Posted in Uncategorized

Death of the Desktop and Gaming as We Know It

deathofthedesktopIn the past week, I’ve made two observations about how technology is going through an advancement surge. What I mean by that is that there are big changes happening, and it seems like it’s happening incredibly quickly–at least in my eyes.

The first occurrence was last week. My dad called  us because he knew my husband and I had something he didn’t have–more computer knowledge than him. I found it a little ironic, my dad was my first computer teacher in the early 80s when Apple II first came out. My dad, being an educator, was progressive enough to know that these were going to be the wave of the future, and in some respects, he was an e-teacher–an early computer teacher. But here was my first computer teacher asking for help. He admitted that he had let his skills lag, and he was now “a dinosaur”, and didn’t have a clue what he was doing anymore. His desktop had died, but he wanted to retain a lot of information that was still on his old hard drive. My husband declared the desktop was indeed dead,  and suggested that if my dad bought a new desktop, we could probably install the old hard drive as a secondary hard drive in the new computer, and that way he could still access the information.

I took my dad to the local Best Buy and Staples to do some comparison shopping. What struck us both is that there were next to no choices at either store for desktop models. Almost everything was either a laptop, a tablet, or one of those sleek all-in-one units. Considering that my dad wanted and needed one of those BIG desktops–not one of the compact ones, the choices were even more limited.

The irony was that once we brought the desktop back to my house to see if we could install the old hard drive into it, we discovered that it didn’t have a bay inside the casing to accomodate it, but it also essentially only had a motherboard, a power source, a fan, a Blu-ray disk drive, and the hard drive inside. That was it. It was a LOT of wasted space for something that was fairly powerful. The machine also came with the “blessed” Windows 8. I’ve had my hesitations about upgrading to it myself, but my dad had no choice, and the poor chap has been using only Windows XP and Windows 2000 up until now, so he was REALLY behind. Our solution to the hard drive issue was that my husband bought a contraption that you can enclose the old hard drive in a special case, and it turns it into a USB-connected external hard drive. So, that part of the problem is solved.

The Windows 8 solution is not. Dad is struggling to figure it all out, and is perplexed at how Windows 8 works in general. He’s not up to speed with the idea of using cloud-based apps for anything, or even using cloud-based storage.  Since my husband and I are still using Windows 7 (and we’re safe for now), we can’t advise him on how to use it, even though we can give him some advice on apps and cloud-based apps in general. What’s frustrating for my dad is that my mother is even less computer literate than him (she’s been condeming computers for thirty years now), so she’s REALLY thrown by how to use Windows 8. I sent Dad some online resources including an e-book on how to use Windows 8, and he bought another book, so hopefully he’ll be the expert soon enough.

The second indicator to me that things were changing technologically was the closing of our local GameStop store. Now, to be fair, I live in a very small town–one that’s small enough that I questioned why we even had a GameStop in our town to begin with. We liked that store better than the one at the local mall because we got more personalized service, and we liked the staff there. I was only surprised to see that it had disappeared almost overnight the other day when I passed by the shopping center where it was located. I’m sure the store didn’t get enough traffic to warrant it to stay open, so that wasn’t a surprise. I was just surprised that it was done without a lot of fanfare. Related to that, since the store wasn’t there, my son was itching to get a new game for his Nintendo 3DS, and we ended up looking online for choices. Granted, my son is fussy about what games he likes and doesn’t like, so choices seemed slim. But even from my own tastes, it seemed like there weren’t a lot of choices. Here was a portable gaming system that didn’t have many games, even though it’s the most current Nintendo portable gaming system on the market. That didn’t make sense to me. As I later found out, Nintendo is working more and more on putting out games that can be accessed through the 3DS’s wi-fi connection–in other words, accessed through cloud services, and saved on the device’s flash drive or on the SD card that you can install. THAT’S where all the new games were!

As I thought about my dad’s predicament in catching up to the 21st century and my son’s need for more games, it occured to me that more and more access to media of any kind is becoming dependent on mobile services and cloud services.  Really–think about it. As I was finding out from my dad, he could only install or update his Microsoft Office if he subscribed to Office 365–the cloud service. Microsoft has adopted cloud services to deliver its services, as has Adobe. Subscription services are pretty much the main way–and soon the only way–one can get access to this software and applications. It’s rare that anyone gets DVDs to install software anymore–it’s downloaded off the Web now. The same thing was happening with my son. He had better access to games for his device through Nintendo’s cloud services than if he paid for a micro-disk.

