Saturday, April 17, 2010

iPad and universities / Kindle and reader motivation

These are a couple of stories today that I found interesting -- the Kindle one a bit more so as it involved increased interest in reading by less-enthusiastic young readers due to interactive functions such as the ability to add notes (something that's not possible with the iPad iBooks software yet), maybe because many young people today are more in tune with electronic gadgets than with printed works.

 People who use computers, of any age, are also automatic Googlers now, to find information, and the search urge is well met by today's e-readers.  But first:

Apple's IPad Rejected By Some Colleges, For Now
From the Wall Street Journal.  In a piece written by Melissa Korn for Dow Jones Newswires, we find that the iPad, has been rejected by George Washington University and Princeton University, because of network stability issues, and Cornell University also says it is seeing connectivity problems with the iPad and is concerned about bandwidth overload.

Aside from thse problems, it's hard to imagine many students being expected to pay $500 and surely more, when they may still need a desktop or laptop computer to check course assignments or email if the device is to be kept off school networks and when educational content available via the iBookstore is going to be even more less than that available from Amazon's far larger collection of Non-public-domain books (which are 50% of Apple's bookstore content -- a very good reason for them to carry apps from the other, larger bookstores).

Korn also reports that George Washington University said last week that its wireless network's security features don't allow the iPad--or iPhone and iPod Touch, for that matter--to connect, and "Princeton has already proactively blocked about 20% of the devices from its network after noticing malfunctions that can affect the entire school's computer system."

  She added that Princeton "devoted a full page on its information-technology Web site to detailing the iPad problems, saying about half the devices are continuing to use a leased IP address "well beyond the time they should."
  Princeton stressed that its problem wasn't a WiFi issue.  (That's interesting.)  She quotes Corne's IT director statement that they are "working to ensure the iPad does not have devastating consequences to our network."

These colleges all say they're trying to find fixes, with Washington U feeling it may take a year to be able to fully support it.

Other school networks are finding no problems.  The enthusiastic Seton Hill, which ordered iPads immediately, says its students will need to pay up to $800/yr in additional technology fees for an expanded wireless network and support system.  They even think students may still need to buy textbooks.

Korn also writes that Princeton pilot-program students were frustrated by the lack of note-taking or highlighting functions on the Kindle, which would mean they had never read the manual, since they have these features.  What the article should have said is that there is no note-taking or highlighting functions for PDFs; however, most textbooks don't come as PDFs.

There's a LOT more in the article for those interested in all this.

Kindle E-reader Motivates Less-enthusiastic Readers
­ reports that in order to help children become better readers, Kansas State University professor Kotta Larson thinks they may "need to spend less time with their noses stuck in books."  That's definitely a different approach.

As an assistant professor of elementary education, she's finding that electronic readers appear to allow children to interact with texts in ways they don't interact with the printed word.

Working with a pair of second-graders since fall 2009 (not a large sample there), Larson has been using the Kindle, which has features that make the text audible (see blog article about the Kindle voice) and which allow students to increase or decrease font size as well as make notes about the book they're reading.

"It's interesting to see the kinds of things these kids have been able to do," Larson said.
' She said sometimes they make comments summarizing the plot, therefore reinforcing their understanding of the book.  Other times they ponder character development, jotting down things like "If I were him, I'd say no way!"

"As a teacher, I know a student understands the book if she's talking to the characters," Larson said.  "If you take a look at those notes, it's like having a glimpse into their brains as they're reading."

She said the ideal outcome would be for teachers to improve reading instruction by tailoring it to each student.  Tests already have shown improvement in the students' perceptions of their own reading ability.  Larson said the next step would be to gather quantitative data on how reading scores are affected. '
She'll present the work April 25-28 at the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago and did make a presentation in December 2009 at the National Reading Conference.  The work will appear in the journal The Reading Teacher this year.

  Now, Larson is working with e-readers for students who have special needs, as "I think that's where we'll really be able to make a big difference."

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  1. The whole 'iPads are a security issue for the network" sounds like just as big a red herring as when some colleges (I believe Duke, specifically, was one of the most egregious offenders) said the same thing about the iPhone/iPod Touch when they first came out.

    Admittedly, some people would have had problems because the original versions of those two devices didn't allow for WiFi connections using the WPA2 authentication protocol, which is popular among universities and other large corporations. The iPad, however, has no such limitation (I'm using it right now on a WPA2 system), and is arguably more secure than any other OS out there, as it hasn't been released long enough for crackers to find an exploitable vulnerability.

    What most of the university officials mean when they say their networks might be compromised by the iPad is they simply don't have the infrastructure to handle a large number of people consuming content in the manner intended with the iPad (watching YouTube videos, pulling down Apps and iTunes content). But to admit to a lack of a bandwidth is akin to admitting failure in planning for the future, so it's much easier and politically safer to blame the device.

    (As an aside, I used to work in IT at a state university. It was only two years ago that the campus of 20,000+ students gained the network capability to handle more than 80 wireless and VPN users simultaneously – a statistic understandably not well-publicized. Just because they have WiFI coverage all over the place doesn't mean they have the backbone or the authentication servers that can handle a heavy influx in traffic or users.)

  2. D, I also spent time (10 years) as a network specialist/consultant, so am too aware of how many problems can come up and it's usually possible to isolate the cause(s) before too long.

    Princeton describes the prob here and Everythingipad summarizes it

    There are some real-world problems (for some) with connectivity with iPad WiFi (as still discussed on very active Apple support forums), ONE of them, acknowledged by Apple as having to do with third-party dual-band WiFI routers with some (not all) who use different security settings for each network.

    But that doesn't explain why so many have found their problems with connectivity fixed merely by raising the brightness level on their displays, which indicates some wiring that is unusual in design and likely not what most would consider ideal.

    At this point Princeton is honing in on something in iPhone OS 3.2 and the oddness of not renewing its DHCP lease and IP number and describes how that can confuse network functioning.


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