Monday, 3 October 2016

Finally some tech!

If you don't know me, I'm one of them tech teachers. The ones who go on about tech like it's going to change the world.

Well, it is, it has and it will continue to do so, so shut up, sit down and listen.

I bought a new laptop, for myself. I've used Apple stuff for a long time and have experienced a slow falling out of love with their ecosystem. Their devices are nice enough, it's just a shame they see fit to fill them up with laggy bloatware operating systems and nagging reminders to update x or y every time you move the mouse.

I have bought several Chromebooks for others. I've recommended many more, but I've never actually owned one myself. I use Google's ecosystem constantly. Hey, I'm even a 'Google Super Admin' - get me!

I wanted a Chromebook. I wanted a cheap laptop that I could use myself, something I could pick up that wasn't stinking all over with the sweat of work and was my own. That didn't cry 'check your work email' seductively in my ear when trying to do something for myself.

So, I bought an ASUS flip.

Why? Because loads of people said they were really good. Because I wanted something that would work a bit like my tablet but had a keyboard. Because I couldn't be arsed buying a PC laptop and putting linux on it.

Is it any good?

I love this machine. It's light, fast and the keyboard is perfectly respectable. It feels slightly cramped if you think about it, but it's more than adequate. This entire blog is written on it and if you've read it, you'll probably testify to the fact I can go on a bit!. The trackpad is small but responsive and feels very natural - it's a world away from the horrendous excuse for a trackpad on some of the PCs I've used. They've got the 'tap to click' function exactly right. That bit works better than my MacBook pro (work machine.)

The keyboard isn't backlit, which is a minor shame, but the quality of touchscreen is a revelation. I thought it would be a bit shonky. I was expecting not much better than the old pressure based phone screens but it's lovely. It's seems more 'slidey' than the the iPad air2. I don't know why, but it seems my finger glides better across it.

The screen is probably the weakest part. It's an IPS screen, so it's got lovely viewing angles but it's only 480p resolution. That's not a massive issue as it's only 10" - I wouldn't watch 2001 Space Odyssey on it, but it's fine for watching iplayer or something. For typing and web browsing it's perfectly good.

Chrome OS is so simple and slick. I knew that already though. But it is. It really is. It deals with loads of tabs well. (I'm a tab-whore) and the 4gb ram lifts above a lot of other Chromebooks about which are slightly under powered in this department.

The integration with Android apps is excellent. I've not found anything that it doesn't deal with. An app like 'medium' feels like a native app. Oddly, the tablet element feels more natural at times in laptop mode in certain apps. It's lovely to rest it on my knee and use the screen at the normal laptop angle in certain apps. Drawing feels more natural this way somehow. I don't know why, but it does. Apps do occasionally glitch, but I was able to play GTA SA on the Chromebook with no major issues beyond a glitch if I switched it to tablet mode. I was also using in for a long time in developer mode.

The flipping aspect is well designed, the bezel is solid and tent mode makes a mockery of those horrible tablet cases which never properly stand up.

It's a lovely machine to look at in full aluminium and the real joy (in comparison to a tablet) is the connectivity - two USB ports, HDMI out and a micro SD slot. It can deal with my (android) phone perfectly well and I can add music/files with no fuss.

The speakers aren't bad. They're laptop speakers. What are you going to say about them?

It boots up in 7 seconds. I can switch between accounts in 7 seconds (switching between accounts on my Macbook often requires a full restart as MacOS grinds to a halt when I ask it to do this)

In short, I couldn't really be happier with it. It's a device I use to consume but it's also (and this is key here for anyone interested in edtech) a lovely device to produce on. The fact I can scribble on the tablet OR use a full fat version of Google Apps with a responsive keyboard OR turn to the Android market place gives it a real edge over a tablet for me.  

It cost...


Which I think is really quite a bargain.

Image result for asus flip chromebook

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Wanted! Depressed and anxious adults to look after young people.

This is my lunch break from marking. It's Sunday and I've already alienated my family because of work and am missing the sunshine. Oh woe is me. (tiny violin) I really hate moaning teacher stories. It does my head in.

I know why they moan, but the lack of direct organised action is pathetic and the same people who moan are the idiots who mark all weekend and make the job impossible for everybody else who wants a sense of balance in their lives...

Wait a minute. Um... Er... 

I have become the thing I hate. Next I'll discover I drive an estate car and have a mortgage! 

Anyway, on a day when my 'happy place' is a bit difficult to find, I'm consoling myself by trying a new way to mark more efficiently and effectively (oh, the delicious irony of preaching efficiency on a Sunday) and listening to Terry Riley. The latter is wonderful and is just about the only thing stopping me driving to Dundee in my bare feet. The former seems to at least have novelty value that makes the mind numbing task of saying the same thing again and again with slight variations slightly more bearable. It's a bit like being Terry Riley. (one for the fans of avant garde neo-classical composers there.) Hey - I've got another one for you - wait for it.... Should I give them all a C? For slightly different reasons? (that's 95% of the blog readers gone then. Still, the joke was worth it)

Anyways, I was just chuckling wryly to myself as I stood by the kitchen window, allowing myself the guilty treat of seeing outside for a minute and thinking about teacher mental health in a different light.

Imagine the outcry if the government announced they were specifically going to employ people with mental health issues to teaching positions.

Could you imagine if a core requirement of the job description was to be 'currently experiencing or recently have experienced chronic stress, crippling anxiety or a total sense of hopelessness and overwhelming misery'?

Oh, we're all for inclusion of people with mental health issues in wider society but 'what about the children' etc...

It makes you wonder doesn't it? What if the powers that be deliberately constructed a situation in which young people were looked after by people experiencing the symptoms and reality of mental health problems? What if indeed? It makes me chuckle wryly. Or slightly insanely. I don't know any more.

The essays aren't bad to be fair. There's always that. It's worth flirting with semi permanent clinical fed upness for. I get paid I suppose.

File this under 'top teacher banter'