These are only two of several observations I’ve made lately that we’re going through a technology surge of sorts that are making what we’ve known and loved for years are quickly becoming obsolete.  Tablets, smartphones, and laptops are pretty much the standard now, pushing mobile to the forefront even more. Touch technology is becoming more prolific, even for the all-in-one desktop computers that are out there, putting it on the same level as its mobile counterparts.  Even the gaming world is getting the clue, with more games downloaded to smartphones and other mobile devices rather than buying the software.  Who buys DVDs or Blu-ray disks anymore when we can download movies and other videos from Netflix or iTunes?

Cloud-based and flash-memory based technology seem to be taking over! Soon enough, DVDs, CDs, and SD cards are going to obsolete like the 5 1/2 inch floppy disks, VHS tapes, tape reels or punch cards! Seriously–think about it–in a year or two (okay, maybe a little more than that), all those things might be GONE.

It’s great that technology is advancing in leaps and bounds like it is. No one is more excited about these advances than I am, in most cases. But I wish I could keep up sometimes! It makes me feel bad for my dear dad, who is getting left in the dust by these advances.  I’m sure he’s not the only one.

Posted in Uncategorized

My response to RJ Jacquez’s question: Will Tablets replace PCs?

Recently, due to the upcoming release of Microsoft’s Surface machine, RJ Jacquez released two blog posts promoting the idea that tablets, in time, will indeed replace the PC as we know it, and that Microsoft is going in the wrong direction with this Surface device. Between his post titled, “For the sake of ‘Mobile’ I hope Microsoft Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet fall short” and Tablets Will Replace PCs, But Not In The Way You Think, he says that he feels that Surface is not taking us forward because it embraces the idea of adapting our devices to old software, instead of moving forward with mobile devices and rethinking how to create new productivity software for these new tablets that can make users more productive.  After paraphrasing several articles that have been out in the press that claim that productivity apps such as Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro (to name a few) are items that need to be addressed by the tablet industry, he counter argues,

Personally I think that most of these articles miss the bigger point, namely the fact that most people think that Tablets replacing our PCs will require a 1:1 task-replacement approach. I don’t buy this argument….In other words, we are currently shaping our mobile tools and soon these amazing devices, along with the incredibly creative apps that accompany them, will shape us and redefine every single task we do from here on out, including learning design, image editing, web design and yes every productivity task as well.”

I understand what he’s saying. If I’m interpreting him correctly, his argument is that devices like Surface should not be adapted to run bloated “power” software that needs the extra storage and peripherals to work, thus making the devices less mobile, but rather software should be streamlined to become more efficient so it can run in a tablet like an iPad which doesn’t need extra storage because it relies on the Cloud nor does it need any other peripherals to function. Some of the other “power” apps that RJ mentioned that critics think would need PC power include Photoshop, Microsoft OneNote and Avid Studio.

Well, I do have to agree with RJ insofar as I think that mobile is the future, and it is forcing us to really look at software and its limitations, and it’s making us think about how to streamline processes and our needs. mLearning is in the midst of a huge revolution due to that mindset right now. And actually, there are tablet versions of Photoshop, MS OneNote, and Avid Studio available for tablets that cover most of what users need. So it’s not like these kinds of software can’t be adapted for most people’s uses.  The average user does not use Word or Excel or Photoshop or other apps the same way as a power user, so streamlined apps are fine.

However, I think there may be a need–at least for a little while longer–for PCs to still exist for other kinds of “power” uses. The first thing that comes to mind are apps that are not as mainstream as the ones mentioned so far. Tech comm apps like Framemaker, RoboHelp and Flare are the first ones that come to mind. Now I know that Adobe is working to put just about all of their major software products on the cloud, so that’s a move in the right direction. I have no idea if Flare or the other leading tech comm productivity software packages are moving that way as well. The same thing with e-learning software…again, Captivate is part of Adobe’s cloud-based Technical Communications Suite 4 right now, but what about Lectora or Articulate or other instructional design software packages?  These are all software programs that aren’t quite ready for tablet use yet, but for the sake of mobile productivity, it might not be a bad idea to move in that direction. But for now, staying as desktop apps is probably fine.

