Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Episode 120 - The Oregon Trail, a motorcycle, a camera, a blog, and a summer teacher challenge

It's Tuesday, May 31st 2011 and welcome to Episode 120 of TechTalk4Teachers, I'm Tom Grissom. Summertime is now upon us and thousands of teachers will soon be on summer break but the learning never stops. On todays show I have an interview with Brian Poulter from the EIU Journalism department and we will have a discussion about sharing our passions and how teachers can challenge themselves to take on a summer project that will take their learning to the next level.

Right Click Here to Download MP3
(33 minutes 25 seconds)

Brian will be going on a summer adventure in June where he will be taking his motorcycle across the country following the route of the Oregon Trail and shooting photos and videos along the way. The ultimate goal of his trip will be to create a video production on the Oregon Trail using affordable technologies that fit into a backpack on his motorcycle. This episode has a lot of tips for those interested in sharing their experiences by using blogs, photos, and videos made possible by modern technologies along with a challenge for you to select a summer project of your own to take your learning to the next level.

Looking for the Oregon Trail


Here is our interview from earlier.


TOM: With me today we have Brian Poulter who is a photojournalism professor here at Eastern Illinois University. I invited Brian in today to talk about some of things that he’s been doing over the summertime. With summertime fast approaching, many teachers are going to be going out and going on vacation and Brian’s done some really interesting work with sharing, photography in particular and incorporating that with blogs and he’s done some cross the country trips with a motorcycle and he’s blogged his experiences. Last summer, he went to Alaska, and, he blogged that particular trip day-by-day, taking photographs as he went along, and this year, I believe he’s going to be going on the Oregon Trail.

Two Wheels North


So, let me just turn it over to Brian and let him introduce himself and we’re just going to talk a little bit about sharing some of this information and how teachers can use it and blog their experiences and increase their skills. I think Brian and I both agree that the best way to do this is just to get out there and do it and practice. You know, you can read, and talk about it, and think about it all you want but you’re really not going to understand and gain the skills until you really do it. So, Brian…

BRIAN: Hello, I’m Brian Poulter, and nice to talk to you all today. I think he’s brought up a couple of really nice points here. This summer you’re going to be doing something, and one of the best ways, because I teach Photojournalism and New Media and I have to try to keep up on all the new technology, and like yourself, it’s impossible to do--I’m sure you’ll find that is a truism. So what I often do is I find something I’m going to do and force myself to do a project about it. And by doing so… and then telling everybody I’m going to do it, I have no excuses not to do it—

TOM: (laugh) Right.

BRIAN: --because they’re, looking for it. And the beauty of that is you get to figure out what the thesis is of what you’re going to do. You’re not locked into anything, and yet you’re forcing yourself to work with the new technologies. And what that does is allows you to make a lot of mistakes but you don’t have to show it to anybody, but you’ve made the mistakes and, better yet, when you try these new technologies, whether is Blogger or Flickr or an actual piece of hardware, what you’ve done is you’ve made mistakes so if you work with your students later on, they’re going to make similar mistakes, and you’ve figured out how to solve them. And you’re a better teacher, and everybody thinks you’re brilliant because you’ve figured out how to make their mistakes, and it makes your content better. I don’t’ care if you’re a talented pianist or a talented, racecar driver, the first time you work with a new piano or new racecar, you just don’t quite know how it’s set up and how it’s working. And so you’ve got to get comfortable with it. And with that comfort comes confidence and that’s going to work in your teaching.

TOM: Right, and that’s true of most things in life. It’s that “practice, practice, practice.” And, you know, oftentimes, in education we’re so focused on, “Well, we’ve got to get to Chapter 3 by such-and-such time and just going down and covering material. We really need to pause, one of the things that I see in teaching pre-service teachers is giving the students those opportunities in authentic environments. So the project that you’re doing, like you did last year with, with the Alaska trip, is a perfect , you know, a perfect project for that because you’re incorporating multiple technologies and they’re getting to see an end product, an end result there. And that involves several different skills, whether the technology—Really, to me, the technology, is the easiest part to master. It’s all those other pieces and putting it together and coming up, for example, in your Alaska trip, telling those stories and things day-by-day coming through to make that whole, to make it, a good experience out there.

