle from letterbox to regular view in Youtube.

4) Insert accents
Want to get this cool "ñ" or "é"? Simply tap the regular "n" or "e" and hold. Accent options pop up. Slide to the one you want and let go.

5) See previous search term (app store)
So, you plug in a search term, tap an app name to see details and reviews on it, but after you've hit the back button it's not obvious how to return to your original search term and list right? Wait, don't exit and enter the app store again. Just tap once in the search bar and you're back to the original term and list.

More essential tips you've discovered in your first weeks of iPhone ownership? Comment or share below.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Open Letter to the Tech-Shy

Many people are scared of technology or fear there's nothing in it for them. If that sounds like you, consider this.

Finding value in new technology is always a matter of trying it. Unless you have the curiosity—and courage—to start playing with it, the value won’t be obvious.

That’s certainly the case with social media and the digital devices that feed them. But with a little pluck and experimentation, you can turn “why would I ever want to do that?” into “you know, I could really use this.”

Three tech blasts from the past illustrate this beautifully. All are commonplace now, but they all came with concerns when they were launched. If you're old enough, perhaps you had the same fears I did.

Debit Cards
Before debit cards (or bank cards as some people call them) were rolled out, many folks, including me, were uncomfortable. "You mean to tell me, I'll swipe my card at the cashier and that money will be instantly ripped out of my account? What happens if I make a mistake and want a refund or exchange? I already have cash, cheques and credit cards. Why would I ever need a debit card?"

Well, I certainly got over my fears. And you've got a debit card in your pocket or purse right now. In fact, if you're a Canadian like me, you're among the highest per capita users of debit cards in the world.

Microwave Ovens
At the age of 14, I witnessed a miracle on a Grade 8 train trip to Ottawa. In the dining car, I ordered a small can of chicken a la king. The middle-aged cook behind the counter dumped the contents into a bowl and popped them into a new type of oven. A minute later he handed me a hot snack. Now, get this, after watching my job drop, he delivered the punch line, "that oven didn't even heat up."

Microwave ovens were only available commercially then. But before they made their way into homes, people were a bit uneasy. "Hold on, you’re going to pass microwaves through my food? Is that even healthy?"

Most of us got used to cooking our food by jostling the molecules with microwaves. Even the $45 machines are perfectly safe. We may not be thrilled with eating microwave fare, but the idea that we'd avoid cooking our food that way because of the process itself would seem silly.

Do you remember when email was introduced? In many workplaces, people were intrigued by the possibilities. But many were nervous. "What if I send something confidential to the wrong person? What if I hit reply all instead of reply? They say copies of my email will reside on a bunch of servers before it even gets to its destination. What if they all read my stuff?"

Well, we no longer pore over articles like 12 Email Safety Tips and Test Your Email Intelligence. Yes, we've made our share of blunders along the way, but we've lived through those and all made our peace with email.

So, as much of a technophobe as you think you are, imagine yourself at a social event exchanging some witty repartee with someone over appetizers. Your new acquaintance says quite proudly, "I’ve never used a microwave oven (or email or a debit card) in my life and have no use for it."

You'd respond politely perhaps, but what would instantly run through your mind? It might be, "how quaint, but wildly out of touch" or maybe even, "goodness, how did you make it into the 21st Century?"

Embrace Value, Discard the Rest
It's obvious the benefits of those technologies far outweighed the initial concerns. Many people are finding the same holds true for social media. There are tremendous benefits they can bring to your professional and personal life. But only if you're willing to push past the fear and invest some time in them.

We limit ourselves as individuals if we don’t adopt those technologies that help us—even if we’re scared of them at first. I'm not suggesting you embrace any and every new technology, medium or tool for its own sake. Only that you select a few to start, discover which ones bring value, even joy, to your life, and discard the rest.

Ten years from now, do you really want to be the person at the party who says: "You know, I've never joined a social network for my profession, or uploaded my vacation pics to a photo sharing service, or shared my favourite sites on a social bookmarking service. I'm still too scared of all that high-tech stuff."