There’s an app called Cloud On that has the right idea. It’s an app that’s available for both iOS and Android use, and essentially it provides a means of accessing full versions of Microsoft Office on tablet devices, and then saving documents in a Dropbox, Box or Google Drive account. No short cuts here! Full functionality of the software, on the go!

So, why aren’t the all the big software companies jumping onto the bandwagon with this? Apple already has by creating tablet versions of their iWork and iLife apps, but what others? Some companies have taken baby steps, or are working on it, and others…well, I think they are not keeping up, or are in denial that having a lean version of their software is needed.

I can say, as I mentioned, that I’ve used Cloud On, but I’ve also used my iPad’s Notes app. I used the Microsoft OneNote app on my iPad heavily last year during grad school, as I would start my homework assignment on my iPad during my lunch hour, and then sync it in my SkyDrive account so I could access it from my laptop at home to finish an assignment. I recently used Photoshop Touch on my iPad when I was too lazy to power up my laptop one night to fix a photo for a friend.  When I’ve made movies or did any digital photography projects, they’ve been done more on my iPad than on my laptop due to more affordable choices that meet my basic needs for editing.

So, my answer to RJ’s question is that I feel there will still be some apps that will need a PC to do much bigger jobs. Desktops and laptops are our workhorses right now, and you wouldn’t ask a pony to do the work of a Clydesdale horse. The PC isn’t going away anytime soon, and it will remain the hub of business and other work for some time to come. But, I agree with what RJ said, that in looking forward to the future, we need to continue to think mobile and how we can make it work so that much of these workhorse products can be made more lithe and flexible to our needs.

One last thought to put the mobile/tablet point in perspective–if you are a Star Trek fan like I am, you will have noticed that everyone carries portable devices–the size of a tablet, e-book or smartphone– to access huge databases and information, and to do much of the “heavy” information lifting for anyone aboard a starship. This was depicted on the shows well as much as 25 years ago, before the advent of tablet devices and smartphones. Think about how the various characters on the show used their devices. They would tap into a main computer device on the ship–much like we would access a network or the Cloud–to obtain information and make various calculations as needed.

It would seem to me that we are getting closer to that kind of scenario in reality, but we’re not quite there yet. We’re getting close, though!

Posted in Uncategorized

iPads and Surface and Nexus…oh my!

With the announcement of the new Windows Surface tablet coming out later in 2012, the new Nexus tablet coming out as well, and the rumors of an iPad mini possibly coming out in the fall, it’s made me think about what this all means in terms of “what device would be best?” especially for m-learning and other mobile applications.

First, I need to clarify that when it comes to technological devices, I’m generally torn. I’m all for having variety and such– it’s what makes market competition possible, but at the same time, each thing has its benefits and place, and it’s like comparing apples to broccoli. It’s no secret that I love my iPad. I got it almost a year ago after owning my iPhone for a couple of years. At the time, my husband retorted, “What do you need that for? It’s just a toy, if anything.” Or IS IT?

When I was doing my graduate studies, all I could think about what how I could use it for my own studying purposes, and I did several projects centered around the idea of using iPads for flipped classrooms or even classroom use, and based much of my experiences of what mobile learning is between my iPad and iPhone. I love the flexibility of the devices, and how lean and mean they are in how they operate.  Like many students out there with tablet devices, I read articles and e-books, I wrote up assignments and papers, did my research– did most everything I could with my iPad. The downside? Well, I didn’t have 4G on my iPad, so sometimes having web access was limited, but it wasn’t anything that bad that couldn’t wait until I did have connectivity, or until I got home and could use my laptop or the wi-fi at home. (There are 3G and 4G versions available–I just didn’t want to shell out the extra cash for that ability.) And until I had my wireless keyboard, doing all those papers and assignments could get a little rough.

At the same time, while I have an iPhone and an iPad, I can’t say that I’ve been totally sold on the idea of getting an iMac of some flavor. I love my PC laptops. While the last Apple computer I used was an Apple IIc about a million years ago (be quiet! I was a kid back then–really!), my entire IT existence both professionally and personally has always been on a PC. Yes, I’ve experienced the blue screen of death several times, and had numerous crashes over the years, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed unless the hard drive was dying. Until I got my iPad, my laptop went with me on vacation or whenever I was away from home. Even writing these blog posts is easier on my laptop than using my WordPress app on my iPad. Ninety-eight percent of my online degree was done on my PC laptop– the other 2% was on my iPad. I’ve owned 3 laptops in the last ten years, and had at least two or three PC desktops for years before that. So yes, I’m a devout Microsoft geek as well.

