*Personal Learning Environment
This summer I took some unplugged time to learn a new sport, Disc Golf (DG). As a Boomer with a bit of Frizbee time in grad school, I was happy to discover the DG resources available in Temple TX (1.5 hr. N of Austin, 2.0 hr. S of FW). At first I fumbled a bit getting some advice from a neighbor who has played for over 20 yr. and doing some online research about DG in general.
Over the first month, I realized that DG was a good case study candidate for the development of a PLE. Why? Several reasons.
- In more formal training environments we are often limited to assessments based on quizzes and simple interactions. With criterion based assessments built into most individual sports like DG, it seems ideal for real, as opposed to digital, immersive learning. Thus, DG can serve easily as a functional, self reinforcing PLE.
- Recent advances in technology including a number of Web and mobile based tools make easy integration of real and digital experiences with in the reach of almost anyone with a smartphone or a table device.
The system begins to emerge
My background is broad in both Training and IT, but at my core, I am a systems developer. My academic degrees are in Psychology (BA,MS,PhD) and many of my mentors were Behaviorists a la B.F. Skinner. My orientation is to always start inductively working at the lowest level of abstraction. This approach seeks to avoid preconceived notions thus allowing the structure to emerge from the actual reality under study or in this case self-training situation.
After some online research, a few very unsatisfactory trips to the DG course, and some fumbling at a small field with some trees on my complex’s grounds, I determined my first objective: The Ability to drive a disc 120+ feet reliably. Why? The average par 3 DG basket is 250+ feet from the Tee box. So to be in contention for par, one needs to be close to the basket (within say 10 feet) in 2 throws. As a newbie, perhaps 60-70% of my shots are Tee box or Fairway drives so this task is the most basic DG skill
With that goal in mind, I then measured the practice area and set some distance markers and began to practice in a more structured fashion. By then I had acquired a number of discs of various speeds and other characteristics. Next some Utube research on throwing techniques after which I selected the X- step backhand throw as my main drive style. Some progress after that but still too many erratic throws.
In 9th grade my Algebra I teacher made a very profound remark to me one day. “Ed, system is comfort”. My practice obviously needed more structure. I had been studying information about DG disc types and characteristics at a main manufacture’s we site, InnnovaDiscs.com. Discs have various speed and flight characteristics. In general faster discs are harder to throw accurately. One day, I began to always throw in “speed order” from lowest to highest. Since this change, my progress has been much better although I still sometimes loose control on my fastest discs.
Adding More Tech and Equipment
- Evernotes for DG research
- Fitness tracking via Android phone Cardio trainer app
- GPS Golf Range Finder on my Galaxy Tab2
- Tablet Camera videos (broken down via AVS video editor for analysis)
- Innova portable practice basket
Next I will develop goals for approach and putting shots as well as other more specialized shots. The results of my effort will be in an eBook with accompanying training materials as Adobe Captivate modules with embedded video. My expectation is that the concept once developed will allow others to generalize the model and apply it to other sports and performance activities.
Further advances in internet and mobile technology can liberate Learning from the classrooms and computer cubicles to the world at large. I’d rather use technology to supplement real world learning situations and scenarios than merely build simulations of reality. What’s your take on my approach?
Two years ago I jumped into Tablet use by buying a NookColor (NC) and then adding a Cyanogen Mod7 SD card which allowed the Nook to boot as a full Android device (v 2.1). Last month I could not resist a Groupon Deal for a refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 for $150 + free shipping. After a few weeks testing and synching all my apps, the verdict is in. It’s time to give my NookColor to my niece! Why you ask? Continue….
After some preliminary work with the Galaxy, the Nook seems so old and slow. The differences are partly hardware and partly software. Android 4.0 is smooth and very mature. The faster and more robust processor and additional RAM in the Galaxy all combine to make its experience better overall. One reason I liked the Cyanogen Android mode on the NC was the ability to access both B&N and other ePubs along with my Amazon Kindle eBooks. Now I have tested and synched both Nook and Kindle accounts to the Galaxy and have all my eBooks avail on one device.
