Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Paperless Powerpoint notes for class

One of my main goals for the iPad was to reduce the amount of paper I use in my professional life.  I typically teach with a set of power point slides and I put my lecture notes in the "note" field of the slides.  I have always brought to class two items: 1) a memory stick with the ppt file (to load on the classroom computer and project through the built-in system in the classrooms), and 2) a printed out set of the "notes pages" of the slides.  Often my notes for any one class will be 20-40 pages.  There has to be a way for the iPad to help reduce that, right? 

Printing the notes pages to an adobe file is the key -- then, I load that adobe file into Goodreader and bring my iPad to class instead of a print out of the notes pages.  Works great ..... so long as you leave enough time for the computer to print the full file.  The first time I tried this I was anxious because I needed to leave my office for the walk to the classroom.  I was having computer trouble, so I shut power point down thinking I could reboot it and deal with the freezing that seemed to be happening, but then up popped "print-out" of my notes pages in adobe, so I thought I had what I needed.  I loaded to my iPad and raced to class.  It was not until I got to slide 20 in class and there was no slide 21 on my ipad, but there were slides 21-37 (yikes!) in the file.  I had to teach the second half of the class without the benefit of any of my notes.  Lesson learned: always check the file you load on to your iPad to make sure it has all of the pages.  Other than this snafu, the method worked like a charm.

I figure this small change of how I bring my notes to class is going to save over three reams of paper each semester (30 avg. pages per class x 52 classes =1560).  That's pretty good!

My Itinerary by ScholarOne

A useful app when going to a professional conference.

I recently returned from a conference and had a great experience with an app called "My Itinerary" by ScholarOne.  It was a conference of the Acoustical Society of America and they made the conference book available in this form.  The app allowed me to browse through all of the talks being presented at the conference including links to the abstracts for the talks.  When I found one I liked, I clicked on it and it was added to my personalized itinerary, hence the app name.  The information was all downloaded to my iPad, so I could view the information on the plane.  The app also had other useful information like maps of the meeting room locations etc.  Since I was also taking notes on my iPad, I quickly learned that I didn't need to carry anything else around with me at the conference.  This was very cool and worked great, but will only be useful to you if your professional conference makes their information available in this form.  Here's a link to information on the app:  And here is a screenshot of "My Itinerary":

P.S. A random little tip: the most useful non-obvious gesture I've found is switching between apps rapidly by putting all five fingers on the screen and then sweeping left or right.  If you only have a few apps open, this works really well to switch between them.  In my case, it was the above app and the note taking app.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back to the drawing board

One of my primary impetuses for getting an ipad was trying to address some of the pedagogical challenges of one of the EAS courses that I teach every year.  The course is the only 200-level SOAN course open to first-year students from any discipline with no prerequisites.  It is also required of all EAS majors who often wait until their senior year to fulfill their requirements. Typically hovering around 25-30 students, the course thus incorporates first year students with little to no background either in sociology/anthropology or East Asian studies, and upper-division students who have already had courses in advanced social theory and/or spent significant time in East Asia.  Over the years, younger students have mentioned that the classroom atmosphere can seem intimidating and that this hampers their participation.  My plan was to use the iPad in this classroom to address these concerns, specifically by using the iPad app “LectureTools.”  LectureTools (LT) is usually a paid subscription, but I talked the sales team into a free demo for the semester.  It’s a presentation program that allows the instructor to share slides and presentation material with the students and that allows the students to individually annotate directly onto the slides on their own computers/iPads/smart phones. LT also allows students to engage directly with the presentation by posing anonymous questions and answers to questions from their devices through a “questions” tab that then appear on the central classroom screen.  For assessment purposes, the instructor has the individual ability to note which students are asking/answering questions without other students having access to the information.  Thus, students who feel uncomfortable participating in conversations that are dominated by upper-class students with more extensive disciplinary/area studies background may contribute in more creative ways.  The program also has a “confusing” button that students can press that allows them to show incomprehension without feeling self-conscious.  Sounds great, right? Back to the drawing board.  After all this prep, learning the program, publishing the course info, etc. when I tried to use it in the classroom it was a flop.  The lag time required of students to type questions/answers/etc. into their phones and/or computers was so lengthy and awkward that is became more of a burden than an asset, with everyone getting impatient with the lag time between question, answer and discussion.  Off to the next idea…

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My iPad 'delivers'!

Last month, I concluded my post acknowledging that I was finally grokking my iPad's potential as a "delivery" device (having fretted for months over how it should/could be "creative").  I'm happy to report some success with BOTH!

