Read your Bible everyday, Take Two

Reports say that over 60% of smartphones being used today use the Android operating system. And most of these are Samsung-branded devices. I’ve been often asked my recommendations regarding Bibles for these devices and, to my surprise, the top two applications I volunteer have been my favorites for over ten years.

Olivetree.com’s BibleReader and Laridian.com’s PocketBible are the best in my experience and their apps are available for multiple platforms. I’ve used their Bibles since my Palm Pilot days.

Olivetree’s Android version is more mature than Laridian’s. If you like options, get BibleReader. You can even get the free SBL Greek New Testament. If you like clean and simple, then it’s PocketBible for you. Much better is to have both apps.

Now, if you like reading your Bible while listening to a dramatic audio presentation of what you’re reading, then go to http://www.bible.is.

Leave your laptop or netbook home

The Psion handhelds (the 5mx and the Revo) gave me the inspiration to leave my laptop at home. These were stand-alone devices and I did most of my papers in graduate school on these much-missed foreparents of today’s Symbian smartphones. Then I tried the Palm devices and the excellent folding keyboard from ThinkOutside. After that period, I had a pair of Jornadas: one had a bolt-in device that allowed me to go online; while the other had a bolt-on thumb keyboard.

But the Palm and Windows CE devices were not stand-alone units. I missed my Psions terribly until I was introduced to the Nokia 6600. Yes, it was wide, it was thick, it looked like a hand grenade but it was a pocket rocket. The 6600, although it lacked a qwerty keyboard, offered me the “pocket office” which the Psions did. It was, of course, more than a pocket office. It was my first connected pocket office.

These past few years, as those who read this blog know already, I have been well served by Nokia’s E-series monoblock qwerty phones. Today, I pack an E6.

What do these connected pocket office devices need in order for me to leave my laptop or netbook at home? First, they should allow me to work (read, write, edit, check grades, do email anywhere, take pictures and videos, record meetings and conferences). Physical keyboards are a must for me. Second, they should allow me to go online (for research, for podcasts, for news, for RSS feeds, for updating my blogs, for social networking, for entertainment). Third, they should keep me connected (via calling, SMS, skype, chat).

You can do all these and more on your laptop or netbook. But I chose to do these and more on my Nokia E6.

Nokia Evolves

I like QWERTY phones. I especially like Nokia’s. I’ve been through four so far: the E61i, the E63, the C3, and the E5. The E63 has been my favorite among the four. I think my work laptop and my home netbook are jealous since I spend more time with my phones than with my computers. I read somewhere that more and more people access the web on their phones. I agree. I’m one of them.

Those who read my blog know that I use my QWERTY phones as laptop replacements. Quickoffice allows me to do most of my work anywhere and anytime. Opera Mini and Mobile provide me the browsers that meet my surfing needs. And I’ve done most of my reading on tiny screens going back to my Palm V and Psion Revo days…

For several years now I’ve used my E63 as primary handheld device. The keyboard is excellent. Better than the E5’s if you ask me. Better even than the popular E71’s. Its keyboard, for me, was second to none. Until I tried the new E6.

Aside from the obvious benefits of the “touch-and-type” newcomer, I can actually thumb-type faster on the E6 than on the E63, one thumb or two thumbs! I think it boils down to ergonomics. The E6 fits my hands better than the E63.

Nokia’s QWERTY phones have evolved for me. The E61i had a 2.8″ screen but it felt too wide for me. The C3 felt too small and too light. The E5 was a powerhouse but it’s keyboard felt inferior to the E63’s. The E6 practically meets all my requirements for a laptop replacement. The USB-to-go function is a major feature that most reviews fail to mention. The screen resolution is fantastic. And Symbian Anna is a joy to use.

I think the E6 is a much better, all around device compared to Nokia’s other flagships (the N8 and E7).

Videoconferencing in the classroom

I am sharing below an article written by my colleague Kelley Coblentz Bautch on videoconferencing.

