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booksBooks upstairs, books downstairs, books in the office, books from the library, books I read long ago, books I’ve winnowed out to donate to the local book sales…I’ve always wanted to catalog them. When Goodreads came along a few years ago it seemed like the perfect answer: enter a title or ISBN and it searches the web and downloads the data. But even that seemed too cumbersome. The introduction of the Goodreads app for iPad helped as you can at least scan an ISBN UPC code, but creating new entries any other way requires use of the website version. The data it collects, or allows me to add manually after the fact, is not quite the type of data I wanted to be recording. (Do I really care if the tech manual I’m reading is written in 1st, 2nd or 3rd person perspective–probably not.)

Enter Book Crawler. It’s an iPad/iPod/iPhone app that may finally make the project of cataloging the library practical. It has a built-in scanner (using the iPad’s camera) but also offers several ways to enter data if the ISBN barcode is not available. You can type in a title, author, ISBN, LCCN or OCLC code and it will search Google Books and Worldcat to find the rest of the data. You can even add an author’s name and see a list of all their works, then select the ones you choose. It has a good range of data fields including one for whether or not you currently own the book, as well as several customizable fields. For example, I added a ‘location’ field to record whether the book was shelved at home, at work, or from one of several libraries.

You can put your book in Collections that you create, then sort your library based on those Collections. You can also create and associate Tags.

It is Goodreads ‘aware’ so once a book is added you can see any Goodreads reviews of the book, transfer your library to Goodreads and the reverse, and share your activity if you choose. If you care to share your activity with Facebook and Twitter there are options for that as well. You can backup your library to Dropbox, send it as an email attachment, or import and export the library as a .csv file.

And how practical is it to create a library? It took 8 minutes to take the books off the shelf, scan them , and put them back. It took an additional 5 minutes to type in OCLC codes or manually enter the 6 older books that did not have ISBN bar codes to scan, then to select the ‘at work’ location field for all 54 books. Maybe this weekend will be the true test–cataloging the home library!

A bit more about Goodreads: Goodreads was designed as a social media system with the main intent being sharing with others your reactions about what you are reading. You can write reviews and read others’ reviews, see what your friends who use Goodreads are reading, even see what’s being reported as read in your local community. The data that you add about each book tends towards things like tone, genre, pace, subjects, writing style, etc. Unlike Book Crawler, there is an Android version. Also, storage of your library is on Goodread’s own site which means if you are offline it will show you a list of your books but no details. Book Crawler does not need to be online to access your library or add books manually. It requires a Dropbox site if you want to make backups, although you can send your entire library as an email attachment. Neither Goodreads nor Book Crawler can automatically collect cataloging information from your Kindle, iBooks, or other ereader libraries, though Goodreads will give you access to a selection of free ebooks that you can download and store in its “My eBooks” area.

 
The CESS and CTL iPad/iOS User Group began meeting last year to discuss, troubleshoot, and demonstrate new ways to use iOS devices in teaching at UVM.  This year we are hoping to reunite the group and invite new participants too. So, if you use an iPad/iPhone/iPod or are interested in learning more about the potential for these devices, please join us!
 
Date:  Friday, September 20, 2013
Time: 9-10 a.m.
Location: 426 Waterman

The first half of the meeting will be dedicated to the Aurasma app and Augmented Reality in general.  Audrey Homan and Susan Hennessey will be joining us to lead this portion of the gathering. We will revisit Aurasma and your strategies for integrating the technology during our meeting in October. For more information about Aurasma, please check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qRcIek4NY0&list=TLhhWZvF6yS68  and download it here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aurasma/id432526396?mt=8 .
 
The second half will be dedicated to participant’s strategies for integrating iOS devices into their practice or observations of use from other contexts.  Please be prepared to discuss and demonstrate at least one app.

Questions? Please contact adam.deyo@uvm.edu with any questions and to RSVP.  For past gathering notes, please visit the blog: http://blog.uvm.edu/cesstech-ipadusers/ .  
 
Adam Deyo and Hope Greenberg

We love Google books but, for research, often find its limitations frustrating. We love the many and varied digital collections that abound throughout the web but wish they could be used in a more seamlessly interconnected way. The vision of a national online library is as old (older?) than dpla-logothe web itself and in the last two years working towards that vision has been the goal of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), a group of people from libraries both public and academic, technology companies, government agencies, publishers and funding institutions.