So when I heard that Microsoft had finally come out with a tablet they were going to release, I had to find out more. I thought that it would be helpful to understand what the Microsoft Surface tablet was all about, and was hoping that it would work well in the future for single-sourcing initiatives. I felt like the Microsoft presentation and reviews I was seeing online was just mirrors and smoke, and after three iPads having been in the market now, why a Microsoft tablet now? Was it worth me getting one, as if I were to abandon my iPad for…heaven forbid…something else?

On a recent weekend jaunt to a local mall that had both an Apple store AND a new Microsoft store, I actually asked a Microsoft store employee about the new Microsoft Surface machines, and he said it was rather simple to explain, actually. The new MS Surface tablet was Microsoft’s answer to having their own hardware like a Samsung Galaxy or other PC-type tablet, running on a Windows 8 OS platform similar to the Windows Metro platform used on their phones. The guy had his personal PC tablet loaded up with Windows 8 on it, and proceeded to show me how it worked. In a nutshell, it worked exactly like my laptop, just a few more bells and whistles for the interface. And this, as I was told, would be pretty similar to what my experience would be like with a Surface machine, but with a handy keyboard in the cover. So anything that I was running on my laptop–full versions of Adobe Tech Comm Suite or Creative Cloud, Flare, PC games, Microsoft Office– as long as it all fit on the flash drive inside, or ran off a Flash card or external drive device, you could use it on Surface.

But wait…if Microsoft Surface is essentially just a flatter, touch screen PC version of my laptop, did this make it the iPad killer that everyone (especially Microsoft) has been claiming it to be? At first, I thought it could be. I was thinking that Surface was what I was looking for over a long period of time before my iPad. Sure, there have been other tablet computers out there, but they were always out of my price range and weren’t as powerful as my regular PC laptop. So, a former me that was shopping for a tablet would have loved that. But now, in my mind, I don’t think it’s the “iPad killer”. It just sounded–to me–like it was just a flatter, touch screen version of my laptop, with less storage room and possibly less power. Would it replace a laptop for me? Well, maybe not me, but for the average person who is not a power user, it might be a good alternative for someone else who is less tech savvy. Imagine if all the full features of your laptop were in a convenient package like a tablet, so it’d be easier to bring with you–it would work well.

At first, that sounds great. Just in mobile learning alone, that could be monumental. And that might work better for many people who want the convenience of a tablet with all the power (but less storage space) as a laptop. For some, it’ll be just what they need. But for me, as I’ve thought about it, and debated whether to get one in the future, I decided it wasn’t worth it. First of all, for the same amount of money that this Surface machine is going to cost (if it’s financially on par with iPads, as Microsoft claims it will be)–what’s the point of getting a tablet with little storage space and not as much power when you can get something more powerful–more storage space and higher processor speed–in laptop form for the same price? There doesn’t seem to be much of an advantage in having one, unless you are a person who wants to make the switch, and you don’t do much on your laptop to begin with. Yes, there are some operational advantages, but they are minor. The convenience of a tablet? Oh yeah, that’s definitely a plus, but it seems so late in the game. And in the end…it’s still a PC. You can get this now on a Samsung Galaxy Tab or other PC-based tablet now, for the most part. Maybe it’ll be a slightly ramped up OS, but then again iOS6 will probably be coming out around the same time (more or less), so it’ll be interesting to see who wins the latest Apple vs. Microsoft battle.

But just as everyone is focusing on the usual heavyweights battling it out, Google has been a contender for a while–much more than Microsoft has been. Google has recently announced that it was releasing its new device, Nexus 7, running on the latest Android OS called “JellyBean.” Reports I’ve read is that since this is a full OS, not an abbreviated version like on a Nook or Kindle Fire, it runs more smoothly and robustly. It allows for more Google features like Google Now and Google Play to be used more fully, for example. This leads me to believe that while this is a smaller tablet in size than an iPad or Surface, due to it’s great affordable price starting at $199 (as compared to a “bottom of the barrel” iPad at $499 for the new iPad, $399 for the same in an iPad), it’s definitely a dark horse contenter to come in and steal some thunder. In the end, though, it’s not really in the same category as an iPad or Surface machine. Let me explain.

