Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Connecting the Dots - finally!

As you already know from past entries (sorry, Kelly - I know I have not written enough), I am a slow learner.  However, I've learned a new patience from my collaboration with my iPad, and hope I can clearly describe the consequent learning outcomes this slow diligent pursuit has rendered...

As you also know, I have struggled with the idea of a digital medium 'replacing' the tactile ones that I naturally use and teach my students to employ as well.  The iPad alone, in retrospect, cannot be a soloist for me in that pursuit.  But, since the iPad in Education's offer to me two semesters ago of this tool, I have also acquired a large Sony digital monitor in my classroom studio (along with an Apple TV to allow for iPad/monitor interaction) and a Jot Pro stylus (yes, Lydia, I just sprang for one in hopes that I'd find it more precise than my less spendy Targus model).  After a time-consuming exploration of many apps already mentioned in earlier postings, I was finally able to employ SketchBook Pro to do what I envisioned when I first made my iPad proposal:

In 'real time', I was able to demonstrate a simple drawing process a 'layered' approach to sketching ( the first part of a project in my THEATRE GRAPHICS course) to 'break the ice' of their fears over drawing.  See the results below:
"Crumpled Dollar Bill"
I was as nervous about this digital demo as they were about putting pencil to paper, so we all broke that ice together!  I also got them to understand - without huddling around my sketchpad (or in this case, my iPad - that making 'marks on the page' is not as permanent or perfect an endeavor as they had always feared...

I am also proud to say that the journey to this simple demo, however arduous and complex, was worth it.  Along the way, I've learned SO much unrelated or collateral technique and technology that I could not have initiated independently.  For me, the iPad has been my motivator into a whole new potential for 'collaborative' technologies in both my field and my classroom.

On a side note, I am empathetic with Lydia's frustration over the iPad's sensitivity to propping a hand on the surface in order to draw.  Some apps (I regret I can't find them to mention at this writing) anticipate this and allow for a partially sensitive screen, but I - like her - have to 'be careful' when using GoodReader for markups.  I still prefer the precision of the Jot Pro stylus - for me, the investment was worth it.

Like Stepan, I have also found this portable tool an amazing convenience!  Visual research is so much more compelling on a back-lit screen.  With the aid of Dropbox, I was able recently to attend a design meeting at Portland Center Stage and could in moments access not just my collection, but also that of other collaborators as we discussed final choices.  The reduction of color prints alone validates the 'replacement of paper' (and color cartridges!) in my design process.  Thanks to this app AND this tool, I can now invite students to collect, share - and now present in a large format - all the research they'll depend on in future projects.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On-going quest for the right stylus

I continue to experiment with ways to have students submit work digitally, grade that work digitally, and return marked-up copies of work (feedback) to them digitally. While grading papers and exams from the fall term I decided to try the Jot Pro stylus that was available from Information Technologies (IT). The IT department has a variety of items available in its "sandbox" that faculty can check out and make sure you like the way they work before investing resources in purchasing the item.  I looked for a list or information about the sandbox on the IT website so I could link to it but couldn't find one. If such a list exists, perhaps someone could add a link in the comments.

As styluses go, the Jot Pro is a bit pricey ($29.99 on the company's website ).  For me it was a bit of mixed bag.  Many features of the Jot Pro I liked -- it does make thinner lines, so I can actually hand write some commentary on the documents I'm reviewing (these are pdf documents I review using GoodReader).  As the company says: "The transparent precision disc naturally glides across the screen and lets you see exactly where your mark will be made."  That's true. Take a look at the pictures on the website. And I liked everything about the style of the device too -- it's rubber gripping surface, it's magnetic cling to the top of the ipad for storage, and even it's cap (screw top, with threads at the opposite end for holding the cap while using the stylus). 

But, for me, the problem was the outside edge of my hand.  If I'm really going to write like I do on paper, the reality is that I rest my hand on the surface of paper when I'm writing.  The surface pressure of my hand confuses the ipad and it then has a hard time picking up the pressure from the stylus.  This time around I ended up using the stylus for short comments (probably five words or less) and then if I had more to say I used a comment box and typed in my comments (using my wireless keyboard).  Overall, I probably will purchase one of the Jot Pros for my own use, but it doesn't completely let me do what I had hoped.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Challenges marking scientific papers with the ipad

I have experimented with limited success in using the ipad to mark up and comment upon student work.  With the goal of going paperless with student writing I had them upload research manuscripts in my cell biology class using Dropbox (which worked great).  I then used the Quickoffice HD Pro app to open the uploaded Word documents.  I was quite pleased with the markup options in this program, which allowed multiple ways to comment upon student work.  I was quite bummed that the embedded figures and tables were not displayed using this app, thus making it impossible for me to use this approach for commenting upon student work.  I ended up using Word and a desktop to electronically comment on these assignments.  Next up..exploring ways to mark up pdfs (which should avoid the image issues that I had experienced) and use ical/google cal to set up a calender for reserving access on a departmental microscope students use in my course.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