Launching this week* the DPLA (http://dp.la) , according to well-known digital historian and current director Dan Cohen, plans to connect “the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums so that the public can access all of those collections in one place; providing a platform, with an API [application programming interface] for others to build creative and transformative applications upon; and advocating strongly for a public option for reading and research in the twenty-first century. The DPLA will in no way replace the thousands of public libraries that are at the heart of so many communities across this country, but instead will extend their commitment to the public sphere, and provide them with an extraordinary digital attic and the technical infrastructure and services to deliver local cultural heritage materials everywhere in the nation and the world.”

The DPLA is built on a growing number of service and content hubs, institutions that already have large collections of digitized materials. It seeks to go beyond becoming yet another digital repository however, by offering services to increase the size and uses of the collections. For example, it will provide transparent access to its code and metadata so that developers can create additional capabilities. Its hubs may also offer services to local heritage organizations to help them digitize and curate their collections. [See also Palfrey, John "What is the DPLA?"]

Given the experience and track record of its leaders, this project promises to be the kind of digital library we have been waiting for. Read more about the DPLA and it’s vision for the development of this ambitious and amazing resource at http://dp.la

 

*The public beta launch was scheduled for April 18, 2013 at the Boston Public Library. Given the tragic events in the area adjacent to the library, the launch has been postponed. Check the website for news of rescheduling.

You put a lot of work into your Blackboard course space. As we move through each semester there are tasks you can do to protect that work. This checklist can help you wrap up the closing semester and make the transition to a new semester run more smoothly.

Links throughout this post take you to specific “How To” pages at the CTL’s Blackboard Help site at: http://www.uvm.edu/ctl

broom and dustpanAt the end of the semester

  • Try Color Coding in your Grade Center to easily see students at risk.
  • Download the final Backup of your Grade Center to store for your records.
  • Create, download, and store an Archive of your course. An Archive is a compressed file that contains all the information you have built in your course as well as your student grades. It can be used to build a new course and it should be saved as your backup of your grade center and your course materials.

Before the new semester starts

  • Log in to Blackboard, explore the new appearance (upgrade happening on Dec 19th), and check that your course appears with the correct instructors associated with it. Instructors are added to Blackboard through the Banner system, by departmental staff.
  • Add TAs as soon as possible.
  • Gather your course materials, plan how you will organize them in your course space, create Tests or Surveys, and plan which tools you will use for assignments and course activities. Plan early if you intend to create and incorporate videos.
  • If you are reusing course material from a previous course, Archive the material from the old course, then Import it to the new course. Another way is with Course Copy command.
  • Begin planning your Grade Center. Visit the CTL Dr Is In so our staff can consult with you on strategies for using this tool most effectively and efficiently, especially if you are teaching large enrollment courses. See Dr Is In schedule here.
  • Post your Syllabus.
  • Make the course Available to students when you are ready for them to access it.

During the semester

  • Create and download an Archive of your course frequently throughout the semester. These will be your backup copies in case you need to restore any deleted material to your course.
  • Download and store a Backup of your Grade Center both before and after adding grades.
  • Use Color Coding in your Grade Center to easily see students at risk.

MOOCs are courses that are:MOOC

  • Massive: designed for large-scale participation by dozens or even thousands of
    people.
  • Open: freely available with free access to all course materials.
  • Online: available through any web browser on any mobile device or computer.

As the MOOC model has gained acceptance it continues to be redefined and changed to suit the needs of learners, teachers, and institutions.

Currently, MOOCs combine the practice of online education with the ideals of open education and open courseware initiatives. They have gathered increasing attention in the past year[1] as the model has been adopted by such well-known universities as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley [2]. They have even been blamed for the recent controversy surrounding the departure and subsequent return of the President of the University of Virginia. [3]

Where did MOOCs Come From?

