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Posts Tagged ‘mobile

I have not had to buy or borrow a dead-tree book for a long time.

I have been given courtesy copies of books I contributed to. Late last year I received a hardcover copy of a textbook for the Masters course I facilitate because no one asked for the e-version.

About a week ago, I discovered Naked Statistics at a cafe. I thought I found the e-book at our national library, but discovered that it was only a summary. Thankfully the book, in hardcover no less, was available at my local library.

E-book summary of Naked Statistics.

The last time I borrowed an actual library book was almost ten years ago; I only borrow e-books if I need to.

I was aware that I could use an app to borrow actual books without joining the queue at a self-checkout kiosk. So I downloaded the app, logged in to my library account, and scanned the barcode to borrow the book. Eager to devour the book, I read the first two chapters before leaving the library.

NLB mobile app in Apple App Store.

I had to pass through a series of scanners on my way out of the library. The first one beeped like I had kidnapped a member of the royal family. There seemed to be a delayed response between borrowing the book via the app and registering that it was actually borrowed.

The app has a low rating in the app store. None of the reviews that I read mentioned the lag between borrowing and registering. Most mentioned app lagginess and legacy issues.

I asked a librarian if I should be concerned about alarms going off as I made my way through more scanners. She brushed off the issue by saying that the scanners were too sensitive. Did I hurt their feelings by not borrowing enough paper-based books?

Two more questions. Might the lagginess might lie in how the app communicates with a central database? Could the legacy issue be old mindsets on how libraries operate?

Media outlets [WaPo] [ST] were quick to report that a study found that the use of mobile phones resulted in horn-like growths at the base of kids’ skulls.


Video source

The claim was proven false due to lapses in the research and journal review process, and shoddy newspaper reporting.

How many are aware of this? More importantly, how many were literate enough to greet the initial news article with skepticism?

Hank Green did a great job to unpack and critique the research and the news article. His brother John Green narrated a ten-part digital literacies series.

Newspapers and popular media outlets are not going to help readers develop this skillset. We must help ourselves. The devil is in the details and being digitally literate is a key component in the self-help programme.

These two tweets have something in common — they highlight relics of the past shrouded in the cloak of modernity.

Both mention current technologies. The first critiques the thinking around content delivery while the second focuses on content submission. Both hint at the change in medium and not a corresponding or upward change in method.

The tweets reminded me of an event I attended recently. I had to download a mobile app that generated a QR code which was used to take my attendance. Sounds progressive, right?

I wondered how it worked. When I found out, I was disappointed. The QR code was just my full name and the attendance taker checked this manually against a printed list.

This took longer than me stating my name and showing my identification card. This was even longer for folks who did not download the app — they had to do that first, sign in on the app (if they could remember their log in details), and then learn how to find their QR code.

Then there were some who did not bother and the attendance taker just asked them for their names. So why go through the motions of using the app and QR code when stating your name was enough?

Again, there was a change in medium (QR code) but not in the method (taking attendance). The technology was overkill for something so simple.

If, on the other hand, the QR code was tied to individual verification and the event being more selective about its participants, this might have made for sense. The method would not just have been about attendance, it would have been about selection and verification.

So this is my long-standing critique technology implementation, particularly in schools and educational institutions: Superficial changes or administrative procedures seem to come first. This is not meaningful and powerful integration of technology. For that to happen, we must put the learners and learning first.

The tweet below would like you know that kids (also) read books while adults (also) read from screens.

This is news if you live under a rock or choose not to observe people around you.

The tweet also claims that “the tides have turned”, meaning that adults are doing what kids do and vice versa. No, the tides have not. They ebb and flow, and you see what you see depending where and when you are.

It is not unusual for adults to use their mobile devices as much as, or more than kids. If you live in the modern world, your daily commute on public transport will confirm this. There is also research to back this up.

Kids are still made to complete books lists as part of school or homework, regardless of whether such reading is meaningful or not. They are held to the standards of the past and prepared for their teacher’s history instead of their own futures.

Kids also still go to libraries to borrow books. They do so because they have inculcated good reading habits and do so for pleasure.

So back to the tweet: An anecdote is not data; a snapshot is not representative. It is meant to be funny, but it sends the wrong message. The tides have not turned. Instead they ebb and flow, and dynamic change is what matters.

I reflected twice on getting a mobile connection while travelling in Malaysia. The first time I relied on a Digi prepaid SIM; the second time I went with Maxis Hotlink.

