One Week with the Apple Watch

I received my Apple Watch on May 15th. So far, I’m really liking it. Here are some thoughts.

Right choice.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I bought the 38mm model with the black sports band along with Apple Care. It’s the least expensive model, which I plan to replace in a couple of years when the technology advances sufficiently. The 38mm size looks perfect on my wrist, but your mileage may vary.

Great for fitness.
My watch friend is kind enough to remind me that sitting for more than an hour is a bad thing and that I should get up and move around. “Get your body moving” has been a common phrase I’ve used on my old running podcast, but now I have something to remind me. It also does a good job tracking my time exercising and roughly how many calories I’m burning through exercise. I feel good when I make my daily goals. In this sense, the Apple Watch is a great replacement for my FitBit, which I stopped wearing due to battery problems.

Good iPhone companion.
I knew this going in, but a week confirmed it. The Apple Watch is closely tied to an iPhone 5 or later. If you don’t have an iPhone or happen to leave it at home while going out for a run or to walk the dog, the Apple Watch will still show the date, time, and your fitness, but it won’t be able to do anything like send and receive messages, give map directions, or anything needing Siri. I haven’t tried this yet, but it looks like you can use Apple Pay without having your phone with you. Which is great if you can find a location where Apple Pay is accepted (again assuming you need something while out for a run or similar situation). This article does a nice job describing what can be done without your iPhone.

I want to buy more apps.
I feel a bit like I own a great new video game console before many of the anticipated titles have been released. Some of my apps came with a shrunk-down display which would work on my phone. Zillow, for example, will show me information about houses and condos nearby, but there isn’t much I can do to narrow down my search. I was hoping for an interesting game or two to download, but then I thought that games might not be a good idea for the Apple Watch since its battery life would be quickly drained by that kind of use. One week in, I’m not surprised that there isn’t more available. The initial iPhone only had the built-in applications with no app store at all. The iPad launched with apps, but many were pixelated versions of iPhone apps.

New interface.
It look me a couple of hours to get used to the new interface – the crown, the button, swiping in different directions, the hard press, etc… I was used to iPhone and iPad functions, so I was tempted try to zoom out by pinching in a tool like Apple Maps. Pinching doesn’t zoom you out. Double-tapping zooms you in, but you can’t get back out that way. The right way to do this is by using the crown to zoom in and out. That make sense once you think about it. The crown helps to keep your fingers from blocking the display. It’s just not what I went to first since there hasn’t been a crown on other Apple devices until now.

Surprised by quick adoption.
The day I received my Apple Watch, I went out to dinner with some family members who were in town. I left a little early to take the dog back to our apartment. On my way home, my watch began to ring. I hadn’t felt or heard my phone ringing in my pocket since I was walking and close to a road with traffic, so if it hadn’t been for the watch, I would have missed the call. I was able to answer the call on my watch and talk through it to the person on the other end. I’ve only taken a few other calls through my watch since then, but on many occasions I’ve received text messages and calendar reminders through a quick tap on the wrist. It has been very nice.

I’m still getting used to this new platform, but I’ve enjoyed it so far. If you want to see what the Apple Watch is like without the presence of the Apple hype machine, there are lots of reviews of Apple Watches showing up on YouTube. I found this one to be a nice overview that would be appropriate for someone who is thinking about getting one or expecting theirs to arrive shortly.

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Why I bought an Apple Watch

I just pre-ordered my Apple Watch. I wasn’t always certain I would get one, but the decision became easier in the last few weeks despite articles advising people not to buy one or at least not to buy the first one. Here are my reasons.

First, I need a new watch. I’ve always been pretty hard on watches. Most haven’t lasted more than a year or two, which was convenient for people looking to buy me a birthday/Christmas present. My last watch lasted about 7-8 years, but died about six months ago. I haven’t worn a watch since then. I’ve been using my phone to check the time (like many people in their teens-30’s do these days). However, that can be distracting when I’m in one meeting and need to make sure I don’t miss my next one.

Second, Information Technology is my career. It’s important for me to keep an eye on new technologies. I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of new applications people will create for this new platform. Besides, curiosity is one of my major motivations in life. I want to explore the possibilities.

Third, it’s Apple. I’ve been using Apple products since the 80’s. They aren’t always the cheapest or fastest or most customizable systems, but they always seem to win out on user experience. That’s what I’m after – a reliable, enjoyable experience. I went through several Palm Pilots and Windows CE PDA’s as well as several cell phones before the iPhone came out. None of the previous devices were satisfactory. When I got my first iPhone, I fell in love.

So what did I buy? The 38mm Apple Watch Sport with a black band.
Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 12.39.45 PM

I bought the 38mm size because my wrists aren’t big and my eyesight is pretty good. The larger 42mm version would probably look and feel out of place. It’s a watch, aesthetics are important. I got the sport version because I like to work out and occasionally get rained on when walking to meetings at work. The black band should look good at work or at home.