The advent of the web provided new opportunities for proponents of distance education. In addition to the ability to provide course materials and communication opportunities online, the web has allowed for experimentation with new pedagogical approaches. In 1999 the University of Tübingen in Germany made videos of its lectures freely available online. MIT followed suit in 2002 with its publication of course materials through its OpenCourseware initiative [4]. Alongside these initiatives, discussions about Personal Learning Environments, or the more colorfully named Edupunk, combined a reaction against the commercialization of learning with a focus on individually crafting one’s own learning and curriculum. [5]

Giving away course materials for self-learners was one thing. Giving away access to actual taught courses was another, yet that is exactly what David Wiley of Utah State University did in 2007 when he opened his graduate course on, appropriately enough, open education, to anyone who wished to participate. The term MOOC itself, however, came as a result of a course taught by longtime open education advocates George Siemens [6], of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and Stephen Downes [7], Senior Researcher at The National Research Council (Canada). The course was titled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” and was offered both to the students at the University of Manitoba who took it for credit and to the over 2,000 students who participated for free. The course content and discussion were made available through a variety of tools such as blogs, threaded discussions using Moodle, virtual encounters in Second Life, and synchronous online meetings. As a result of that course, and with a nod to an older interactive and collaborative technology, the MOO, Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communication and Innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island, coined the term MOOC in 2008 and created the video that defined it.[8]

Cormier, Downes, and Siemans have continued their experiments with MOOCs, offering a number of courses. In 2011 they brought together over 30 facilitators to offer a 35 week MOOC focused on innovations and directions in online education. [9] As of the writing of this post they are offering a MOOC titled Current/Future State of Higher Education (#CFHE12) to explore the impact of the MOOC model. [10]

Who is teaching them? Where are they taught?

There are multiple online courses calling themselves MOOCs. These are currently taking one of two forms, recently labelled by Downes as cMOOCs and xMOOCs.[11] The original MOOC concept envisioned that an instructor would provide information and encourage participants to share their knowledge and experience, connecting with each other in groups and sub-groups based on their particular interests and expertise. They would take the opportunity to peer instruct and even expand upon areas where the instructor may not have extensive knowledge. In other words, much if not most of the learning experience is derived through meaningful interaction with others in the course. This connectivist approach, or cMOOC, makes use of many of the social networking tools now available: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, discussion boards, etc.

xMOOCs, or those served by new start-ups such as EdX, Coursera, Udacity and Udemy [12] are an effort to formalize the MOOC model. Their service provides the managerial functions necessary for institutions offering MOOCs: account administration, server infrastructure, marketing, etc.

What are the potential benefits of the MOOC model?

MOOCs:

  • can encourage communication among participants who bring a variety of viewpoints, knowledge, and skills to the course. This serves to create communities of interest along with broadening the scope of the MOOC.
  • could inspire people to “try on” subjects that they wouldn’t otherwise pursue or even try on education itself.
  • can provide multiple ways to engage with course material, encouraging multimodal learning that can address the needs of learners with a variety of learning styles (i.e. Universal Design for Learning or UDL).
  • by developing for multimodal learners, could inspire better teaching and use of technologies in general for face to face courses.

Yet MOOCs are viewed with trepidation and skepticism by some who see them as reinforcing the worst aspects of teaching. Those that are designed to simply provide droning lectures followed by auto-graded multiple choice tests are, in the words of Said Vaidhyanathan “taking the worst aspects of college learning as the favored methods of college learning.”[13]

And then there are the financial questions. While MOOCs have been and might continue to be used for marketing purposes or to claim cultural capital for those institutions that are the early adopters, there is no doubt they can be expensive to run. They are not yet direct revenue generators. Among many educators that lack of commercial viability is seen as a positive trait, especially for public institutions that, ideally, promote the extension of knowledge as a core value. Those who see commercialism as corrupter are understandably leery of institutions that view MOOCs solely in terms of revenue generation through commercial transactions with students.

Administering several large MOOCs simultaneously has infrastructure implications. Alternatively, outsourcing MOOC administration to any of the several MOOC providers that have sprung up must take into account FERPA policies and the privacy of students.

