I am Jealous of My Sister’s Technology Footprint

Over the last year, I have become increasingly interested in low-cost technologies. I have explored the potential of $50 smartphones and am currently researching sub-$200 computers. The capabilities of these devices amaze me. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on phones or laptops anymore. In fact, you can get similar functionality from thousand dollar technologies for fractions of the cost. This is how my sister’s technology footprint has inspired me

Currently my youngest sister is using a smartphone and laptop that cost her less than $300…combined! Specifically, she has a Blu Vivo XL that she got for $99 on its release weekend sale and her laptop is an Asus C300 Chromebook that she got for $199 from Amazon. So, $298 covers all of her technology needs as a college student. This blows my mind! When I think about all of the students who spend $2000+ on Macs or windows PCs and $700+ on iPhones or Android phones. (Not to mention if said student owns a $300+ iPad or Android tablet.) Combined, this technology bill easily approaches $3000, ten times what my sister is currently using. Thinking about this reminded me about what Jessie J & B.o.B would say about the money:

Now, I understand my sister is a special case. Some students require expensive laptops to run specialty software such as AutoCAD, Photoshop, or Final Cut Pro X for their coursework. And studying programmers need to setup virtual machines or use their iPhones to test apps they are creating. But, how much longer will costly computers be required to complete these tasks?

When thinking about this question, I am reminded how we are moving toward a cloud computing world. Company’s like Amazon, Google, & Microsoft are aware of this and investing in cloud-enabled futures where users do not necessarily need the most powerful equipment to be productive. In this world, individuals only require devices that can communicate with (and are assisted by) other computers across the web. Chromebooks are increasingly common examples of these technologies at work; and they are opening new possibilities for what users can accomplish on a budget—more people doing more!

This is why I am jealous of my sister. Not only is she operating on under $300 worth of equipment, but her technology footprint is more aligned with what I believe to be the next era of computing. Her familiarity with future productivity tools and workflows keeps inspiring me to reconsider what technologies I use in my own life. So, thank you Bee for keeping technology in perspective for me!

The featured image is provided CC0 by Vadim Sherbakov via Unsplash.

Trainings, Projects, & Gaming – Fall 2015 Updates & Reflections

Hello internet, it has been a while.

I have wanted to do more blogging recently. Yet, I keep running into the issue of starting a post with an awesome idea, but keeping the post in draft form indefinitely because it is not high enough quality or I feel there are pieces missing.

I need to interrupt this pattern. SO, today how about an update on work and life?


Lynda.com FLC – This has been one of my largest projects of the semester. I am training faculty on how to use Lynda.com content for instructional purposes. From supporting student learning of softwares to having students curate and share their own Lynda.com playlists, the activities and discussion for this FLC have been extremely rewarding.

If you are interested in this project, you should take a look at the website I have built (and am still building) for this training:

Lynda.com FLC Website

OU Create Trainings – Another of the programs at the university I have been excited about is OU Create. (You can read more about OU Create here.) Over the summer, I got to help with the redesign of the OU Create website by generating support resources for this program, including a FAQ section and curating relevant Lynda.com instructional videos:

OU Create Support Page

I am also hosting introductory training for OU Create several times during the semester. There are three in-person sessions and one online session being offered. The online session was my first opportunity to host training using Google Hangouts on Air. Here’s how that experience went:


Android Phone Screencasts – Google recently released an update for the YouTube Gaming App that allows users with Android OS 5.0+ on their device to record the contents of their screen. Although this feature is intended for game capture, you can record your screen in any App on your device. Therefore, I have been investigating how this could be leveraged for instructional purposes. Here is a sample of my exploration:

TSI Presentation – Next month, I will be presenting with my colleague John Stewart (http://www.johnastewart.org, @jstew511) at the Teaching Scholars Initiative (TSI). The title of our presentation is Amplifying Every Student’s Voice: Mobile Blogging. Together, we will be discussing how blogging can be utilized to give every student a voice and how the affordability of mobile devices can make blogging more accessible to students. I am very excited for this presentation and hope to solicit discussion about some of the questions I have been pondering recently.