I just returned from a short trip, this time with neither a mifi device and nor a Malaysian prepaid SIM card.

Local telco providers have made it a bit more convenient to get connected overseas. Emphasis on “a bit“ and not on “convenient“.

If you are on a postpaid plan, you might have the option of applying for a data plan without removing your sim card and not breaking the bank. However, these options are not likely to be as cheap as getting a Malaysian SIM the moment you land in a Malaysian airport. The telco kiosks for such prepaid SIMs are typically positioned right before you hit immigration counters.

A better deal might be had with a Singapore prepaid SIM. I use StarHub and I could use my allotted local data overseas. I ensured that I had:

  • enough purchased data
  • activated the data roaming option in the app (see screenshot below)
  • activated the data roaming setting in the phone
  • ensured the APN was set correctly (see screenshot below)
  • at least $3 in the prepaid app’s wallet

Data roaming setting in StarHub prepaid app.

The prepaid app provided clear instructions and automated the APN setting. I only found out the minimum wallet amount after receiving an SMS from StarHub once I arrived in Malaysia.

$3 minimum wallet amount required in StarHub prepaid app for roaming.

Your telco might disable the tethering function. This means that you cannot share the prepaid data plan with other devices. This was the case with my prepaid plan with StarHub. However, I discovered that the tethering was enabled once connected to Malaysian providers. Your mileage might vary with the overseas country’s telco service you connect to.

It has taken years for us to reach this “seamless” state and I very much appreciate it. I can still remember a fellow traveller and I getting anxious about getting connected in Denmark just four years ago.

Note: I have not been asked to describe or promote the service by StarHub nor have I been paid by the telco to do so. I am sharing my experience as a reminder of my travel needs and to help others in their decision-making.

… or do as I do?

That was my reaction when I read this article in STonline about a local school restricting mobile gaming from 7am to 2pm.

Before I explain my reaction, I should point out that the newspaper article was a report of a report. There could be information loss from translation and there definitely was selective reporting of another report. That said, I have to work only with the information at hand.

Draconian measures by HCI on mobile gaming.

The crux of the matter is this: Students cannot use their own devices for mobile games right before school starts and during breaks.

Sometimes it is logical for students to be held to different standards. Other times it is not. For example, there are dress codes for students’ uniforms and their general appearances that teachers are not subject to.

Some would argue that the adults have matured to the point of understanding socially accepted standards of decency so that they know how to dress professionally.

If you believe that, you have not sampled enough adults. That is why we have dress codes everywhere, even at a beach.

So if standards and codes of conduct are the norm, what is wrong with a partial ban on mobile gaming?

Consider this: How would you like to be told that you cannot check your Facebook feed on your commute to work because you need to psyche yourself up for work?

Or how you like to be told that you cannot nap, gossip, or surf down rabbit holes during your lunch break?

Yes, both the students and teachers are at school and schools are walled gardens separate from the real world. So what happened to bringing the real world in?

Some teachers I know do not draw that line. I know adults who are just as guilty of walking distractedly or being overly engaged with their phones. What gives these adults the right to say “do as I say and not as I do?”

As for the adults who say “do as I say because I do not do what you do”, I ask: Just how real world is that? How (dis)connected are you?

This reflection has been brought to you by the medieval workshop of Draconian Measures.

Sometimes I leave home without my wallet. In my wallet are various forms of identification, of which the most important is my national identity card.
 

 
I wonder if I am asked to prove my identity that what I have on my phone will suffice. After all, I use a biometric to unlock it. Alternatively, I use a code that only I know.

Once the phone is unlocked, I can launch apps with another round of verification with biometrics that show:

  • Scans of my identify card and passport
  • Credit cards in Apple Pay
  • Bank accounts via apps
  • Store accounts via apps
  • Various bills and statements via apps

I also have photos and videos of me and my family on my phone. My social and other media apps are linked to my identity.

Like most people, I would freak out if I lost or damaged my phone. If there was a fire at home, the first thing I would reach for is my phone. If there was an emergency, my phone would be my lifeline.

I am certain most people would relate to this sentiment: You wring my phone only from my cold, dead hands.

Our phones are insidiously and significantly linked to us. So why are some classrooms still so phone-resistant, phone-absent, or phone-ignorant? Why are administrative bodies still so paper-based? Why are both so stuck in the past?

I am not asking you to prepare for the future. I am just asking that you stay relevant to the present.


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