The way I see it, there are two categories of tablets. The first category is one in which the tablets are almost PC replacements, but not quite. They have the most flexibility due to their ability to do anything from word processing and reports, graphic and image editing, games, video, email, web browsing, etc.  They are generally a much leaner version of a PC, not only physically in the hardware, but also in its capabilities. iPads have this down to a science now, whereas Surface will be just a slimmed down physical version of what most people have already.

The other category includes the small tablets. These would be your Nook, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7 and if it actually comes out, iPad Mini. While it has great perfunctory use, it’s not meant to be anything but a basic device to provide basic services. I’ve never heard of doing presentations off of a Nook, or a report being written on a Kindle Fire.

Are there uses in education and business for any of these kinds of tablets? Sure there are. Because of their enormous flexibility and functionality, it’s no surprise that iPads have been dominant in both education and business, and will continue to be dominant. Will the Surface upset that dominance? It might, only because so many are used to using a PC that the learning curve (not that there’s a huge one in learning how to use an iPad) would not have to be contended with, and some might like that full PC functionality over a streamlined one like an iPad. I see iPad and Surface being more productive than the smaller tablets.

Does this mean that smaller tablets don’t have a place in education or business? No, not at all. It can still be used for reading, communication, video and basic web searches– that might be all someone needs.

But from my own personal experience as a student as well as a professional, I don’t see how the larger tablets could lose. The question will be whether educators or business people find the streamlined functionality of an iPad more beneficial or the PC-similarity of the Surface to be more productive in the long run. Hmm…I think I found the topic of my PhD thesis (if I ever do it in the near future)!

What do you think? Let me know the comments below.

(PS–Microsoft or Google– if you want me to try these devices out once they are out, I’m glad to give them a go. 😉 )

Posted in Uncategorized

Flash Technology gone in a mobile….no, wait–that’s not quite right…

In the mobile technology warsit’s been a war between the technology of Adobe Flash versus HTML 5. This has been a long going–at least in Internet years–battle royale that has been going on for a while, but it appears that a break has finally happened.

Recently, Adobe made the decision to end the support of Adobe Flash in Google’s latest Android OS, aka “Jelly Bean.” The significance of this is huge.  To some, this is a surprise. To others, it is not.

Flash has been the driving force of web animation for a couple decades now on many websites globally. It is a huge part of Adobe’s repertoire, and yet… Flash has had a difficult time making it into the mobile realm.  Just in the desktop/laptop realm, a Flash player can be rather unwieldy. There seemed to be only one flavor of Flash made for 32-bit machines, and not for 64-bit machines (like my own) which are becoming more commonplace.  Flash programming is an art unto itself as well. As much as many employers want people to have Flash backgrounds as technical communicators, I’ve also been told by developers to not bother learning it unless I really was dying to know, because it was rather complex even for the experienced developer to use, and developing Flash was time consuming.

This was all brought to the forefront about two years ago by the late Steve Jobs who said that Flash would not last, and that HTML5 was the future. He believed this so much that all of Apple’s new mobile products supported HTML5 from the get-go, but not Flash.  Aaron Silvers reminded me of this when he posted this article from Business InsiderSTEVE JOBS WINS: Adobe’s Ditching Flash, today on Twitter. It’s been a huge deal as iPhones and iPads proliferated with HTML5-friendly browsers, and didn’t support Flash, while other browsers for other tablets, like the Kindle, Nook and other Android-based tablets and phones did.

Adobe’s had a hard time with this, as far as I could see. Just for the record, I love Apple products, but I also love my Adobe products as well, so it’s been a tough debate to follow. I actually wrote a case study about it just several months ago about it, entitled, A Case Study: HTML 5 versus Flash, which discussed the history of this debate and what actions I saw Adobe–as a company–trying to make to work within this new environment that was pushing HTML5. At the time of the writing, Steve Jobs had just passed–literally within days of when I wrote my first draft and final draft of the paper–and so much was out in the media about the great Steve Jobs and how he was the mastermind that he was. I still love Steve Jobs, but after all, he was still human and fallible,  so I wanted to show how Adobe countered his attacks against Flash. In the end, the conclusion at the time was that HTML5 was the future, but it wasn’t completely NOW (or at that moment). HTML5 needed more development, and in the meantime, Adobe would adjust with the HTML5 revolution with its work on the Adobe Edge product and bringing that capability to its development products, but in the meantime, Flash was still working on most of the machines in the world, and there was no reason to stop working on that as well.