BRIAN: Well the other great thing, too, is on the trip, I had a lot of photographs, raw photographs, that hadn’t been touched, and even though I processed them and I’d send them to, in this case, newspapers for republication and I had the rights and I had the edits and I gave myself about an hour and a half a day to do it because I was also riding a motorcycle—in the rain, most of the time, it seemed.

TOM: Yeah, let’s back up a minute and just set up that and preface for what you did last year in Alaska. So, it was what? Thirty days?

BRIAN: Yeah, I left here in Charleston, Illinois, which is what, two hours south of Chicago or a little bit west of Indianapolis? And I rode from here to the Artic Circle and the Yukon and then you have to come back, actually south and then west to get into Alaska and then I came back through. And so what I did is I blogged everyday with photos and text and sent it to the Decatur, Illinois Herald & Review and they republished it.And the nice thing about that is that once I get back, I still have these raw photographs and I can give them to students and I can say, “I’m going to give you 35 minutes to turn this into a publishable photograph,” and say, “Here’s what I got, yours doesn’t have to look exactly like mine does, because that’s part of the art, is how you work with it, the decisions you make, but it’s a real-life scenario. It’s not like it’s out of a workbook where they think, “Oh, we’re just doing this for busy work.” This is a photograph that someone’s published before. Are they up to the challenge and the task of doing this? I teach journalism and photojournalism , so I’m about storytelling. So, if I can give them some photographs, give them a little more time, they’re new at it. It’s a great opportunity for them to see if they are up to the task. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Photoshop or if they’re using some other photo manipulation program, again, or one of the other free ones that’s available like GIMP. It’s all about the end result, the skill I’m teaching, and it’s more real to life. And, I found that students get more excited about stuff that seems real to them rather than like, pulled out of a workbook.

TOM: Right, right. And, I’ll provide a link in the show notes to this Alaska trip. It’s really worth going out there and taking a look. You were using Wordpress, Flickr…?

BRIAN: Well, in this case, I was just sending this stuff directly to the Decatur Herald Review, but for previous stuff I’ve done and stuff I do in my own personal work, I work with Wordpress a lot which, if you’re not familiar with it, you can go to wordpress.com and you can it really help sets up a bunch of, I don’t want to call them templates because that isn’t a strong enough word for what’s they are. But, it really builds a nice, beautiful website that you can manipulate, put plug-ins in, or you can also get that software for free and load it onto your own server so you have more control. That’s nice. Another great tool to work with that is Flickr, flickr.com. Just take the “e” out of flicker.

TOM: Yep. F-L-I-C-K-R.

BRIAN: It’s the Facebook of photography. It’s a social network.

TOM: Been around for a long time.

BRIAN: It’s free. If you want to pay 24, 25 dollars a year to have a professional account, I do only because you get to load up more and bigger stuff, but once you have it set up, it’s a depository for your photographs. You can then say to Facebook, “Take this photograph. Put it on my Facebook page.” And, you can also say, “Take this photograph, and put it on my Blogger site or my Wordpress site.” So, it’s like a cloud that holds all your photographs, but you can from there parse it out. And, it’s archived. If your computer crashes, you now know where your photographs still are; they didn’t disappear off your hard drive.

TOM: Right, now talk about some of the challenges there because you are going across country and are you uploading those photos as you go?

BRIAN: Right, and no…when I say that I blog daily, it was nice in a way because the Decatur Herald & Review didn’t want to pay anybody to sit and receive my work on the weekends, so I had the weekends off. Even though I was writing and shooting stuff, I didn’t get to put up stuff, and it often coincided to when I didn’t have internet availability it would be one of those weekends. But… thank goodness for wireless, free wireless at gas stations and libraries and hotels and wherever I could find it, and there were times where I literally turned my computer on, said send the photographs, put the laptop in a bush, and walked two blocks away and ate and came back, not thinking that anyone was going to find my laptop in that bush because that was where the best internet connection was. You know, when you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s fewer people to find your stuff and steal it.