I also got Apple Care, which extends the warranty to two years and includes two repairs for accidental damage. This is the first version of the watch to be released, so I expect there to be design flaws and damage through normal wear.

I’m not concerned about a newer, better, faster, lighter version with a longer battery life coming out a year after the first Apple Watch is released. I’m counting on that. It’s also the reason that I’m getting the cheapest model. If the pattern follows my experience with iPhones and iPads, I’ll get the first version and then probably wait to get the third generation one so I can experience a bigger jump in features and design.

I’m also not concerned about what the Apple Watch can do on its own. It will be another device in my personal digital ecosystem that will connect me to my other devices, systems, and data.

I’m also not concerned about the kind of backlash that was experienced with users of Google Glass. We are primates and we respond strongly to faces. There is something upsetting about the look of a device worn on your head, which is why I don’t like seeing people with a bluetooth headset stuck in their ear all day. With Google Glass, the one-eyed nature of the design created an asymmetrical look that made me think twice about getting one. If it had covered both eyes, then it would have at least looked better. In contrast, watches have been around for more than a century. I’ve seen people with Android watches and Pebble watches. I don’t have a negative reaction to those – it just seems like the next step in design.

So there you have it. I’m sure I will love the Apple Watch, despite the limitations of a first generation design.

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Beauty and Simplicity

Today, Google is celebrating the 151st birthday of Debussy with a special Google Doodle. I’m not a musician. I’m not an artist. But I know beauty when I see it. Well done Google!


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Educause Video about MOOCs

Educause is an international organization that connects information technology professionals in education. In February, I was at an Educause conference focused on teaching and learning and they asked to interview me about my thoughts on MOOCs. That a clip of that recording is going to be a part of a free online webinar on July 30-August 1 about the ways that IT is shaping education. The middle day will focus on teaching and learning topics, so I’ll try to catch that session.

Here is the video. It’s under 4 minutes. I make a short appearance around the 2:02 mark.

MOOCs and Beyond from EDUCAUSE on Vimeo.

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Contest for Apps that Interact with Learning Management Systems

The LTI App Bounty is a competition where people can develop apps that can be incorporated into multiple learning management systems. These are not (necessarily) mobile apps – just mini services that play well with systems like Blackboard, Sakai, Moodle, Desire2Learn, and Canvas.

I’m excited to see this happen. It’s definitely a step in the right direction and could lead to some innovative tools. This also creates a way-in for people who are early in their ed tech careers. I don’t think the prizes – $1000 is the top amount – are enough for this to make a real splash compared to the potential impact of a good app and millions of dollars in venture capital money floating around, but it’s a start.

Here is a short presentation about the project:

Here is the quote from the Chronicle:

Isolated. Too exclusive. Antisocial.That’s how Brian Whitmer, a founder of Instructure, describes the education-technology sector, particularly the space occupied by developers of learning-management systems like Instructure’s Canvas. “It’s become clear that ed tech does not have the type of ecosystem that other sectors have,” he said. “It’s hampering innovation. We need to fix that.”To call attention to that problem, Instructure and other learning-management-system providers, including Blackboard and Desire2Learn, are offering cash rewards to encourage the creation of apps using the Learning Tools Interoperability standard, or LTI.

via Instructure Offers Bounty for New Educational Apps – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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How Your Own Expertise Is Holding You Back | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

This is a nice take on how to think in innovative ways. It starts by setting aside what you know (or think you know) and seeing things with fresh eyes.

How are entrepreneurs able to create new companies and inventors capable of bringing new products to market? It’s because they avoid accepting the way things are in their industry and instead see what might be. It’s because they have shoshin, or, "beginner’s mind."

via How Your Own Expertise Is Holding You Back | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

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Former Education Secretary Seeks to Simplify States’ Distance-Education Rules – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education

I’d be happy if this happens. Right now, institutions need to pay tens of thousands of dollars in application fees to operate distance education programs in other states. This proposed framework would make it easier by requiring adherence to a common set of standards.

A group of higher-education leaders, accreditors, and regulators led by a former U.S. education secretary is seeking to streamline distance-education and state-authorization regulations to make it easier and more affordable for colleges to enroll students across the country.

To participate in the reciprocity system, the home state of a college would oversee and regulate the institution’s work in other states to ensure that it met a set of national baseline standards. Other states in which the college operates could not regulate that institution unless it had a “physical presence” in the state, which the report defines as a continuing occupation of a physical location for instruction or the maintenance of an administrative office to facilitate instruction.

via Former Education Secretary Seeks to Simplify States' Distance-Education Rules – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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» Penn State Adopts Doceri iPad Whiteboard Throughout its Campuses Freedom to Teach – the Doceri Blog

Nice! Our adoption of Doceri (iPad-based podium control/annotation system) was picked up by Doceri along with the presentation that some of our faculty did at the TLT Symposium a couple of weeks ago. For those of you looking for ways to use iPads in educational settings, especially STEM courses, this is it!

