Mobile Greenhorn

As a practicing academic technologist, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I acquired my first mobile device in December of 2011. This excludes the mobile phones I have had, as I barely used them for anything but voice calls, and the iPads I borrowed from my uni library in the first 2/3 of 2011. Frankly, the issue in my personal life is frugality. I never saw the benefits of shelling out a lot of money for connectivity that didn’t promise much that I wasn’t already getting. I’ve never had trouble making friends or keeping in touch with old ones through existing technology like the postal service, so I didn’t need something to keep me connected to a social network. I resented and continue to resent the drip-drip-drip of fees imposed on information access by the telcos, especially since others in the world have demonstrated that things don’t have to be the way they are in the US.

But in any case, as part of my new job, I requested an iPod Touch as my first networked mobile device of my own. Perhaps it was the affordances I enjoyed while using the iPad last year, perhaps it was that I finally had access to a budget with room for getting me such a device, perhaps I just wanted a new toy. (For what it’s worth, I’m on the record as thinking that toys in education and among those of us who support structured learning are good.) In any case, I’ve taken the last three weeks or so and learned some things.

  1. There are many fewer open wireless networks than were once available or at least than were once reportedly available. I’m glad that security is improving, but it makes having a device without cellular capability more difficult.
  2. Because I can only use the device on open wireless networks, I end up either a) contorting my schedule looking for access or b) using my device much less than I might due to lack of access
  3. iPod Touches and their iPhone kin (and I presume Android devices) have very small screens. Do people really read anything carefully and extensively on these? I’m over 40 and don’t need glasses, and it’s neither easy nor pleasant to read much of substance. I have yet to achieve a reading Flow with the device.
  4. The best parts about it so far are the basics: email, photos and videos that can be shared easily, time management applications, note-taking applications (within reason), weather applications
  5. I have to compartmentalize. Because the basics are so nice, it’s easy to drift away from my toddler son when I should be savoring time with him, ditto my wife. Some time this morning I realized the key for me is to conceptualize the device as a little satellite office. When I’m on it, I’m doing work, so I should put it in an inaccessible location when I would not otherwise be doing work. Because I enjoy my job and because the people I work with (academics and academics-in-training) don’t work usual schedules, I’m not put off by doing some work outside of usual business hours. But there have to be limits. Conversely, just as there are benefits to my family to be derived from my employment outside of what a mobile device offers, I’m not going to avoid using the iPod Touch for family purposes where it’s truly useful.