teaching and technology

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.

family ties, teaching and technology

Qik Response


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.

teaching and technology

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.

teaching and technology

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.

teaching and technology

Typing and keyboards

I’m a touch-typist. My father convinced me to learn how to type. When I was in sixth grade he gave me a typing book and allowed me to use his Underwood typewriter one hour each day.  Typing is a skill I recommend to everyone. Now, a good touch-typist needs a comfortable keyboard. Although small, the keyboards of the much lamented Revo and 5mx machines were quite nice. I could touch-type on both. The Revo introduced me to thumb-typing. I was surprised that muscle memory allowed me to touch-type on the keyboard using only my thumbs! The Revo and the 5mx allowed me to work practically anywhere. After years of hard service, my Psions are both dead.

For a while, I had Stowaway folding keyboards for my Pocket PCs. The Stowaway was close to full-length in size and was a technical wonder. I read someplace that one is on display in a museum somewhere.

I stopped using the Stowaway because of lag-time. It is really annoying when what you type takes a second or so to appear on the Pocket PC screen. I’ve had three Pocket PCs and lag-time was present in all three.

These days I carry a Nokia Wireless Keyboard (SU-8W).  The keyboard works well with my Nokias. And there is no lag-time.  I can comfortably touch-type. And that, I believe, is the most important thing with keyboards. Comfort.