The way I saw it, Adobe’s point was that you don’t just abandon a long standing technology that’s worked so well overnight, just because the next best thing is starting to come along. It’s like abandoning DVDs just because Blu-Ray disks are out. There has to be some sort of legacy transition, and until HTML5 was more mature and used by those other than the developers at Apple, it didn’t make sense to abandon Flash altogether. But in the meantime, time needed to be taken to start working with the new medium and figure out the best way to move forward.

Fast forward to now, about six to eight months after I wrote the case study above. Mobile technology continues to explode on the market, and the race is on to be the dominant technological mobile device with new tablets and smartphones being introduced.  RJ Jacquez posted this article that came out today on Twitter: Adobe: Web standards match 80 percent of Flash features. Arno Gourdol, Adobe’s senior director of Web platform and authoring, was quoted at the Google I/O show, referring to HTML5’s capabilities at this stage, “I think it’s close to 80 percent.”  Seeing the writing on the wall, it’s obvious, after reading the rest of the article, that Adobe has been making efforts to keep up with HTML5, and make forward progress on using the web standard. Adobe’s not quite there either in keeping up, but it seems that it’s starting to make significant progress in this direction.

So, where does this leave us in the mobile learning world? As I see it, this is another means towards single-sourcing for learning. Flash has been good, there is no doubt. Some of the most interactive e-learning and m-learning sites (depending on your device’s capabilities) have been Flash driven, and so much has been Flash driven for years that Flash capabilities and interactivity are expected. In speaking with my e-learning developer husband about the topic, he said that Flash, while complicated at times, was easier to develop than HTML5, because HTML5 depended not only on new HTML5 coding, but also javascript and jquery much more than before to have content play the same way–or at least similarly–to Flash. From the sounds of things, those similarities are getting closer and closer. How soon will HTML5 be a true standard in the same way as standard HTML has been all these years? Probably sooner than later, but I see it as a big step towards that single-sourcing solution that will help eliminate the idea of problems with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). No one will have to worry whether something will work on an Android, Windows or iOS device. It will just work because they all use HTML5.

This is an important issue to follow, because it’s not the mobile technological devices that need to be watched as much as how they will be programmed and used. Flash isn’t gone yet, but seeing what will happen with it, and where and how HTML5 progresses will be a hot issue for some time to come–so keep on top of this!

Posted in Uncategorized

m-Learning and Single-Sourcing Aren’t The End of the World

Does anyone remember all the hype about 13 years ago about how life as we knew it was going to be destroyed merely by the fact that most of the computing machines running around the world weren’t programmed to go beyond the year 2000 because it would reset itself to start back at 1900 again? Do you remember the mad rush to make everything “Y2K” compliant?” I do, and remember being in the thick of it. I even remember secretly bracing myself mentally, just in case Armageddon did happened. Nowadays, people are thinking about this supposed Apocalypse that will happen on December 21, 2012– about 8 months from now. Is it going to happen? And what does this have to do with m-learning and single-sourcing?

Here’s my take on it, having lived through that time from an IT perspective: nothing happened, and nothing will happen. Well, nothing catastrophic happened or will happen. If anything, the Y2K crisis brought to the world’s attention (or at least the IT world’s attention) that details are important when creating and developing software and web development. Y2K made the IT world take notice that it had to get its act together better, and if the world needed reliable, safe, easy-to-use products, then that attention to detail has to be put in from the beginning. The same thing happened with the tragedy of the attack of the US on September 11th, 2001. There was a realization that email and other digital means of communication could be used to circumvent security, and it caught everyone’s attention enough that the IT world had to step it up.

Think about how many strides have been made in since that 2000-2001 time period in the digital world! Smartphones and tablets were developed and constructed over this decade or so, and now we are a much more mobile society than before. I mean, seriously, in 2001, could you imagine yourself walking around with a tablet in your messenger bag just to read a book, do your email on the go, write papers, watch a movie, have video chats with friends around the world, or just to instant message/text friends that quickly?