Among the many questions revolving around the formalization of MOOCs are how faculty will be compensated for teaching them and how universities will credential students taking them. Currently, xMOOCs generally make a point of offering some form of assessment but we are a long way for any kind of standardization that would allow for MOOC credit to travel easily from institution to institution. Then again, “long” is a relative term. When speaking of the evolution of MOOCs that day may come much sooner than expected.  Indeed, in the past few weeks the University of Texas has negotiated with Coursera to offer courses that may carry college credit. Meanwhile the State of Minnesota Office of Higher Education has declared that Coursera cannot offer any courses to citizens of Minnesota without that government’s consent, an odd proposition given that the courses are free and offer no credit. [14]

How can you learn more about them?

A quick look through the notes below, or a search through The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wikipedia, or even generally via Google or YouTube will net you more than a little information on MOOCs. A more experiential way to learn about MOOCs is to take one. Visit the xMOOC providers or follow Siemans’ or Downes’ offerings.

Notes

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled a timeline of their articles related to MOOCs at “What You Need to Know About MOOCs.”

2. In the May 2012 article “Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses” the New York Times reported that several other universities had jumped on the MOOC bandwagon.

3. While the ouster of President Sullivan was more complex than a simple argument over the adoption of MOOCs, it is interesting to note that almost immediately upon her return to that Office the university signed a deal with Coursera to begin developing MOOCs.

4. Since that time the MIT OpenCourseWare site has continued to be enlarged, reporting 100 million visits by 2010.

5. Educators also see a role for EduPunk and Open Education practices as a counter to the more restrictive and, some would argue, limiting environment of Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, Moodle, etc.

6. This video continues to be the definition of MOOCs as originally conceived, though the term itself is applied to two diverging definitions. In an all too common instance of web irony, and as an example of how quickly the MOOC concept is evolving, this video has been accused of being “inaccurate” by a commenter who apparently did not know Cormier’s role in creating the term.

7. While more formal talks by both George Siemens and David Cormier have been recorded, for a more casual discussion about MOOCs by these founders, see the interview with Martin Weller of the UK’s Open University at http://youtu.be/l1G4SUblnbo.

8. Stephen Downes has been writing and speaking about issues in education for many years. For example, in this 2009 video he describes Open Education. You can also see his brief introduction to the 2011 “Change 2011 MOOC” which provides his take on how that MOOC will work.

9. The “Change 2011 MOOC” is available at http://change.mooc.ca/index.html.10. As of today, it is not too late to join CFHE12 at http://edfuture.mooc.ca/index.html.

11. In an interview with Downes for her July 2012 article (“Massively Open Online Courses Are ‘Here to Stay’“), Tanya Roscorla picked up on his use of the terms xMOOC and cMOOC, so they have now entered the MOOC lexicon. See also the report by Sir John Daniels “Making Sense of MOOCs.”

12. EdX is a joint venture created by MIT and Harvard. Coursera was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford. Three roboticists, Sebastian Thrun, Mike Sokolsky and David Stavens founded Udacity. Udemy was founded by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar.

13. Quoted from the webinar “Beyond MOOC Hyperbole: Why We Should Support MOOC Experimentation … Critically and Carefully,” Oct. 12, 2012.

14. As reported in the Washington Post on October 19, 2012 (“Is Minnesota Cracking Down on MOOCs?”). For a recent recap of other general issues surrounding MOOCs, see Katherine Mangan’s “MOOC Mania” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 1, 2012. In addition, feel free to visit my growing collection of MOOC references at http://delicious.com/hopegreenberg/mooc+MOOC?link_view=expanded

iPads are continuing on pace in terms of the adoption curve. Though technology adoption is not as simple as first adopters/second adopters/third and so on, there are some definite patterns that seem to recur with depressing regularity.

Glossing over complexities, it seems that first adopters try a new technology because it’s new and by doing so gain experience in the possibilities. Second adopters try it because they think they should, but are disappointed when it doesn’t do things in exactly the same way that they are used to or doesn’t exactly replace a tool that they use regularly. (One might argue that that lack of exact duplication is the point of a new technology.) That group either drops it, decries it, or decides to wait and see where it will go.

In the next phase, the technology picks up a few new adopters who combine with the first adopters to create new uses, or even new paradigms of use, that end up controlling the direction of a particular technology.  Third adopters take whatever the outcome is and run with it. The second adopters, who could have had lots of interesting ideas, often kick themselves for not having any input.