TOM: Yeah, and then I noticed on the blog you were having people comment and things as it went along. Was that all done on the fly as you were going, or did they publish that after the fact?

BRIAN: No, they published it daily. A lot of times what I did was I actually emailed the text
to my wife because we were having some FTP issues and she could check periodically. I can’t do that on a motorcycle. And, the fun thing I learned about when you blog for a newspaper is that it doesn’t go through an editing process. They just publish it, so there are a couple sentences I now go back and read, and I go, “What the heck does that say.” So, when you’re reading be tolerate.

TOM: Keep that in mind that you were eight hours on a motorcycle, and…

BRIAN: Yeah, and by the way, I didn’t mention that it rained nineteen of the first twenty days I was on the motorcycle. Every single day I got wet, but that’s a great thing to tell students. You say, “You have no excuses for not getting your homework done. I had homework to do, and I had to do it in the rain from a motorcycle. It’s doable.”
TOM: Welcome to the real world.

BRIAN: Going back to the thing, I think you were trying to establish this, it’s summer. If you’re passionate to go visit it some place, something…

BRIAN: I think will be stunned that if you just do a minor about of research, and let’s say…well, I’m going on the Oregon Trail, so I’m contacting this woman who is an editor of a tribal newspaper on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. I don’t know her, and I send her an email and say, “Hey, here’s what I’m doing. Would you be willing to participate?” And, she’s like yeah, and she’s an award winning journalist. Anytime you approach somebody with a little bit of passion and a little bit of understanding and have done just a minor amount of research so people understand that you’re just not trying to get some freebie from them you’ll be stunned at how much time they’re be willing to spend with you. And, that introduces some unique photographs or writing or whatever it is you’re passionate about in teaching, and it gets you excited.

TOM: Right, yes.

BRIAN: You know, I’ve taught the main Photo class two or three times a semester for nineteen years. I really, really enjoy that class. In fact, it’s my favorite class, but I change it every semester. I don’t teach it exactly the same way. I have the same results I have to achieve. If I don’t get excited about it, I can’t get them excited.

TOM: Well, let’s just pause and stop. How much has changed in the last nineteen years? I mean, every year there’s something, you know, that you’re adapting and integrating into it. But, it’s just staggering just to pause just a moment to think how much the world’s changed.

BRIAN: I used to teach taking film out of a canister and rolling it on the reel.

TOM: and a darkroom.

BRIAN: And, then printing it in the darkroom. Then, we went to…we still use film, but then we scanned it. Then, we go to digital. Well, digital wasn’t going to be good as film ever.

TOM: Exactly, it will never…

BRIAN: Now, we’ve given up film, and I have a M.F.A. in Photography. And, I love my experience with printing photographs in the darkroom and putting my hands in chemicals that will probably kill me like via cancer one day, but I don’t miss it. And, it’s cheaper. And, the best thing is, like your students, if you’re not making mistakes with technology, you’re probably not learning. And, that’s what this summer project is about, if you take on our challenge, I guess that’s what we’re saying here, is about…is making mistakes and learning. I tell my students all the time, who are really good at something, “You’re not working very hard. You’re not doing good work.” “Well, I’m getting an A.” Yes, but you’re not teaching yourself anything.

TOM: I have several teachers in my personal learning network, and the photo 365 is one of those things. And, it’s exactly that. Just doing one photo a day for 365 days, and I really do think that teachers would benefit from that blogging experience out there. Especially if you’re wanting to incorporate a specific subject out there, and you know, as teachers, like I said when we go on vacation we always mix those things that interest us. And, just imagine a social studies teacher going to Washington, D.C. for example and being able to share that experience and things. And, just having that catalogue of photographs, if nothing else, to be able to share with their class. And then, since I’m an audio podcaster, if you would want to take a recorder, digital recorder, tape recorder, and being able to do that. And I know you’re also involved with video. …and you might mention that because you said that you’re changing it up from what you did last year with the Oregon Trail.