Thanks to the clear recommendations from a colleague previously on this blog regarding GoodReader, I committed myself to putting that resource into my project requirements: now, written work supporting all projects in my FUNDAMENTALS OF DESIGN course may only be digitally submitted.  Granted, the consequence of that commitment was some up-front 'training' time.  I also had to reconcile myself to the several steps that have replaced my red-pen notes on original paper (translating submissions into easily identifiable files-in-folders, depositing into Dropbox, reading/commenting/marking-up the work, uploading marked-up papers back to Dropbox, and finally emailing each annotated submission back to students).  BUT... none of these steps - now that I have 'practiced' them - are hugely burdensome, AND I have the annotated papers to keep on file through the semester - something not possible before.  Forcing myself to take at least this 'digital' step in coursework that is otherwise all hands-on has given me, at the very least, some consolation in my ongoing steps to put my iPad into MY education as well as my students!

(I also want to give yet another shoot out for Dropbox, which has become my go-to 'bridge' app between my office computer and this lightweight iPad access tool.  Research images open with lightening speed on the iPad, and working on multiple projects in a variety of meetings outside of my office has become effortless.  I know there are other similar apps out there, and would be interested if others have found 'better' apps than this.  For now, I'm a fan!)

Finally, I will happily confess - after months of frustration - that a first grader gave me a 2-minute demo on one of the most user friendly "rendering" applications I have seen... and I immediately downloaded Art Set ($0.99).  Yes, it makes drawing, 'painting' and other simple rendering techniques into "child's play" - what's wrong with that?!!  For initiating visual ideas in full color (with a simulation of the acrylics, pastels, crayons and colored pencils that we all have befriended for years), I am delighted to finally have a no-training-time required tool on my iPad.  I look forward to experimenting on how I might display/download the new colored content for my students.  I'll bet back to you on that . . .

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Since the beginning of the new semester I have been scrambling to find new ways to use the iPad in class. I have managed to improve my use of it for bringing the primary text program, Accordance, into classroom use, but I quite honestly remain a clumsy user, struggling at times to get the interface to work well.

I have started to use the iPad for video clips in a course I am teaching on Apocalyptic Imagination. It serves as a nice piece of hardware to shift to so that I don't have to switch uses of the classroom computer.

On another, front, I remain persuaded that the best use of the iPad for me so far is as a means of consuming texts that I can read electronically, and that has turned out to be quite handy in the classroom. I often electronically mark up the articles we are reading in class and bring that copy with me on the iPad to help guide discussion.

Lastly, I have decided to devote some time to perusing the software that has become available for the iPad since early last spring. I'm hoping for some inspiration.

Apps for Film Study and Production

Hello Folks!  As this is my first post to the blog, you'll forgive my casual nature.  I've been playing and experimenting with a wide variety of apps that are affiliated with filmmaking and film analysis with mostly positive results.  I'll discuss each in turn and detail the experience thus far.

Film Study App:  this app has been most useful in close analysis of aesthetics, shot placement, and mise-en-scene elements.  The app affords annotation of each shot, and displays well for use in class with students.  They seem to like the ability to import entire films or film clips and then breakdown shots and scenes individually.  The drawbacks are few, though importing copyrighted content is difficult.  Thus far, I've relied on public domain examples from film history.  This serves the purpose I'm aiming for, though I tend to like to compare more contemporary examples of aesthetic forms and shifts in representation to the classic model and therefore have to shift to dvd or youtube.

Magic Hour App:  this app is interesting if not really complicated.  The basic idea is that the app identifies the next period at dawn or dusk that is commonly referred to as "Magic Hour" by cinematographers.  Magic Hour is the fleeting moments at either end of the day where the light softens, and gains a distinctive expressive feel.  I have played with it a bit and it usefully details the peak times and the start and end point of useful light for a shoot.  But, that's pretty much all it does.

I've added recently an app for Film Producing, which will help manage days, resources, interviews, and scripts, but I'm still experimenting and will withhold comment until I've had a chance to use it a bit more.

There's also a Digital Slate App that will be useful in the field; the main purpose of the app is to help identify the scene to be shot and to organize the content in shot lists and timecode.  I envision moving back and forth between apps in the field and encouraging student interns to help manage the shoot through the iPad.

Anyway, more soon on all of the above!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Quick update on digital field scholarship

Dear all -- You read my brief post from late Aug on mapping with smart devices; things are proceeding well this fall with an initiative in digital field scholarship run in conjunction with NITLE and a number of collaborating institutions across the country. We hope to have more of an update by the end of the month, and I'll post one then; for now, if you'd like to play around with mapping options for your iPad, see this mobile mapping help page from our Situating the Global Environment site.