Shades of some of this are evident in two posts from today’s Higher Education Chronicle, one by Robert Talbert describing some of the currently perceived limitations of using iPads in education (“My three weeks with an iPad“). The second is by Nick DeSantis on the LectureTools app, originally developed by Perry Samson (“Professor’s Classroom iPad App Debuts at Consumer Electronics Show“). Favorite sentence in the latter article? “The goal, Mr. Samson said, is to occupy the devices students typically use to drift away from the learning environment.” Precisely!

Meanwhile, the rumor mills are buzzing about Apple’s January 19 event on publishing and eBooks, apparently targeting the publishing industry. Speculation includes an iPublishing app or channel, a TextBook app, undercutting Amazon and Barnes & Noble with some new iBook format that synchronizes across devices, an iBook lending library, updates to Pages for even easier eBook publishing, or something more specific like a deal to supply iPads and eTextbooks to a particular university or NYC school district? We’ll find out soon enough. Watch your Apple news outlet or post your favorite Apple event feed to “Ripe for Destruction” so we can all tune in.

We’ll be connecting to this webinar in Bailey/Howe 303 Friday at 4:00, so come by if you would like to participate:

Digital Scholarship and Liberal Arts Colleges

Digital technologies and the Internet have changed the context for inquiry and pedagogy, forcing the production and exchange of knowledge into an increasingly public, global, collaborative, and networked space, and increasing capacity to tackle complex questions across disciplines. In 2010 Hamilton College, Occidental College, Wheaton College, and Willamette University partnered with NITLE to create the “Digital Scholarship Seminars” to explore the implications of those changes on scholarship and teaching at small liberal liberal arts colleges.  This series uses interactive discussions to showcase digital scholarship projects and other undertakings across or open to liberal arts colleges.  A year later, the seminar program committee will lead an open discussion on the state of digital scholarship at their institutions and at liberal arts colleges in general, as well as sharing their practical experiences is pursuing and supporting digital scholarship projects. 

Discussion leaders will be Janet Simons, Associate Director of Instructional Technology, Co-Director, Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi), Hamilton College; Daniel Chamberlain, Director, Center for Digital Learning and Research, Occidental College; Timothy Burke, Professor of History, Swarthmore College; Robert Nelson, Director, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond; and Michael Spalti, Head of Library Systems Division, Willamette University.

Questions to be addressed include:

  • What do digital scholarship and the digital humanities mean for small liberal arts colleges?
  • What opportunities and challenges are there for digital scholarship for liberal arts colleges?
  • How does digital scholarship connect to the undergraduate curriculum?
  • How can institutions facilitate collaboration between faculty, technologists and librarians?
  • What are strategies to cope with limited resources on liberal arts campuses?
  • How can you get started in digital scholarship?

More information about NITLE is available at: http://www.nitle.org

“Which ebook app should I buy for my iPad?”

I was recently asked to recommend an ebook reader app for a new iPad owner. At first this seems like a difficult choice: are the features of the iPad’s own iBooks that much better than those of the Kindle or Nook apps? Are there less well-known apps that have features not available in the others? I decided there was only one sensible choice: get them all!

Though ebooks have been available for four decades, and dedicated ereader devices for at least half that time, this new form of books and readers continues to evolve. A 2002 article in The Guardian traced the history of ebooks from the development from Michael Hart’s “Project Gutenberg” begun in 1971 through various developments in both books and reading devices, concluding with a quote from Time-Warner that “the market for ebooks has simply not developed the way we hoped.”

So much for prescience. Ten years later we have a cornocopia of ebooks, ereaders, reading apps, and publishers vying to create “the next big thing.”

Meanwhile, here are the apps I have on my iPad now. You can find them all in the iPad Apps store. No doubt there will be more to come:

ibooks iconiBooks
With the iPad’s built-in ebook reader, iBooks, you can purchase and read books direct from Apple, or upload your own ebooks and pdf files. PDF files can be resized as you are reading, to zoom into or out of specific areas on the page. This reader provides 8 font sizes, 7 different font types, a sepia or white background, brightness adjustment, search function and a built-in dictionary. As with other apps, tapping on the edge of any page will turn the page forward or backward, while tapping in the middle of the screen brings up menus and options. Like the Kindle, you can highlight and add notes but iBook goes one better: you can also select and copy text to paste into other apps like Pages. You can even email all your notes to yourself or others.