For instance, I have been thinking about the lowest common denominator in terms of what technologies are required for a student to participate in digital learning experiences.

Part of this process has been exploring a range of devices to see what is capable of providing students with viable learning experiences. So far, I have been experimenting with Windows Tablets ($79), Fire Tablets ($50), unlocked Android phones ($50), and many other low cost devices.

I still have some research and exploring to do, but I am often amazed how the cost of a device does not contribute to its functionality in a linear relation. In plain english, a $50-$100 smartphone possesses 80% of the functionality of a $650 smartphone. It is eye-opening to see what some of these low-cost devices are capable of doing.


There have been many fun video game activities in the last few month too!

Star Wars Battlefront Beta – I LOVED the Star Wars Battlefront Beta! It was exceptionally good experience since my wife also enjoyed playing this game with me. Not that we don’t play games together, but finding shooter games that we both like to play has been challenging in the past. If you would like to experience the magic of Star Wars in video game form, here is some footage I recorded from that event:

Live Streaming – One thing I have always wanted to try is live streaming video game footage. Using my cheap gaming computer, Open Broadcasting Software, YouTube Live Streaming, etc. my wife and I streamed some gameplay of the Wii U game Splatoon last month. If you are interested, you can view my first time streaming live gameplay here:


Although I included a lot of content in this post, these are actually just highlights of everything that has been going on at work and in life. Concerts, twitter events, other trainings—the list could gone on and on! In fact, many of the topics discussed in this post may be expanded upon in the future as I see opportunities to provide guides/feedback about solutions and workflows I am developing/discovering. Overall, I am having a blast learning new things and improving my teaching craft; and all of this is in preparation for the projects I have in mind for Spring 2016…. 🙂

Until next time internet!

Not Another Reason to Update Your Operating System!

It is easier to learn incremental changes in an Operating System (OS) than wait 12 years and be overwhelmed by drastic differences.

Let me put some context to this thought: Last weekend I was talking with an extended family member, who was describing his update from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 and being disappointed with how slowly he was learning the new OS. Rightfully so—a lot had changed in 12 years. And when I thought about it, coming from Windows XP, he had never experienced my favorite feature of Windows.

The Windows Search functionality was introduced in Windows Vista (following Windows XP) in 2007. I remember this feature was a game changer in terms of how I accessed my files since I could reach them directly from the desktop through the Start Menu. And with each iteration of the OS, Windows Search became even more integral into my digital workflow.

And this is only one example—without the knowledge of Windows Vista and Windows 7, the transition from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 was all the more painful for my relative.

To ease this transition processes for yourself, I suggest updating your OS more frequently, so that the variations from version to version are not quite as extreme. Yes, this does mean you will struggle through the learning process for each OS release, but in so doing, you will gain a better awareness of the constantly evolving landscape of technology and be better prepared for the future of computer interfaces and productivity workflows.

This year, there will be many opportunities to update your operating system(s). We will see the release of Windows 10 (for free!) in addition to the usual Mac OS X, Android, and iOS updates. And I encourage you to consider updating to current versions of these operating systems. If not for security improvements, additional features, or device compatibility (etc.), then to stay current on ever evolving digital workflows that come with each new update.

Preferably, there’s not another reason to update your operating system!

Featured image by Craig Garner, no copyright.

