The Power of Presence and Portability


I’ve been reflecting a bit on my experiences here in Malaysia this morning – particularly in terms of what it has meant for me in terms of working away from my home and family for extended periods of time, and have realised just important a number of the technologies that I now take for granted are to me.

For instance, on my computer my Skype and iChat windows automatically open when my computer is switched on, thus I have to make a conscious decision NOT to work with them running rather than the other way around. This provides me with a “virtual presence” whenever I am online, and the ability to see which of my friends and colleagues are online. There’s seldom been a time when I’ve opened my computer during my time here that I haven’t been “interrupted” by someone wanting to connect for a variety of reasons – from friends simply inquiring how things are going through to colleagues with specific questions etc. This has allowed me to remain connected to and involved in the range of things I have on my programme back in NZ.

In our project here in Malaysia, we have used these same tools to provide synchronous opportunities for teachers and students in Malaysia to connect with peers in New Zealand, and it has been interesting to see how these first time users have adapted and adopted these new technologies very quickly – such that I now have an ever growing list of names on my contact list!

Another thing I’ve come to rely on is the ability to simply open my computer up wherever I am and be able to connect to the internet – whether by wireless (which is being implemented in a big way here in Perak) or by plugging into a cable in a school or hotel room. This relative ‘portablility’ allows me to remain connected and involved regardless of my physical location.

The combination then of the communications software that provides me with this sense of presence, the laptop I carry and the wireless access that allows for portability, and the fact that I can so easily personalise these tools provides me with an increasing sense of what a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is and can be.

It was of interest to read this morning news that Sony and British Telecom have joined forces to integrate the PSP with BT Broadband’s video and voice softphone VoIP software, meaning that calls will be free, with the customer only having to pay for the BT broadband subscription! This will certainly introduce a more mobile connectivity tool into the mix, and must certainly be a sign of things to come as we become more mobile!

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