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Posts Tagged ‘power

Technology is the toolset that wields that power. The title and the last sentence were what I took away from watching the video below.


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Neil deGrasse Tyson has a way of using plain speak to explain science. In emphasising the importance of scientific literacy, he told a story about Christopher Columbus and opined the outcome of a theoretical alien visit.

He told a story of how Columbus fooled native Americans with his knowledge of a lunar eclipse. He also explained why intelligent life in the form of aliens, not just movie versions, would beat us flat if it came to that.

Knowledge becomes power when you have something that someone else does not. However, that power is empty until the knowledge is embodied in technology as a form of delivery.

If that principle holds true, then why are some teachers still withholding technology from (or using older technologies with) their students? Might they be trying to cling on to power as misguided practice?

Yesterday I shared some wifi-related tips for the road warrior. Today I focus on hardware peripherals.
 

 
If wifi is like the air, then electrical power is the food and water of your devices. Since you cannot guarantee yourself a power point when you are on the move, an external battery that can charge a phone, slate, or even a laptop is a must.

I do not recommend skimping on quality when buying a battery and the cables that feed your devices. You do not want to risk damage to either the battery or your devices.

A good (but expensive) brand is Anker. (Disclosure: I am not paid to promote the brand.) If you choose to buy external battery packs and charging cables from Anker, I recommend you buy them online from the supplier instead of a store. A SGD24 cable online can cost between SGD5 to 10 more in store.

If, like me, you need to conduct seminars or facilitate workshops, you need a laptop charger and a dongle to connect to a projector. I recommend buying a spare charger from the maker of your laptop or go for a reputable brand.

If you have a Macbook Pro, you might only have USB-C ports and need to get a multi-purpose dongle that provides power, one or more USB-A ports, VGA and/or HDMI output, and a LAN (cabled Internet) connection.

If you can afford to, get one dongle and a set of cables for home and one for the travel bag. This avoids the inconvenience of disconnecting and reconnecting cables at home while ensuring you are prepared for whatever a new room throws at you.

My last tip is an expensive one: Noise-cancelling headphones. These drown the world out while allowing you to make clear phone or video calls. While some might baulk at the cost, noise-cancelling headphones are an investment for your sanity.

Oh, and get the over-the-ear headphones and not the stick-in-your-ear earphones. The headphones send others a visual signal that you are not to be disturbed.

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. -- Thoreau

In a previous reflection, I noted how there seemed to be a phantom power draw by my Toshiba 2 Chromebook when I used it in presentation and facilitation mode.

The lowered battery life seemed to be due to my use of an HDMI-to-VGA dongle to project my screen during workshops. This was odd given how the Chromebook was a relatively passive device.

Recently I used my Chromebook for 6.5 hours straight in active use. I was grading learner performance with Google Forms and fact-checking in Chrome. I did this over a day in one morning and one afternoon session. I still had a little over two hours of battery life left when I responded to email at a cafe later.
 

 
All this seems is counterintuitive: Use the device passively to project the screen and the battery runs out, but use it actively and it is an all-workday device.

The difference is the HDMI dongle which seems to sap battery life. I estimate it reduces battery life in my Chromebook Toshiba 2 by about half.

This part of my reflection on my visit to London for Bett focuses on travel tips.

Mobile power
As with any trip, I brought a power pack for my iPhone. The iPhone was a thirsty beast when I was getting directions, taking photos, and surfing for information, so it helped to have a portable oasis.

Local prepaid SIM
Before leaving for London, I asked around and did my research online for a suitable prepaid SIM. This wiki was a good start, but its information might not be current.

I settled on Three’s PAYG All In One 15. It might cost GBP15 if you live in the UK and can get a free SIM, but it will cost you GBP20 if you buy it over the counter or from a vending machine like the one below.

The SIMs from the vending machine come in a three-in-one pack (normal, mini, nano sizes). The SIM is set to go; there is no need to activate them by calling a number, scratching top up cards, or typing in codes. Take out your old SIM, put the new one in, restart your phone, and start surfing/using your new number.

This prepaid plan gave me 3000 SMS, 300 minutes of calls, and unlimited data over a month. You cannot tether the phone and thus share your Internet connection. However, you can if you have a jailbroken phone like mine.

The 3G and 4G signal was relatively poor in East London where I stayed and also where the ExCeL Centre was located. I would often get only a 3G, one dot/bar signal. This was often not enough bandwidth to tether. Fortunately, there were lots of free wifi spots at the Centre, museums, libraries, etc.

Finding your way around
Google Maps might be your best friend. It was mine.

The Travel for London (TfL) site’s journey planner is mobile-friendly and fast, but I got more mileage out of Google Maps. It not only provided different options, travel times, and congestion warnings, it also provided greater details like walking directions and which exits to head for.

There is no 3G/4G service underground, so it is important to cache information beforehand. The eastern train lines are over ground so that might buy you some surfing time.

The Tube map and signs underground might look confusing. But they are clear when you realize that you must have TWO pieces of information: Your destination and the terminating point of your train (this also applies to the bus services).

If you are taking a more than 30-minute train journey, it is rare that you stay on one train. You train hop to get from one point to another. When underground, you might lose your sense of direction especially when moving from one platform to another. Often one platform might serve trains going to two or three end points. Make sure you get on a train whose terminating point allows you to travel to your destination.

Accommodation
I opted to go for an Airbnb place because hotels around the conference centre were expensive and filled up quickly.

I stayed in someone’s home for a week and used that as my base of operations and travel. Not only was the deal cheaper, I was able to live like a local and get tips from the couple that hosted the stay.

The following were added after publishing due to a revisioning problem.

Groceries
London is the land of Tesco. There are thankfully more of these grocery stores than there are McDonald’s joints. But I found that some items were cheaper at Sainsbury’s Local.

These grocery stores are great for buying bottled water, snacks, and cheap meals. If you really have to eat on the cheap, Pret A Manger is a chain that seems to be everywhere.

Cash or card
While it is useful to have cash on hand, a credit card that supports wireless payment is fast and convenient. I used my MasterCard’s PayPass at the prepaid SIM vending machine, Oyster PAYG travel card kiosks, and grocery self-checkouts.


Video source

This is a viral video of people who pushed a train to free a man whose leg got stuck between the train and the platform.

The people could have waited for official help to arrive. They could have listened to the guidelines or obeyed the law about leaving things to the authorities.

Instead they collectively took matters into their own hands. They not only helped the official free the man, they also helped themselves by reducing the train delay.

There is the madness of mobs and there is the wisdom of crowds. The former tends to arise from fear, ignorance, and tight rules. The latter tend to come from places of openness, shared knowledge, and trust.

Leaders do not have to leave things to chance. You can create the conditions for madness or nurture a culture for wisdom. You can try to control people like a herd or you can learn to manage them as individuals.

The most effective modern leaders know this: To have people power, you must empower people. If you leave and the people cannot move forward on their own or find leaders in their ranks, you were never a leader in the first place.

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Never mind that this is an Apple ad for the iPhone 5S. The examples could apply to any modern and current smartphone.

These (and more) are the possibilities and affordances that smartphones bring us. And yet some of us still try to limit it by banning it from classrooms or reluctantly using it like a small desktop computer.

Video source

This video might provide useful information to marketers or serve as an impetus to use videos in advertising. But I see a message for those of us in education.

There is at least one thing better than the power of video to show you something. It is the power to create your own videos to teach, to learn, and to learn by teaching.


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