On the road…

on the roadThis journey was simply epic! 6 weeks we were on the road:

  • 5 flights
  • 6 ferries
  • 7560 kilometers driven by car
  • visited 15 national parks
  • experienced 3 major cities and a few local towns

Talking about information overload, this can count! We’re still processing the multitude of impressions. In time, and with the help of our photos and Facebook group, we will be able to extract a sensible story out of it to cherish as a memory for times to come.

As promised, I’ll try to make an evaluation of the tools used to communicate and engage with friends and family during the trip. Last time I wrote a bit about digital literacy. To me this is a very important part of education. We live in a digital world and preparing students for it, is just common sense!?

I mentioned some time ago, I would rely on my 2 (3 – if you count the iPod) main mobile devices for communication:

  • iPhone 4
  • iPad 2
  • (2nd generation iPod solely for “road trip music”)

Apps

In preparation of our journey, I filled the iPhone with a number of apps to help us on our way. I made sure I left plenty of storage to take pictures (first time ever I regretted not buying the 32GB iPhone 4, but my 16GB companion fulfilled his task more than adequately):

  • Facebook: obviously for communication with the home front
  • Twitter: to keep a link with my educational resources and other points of interest
  • Around Me: an app to search for anything useful in your vicinity
  • Wi-Fi-finder: to locate WiFi, even off-line
  • a couple of apps containing useful information about the National Parks we would visit (by Chimani)
  • a couple of Camera apps (FotometerPro, Hipstamatic, ProCamera, Camera+)
  • a QR-reader (Scan)
  • a weather app (Celcius)
  • a multifunctional app with compass, flashlight, speedometer, altimeter and course, just in case… (CFSAC)

The iPad was stocked with apps of a different kind. Making use of the larger screen, I used this to browse, work on my blog and photos, entertainment,… things I could do when arriving at our hotel. The iPhone was regarded as a more on-the-go device:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Skype: for more private communications
  • Blogsy: terrific blogging tool
  • iPhoto: perfect photo-editor
  • a Banking app: to keep an eye on our expenses
  • a few games for entertainment

In this new world of apps, it was a joy and a relief to use a single device to perform all these tasks. During my iPadproject in the classroom (januari 2012), I experienced the same feeling. It is so wonderful to be able to do all these things so fluently with a single, ultra-mobile device. On vacation, with enough bags and stuff to carry around, a small and useful device is excellent! A computer, even a laptop would be able to do more, but would also acquire an extra/bigger/heavier bag. Not nearly as mobile or power socket undependable as the iPad!

WiFi

As I mentioned before, I was amazed by the number of WiFi hotspots in our hotels, the national parks, etc. No shortage here! Imagine field trips were students could just log in and start creating/sharing information without the need of an expensive data plan. Off course this isn’t a perfect world, so yes, there were times we missed WiFi too, but generally speaking, we could do everything we wanted/needed, just fine. The Wi-Fi finder app, came in handy too! I was able to locate nearby hotspots to connect , even when I myself was offline, using the app’s library.

The Power of Mobile

Being able to cary a device with you, to record our journey in different ways (audio, video, photo, etc.) made telling our friends and family about it a lot easier. It was so much less of a fuss to capture a moment. no extra tools or devices needed, just take out the iPhone and click! Also sharing these moments instantly enabled other to respond while we were still around.

Responding to different groups of students while they are still reporting about a building/landscape/museum/… while they are still there enables the possibility to help them dig deeper into the subject or give a hint in the right direction. Instant responds and instant feedback without the need of being with the students all the time! I can see some possibilities for education here as well!

The Bottom Line…

…is that the iPad certainly makes sense in an educational environment. I already experienced this new tool in the classroom, tried it out with real students. This trip widened my view on the device itself. Really using it and depending on it in a broader context convinced me even more that tablets are a tool to be reckoned with. They offer possibilities that otherwise never could have been possible. It’s as if they are a springboard to a whole new level in education. Apps will become an important part of a students life. Looking for and using great apps in the classroom is key. Making students digital literate, so they can find new tools on their own to create, share, participate with others – anywhere – will become essential. Sure WiFi is still a necessity, but this is becoming less of a problem as more hotspots will appear around us and data plans will get cheaper.

I wonder how long it will take the tablet to really take over schools and open up the student’s learning experience!?

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