Digital Writing Tools

Originally posted on the Center for Teaching Excellence Blog

Today, there are many different types of digital writing instruments. Since they can be utilized to create instructional videos, record notes, and create interactive presentations they can be a valuable tool in the university classroom.  Since there are dozens of different digital writing devices, I have distilled a list of a few I think are worth reviewing:

iPad (iOS)

Pros: Software, Price, Mobility

Cons: Writing accuracy, (Lack of) Rest hand on screen while writing

Description: The iPad is a popular device for digital writing. In fact, there are dozens of apps that are dedicated to the task. Some of my favorite writing applications include Notability and Explain Everything because they allow you to record audio and video notes; and Keynote and PowerPoint allow you to annotate during presentations. However, the iPad does have a major flaw with regards to digital annotation. Accurate stylus options are typically overpriced, while the inexpensive options suffer from poor writing precision. That being said, many Apps for iPad contain features that aim to make handwriting easier and more accurate. For example, page zooming and zoom boxes are a couple of feature within an App that help improve handwriting. But the biggest drawback of writing on an iPad is still training yourself not to rest your palm on the screen while annotating since it results in stray marks and unintentional button pressing.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (Android)

Pros: Writing accuracy, Price, Mobility, Rest hand on screen while writing

Cons: Software

Description: This Android tablet is notable due to its integrated stylus. The “S Pen” that comes with this tablet allows for a greater degree of precision while writing. You can even rest you hand on the device’s screen while annotating with the S Pen! Yet the drawback to this tablet is the limited number and capabilities of good annotating Apps. Fortunately, the Galaxy Note 10.1 comes pre-loaded with an annotation App from Samsung, since other options in the Google Play Store are hit or miss. For instance, the Explain Everything Android App has fewer features than the iPad version. But in due time, annotation App availability and capability will not be an issue.

Surface Pro 3 (Windows 8.1)

Pros: Writing accuracy, Desktop software, Rest hand on screen while writing

Cons: Price, Weight

Description: This Windows tablet is not only a powerful computer but is also a great tablet. Paired with great performance and a precise stylus, you can use this device to run desktop applications with the benefits of digital writing. You can install Explain Everything on this device (through the Microsoft Store) in addition to Adobe softwares, PowerPoint, and Smartboard softwares. So, not only would this be a great device for taking notes and annotating presentations, but you could also use it to record, edit, and publish high-end instructional videos. For example, you could install Open Sankoré to record annotated screencasts and then edit and publish the footage with any video editor made for Windows. Since this device is both a computer and tablet, this particular tool could serve as a singular device that accomplishes both traditional computer and tablet computer tasks.

Modbook Pro (Mac OS and/or Windows)

Pros: Writing accuracy, Desktop software, Cross platform, Rest hand on screen while writing

Cons: Price, Weight

Description: If money is not a factor, this is my favorite tool to create instructional videos with. Since the Modbook Pro is essentially a Wacom tablet grafted to the top of a MacBook Pro, you are looking at a price tag nearing three thousand dollars for a Modbook Pro. But, with the ability to install both Mac and Windows operating systems on a Modbook Pro, you can run any desktop application on this device while utilizing the added functionality of an accurate Wacom digitizer. Just like with the Surface Pro 3, I would suggest using Open Sankoré for making instructional videos. But you can also use the annotation tools in PowerPoint and Keynote among many other softwares. Analogous to the Surface Pro 3, this device is also great for traditional computer and tablet computer tasks. Although the Modbook Pro is more versatile keep in mind that it is bulkier and more expensive than any other digital writing tool listed.

Wacom Tablet

Pros: Writing accuracy, Cross platform, Rest hand on screen while writing

Cons: Price, (Lack of) Mobility, Requires computer

Description: If you already own a powerful computer, you may consider adding this accessory to your machine. There are many models of Wacom tablets, including ones with built in displays. Like the Surface Pro 3 and Modbook Pro, the benefit of a Wacom is that you can utilize the desktop software already own on your computer with the added benefit of digital writing. You can also use Wacom devices for instructional video production with Open Sankoré to produce screencasts. The downside to this peripheral is that it is impractical to use for presenting or moving to a separate location frequently because you would have to transport both the computer and the Wacom tablet back and forth to class or conferences. However, for digital writing in a non-mobile environment, this is a fantastic option.

These are just a few of the digital writing tools available nowadays. Whether you would like to use digital writing devices for note-taking, annotating presentations, video production, or any other use, I hope this information will be a helpful starting point.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply below or reach me on twitter @CraZyIriShman7