How Videoconferencing with International Scholars Can Enliven Your Classroom
By Kelley N. Coblentz BautchSt. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas

“So,” asked the students of Prof. Revelation Velunta, “Why do you want to speak with us? Whydo you want to know about the study of the Bible in the Philippines?” The students wereaddressing us from Manila, where it was midnight their time. By means of videoconferencing—namely using Skype [Sky-Peer-to-Peer technology]), students from St. Edward’s University inAustin, Texas who were taking an introductory class had just had an opportunity to learn about“Decolonizing the Bible” from Revelation Velunta, Professor of New Testament and CulturalStudies at Union Theological Seminary (Philippines) in real time.

Prof. Velunta spoke with thestudents about the Philippines and its colonial past and how the experience of colonialism affectsone’s experience of reading the Bible. My students who had become accustomed to taking intoconsideration the historical context of ancient texts were thinking further about the context ofthe reader of these texts. Professor Velunta helped my students think about how biblical texts areread in different communities and to realize more clearly their own social location. Needless tosay, the experience was an important one for my students and for me.Why should a biblical scholar and her students in the United States speak with a scholar in thePhilippines? Why should an educator communicate with scholars in other countries about one’sdiscipline? Why share such interchanges with students? I can offer many good reasons. Myuniversity, although located in an urban and culturally diverse region, is interested in deepeningthe global awareness of our students. While we encourage study abroad and host a number ofnotable programs for students (such as in Angers, France and Edinburgh, Scotland), faculty arealso thinking about how we can further internationalize our students’ education even on campus.Further, I have been working to make the classroom interactive and dynamic and have soughtways to share with students and to make concrete the various methodologies and approaches toreading the Bible and the nature of scholarly exchange. By speaking with a biblical scholar fromthe Philippines, my students have the opportunity to learn new perspectives and to experience thediversity and dynamism of the academy. These lofty goals I have been able to realize, in part, by1 I would like to thank Revelation Velunta and the students of Union Theological Seminary (Dasmarinas, Cavite,Philippines), Milton Acosta, and Christo Lombaard for their generosity in sharing their time and expertise withstudents at St. Edward’s University. I would also like to express my appreciation for Eric Trimble, Faculty ResourceCenter Manager of St. Edward’s University, who facilitated these video-conference sessions, and for LeighAndersen, Managing Editor of Publications, Society of Biblical Literature, for reading a draft of this essay andoffering helpful suggestions.inviting Prof. Velunta to speak with my students. The most important rewards are at theinterpersonal level. My horizons and those of my students have been expanded. Prof. Veluntachallenged us to read biblical literature differently and while we realized through the exchangeour differences, we also were reminded of how these differences enrich our world. Further,through humor as well as frank discussion of difficult texts and through Prof. Velunta’sencouraging us to reflect on our own gifts, we were reminded of our common humanity andabout what we share.Our visit with Professor Velunta of about one hour was transformative for us, recalling in manyrespects the experience of travel abroad. I have always been convinced that internationalexperiences are essential to our development. From study of languages to cultures, biblicalscholars are well poised to grasp the importance of awareness of other contexts and peoples. Ihave been enriched and challenged through such experiences and have certainly grown as aresult. The opportunities to learn from and study with excellent scholars outside of one’s homecountry, to conduct research abroad and to participate in symposia and conferences (such as theSociety of Biblical Literature International Meeting) that bring together scholars from around theworld are truly gifts that assist us in our intellectual development and scholarship. The Society ofBiblical Literature also recognizes the value in international exchanges.“The SBL launched the International Cooperation Initiative (ICI) to foster biblicalscholarship and to facilitate mutual cooperation among colleagues.” (Description of “theInternational Cooperation Initiative” (ICI), http://www.sblsite.org/InternationalCoopInitiative.aspx).“In accordance with the recommendations of the International Cooperation Initiative(ICI), SBL is establishing a set of lists that will facilitate faculty cooperation, includingexchange and co-supervision among scholars and institutions in different parts of theworld.” (the “ICI Teaching Collaboration Program”; http://www.sblsite.org/educational/ICITeaching.aspx).The International Cooperation Initiative (hereafter, ICI) and its various projects that facilitatebiblical scholarship and teaching globally are, for me, welcome additions to the Society ofBiblical Literature. In addition to being able to pledge financial support for the ICI Program, Iwas delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate my interest in academic exchange by beinglisted on the ICI Scholar List. The “Scholar List” assists international cooperation by providing adatabase of biblical scholars who are interested in supervising or mentoring students from othercountries, teaching abroad or hosting faculty from abroad, or teaching via electronic media.While I look forward to participating further in the various kinds of scholarly exchangefacilitated by the ICI program, I can share how the Scholar List has been helpful to my studentsand me thus far.I consulted the list this last year as I sought out colleagues to serve as guest speakers by means ofvideoconferencing for some of my classes. Three biblical scholars from outside of NorthAmerica who are participants in the ICI program and willing to teach via electronic media wereespecially important in providing my students with an international perspective and, I think,expanding my students’ horizons vis-à-vis the Bible. Thanks to the ICI program andvideoconferencing, my students were able to meet and learn from Milton Acosta, Professor ofBible and Theology at the Fundación Universitaria Seminario Biblico in Medellin, Colombia,Christo Lombaard, Professor of Christian Spirituality of the University of South Africa inPretoria, and Prof. Velunta whose presentation I described above. Students at St. Edward’sUniversity benefited from the presentations of Profs. Acosta, Lombaard, and Velunta, as eachcommands different areas of expertise within biblical studies. At the same time, these biblicalscholars are masterful teachers who also brought new vistas to my students and their encounterwith the Bible.How so? A number of my students remarked that Skype was especially valuable in providingthem with a global perspective on the study of the Bible. For example, I asked students what theyknow about the Bible as a result of our visits with scholars from other countries that they wouldnot know otherwise; one student responded: “(the guest lectures) helped me to grasp the fact thatthe Hebrew Bible is interpreted differently throughout the world and (that) living conditions andpast experiences play a huge role in the interpretation of the Bible.” When asked about hisexperience speaking with our class, Prof. Velunta shared: “Opportunities to meet and interactwith people from different and diverse contexts and cultures make education exciting andchallenging.” My students and I wholeheartedly agree.While the use of technology in the classroom may not always be without difficulties and whilebringing scholars to my campus or having students and me travel to theirs would be especiallydesirous, with limited resources in the way of time and money, videoconferencing offers anotheralternative for international cooperation and scholarly exchange in the classroom. As Prof.Lombaard describes:

The chance to share one’s insights with students who are oceans and continents away issomething very special. Usually this dynamic is limited to one’s own students, and a fewcolleagues at conferences. In the past, it was only with substantial commitments in traveland time that lecturers had the privilege of sharing their newly developing ideas withstudents in other contexts. Now, via technology, and facilitated by the SBL’s ICIprogram, this has become much easier. Although there is no match for the full dynamicof being present in person in a class, technologically mediated classes are by no means analternative to be ignored.

I will always encourage my students to travel and study abroad; likewise, I will seek to visitpeers in their countries and find ways to facilitate their travel and mine so that we can worktogether and continue to learn from one another. Additionally, I am grateful that technologywould allow us to share with our guild, communities, and students the knowledge and wisdom ofcolleagues in distant lands. When funding or the means of travel is not available,videoconferencing—particularly Skype, which is available for free—can still provide studentswith a virtual window of the world. Prof. Velunta similarly notes:

Technology allows people to cross borders that most would not be able to cross. (Videoconferencing)provides us the next best thing to face-to-face encounters. Moreover, Iremember Sean Connery sharing that, being very, very poor, he got the greatest gift he’sever received when he was five years old. He learned to read. For many today, especiallyin my part of the world, Skyping provides a similar gift.

Thus, if you are interested in teaching with electronic media, participating in scholarly exchange,and would like to further interact with colleagues from around the world, be sure to visit the“Scholar List” and learn more about SBL’s International Cooperation Initiative.