Buying books is as easy as tapping the Store button, then selecting from free or pay books. The free collection is sizeable, including the usual classics as well as a selection of more recent works. iBooks is updated frequently, so more features will no doubt be added. The FAQ/support page is particularly useful.

kindle icon Kindle
I had a Kindle device before the iPad so I had already purchased many books in this format. I still do because of the selection and because I can sync all my Kindle books across the Kindle, the iPad, and my laptop to read them on any of those devices. It will keep track of where I am in the book so that when I move from one device to another I can pick it up wherever I left off. The Kindle app lets you choose from among 6 font sizes, 3 background colors (white, black, sepia) and one- or two-column format. As with the Kindle device, you will see your location in the book by percentage and by page number. However, this page numbering is dependent on the size font you are using, i.e. if you change to a larger or smaller font, the total page numbers, thus your current page number, will change. You can search, look up words in the built-in dictionary, add bookmarks, add notes, highlight and even see the most popular highlights created by others. Your notes and highlights remain in the book, i.e. you cannot copy and paste them elsewhere. Details on these and other features can be found on the Kindle app page.

nook image Nook
Like the others, Nook has a choice of font sizes (5), font type (5), and colors (5 themes). The themes include “Earl Grey” that closely approximates the eInk reading experience you would get on a dedicated device. In addition, it allows you to set the line spacing (keep the font size the same but add more space between lines), the margin size (4 choices), and even has a Full Justification switch so you can read with a ragged or straight right margin. The built-in dictionary is similar to iBooks’ and Kindle’s while the bookmarks and highlights are, like the Kindle, limited to use in the Nook app itself. So, while the reading experience is good on the Nook app, the lack of a copy feature and its inability to import your own content–ebooks or pdfs, is definitely a limitation.

kobo image Kobo
The Kobo device, most recently the Kobo eReader Touch, is one of the big four, Kindle, Nook and the SONY Reader being the other three. Kobo app has features similar to the other readers (4 fonts, brightness, sepia background), more free books, pay books, and the ability to connect to the Instapaper service which allows you to capture and save web pages for later reading. You can highlight and annotate, and send those annotations by email or to Facebook. In fact, here is where Kobo is staking its claim: It has a friends feature that lets you share information about your library and reading with your Facebook friends or Twitter followers (not share the actual books–just share the list of what you are reading, along with the ability to send notes from inside Kobo or share a passage). It can also keep stats on your total time reading, average hours per book, minutes per book page or magazine page, etc. Kobo, the device, along with Nook, are configured to allow for borrowing books from public libraries. The app does not yet have that feature but I expect it will at some point. (For now, if you want to borrow ebooks from your local libary, check out Overdrive, described below.) Like the Kindle and Nook your books are stored in Kobo’s cloud, so you have access to all your books from multiple devices. Kobo also adds one handy feature that the others don’t yet have: multi-touch gestures. Two finger swiping from side to side will jump you to the next chapter; two finger up and down will take you to the beginning or end of the current chapter.

stanza image Stanza
Before the ereader device idea was, dare I say it, rekindled, Stanza existed as a PC or Mac application to read and create ebooks in multiple formats. It is designed to make it easy to share books across the iPad, iPhone, or iPod devices. The iPad app takes advantage of Stanza’s established history by making it easy to tap into several book sources, both free and pay. For example, it will connect directly to Project Gutenberg books (33,000 books and counting–all free), as well as Feedbooks (more free books, newspapers and original content), Munseys (pulp fiction), Harlequin, Fictionwise, Books On Board, BookGlutton, Smashwords, and even sheet music from Mutopia.