When I had my first cell phone around the time of the turn of the century, it could do simple SMS messages and make phone calls, but nothing more. My iPhone is WAY more sophisticated than even my first desktop! We’ve actually gone beyond the imagination of what the Dick Tracy wristwatches of yesteryear intended to do– and then some!

We are in a really critical time in the development of the digital world right now. It’s as if nothing is impossible, especially with the huge chances that made us think about all those details around us. But that’s also the point– we have to make sure that we actually pay attention and heed the warnings of the past to make sure that all those details are included.

This brings me to m-learning. Right now, we are in a very exciting time with m-learning due to the great strides that have been made with technology in recent years. We have huge opportunities to reinvent the way things are done in e-learning on mobile devices, mostly because the medium is different than anything we’ve had before. It’s not just putting up pages and pages of content, but reformatting and rewriting to make it accessible to a wider audience. Cloud technology and wireless technology makes m-learning not only something that is portable due to device size, but accessible anywhere, anytime. Think about it– it’s a big game changer.

This brings me to the idea of single-sourcing and m-learning. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, because as I try to learn more and more about m-learning and getting involved in m-learning, I realize that flexibility is something I need. In other words, while I am attached to my Apple products for my digital mobility, there are others who are strong devotees of Android products and there will be those who will be signing the praises of the Windows 8 mobile system soon enough. In the end, it’s three of a few of the different OS systems that will need to be able to receive the same information, but be able to communicate to each other clearly and cleanly to each other as well.

Many years ago, the Portable Document Format or PDF was invented by Adobe with the intention of inventing a common format that any OS system could read with the proper viewing tool. Today, PDFs are still used, and additional single-sourcing formats such as MP4 and MP3 for video and audio and ePub for publications are coming to the forefront. Heck, even as we speak, Flash is starting to slowly retreat in favor of a more common HTML5 format, even if all browsers and devices are not completely on board with that. I attended a great seminar the other day put out by Adobe and hosted by Maxwell Hoffman about how to use the Technical Communicator Suite–especially, in this case, RoboHelp 9 to help create ePubs for mobile devices like tablets. The main idea behind this seminar was to help users of Adobe’s Tech Comm Suite see how they could get on-board with this idea of single-sourcing through the creation of e-Pubs using the TC Suite.  Even though I don’t really know how to use RoboHelp at all yet, it was evident that this was a hot topic from the way it was presented and the questions being asked. I felt empowered to get started on trying to master this piece of software, because Maxwell made it look so easy to do, and his emphasis was not only on any particular device, but rather that this tool would be good to help develop for just about any device. Understanding how to create ePubs is an excellent stepping stone to bigger and better things! I’m sure that other companies are also realizing that single-sourcing is the way to go to connect with as many users as possible.

m-Learning is about reaching as many learners as possible in a way that’s user-friendly as well as compatible with the technology, while still being engaging. There are so many devices out there, that it’s really important that programmers and developers, as well as instructional designers and other technical communicators really take the time to care about those details so that we can truly have single-sourcing. Even just between my iPad and iPhone, I don’t always feel that apps available have the same functionality as they do on my laptop, and vice versa. Going between devices–whether mobile or stationary–should be seamless. It’s been mentioned that some companies are already on the right track with this thinking, such as Kindle. You can open up a book at one spot on your phone, then switch to where you left off on your Kindle device, then pick up again where you left off on your laptop. Much of this is done through the cloud and wireless connections. This is definitely the right idea, and going in the right direction. For me, it’s even the functionality. My Twitter doesn’t work the same way between my iDevices and my laptop, and that’s not right.  It should work the same exact way on all my devices, and Android users should have the same experience as I do. This is a really important concept for m-learning. You want to make sure that the deliverable presented is the same for everyone who comes to a course, and that’s a tricky thing to do right now.  This is why discussing and creating new standards for m-learning are so crucial. The single-source perspective is truly needed in e-learning and m-learning universally, so that the same quality of content is delivered to ALL universally.

So will I be jittering in my boots when December 21st rolls around? I don’t think so (unless there’s news of an asteroid bigger than the moon is hurtling directly towards us). If anything, I’m thinking that December 21st will be a day when it will start a new age of enlightment, and m-learning and single-sourcing will be a big part of that. We are already on our way, but perhaps there will be something on that day that will be a big boost towards a positive path.

www.startrek.com

Maybe that day will be as monumental as First Contact Day.