Prof. Lombaard shared with me: “My experience teaching Professor Coblentz-Bautch’s class atSt. Edward’s University was as positive for me as it seems to have been for her students. Had itnot been for the ICI program, this would never have happened.” Thank you, Society of BiblicalLiterature, and members of the ICI Executive Board; you are indeed facilitating mutualcooperation among colleagues and are internationalizing our professional society in manypositive ways.

Nokia’s QWERTY messaging devices

Most people know that I love qwerty devices. Right now, the Nokia E5 fits my requirements. I needed a replacement for my ageing E61i.  So, my favorite E63 has a more powerful companion.  If you check around, you will discover that this E-series holds the record for the most number of applications running at the same time (74!). It’s the multi-tasking king.

I also appreciate the facebook client and how it integrates with the phone’s contacts.  Another helpful feature involves six options for the Home screen theme. You can choose horizontal icon bar, active, basic, vertical icon, talking theme, and contacts bar. Really cool.

An S40 version of the S60 E5 would be the popular C3. I read somewhere that Nokia has sold so many of these messaging devices. If you’re into facebook, twitter, and instant messaging, this device might interest you. It’s been through two major firmware updates since it came out so Nokia is definitely taking care of its user base. Now, if you’re used to S60, the C3 would frustrate you a bit.

The Tube Jr.

Tube and JuniorTube Jr Homescreen againThe tasks I do require me to have at least two phones on my person most of the time. I do have a preference for smartphones. To this day, I think the Psion 5mx and Revo Plus remain unequaled.

Presently, I have a brace of Nokia Touchscreen phones, the 5800XM and the 5530XM, that meets my needs.

The 5800 needs no introduction. I think even Nokia did not expect it to be a runaway bestseller. It has its bugs but I expect the forthcoming major firmware update due in October will fix most of the irritations.

Now, the 5530 is Nokia’s low-end entry into the touchscreen arena (the N97 covers the high-end and the  5800 covers the mid-tier). Another low-ender, the 5230 is also arriving on the scene very soon.  Most reviews have been positive because the 5530 sports kinetic scrolling, an enhanced homescreen, a great display, solid build, and, more importantly, a great price.

The homescreen of the Tube Jr alone will tell you that Nokia has another winner. Just check out the pictures above. You have a scrolling contacts bar with up to 20 of your favorites (4 in the Tube). There are no physical hardware buttons (the Tube has 3 in front). And you can put the music player’s controls (with album art) on the homescreen (or the radio’s buttons)!

Lest we forget, the Tube Jr. has a lot of goodies (3G, video-calling, GPS, etc.) that are missing compared to the more expensive Tube.

Qik Response

qik

qik

Qik is one of the first applications I install on a brand new smartphone.  The install process is really “qik” and the application is ready to go in a few minutes.  Most people who see it in action for the first time find it hard to believe that I’m streaming live video through my phone.

I use Qik to do four things on a regular basis. First, I stream short videos of my students in action. They come from different parts of the country (and the world) and their families and friends would love to see how they’re doing in school.  Second, I stream videos of my colleagues and friends’ “light moments”. You know, taking a Starbuck’s break, a fellowship meal at Mang Inasal, that rare Videoke Night, a quick trip to Baguio… Third, I stream videos of church people fulfilling their prophetic commitment (joining the people’s SONA, making a stand against extra-judicial killings, protecting Mother Earth). Last,  I stream videos of family gatherings. We’re all over the place and live video streams are better, much, better than pictures.

And, yes, all these video streams were taken with the consent of the subjects.

If you haven’t tried Qik, fire up your phone’s browser and go to d.qik.com.

Pocket Computers

Laptop and Smartphone

Laptop and Smartphone

Nokia’s tagline, from desktop to laptop to pocket, is more than a tagline. A recent article featured in allaboutsymbian.com argued that Nokia is the world’s biggest computer manufacturer.  I agree.

I treat my smartphones as laptop alternatives and thus handle them the way I do computers. I install applications only on the phone’s memory, keep all files on memory cards, and backup regularly. I always use screen protectors and keep my phones in protective cases.