BRIAN: Right, this year I am, I’m still taking my digital camera which by the way can shoot video, but I’m taking a specific Panasonic video camera, and I’m working on a documentary film that will incorporate some still but will primarily be video-based because I need to learn something new. And, in journalism, we no longer teach people, really, to work for TV stations, newspapers. We teach them to work for media companies because, if you’re working for NBC, I don’t know if you know this but, they have a website, and they put video on it, and they put text on it, and they do everything on it. And, a requirement of our core curriculum in our journalism program is they have to take a New Media course. It’s one of many things. And, they have to learn to edit video. They have to learn to edit audio. They’ve already been doing stills. And, combine these. They have to blog, and not just in the New Media class, in the writing classes, they have to blog. In our ethics classes, they blog. In our Sports Writing class, they have to make their own photographs and blog even though it’s primarily a writing course. So, there’s a cross-connection of stuff going on here, and teachers can really benefit and help themselves be a more effective and more excited about what they do day to day if they just participated. And, that sort of thing.

Brian: …something I did with my students for 30 days and you’ll have a link off here I’m sure to ittybittyphoto.com..…all shot with point shoot cameras, not the expensive stuff, I challenge myself to make a photograph and publish it every single day for thirty days, and then, I challenge my students to do it. They go that’s too hard and I go I can do it I have a job, things I got to do.

Itty bitty photo


Tom: I think that’s often excuse……for…students. I remember whenever I was starting out with podcasting things, I literally was using a little netbook and a ten dollar microphone. And yeah, those didn’t sound as great, but I was learning the process and things. And then, over time, I’ve upgraded the equipment, and now, I’m using a mixer. And we have two microphones going in whereas before it was just you know one microphone that we shared back and forth, but again, the important thing is to get started on that and as you said find something that you’re passionate about and the rest will follow out there.

Brian: On one of the first trips I did, I followed the Mississippi with a teacher, a local teacher, I know who is an alum of Eastern here named Jim Standerfer, a very talented writer, because I didn’t want to do the writing and the photography. This last time I realized how hard it was. I purposely used a Canon Powershot G10 camera; the same point and shoot camera we teach our students with, the same one you..can’t buy now because the G11 is the new version, but it’s a point and shoot camera. And, my point then doing some work which got in a gallery show and got published in newspapers was that I’m trying to teach technique and understanding not how to use a specific piece of technology. One of the main reasons I did it that way is that I said, “Look here is the same camera that I hand you in class. What’s your excuse.” I also make sure though, when I talk about this, I show them all the bad photographs that I make that don’t quite work or have a technical problem. We were discussing before we went on air, I guess you call it, the best thing you can do to be able to teach something effectively is to play with it and screw it up. You’ll never be able to teach something as well or do anything as well as after you’ve had to teach it, break it down and not approach it from how you learned it but figure out how somebody else learns it and approaches it that way. And, I think it all snowballs from there.

Tom: Right…Students have to internalize that learning and the only way that you internalize it is through those experiences out there and that you have to provide those opportunities for the students to learn and to fail. I use a term…I tell my student whenever I start on some project-based learning activity is I want you to fail fast. I want you to go through and take all the steps of this project and go through very, very small at first. So say a podcast, you know, it would be probably crazy to give my students to say I would like for you all to do a thirty minute podcast, so let’s do a one minute or even a thirty second one. You would be surprised how much time you could spend on just a thirty second project. You know because you’ve done it out there, but students think. “Oh, no problem. Let’s do a public service announcement. Thirty seconds, here’s what you want to do.” That literally can take hours to get that thirty seconds.

Brian: One of the other things related to that, I think, is that, what we’re talking about here too, when you set up these situations where you allow people to fail, you don’t have to ride your motorcycle through the Arctic to make content; you don’t have to go on the Oregon Trail. I’m just interested in those things, so I decided to document. However, going back to what I was talking about before, I had set up this photograph every single day. Publish it online; people were checking it. I did this in Charleston, Illinois. We’re a county that’s what, 30,000 at most and it’s shrinking in population.

Tom: Rural Illinois, corn and bean fields everywhere.