From the Doceri Blog:

Penn State Adopts Doceri iPad Whiteboard Throughout its Campuses

penn-state-shield-logoPenn State Instructional Technology Services has adopted a 1,000-seat, university-wide Doceri Desktop education site license for use by its faculty. (read the press release here)

“We were looking for an affordable means by which instructors could access programs and annotate their presentations from a mobile device that worked with our existing network infrastructure,” said Brian Young, instructional designer for Penn State ITS. “After evaluating a half a dozen options, Doceri was the only whiteboard annotation and remote desktop control software that gave us the confidence to pursue university-wide deployment.”

via » Penn State Adopts Doceri iPad Whiteboard Throughout its Campuses Freedom to Teach – the Doceri Blog.

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Under California Bill, Faculty-Free Colleges Would Award Exam-Based Degrees – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Interesting development in MOOCs and Prior Learning Assessment discussions. It makes me wonder if I would be able to earn a degree that I already possess by passing some tests – or whether I could add a degree based on experience that I’ve gotten over the past 22 years of working in higher education.

Are degrees being reduced to a series of examinations? Or is there something more about the educational experience that can’t be measured by the correct responses to well-designed prompts? What I remember most about my educational experiences have little to do with exams or papers. They’re moments of insight, surprise, frustration, and inspiration.

In any case, here is the article:

Under California Bill, Faculty-Free Colleges Would Award Exam-Based Degrees

A bill being considered this month by the California Assembly would create a fourth division of the state’s higher-education system that would provide no instruction and would issue college credit and degrees to any student who could pass a series of examinations.

via Under California Bill, Faculty-Free Colleges Would Award Exam-Based Degrees – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Bring Your Own Device

The Gartner Symposium has attendees from a practically every sector: educational institutions, government agencies, healthcare, insurance, finance, manufacturing, retail, etc…

That makes it interesting when we talk about a topic like Bring Your Own Device (or BYOD). Higher Education has been dealing with this issue for decades. In 1988, I came back to Penn State for my second year, brought an Amiga 500 with me, and plugged it into the network connection in Beaver Hall so I could connect to the university’s mainframe whenever I wanted. It was brilliant. The university had policies and procedures for doing what I was doing with my own device or I could use a computer lab or borrow a “dumb terminal” if I wanted to connect from my room, but didn’t have my own computer. In many ways, higher education must embrace a BYOD world since we simply don’t have the financial resources, support staff, or space to provide enough computer labs to support every student at every campus.

In addition, faculty have been branching out on their own for just as long. If they needed their own workstation, they went out and got it with research or departmental funds. This is one of the reasons that many universities have decentralized IT. Separate units were established to meet the specialized needs of local faculty.

In contrast to this, most other sectors are used to an environment where they have been seeing to the computing needs of their employees entirely. Now that we are entering the world of at least three devices per person (laptop/desktop, phone, and tablet) these other segments are beginning to ask whether they can continue to provide a one-size-fits-all solution or if they need to embrace the BYOD trend.

This is also a rising trend with university staff. If I’m away on a trip, I use my work-provided laptop for work that requires sustained attention. When I go to conference sessions, I use my work-provided iPad to take notes and pictures. However, I also use my personal phone between sessions to take other pictures, answer e-mail, and post on Yammer. The lines completely blur and since everything I am doing is cloud based, it doesn’t really matter which device I use for each of these aside from practical factors such as weight, keyboard design, screen size, battery life, and my overall preference.

This raising new questions about data management and security. It would be a problem if someone lost a device and exposed student information, credit card data, salary information, or critical research findings. Encryption, tracking, cloud-based backup, and remotely wiping devices becomes critically important. This is one reason that Mobile Device Management (MDM) companies were very visible during the IT Expo portion of the Symposium. It’s a booming business.

Companies that have implemented a BYOD program at work – where employees get a monthly reimbursement (between $40-$55/month) for using their own smart phones or tablets with data plans generally have about a 40% adoption rate and increased employee satisfaction. However, mandatory BYOD programs are generally perceived negatively, especially if they are seen as a way for companies to displace costs onto employees – “Bring Your Own Dollars”.

Getting back to students, higher education and K-12 are now dealing with questions about depending on BYOD. In other words, if we require students to have devices with them so they can respond to prompts during class, conduct research, or share data with each other, how do we ensure that all devices have equal access? What do we do with the segment of the student population who do not have access to the latest devices? One idea that came to mind was a donation or recycling program. I’m sure there are a lot of older iPhones floating around that could be repurposed as wifi-only access devices. Or maybe this is another rental program idea that could be taken on by bookstores.

Any way you cut it though, it seems that we are in a BYOD world where mandatory purchases of laptops or mobile devices with a specific specification are becoming old-fashioned.

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