The Nook app on the Cyanogen Android Nook did not fully synch all my eBooks for some reason. Worse yet in full Android mode, the NC ate battery very quickly requiring at least one midday recharge. The Galaxy is very efficient running for over a day between charges with intermittent use. It’s battery time compares to the plain vanilla NC but with all the newer technical advances.
The touch screen on the Galaxy is more sensitive and the visual and auditory feedback makes for a clear UX. Additionally, the Galaxy is both thinner and lighter than the NC. My favorite productivity and research app, Evernote (EN) works much better on the Galaxy then either on the NC or LG My Touch smartphone. For me the best improvement is “speech to text” which is much more accurate on the Galaxy.
First I tried to load the same book, Jack Kennedy Illusive Hero, by C. Mathews in NC Android and Galaxy Nook app modes for a direct visual comparison. The NC Android app kept crashing as the newest update was too much for the system. Not to be deterred, I then booted the NC in standard mode to make the visual comparison as below.
If one looks closely at the NC screen in the left one can see the scanning lines which actually flicker when viewed from my camera. The Galaxy display is cleaner both on the pic and through the camera lens. I matched the text sizes and layouts as best I could. While the Galaxy lacks the tinted background and displays less text per page, the formatting is cleaner more resembles printed text. This combination makes the reading experience a better one for me on the Galaxy.
The Bottom Line
2 years further down the development path for Android tablets, and now we have a very functional device with excellent overall performance @ a gr8 price point, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. Sure there are a lot of very cheaper tablets on the market, but the Galaxy stands out, unless you are an iPad fan, lol.
Our digital devices don’t often break down, but they come with a different type of planned obsolescence. As apps become more complex to take advantage of technical improvements in hardware and OS software, it becomes harder to keep updating older devices with fixed hardware configurations. Evernote updates, for example, stopped working on my NC several revs ago while the NC Android update broke the system today. So, gift your older devices like my NC to a relative or friend and catch this tablet wave. That water’s just fine!
NookColor + Android SD Vs Kindle Fire
Kindle Fire is now shipping and B&N has announced a Nook Tablet version but my preference is still NookColor. Why? Simply stated, more value for the dollars spent. NookColor (specs) has more RAM, more storage and a faster processor than Kindle Fire (specs). As an added incentive B&N just lowered the NookColor price to $199 (same as Kindle Fire), Add the CyanogenMod 7 SD card to a standard NC and you have the best of both worlds.
Since the Pt2 post I have discovered several drawing applications that work on the NC in SD mode, Skitch by the EverNote folks and Sketchbook by Autodesk from Android market. While Skitch is a bit limited but seems useful for tagging photos and adding some callouts, Sketchbook is a very powerful drawing app that I am just beginning to learn. So, it does seem that I will now use my NC for some image work after all. For entertainment earlier tonight I watched two episodes of Caprica via Netfliks in SD mode with good streaming quality on my WiFi
Even cooler is the fact that there is a slick boot menu that comes with the SD card so I can still boot the NC in the B&N mode. Below are photos of both NC modes along with the boot menu.
Standard NC NC w Cyanogen SD Dual Book Menu
Yesterday, I did just that and went to B&N store to download some magazine issues and cancel a subscription to a newspaper that had served its research purpose. After going back to the B&N reader mode, I realized that the Nook App on the SD worked a bit better and re-booted to full Android. Very cool! I also updated the Kindle App on the SD and now that reading experience is much better.
Recap, now the NC works in both B&N and SD modes giving me access to both B&N and Android markets. Having both ePub and Kindle reading capability is a very nice treat. At this point Kindle Fire does not read ePub formatted eBooks. Other apps for creating content with the touch screen are more powerful than expected. Too bad the new Adobe touch apps require Android 3.0 + larger screen with more resolution. Still for what started out as a reader plus is now a fully functional and still inexpensive Android tablet.
Tablets are not FonCs (SmartPhones)!