iPad in New York

One of the reasons I applied for the "iPad in Education" was my desire to have the device with me during my stay in New York last semester. I led the L&C New York City Off-Campus Program, and I felt that I needed a device that will allow me to work in different places, to have with me a map of New York at all times, to have applications which will allow me to stay connected with the going-ons in the city, and in general to have the means of being informed AND mobile at the same time.
Truth is that all of my plans for the iPad in New York came true. I schlepped the tablet everywhere, and I made maximal use of it both as an orientation device (I downloaded the MTA - Metropolitan Transport Agency - application, which gave me not only the maps of the various transportation options in NY, but also the current schedules, delays, etc...) and as a means to keep current with the cultural offerings in NY. Applications such as "NYC-Arts" and "Village Voice Listings" and others kept me up to date on whatever was happening in the theatre and other arts, complete with maps and directions to the venues, reviews of the productions and events, and other useful stuff.
Additionally, while in NY I used the iPad as my only teaching tool. I downloaded pictures, video clips and powerpoint presentations for my lectures, and connected the devise to the projector in our NYC classroom during my seminars and lectures in theatre. I also downloaded all my readings in the "iBooks" application and was able to read all my materials on the iPad without needing to make copies. This allowed me to prepare for classes, do other important readings, and do my research everywhere. In the Subway, in coffeehouses, on park benches, etc...
I also used the device as a documentary tool - I took numerous pictures, and short videos of the various class activities and posted them on the NYC Program webpage.
In general then, the device did EXACTLY what I was hoping it would do, and it made my work as a program leader much more efficient and pleasant.
I couldn't have done it without it.

iPad for food carts

For the past two months, I have been shooting my feature length documentary entitled CARTLANDIA.  The film is an immersive exploration of the food cart culture in Portland, examining how the scene developed while arguing for its cultural and economic significance to the city.  I have relied heavily on the iPad to assist in the project.  Besides keeping and sharing notes with the crew, I have utilized the Cart Compass App to manage data, locate food cart pods, and the like.  I also participated with my crew in the Cartathlon scavenger hunt/race yesterday that required use of the app to solve riddles and upload photos as proof of successful completion of challenges.  The iPad has been and continues to be an asset in data management and a dynamic tool for engagement with the people and businesses that make up the subject matter of my film.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Further digital field scholarship work with iDevices

Here's a quick update on our digital field scholarship work this semester:

  • I'm teaching a DFS seminar with 12 students doing a variety of projects; see here for summary/links.
  • We have completed a number of labs using iDevices, including geolocation error and Riverview Natural Area historical vegetation (in conjunction with Biology).
  • One app we've used in these labs, and will be using for a spatial interpolation lab next week, is PDFMaps, one of my personal (free) favs. I can envision teaching possibilities stretching from history to geology.
In a broader vein, we're hoping to move forward with opportunities for greater CAS participation in digital field scholarship at Lewis & Clark; let me know if interested.



Friday, February 22, 2013

Responding to that nudge . . .

Just in the last couple of days I have been motivated to explore a new possibility in using the iPad. I anticipate offering the third semester of Greek for four students who will be off campus next fall when it is offered (to participate in an overseas program in . . . Greece). We were puzzling over how to do that without forcing them to remain in Portland longer than they anticipated this summer. We recently arrived at the decision to run the class on Google+ (Hangout). Problem is, for a week or so I will be away during the time we are running the class, and although I'll have easy internet access, I'll not be able to schlep the laptop with me at every moment. Enter the iPad. So we'll experiment with this soon, and I'll report back with the results.

iPad Voice Recognition?

This post is a query to other users: what has your experience been using voice recognition software as a tool for taking notes into your iPad, ideally in a way that can then be merged into a Word document? 

I've been using Dragon Naturally Speaking to take notes into my PC, which I love, but I'd love it even more if I could do it with my iPad.  The iPad has good voice recognition for email, so I assumed there must be a similar program for a word processing document.  I asked our IT director about it, and he was leery; he said the voice recognition in the iPad is really just "Siri," and not all that great.

So I thought I'd crowd-source a bit here.  What have your experiences with iPad voice recognition been like?  Can you integrate easily with MS Word and other word processing programs?  Looking forward to your suggestions!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Evernote as an outlining tool

Well, having rather thoroughly disparaged Evernote in an earlier post, I am now finding myself recommending it to my thesis students, but for reasons that I had never considered before.  One of my initial hopes for the iPad was to be able to use it as a complete paper-writing tool for students in my thesis class.  I was not able to use it as handily as hoped initially but am now finding it a good brainstorming and outlining tool for paper writing and have been showing students how to use it as such.  It really appeals to my desire to visualize my ideas and to be able to play around with them in real space.  Evernote has a “corkboard” feature that you can imagine as a bunch of photos, images, etc.  It allows you to type ideas onto different “index cards,” stick them on the corkboard and rearrange by moving them around with the cursor.  Then with one click of a button, all those separate index cards can be seen in list/outline form.  This makes it easy to move ideas around without all the cutting and pasting that happens when one formats an outline in a Word document and to visualize their associations in a highly fluid manner.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Ubersense App and College Outdoors

Our PEA cross country and skate ski class has begun, and we had great weather on the nordic track on Mount Hood last weekend.  To video the students' ski technique at this first class, we didn't even need to use the waterproof case that was purchased for the iPad!  The beginning cross country skiers got a lot out of being able to see themselves ski, and being able to compare that to an "expert" skier  (i.e., their instructor).

There's a free app available thru the App Store called "Ubersense", a coaching application.  It allows you to video a student doing an activity, go thru it in slow motion, freeze frame, and even draw on the video.  You can record "coach comments" over the video, and send it to the student to look at via email or Facebook.  You can pull up two different students on two different videos, and compare them on a split screen.  There are demos to look at when you download the app.

While this app would be most applicable to the various PEA activity classes, it would also work for any physical activity you're teaching to students-  I could see it being useful to record debate tournaments, or fieldwork techniques for geology, biology, or environmental studies.  Or, to video student lab technicians you're coaching to do some laboratory work that involves some kind of physical dexterity.  For example, if you were teaching some students how to use a pipette in your lab, you could video their technique with Ubersense, and then play it back for them, drawing in any correction in their technique that you'd like them to work on.

And, if you've got a couple little kids playing soccer after middle school, their coach would probably love seeing how this free app works.  :)