Brian: So, I had to find something. And a lot of it did not come on the campus which takes about half the population of the county away. I had little towns like, if you’ve ever looked at a map, Reardon, Illinois. Something I don’t know if you can even find on a map. Well, I would just go drive because I had this hour and a half window available that day, and I knew people would give me a really hard time if I didn’t put something up. And so, what you find yourself doing is falling back on “Ok, I teach this class. What makes a good photograph? What compositional things can I do turn this situation into a good photograph? What’s at the heart of a good photograph? It’s emotion, it’s faces.” Sort of, you’re like, oh yeah, there’s a reason why this stuff that I teach works. It actually does great. …and it sounds like work but actually it was probably the best part of my day. It was like my hour and my half where I got to be creative and do something for myself....

Tom: But, you set that goal to begin with and that’s kind of that drive…same thing here with this podcast. I used to publish weekly and then I made it once a month and kind of turned this into more of an interview type format. But, you do feel yourself, I don’t know if pressures the right word, but you have that goal in the back of your mind. Like, oh, it’s coming up on the end of the month, we need to get the whatever it is done, whatever goal you have accomplished.

Brian: The best thing about teaching photo students having been a photo journalist is you can’t make photographs over the phone. You can’t sit in an office and call someone up and say, “Can you send me a photograph that I can use and put my name on.” You overcome what I call the Velcro of the Couch Effect which is the hardest part of any project is getting your butt off the couch, being stuck there and there is this inertia of a body at rest. You’d be amazed once you go out there and just…the beautiful thing of the assignment of making a photograph a day is you know you have to do something. There are no excuses for well that’s not going to be good enough so I’m not going to push the button. And you’d be surprised that, when you force yourself to do something, you can do better stuff than you thought you could do.

Tom: Right, and that’s that growing process and learning process out there. And, once again, it comes back to practice, the more you do, you know, I think, subconsciously, it works on your mind over time. As long as you have the goal, and you mentioned this, of constantly improving because it is possible to get in a rut and, well, I know how to do this, I’m going to do the same thing, as you said, thirty times this way. But, as long as you push it to that next level, and grow. And that’s where that patience comes in, so if you have that patience in there, you’re constantly striving for that.

Brian: I do some workshops for high schools, and we put a bunch here. And there’s a little town called Mount Carmel in the Southern part of the state, Wabash County. And, they bring me in, and I teach their students photography and a little bit of web design and this sort of stuff. I look at what they do now, and they’re running…they’re building commercial websites for the businesses in their community. And, one faculty said, “I know how to do web servers or you know do subservers”. So, they do that. And, one person, “Well, I sort of know web design, and I teach business communication.” And, what I love about their approach down there is, these faculty have found a way to keep themselves excited rather than just like, “Well, design a website for yourself,” and really, how do you critique that. But, now you have a customer to keep happy, and you don’t get to pick pink for your webpage just because you like pink. You better hope that there’s a reason for it to be pink, and one of the largest producers of oil drilling bits in the country is in Mount Carmel, Illinois. They do the website for them. They don’t want pink; I don’t think. They want red and oil black, and so it’s real life experience. And those kids get to point to that, put that on their resume, their college application and say, “I’ve done commercial websites.” That’s better than I built a website for myself, and the faculty get the pride and satisfaction of knowing they’re really teaching real stuff.

Tom: Ok, we probably need to wrap-up here a little bit, but let’s talk a little bit about some of the technologies and things that you and I both use out there for…obviously the Tech Talk for Teachers blog, if you visited that site, we’re using Blogger. And then, for their photo site of that, they’ve got another Google property that’s called Picassa, so some people may have heard that name. So, since those two belong to both companies, those are kind of a natural pair out there, Blogger and Picassa for some of your photographs. A long time ago, like I said, Flickr’s been out there. It was one of the first web 2.0 companies. They were and still are, aren’t they, a Yahoo! property…

Brian: Uh…yeah…Yahoo!...yeah. And so, if you have a Yahoo! email account, you already have a Flikr account.

Tom: Whether you know it or not…it’s part of your Yahoo! account.