Working with a reader based tablet device (NookColor.Kindle Fire) is clearly different than working with a FonC (Smartphone) Here are the obvious differences
- Does not have phone service or text messaging
- No camera(s)
- Has larger screen
- Many only have WiFi
So what? I keep my phone on almost always except when charging as I expect it and SMS services to be always online. My NookColor,(NC) however seems more system like, so I tend to turn it off when not in use. After installing the Android 2.3 SD card, I’m adapting to the differences between the tablet and my Android FonC. Since Android devices multitask, best practice is using a task manager App Like (insert link) to conserve battery power. My preferred status of “always-online” for the phone requires constant attention to my Task Killer app. On the NC, I use it after I opened a number of Apps to maximize my battery time.
I carry my pocket sized FonC most places while I keep the NC in my backpack on the road or by my chair at home. Perhaps I’ll get a case for the NC making it a little easier to carry around.
Thinking a bit more about my preferences and work flow styles, I am even more convinced that the NC has made a real difference in the way I process information from online sources. The small FonC screen is fine for tracking my cardio workouts and checking for directions to places and events, but is too small for most text heavy apps. While I do have several apps on both devices, I much prefer EverNote and my news apps from BBC and Pulse on the larger NC screen. Starting the day with a news review and sending tweets to my followers also works better on the NC with the native Twitter client.
More importantly, as a reader based Tablet, the NC allows highlighting and note making. For an academic type like me, this UI is much closer to how I read a text or non-fiction book, Now Ilook forward to reading and studying again every day with my NC as my primary tool. For me, reading and thinking things though require a more sedate space than I have on my laptop or desktop systems.
My first thoughts last year after seeing the initial issues with the iPad, were to wait for a functional Android Device. Since I am an Adobe oriented ID, the non-flash issue was a show stopper for me personally. At the same time I wanted to see how bit the iPad/Tablet market would be before I jumped in.
Well clearly, the iPad was the early winner with over 20Meg systems sold to date. After some research, I decided to wait until a national firm with a support system made an Android tablet that I could work with and more importantly that had a good price point.
Four months ago, I jumped in and purchased a NookColor from my local B&N store. The system was a good reader out of the box with easy to configure reading options and a nice reading experience. Now I began to read, not scan, more seriously collecting several NookBooks I needed for my eBook project. I could not imagine going back to paper books and the reading experience with the ability to highlight, bookmark and share is a quantum leap for authors doing research.
Shortly thereafter B&N upgraded the firmware but the lack of access to the Android Market proved to be a pain in the butt, lol. I have discovered that some of my fav Android apps like BBC news and Astrid task manager work better on a larger screen format. That combined with my fat fingers made me yearn for my NookColor to become a fully functional Android tablet running Fryo (v 2.3)
Enter the Cyanogen Mod7 folks who have made some cool bootable SD cards for the NookColor. I purchased one from Amazon for less than $30 and installed it over the weekend with no problems. Since the system boots off the SD card, my warranty is intact. Now my NookColor is a real tablet that fully supports both my reading and research activities.
Changing my workflow
For years I have developed applications and eLearning modules from my desktop systems or a company laptop at a job site. During development, with all the desktop enhancements of Tweetdeck, multiple email accounts, tabbed browsing, my attention sometimes got distracted. I could turn off the Tweetdeck & email notifications, but after years of web surfing and scanning text, I found that it became hard to concentrate, particularly when I needed to mull things over while thinking them through. I had developed a multi-tasking desktop style that interfered with my content creation work.
Enter the NookColor. I have been able to read and analyze material more effectively ever since I bought my tablet. Sitting in my recliner allows me to read in think in a more relaxed space. Now I have full Android functionality with my research tools like Evernote & native Twitter client. I can check email, news and even tweet when needed.
But working on a Tablet feels different. The virtual KB slows down my typing meaning I don’t spend much time writing emails or tweeting there. I make and review notes and update my schedules and plans but still use the tablet mainly to consume content.
Now my first eBook is more than a gleam in my eyes!