Traveling with Technology | Devices and Programs

For all of you who are on the road as much as I am I thought I would highlight just a few pieces of technology that make my overseas travel jaunts a bit easier.

I have noticed lately that most international educators on the road carry a netbook, or even an iPad. Having a small, lightweight device makes it much easier to travel with than carrying a 17 inch, 15 lb brick in your bag.

Since I’m still waiting for Steve Jobs and Adobe to reach some sort of compromise I have found that a netbook, my iPhone and a portable keyboard does the trick. Although the shiny iPad does bring a lot of interested students swarming into a huddle around you.

The advantage with the netbook is that it has full multitasking support and the ability to load all Windows-based programs.  They do have limited RAM so loading huge programs like Photoshop and iTunes aren’t recommended, but these machines are built for internet browsing and email, and that’s mostly what you need on the go.

I have found that since I purchased a netbook I always have it on me. Since it’s only ~4 lbs I just leave it in my mid-size day bag on my meeting rounds. If I have 30 minutes between appointments I can drop into an internet cafe (or even draft emails offline) whereas with my full size laptop I wouldn’t have carried it around with me all day due to the extra weight.

My latest find is a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPhone.
I found the most challenging part of my overseas work travel was coming home and finding the time to write up all the notes and follow up reminders from my meetings.
With my iPhone and keyboard I can take notes down quickly, as well as set reminders for follow up. I can export these digital notes* into a word document, add the final touches, and my trip report is done before my plane even lands back home.
I do recommend you let your students/parents/clients know that you’re taking meeting notes on your phone and not surfing the web or checking Facebook while talking with them.  Most find it impressive that I’m using my device in a more unconventional way, which has started some interesting technology discussions.

*Stay tuned for my post to come on the best applications to take notes on the iPhone/iPad and export content.

So now you have all of these documents spread out between your work computer, your laptop, your netbook and your phone. How to keep track of them all, especially when you’re modifying them from different locations?
Move to the cloud.

While it may be difficult to get used to the idea that your documents are living out in space, I can assure you it will quickly become your preferred method of storage.
There are many advantages to storing your documents off your main frame computer, most importantly so that you can access them anywhere, or should you lose your computer you will at least avoid losing the valuable information you created on it.

You will obviously need to check with your institution’s IT policy on security of cloud computing document storage.  In the meantime, I recommend you check out some of the web based services that offer storage space. Some are free, others have a free-based account with upgrades for paid accounts.
The other advantages of these services is most offer the ability to invite users, which means you can create collaborative documents with your colleagues and update them in real time.

The following are basic programs that allow you to store simple files such as Word documents, Excel, and text files in the cloud to access via the web. These are great for storing basic files you want to access from multiple devices.
Google Docs

Below are several online storage and file management systems that offer a more robust storage system for all of your back-up filing needs. Think of it as a hard drive in cyberspace.

I am working on a post dedicated to my favorite productivity iPhone/iPad apps so stay tuned as to how you can further leverage your travel technology.

Feel free to comment on what you find useful in your travel technology tool kit.

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5 responses to “Traveling with Technology | Devices and Programs

  • APIstudyabroad

    Thanks for the post McKenzie! I still need a full-laptop (I use a MacBook) for web/creative work, but now that the new MacBook Air is out, that seems like a nice compromise between a netbook and iPad. Looking forward to your app post – anything Android or BB related, or just iPhone/iPad?

  • MacKenzie Hizon

    API: Good point. I do love my iMac for design and movie editing. The MacBook Air might be a good alternative, although it’s lighter but not much smaller. I wonder if Apple will ever go mini on the laptop route. The iPad just doesn’t have enough functionality to completely replace a computer…yet.

    I will definitely include some Android and BB compatible apps in my post. Thanks for the request.

  • Anonymous

    Great Post McKenzie. I teach EFL in Chile and would like to incorporate portable technology into the mix on content delivery and interaction teacher student. What do you think I should suggest to students and university administrators in terms of affordable hardware/software options: Netbooks, iPads, or smartphones?
    Chileans love their technology for play and interpersonal communications but seem to balk at using it for (focused) educational purposes.
    What might be a way to break through here?

  • MacKenzie Hizon

    Thanks Chris.
    That’s great to hear that you want to incorporate technology in your second language learning classroom. I think the hardware really depends on your curriculum development, learning objectives, and instruction style. What type of class are you teaching (grammar, writing, basic skills, speaking?) and what type of learning environment and curriculum do you offer? Is it more activity-based, real-world content, rooted in a specific textbook series, or…?

    I will say that netbooks are a great option for students because the portability and afford-ability allows students to have a personal computer essentially in their back pocket. Access to the internet, online programs and a basic office software suite are a great computer skills building platform.

    I think in the next year we are going to see applications (apps) become a key component in education, both academic content and language learning, but I would say hold off on the iPads and smartphones until some of the content can catch up with the demand. There is already a great library of educational content but I think one day soon there will be programs available where we, as language educators, can create iPad/smartphone apps on the front-end to suite our individual curriculum and instruction needs, much like the way website development has evolved from IT programmers writing code behind the scenes to present day where the general public now has the tools to develop and produce their own content on the web.

  • Chris

    Wonderful advice MacKenzie. May your visions for 2011 all come true! I can’t wait for apps you mention to begin to appear. I want to be able to offer as much as possible to my students as a way to further their contact with quality EFL content and classroom time is just not enough. Best wishes toyou in the New Year!! Chris

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