Brian: Yes, you just log in there. And so, I made up a Yahoo! email account just for that purpose.

Tom: And, for teachers out there, you know, keeping the personal separate from some of the class projects out there, you know. You might set up a separate account for something like that whether it be a Blogger or a Flickr or Picassa whatever…whatever it might be. Same thing, you know the Yahoo! account, same thing with Gmail, if you have Gmail, you have Blogger and Picassa out there available to you.

Brian: And, click on Google, and click on tabs: the extra stuff that they normally don’t show you. I mean there’s…

Tom: More items…I can’t remember what it is. I click on it all the time.

Brian: You have a website. You want to know if people are using it.

Tom: Google sites?

Brian: Google analytic will tell you an amazing amount of stuff that you probably don’t want to know about your traffic or lack of it sometimes (laughs).

Tom: (laughs) Yeah. And then, when we were talking earlier, you mentioned something about Vimeo. Can you talk a little about Vimeo and Youtube?

Brian: Right. Vimeo and Youtube, I’m sure you all know what Youtube is. …Vimeo, I like to call it the adult version of Youtube. …It doesn’t take commercial content. It’s much higher quality. …and if you want to inspire yourself and challenge yourself and your students, you can go there and just find a bunch of stuff. Now, it’s overwhelming because there’s so many stuff there, and before I go on, they have some really nice forums that are really helpful for a specific camera, what you are trying to do. …everyday they have staff favorites which just for your own entertainment purposes and to inspire yourself are worth looking at. You can have a paid account, but it’s also free. Just, when you pay, you can upload more, and you can get more options. I’m using the free one right now. When I come back from my trip on Oregon, I’m going to offer my stuff to both PBS and probably put an edited version up on Vimeo just because the quality is so high. I mean it’s high definition streaming if you want it streamed at a higher quality. It’s much higher quality than what Youtube offers. It’s worth checking out, if for no other reason, because, as a teacher, I steal ideas all the time. I see somebody do something really awesome. Hey, that’s pretty cool. I’m going to teach my students to do that, and I’m going to steal that idea. And, it’s everything from big massive epic productions where people have hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment to stuff that was shot with Flickr cameras or, I’m sorry, flash-based camera. It’s a better resource, I think, for getting better content. Looking at stuff that you can steal ideas from and try to emulate to make yourself better.

Tom: Ok, to wrap-up here, let’s just kind of go through a project, and you’ve inspired me. I probably need to start doing some more photography and things. That’s something I’ve always been interested in, and I was one of those, when I was teaching high school we had the dark room, so it’s been a few years. I’ve gone through that evolution. But, I, number one is establish a goal. Don’t let the summer go by, you know. If you’re going to be out there on vacation and you’re interested and passionate in something out there, just make it a goal out there to provide some type of way that you can share your passion and knowledge out there on the subject with others. And then, from there, you know, pick whatever media…medium you would like to do whether it be still photographs or a combination of photographs and blogging and things. I’ll put in the links in the show to some of Brian’s prior work because I think that blog for teachers out there, that’s a familiar format, you know. We’re very familiar with blogs at this point, but it’s having that goal out there on that specific thing. Any other words of wisdom here as we…

Brian: I just think what you want to do, primarily, is say imagine someone sitting there, and they say tell me a story. So, what is it you’re interested about? What do you know something about? Where are you going? And, tell them a story about it, and you’re all teachers so figure out what’s the teachable moment out of it and chase that. And then, figure out how…but before you go figure out how you might share it that will sort of dictate what your approach will be. And, the beautiful thing here is that you don’t tie yourself to thirty seconds or thirty minutes or something. This is not broadcast. This is internet casting. It’s how long does this need to be but edited down, so there’s not extra in there. You know, you don’t a twenty page paper when a ten page paper will do, and go out there and make some mistakes, and if it totally blows up in your face, nobody will know about it. Unless you’re stupid enough to tell people you’re going on the Oregon Trail.

Tom: Which can be a motivating factor as you said, along there to push you.