Yes, they are phones. But they are pocket computers too.

The Nokia E63 and E61i take over…

Nokia E63

Nokia E63

While netbooks are quite popular these days, I find myself using mine less and less. I’ve been turning to my Nokia E63 and E61 for most of the things I used to do on my netbooks. Let me explain why…

First. I read a lot. With the quintet of QuickOffice, Adobe Reader 2.5, Mobipocket Reader, Opera Mini, and OliveTree’s Biblereader, I have all my bases covered. I can practically read anywhere and anytime.  I can check my students’ grades, catch up on my Bible reading, take a quick glance at today’s lesson plan, and read Rizal or Mark Twain wherever and whenever I want.

Second. Web access. Opera Mini and the S60 Browser meet my surfing needs quite well. I almost never go online to be entertained. I go online to read (there’s that word again) and do research. Access to information from the net, within seconds, is very important to me. Both phone browsers allow me to save webpages.

Third. Email. I check my GMail, Yahoo, Ovi, and office email on my phones first thing in the morning. It takes less than 10 minutes to get all my accounts updated.  The landscape screens on my E Series phones are great for reading email. And both work well outdoors.

Fourth. Listening pleasure. Nokia’s Podcasting application is a treat. I particularly enjoy listening to the guys at AllAboutSymbian.com. I’ve been using Nokia Betalabs’ Audiobooks since it came out and I can’t recommend it enough. The wealth of free stuff at LibriVox.org and the free Nokia Audiobook Manager provide me the tools to make my own Audiobooks for my Nokias. If you haven’t had the opportunity to “hear” the Bible or the Classics,  then this is your chance. Depending on my mood, I fire up Internet Radio or Visual Radio. Together, these radios allow me access to my favorite FM stations and talk shows.

I could go on and on.  If you own a smartphone, QWERTY model or otherwise, you know what I’m talking about.

Two EEEs, an ACER Aspire One, and an HP Mini

from CNET

from CNET

If you’ve been counting, I have had the opportunity to work with four netbooks in the past year or so. First was the Asus EEE 701. Its biggest selling point was its portability. I convinced close family members and friends to buy their own. Next came the Acer Aspire One. I fell in love with its keyboard. Mine has an 8GB SDHC card in its storage expansion slot. A dear friend got one for herself. I bought my spouse an Asus EEE 1000H for Christmas. I have borrowed it from her on several occasions. I call it a powerhouse. It can actually replace a full-blown laptop. Its 6-cell battery can last over 5 hours on power-save mode.

The HP Mini 1000 I now use as my primary netbook sports the crappiest webcam among the four.  Its battery life is so-so.  It has no VGA port so there’s no way you can connect it to a monitor or a projector unless you buy the HP dongle.  Yet, despite these flaws, it’s my current favorite. Aside from its excellent keyboard, which I’ve written about earlier, the Mini is probably the coolest looking netbook you can find at its price range.  It’s under an inch think, weighs just a tad over 2 pounds, and is actually, with its 10.2″ screen,  smaller than the ACER, with its 8.9″ screen, in over-all dimensions.

All four devices work very well in a school setting. The 1000H, over 3 pounds, is still light enough to carry in a backpack or even large purse.  These carry-everywhere computers only work if you carry them everywhere.  Except for the Mini, the netbooks come with a sleeve or case.  I usually carry both the Mini and the AA1 in my Sandugo backpack.  All four connect with no problems with the Wi-fi services available at Mocha Blends, Burger King, Robinson’s Place, and my brother’s house.   I can easily surf the web on the Mini and the 1000H via bluetooth using my Nokia phones. Globe’s Visibility USB Modem works great with the Aspire One.

These devices are great for word processing and other office apps, for surfing, for blogging, for skyping, for reading, for listening to audiobooks and music, for watching the occasional video, and for playing Solitaire and other relaxing games.  They are great as second or third computers. They are not supposed to replace a desktop.

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