Thursday, 8 October 2009

Ah hoc learning and teaching?

My organisation is in the business of education and we turn out several thousand wonderful graduates every year. In all of this, my job is all about the technology, business processes and project management stuff that we need. We think we have a fairly good understanding of how my bits work, with ITSM, Prince 2 project management and a wonderful bunch of analysts, programmers, technicians et al. In my view, you can run the administrative side of a university like Vodafone or GE - it's all business process, money, planning, scheduling - nothing very magic.

The academic side is different though - very strange and subtle. Our students learning in complex ways. They seem to very much benefit from lots of face to face contact with academics (and each other) but pretty much all of them use technology in ways that are alien to most people over 30.

Life gets interesting when we think about how we're going to use technology in teaching. I'm not talking about digital projectors, IT suites etc - this is all part of the plumbing and should be almost invisible. The challenges come with software that works with the learning process - WebCT, Wimba, Google Apps, Facebook (yes), Second Life, interactive websites of all sorts.

The university has to have a cautious attitude to risk, we set ourselves high standards and we're audited, as is right and proper where there is public money involved and qualification that need to be of unquestionable value and meaning.

At the other end, we have creative academics who are very much digital natives. They twitter, they want to use Google Wave and generally want to put all sorts of resources out there in the cloud and engage their students in imaginative ways that often make then very popular with their classes. The University has a will to look at all of this good stuff, have committees which deliberate on how it all fits into the curriculum. The trouble is that by the time we're done things have moved on again.

Does anyone have a cunning answers to this?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Out with the M2400, in with the MacBook Pro

Well, I finally gave up with the M2400. The hardware was pretty much OK, but I made the fatal mistake of borrowing a MacBook for a week (and then two weeks and then a bit longer until I finally had to give it back).

I now have a Unibody Macbook Pro 15". It sleeps, it wakes up. Mac applications are beautiful and work together beautifully. I'm stuck with running Vista in VMware Fusion for this and that for our corporate applications, but don't think I'll every go back.

Oh yes, and I also have an iPhone 3GS, which connects to the MacBook in cunning ways.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Three Months with the Precision M2400 (E-Series)

Well it still works, sort of. As long as you don't get any ambitious ideas about getting it to sleep (the easy) bit and then wake up (the hard bit.) I've been watching this one carefully and about once a week I open the lid to be greeted by a black screen. Nothing brings it back except a power cycle. One of these was in a meeting when I was depending on this thing to deliver a presentation. Dell have clearly been trying to fix this - the BIOS has been through ELEVEN versions and the video drivers have been updated.

It generally wakes up during the night to do backups and various other Vista things. It mostly goes back to sleep again, but not always.

Docking and undocking is mostly works, but sometimes it takes minutes to sort itself out after being docked and every now and then it moans that the docking station power adapter is the wrong sort. Sometime it "goes weird" (Vista technical term) and needs a reboot after a dock or undock.

The wireless connects like lightning but every now and then hangs so that you have to turn it off and off again using the switch. It then remains unreliable until a reboot (oh, so many reboots.)

Having said that, when it's up and running (which is most of the time) it's powerful and well built. The trouble is, it has Vista on it!

To be fair, I don't think these problems are specific to the new Dell E-Series, it's just that Vista can't handle all this sleeping and waking stuff and finds docking all rather stressful.

I rather envy my wife's MacBook. Open the lid and it wakes - instantly and every time. Close the lid and it sleeps - always. Updates come rarely and always work (and it's all nicely automated - no emails telling you to download things.) The MacBook never "goes funny", needing a reboot and it's not traumatised by having things plugged into it!