Brian: You’re teachers. You know what a little research can do. You know knowing something before you get there, what it’s about, and that allows you to focus in, literally, on what the story’s about. But, I just spent two days figuring out how to get two pieces of software to work together, so I know I’m going to have to do this. But, you know what, that’s kind of fun once you figure out how to do it, and the thing that teachers have available that nobody had available fifteen to twenty years ago are forums. Go there. Ask questions. Just say, I’m a newb or a novice. And, as soon as you admit that you don’t know anything, everybody’s willing to help you. It’s a beautiful thing. So, figure out what you want to do, try it, ask for some help. If you fail, so what no one will know the difference.

Tom: Yep, get better next time. Reach that next level. Ok, I’d like to thank Brian Poulter for coming in today. It’s been a great conversation, and also, as you all head into summer, I’d love to hear from you. Some of the audience members out there, if you have an idea, if you have little question, shoot an email to our techtalk@eiu.edu email address, and I’d love to see some of the projects or things. Whenever you come back to school this fall, be sure to drop me a note. Let us know if this has been beneficial for you, and we will continue to broadcast. I’ll have another episode in June. So, we will continue over the summer, but for those of you that are going on break, you can stay subscribed. And, I’d like to wish everybody a very productive summer.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer tablet. I recently was in the market for purchasing a new netbook for my own personal use but I was also was considering a tablet like the iPad. I came really close to buying the iPad version 1 product when they were reduced in price to $399 when the iPad 2 came out but I really did not want to be stuck with a tablet that was over a year old when I bought one. I am glad I waited as the Eee Pad Transformer became available at the end of April and I purchased the Eee Pad along with the optional keyboard dock that “transforms” the tablet into a netbook like device.

Eee Pad Transformer


The Eee Pad runs the Android Honeycomb operating system and I get the best of both worlds. I get a touch screen device with about 9 hours of battery life and a keyboard dock that provides an additional 7 hours of battery life along with a physical keyboard to use when I want to get some real work done. Thats 16 hours of battery life when used in combination with the keyboard dock, talk about all day computing! It provides instant on and the keyboard is well designed with special shortcut keys that make using the Eee Pad with the docked keyboard a joy to use. There is a small switch that slides back and forth to lock and unlock the keyboard dock to the tablet.

I can use a touchscreen keyboard for small amounts of text input but I find myself wanting to use a physical keyboard for anything longer than a paragraph of typing. The docking station is very easy to use and I can move from a tablet to a netbook style device at will. I bought the Eee Pad 16GB version that retails for $399, a one-hundred dollars savings over the iPad. Two other features sealed the deal for me in making this purchase. First, and it includes a microSD card that provides flexible storage that I can use to load content onto a microSD card. This essentially allows for unlimited storage as I can load up a microSD card with content and when it gets full I can buy another microSD card for additional content if I so choose. Because the Eee Pad allows additional storage it also has a file manager that allows you to easily copy and paste files from your computer to the Eee Pad using the special USB cable that is provided. Secondly, the Eee Pad has a mini HDMI out connector that allows you to connect to a HDTV using an affordable mini HDMI to HDMI cable. This allows you to watch on the big screen any content that is displayed on the Eee Pad.

As I mentioned I also bought the optional keyboard dock that costs an additional $150. This is optional and not needed at all unless you want the added battery life or are like me and prefer to use a physical keyboard for anything other than casual typing. Since I wanted a netbook like device I elected to purchase the keyboard dock. I have had the Eee Pad for about a month now and it has handled everything I expected it to do. It supports Adobe Flash so you will enjoy a full Internet experience. Being a Google operating system it works well with gmail and Youtube and you have full access to the Android Marketplace if you would like additional apps. For those that are considering 1 to 1 tablet programs in schools the Eee Pad may be worth considering as a hybrid solution that offers the best of the touchscreen tablet world along with the practicality of the netbook world.

That wraps it up for episode 120 of TechTalk4Teachers. I want to thank Brian Poulterr for being our guest on todays show and wish him the best on his upcoming Oregon Trail trip. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to techtalk@eiu.edu or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom. Keep on learning…