Posts Tagged ‘Notability’

I’ve had an idea for the next tech gadget; I apologise if it is already on someone’s drawing board – and if it exists already, I’d love to hear about it.

It’s a virtual desk. Well, a real desk, that does some ‘e’ things…

The idea came about this morning, while working on a uni assignment. My course is all online; the readings, the university website, even uploading my assignment. At the moment, I am working on an iPad and a desktop, switching between using apps like Notability (great for virtual highlighting and note making on the PDF documents I’m viewing), to stalwart programs like Word (where I’m writing the piece itself). Along the way, I’m dropping out of the virtual realm, making notes, thoughts and doodles on paper.

It’s not entirely satisfactory though, or at least it doesn’t feel right in the sense of a tactile and functional learning process is… or even the sense of the aesthetic. And that is where the virtual desk comes in. I got the idea, in part, from the Australian Museum’s virtual display of a collection of things that bite and sting – the blue ringed octopus, ants, box jellyfish, a shark etc – that you can prod at on a large table, with projections from above, and information pops up about the type of ‘bite’ you have received from your virtual prodding. The desk senses your interaction and responds, albeit in a relatively limited fashion, accordingly (try as I might, I couldn’t find a photo for this post!)

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer ...

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer interface he first designed as part of the advisory work for the film Minority Report. The system, called “g-speak”, is now real and working. Note the gloves Underkoffler is wearing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The virtual desk would be a real desk that, when switched on, would allow you to have a Minority Report (and now I HAVE found a pic, using Zemanta, that seems to show that something approaching my desk, is on the way). But rather than having something vertical, I’m pitching for something horizontal… traditional. A desk where items, such as documents, would appear in front of you. Items that you could slide around, see at once, write on (whether that be with a stylus, like a pen or pencil) or in a way that leads to type being produced.

I would like to think that the desk could be an old one… even a leather topped one (which is something that I have never owned), or something befitting the title “bureau”. And when you’ve finished and switched it off, that majestic item retains its place in your house, rather than being another in a long line of ‘computer ware’.

Just a thought that I figured I would get down while it was in mind. Feel free to send me a pic if you have something like this at your house!

On Monday I will start my first degree since the early 90s. I’m undertaking a Masters in Education, specialising in eLearning. The differences in the two approaches couldn’t be more pronounced. On the one hand, my first English lecture had 800 odd sitting listening to a lecture from a professor with decades of tenure, discuss (I think) the novel, Joseph Andrews. At the time (1989), I was in awe of the University itself – the oldest in Australia – with the size of its place, all of the buildings and the 1000s of students. So this wonderment transferred quite happily to sitting and (trying) to take notes in an A4 Lecture pad while the one-way delivery of performance was given. There were  “tutes” of about ten people, where we would break down the lecture in a more informal and social fashion. Then there was the social side – of clubs and societies, the cafes and bars and growing friendships. There were no mobile phones, the internet didn’t exist and, as I recall from a Psychology I lecture, “my presentations are copyright, so you are not permitted to make audio recordings of these lectures”.

Sydney University Quadrangle 2

Sydney University Quadrangle 2 (Photo credit: iansand)

How much things have changed. Now my University is 700km away and I am studying “by distance”. Ironically, “distance” can actually be measured in metres; the distance to my nearest computing device. Thus I was checking my (required) university email account as I lay in bed last night via my iPad. I can access all the online readings, the library database, the course notes… even the course participants who I will be discussing ideas and working with, without requiring any form of travel outside of my home. There are Facebook pages specific to the course and a Twitter hashtag to follow. I’ve already started using Notability to turn my required readings from PDFs into annotatable documents that automatically sync to Dropbox. I’ve started to use “e-highlighters” in a range of colours without unzipping a pencil case!

I’m excited with what’s about to follow. Most of my work will occur via a Moodlewhere I’ll be able to take part in discussion bulletin boards, use the class Forum and receive and submit my work. I am conscious of the self paced learning which recommends 12-15 hours per subject per week. It is self paced to a degree as I still need to complete those readings and submit those pieces of work. So while I might not need to sit down for a lecture at 9am on a Monday any more, I am conscious that I need to sit down some time and do that work. My education has, until now, been predicated on a timetable and while it still exists, the goalposts are being excavated ready for the subsequent shift. The irony is that I still play field hockey for my alma mater and fondly recollect that learning that I did in those days.

University of New England (Australia)

University of New England (Australia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, if you ever pop by in the future, feel free to give me an e-kick… up the back side, to keep me on course and get me back to my studies!