Make the effort. Get started in this new year. You'll find so many people willing to help. I promise you it will pay off both professionally and personally.

Raman Job

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Beatles Education

New video game The Beatles: Rock Band released today
Help! My youngest son is becoming the world’s biggest Fab Four fan.

With the launch of Beatles Rockband in September, he’s joined many middle school teens who are discovering the mop-haired Liverpudlians for the first time. He spends his allowance on Beatles CDs, scours YouTube for videos of Beatles concerts and rare interviews–and spouts Beatles trivia with the best of them.

“Dad, did you know Ringo’s real name is Richard Starkey and he was left-handed, but had a right-handed drum kit?”

Needless to say the Let it Be, Help!, Revolver, The Beatles Past Masters albums are getting a lot of airplay in the car and at home. Not that I mind, because the stuff is absolutely brilliant and so catchy my brain is now fairly perforated with hooks.

Besides, who can resist even awkward German versions of I Want to Hold Your Hand (Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand) and She Loves You (Sie Liebt Dich)?

Now, I did have something to do with my younger son’s deep dive into the Liverpool quartet. After tiring of repeated remarks about John, Paul, George and Ringo being “stupid,” I launched a video of the Beatles live at Shea Stadium on my iPhone with the rejoinder, “Let me show you how popular these guys were.”

The kid was impressed.

So, that night we poked around a bit more and laid the foundation for an interest in the group. Next came a trip to Rogers to snag a copy of the Beatles Rockband for PlayStation 3. And before you know it, son and I were bashing away to Octopus’s Garden and Back in the USSR on plastic instruments.

Learning Workout
The game is brilliant because of the real education it imparts to anyone who engages with it. This is far from passive learning. Besides having a huge fun factor, the game’s biographical notes, superb graphics, and story mode–including concerts you play at the Cavern, on Ed Sullivan; and at Shea Stadium, Bokudan, Abbey Road and the famous Apple Corp. rooftop–all ensure an energetic mental and physical workout.

The game is an immersion course in Beatles 101. It not only appeals to the intellect, but weaves its rhythms into your fingers, hands and feet.

Since my son and I have crossed Abbey Road together, I’ve had a flood of memories of everything from the Saturday morning animated Beatles cartoons, to licorice Beatle records (seriously), to the glossy autographed pictures I sent away for when I was a kid.

Now, my son adds to my Beatles education every few days with gems like, “Did you know Rolling Stone named Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as the number one album of all time out of a list of 500, back in 2003?”

No, actually. I didn’t know that.

But it reminds me of another question that brought a smile to my face.

A teacher recently told me of how he was once approached by a breathless middle school girl who gasped, “Mr. so-and-so, Mr. so-and-so…Did you know that Paul McCartney was actually in another band before Wings?”


The Notion of a Personal Blog

Launching this blog is a way of paying forward the generosity shown to me by the people in my Personal Learning Network (PLN). Many of them have helped me get comfortable with new ideas and tools that have transformed my own professional development. DW8S5A2Y75RT

I’ve been playing with the notion of a personal blog for a while. Over the past year, I’ve seen teachers make their own lives richer by using Web 2.0 tools. I’ve seen many of them use educational technology to build community in their classrooms and engage their students.

Frankly, their enthusiasm is infectious and I want to write about it.

Everyone will tell you 21st Century Learning is not about the tools. But you really do have to play with them to catch the vision of how they can help in your teaching and beyond. Of course, it helps to have a mentor, and working on a good PLN will usually follow.

Like all blogs, this is an exercise in self-expression, but it’s also chance for me to help others get comfortable with ed tech so they can expand and enrich their classroom experiences for their students and themselves.

It's my modest contribution to building a growing pool of teachers and others who are excited about Web 2.o and are enjoying the benefits not only in their teaching, but in their personal lives.