Stanza is strongest in the area of reading a variety of legacy ebook or digital formats like Mobipocket, PalmDoc (DOC), along with HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word and Rich Text Format (RTF). It also has connectivity to Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps the most interesting feature is its ability, in conjunction with the ebook editing and management software Calibre, to access ebooks you store in DropBox.

google imageGoogle Books
Yes, you can access thousands of free books at the Google Books site through a web browser, but the dedicated app gives you a more “ereaderly” experience. 2 colors, 7 fonts, multiple font sizes and 3 line height choices put it on par with thge other apps. The Google bookstore includes pay and free books, though you have to dig a bit for the free ones. You can  choose Flowing Text for books whose font size you can adjust, or Scanned Pages to zoom in and out of pdf file’s pages. Biggest drawback: the books are stored at Google and downloaded on the fly, so if you are not online you will not have access to them.

cloudreader imagefreebooks imageebookreader imageEbook Reader
This is a venerable (pre-iPad) product which I have mostly for its catalog of free classics, though its interface is decent, too.

FreeBooks
Another old timer. Also has a large collection of free books, the usual easy navigation, table of contents, bookmarks, etc.

Cloudreaders
This reader reads books and pdfs but is especially designed to read comics or books with right to left paging direction. If you download the neu.notes application it can also act as a pdf markup app. It does a beautiful job of rendering asian languages.

Borrowing Books from Your Local Library

overdrive iconOverdrive
Library’s have been loaning ebooks to computer users for some time now. OverDrive, a company that has been managing these types of services since 2002, now has an iPad app, Overdrive Media Console. With the app you can connect to your local library or library consortium (for example, in Vermont you add your local library to the app but once you log in it actually connects to the Green Mountain Library Consortium).
You will need the app, an Adobe.com (free) account, and your library card number. Once in, you can borrow up to 3 books at a time for 14 days (or whatever time period your library has set). At the end of that time the book will automatically go back into circulation. Like a physical library there are limited copies available–once a book is checked out it is unavailable to others–so you may have to put your name on a waiting list for popular books, but it is still a delightful approach for those books that you want to read but not necessarily own.

bluefire imageBluefire Reader
Although Bluefire is an app for accessing several bookstores, I’ve included it here because you can use it to read Adobe eBook library loan books. The bookstores include Books-A-Million, BooksOnBoard, Feedbooks as well as BookRepublic for ebooks in italian, and Todoebook for books in spanish. The library loan feature works through iTunes and your computer’s web browser, as described here. For some books you can use the iPads web browser to go directly to the library’s web site, borrow and download a book, then get the option to open the book directly in Bluefire (or several of your other ebook readers).

By the way, if you are a Vermonter you can go directly to the ebook library from your computer by going to http://www.listenupvermont.org. The site has information and links to the software you will need to download the ebooks direct to your PC or Mac, no iPad needed. Other states probably have similar sites–check with your local library.

The Textbook Readers

Textbook companies are eager to capitalize on the ebook craze. eBook textbooks can offer additional features over paper-based books. Features like increased numbers of high-quality illustrations, animations, audio, video, built-in study applications, social networking features, etc. They even offer a solution to the “problem” of used books as every sale of an ebook can be a new sale, generating revenue for the company. Publishers are still shaking out how they will offer ebooks. Right now they are deciding whether to offer books in a standardized format or offer an ereader specifically tailored to their books (and their books alone). Another experiment is to offer lifelong access to a textbook. Nature Publishing Group, publishers of many scientific journals, is experimenting with this model with its “Principles of Biology,” promising that the book will be updated from year to year to reflect the latest research. These developments are particularly interesting in light of the new legislation regarding accessibility of educational materials in conformance with Universal Design principles. Another feature that etextbooks can offer is a way to purchase single chapters instead of whole books, or a way to combine specific sections of a book into a customized coursepack.

inkling imagekno image

bookshelf app imageAt the moment I only have three textbook-specific readers installed, and only sample books to view. I have not bought any full textbooks. These include: Inkling (Apple’s iPad designed format), which features pop-up definitions, images, highlights, notes, history of what you’ve read; Kno, whose catalog contains textbooks, Kaplan self-help books and O’Reilly technical books and has some built-in social networking links that allow you to share messages with friends on Facebook or Twitter while reading, as an attempt to encourage group studying; and Bookshelf by VitalSource, though I actually have not yet experimented with this one.

Books as Apps

peter rabbit imageWhat do T.S. Eliot, Peter Rabbit, and Al Gore have in common? Dedicated reading devices, and now their branded reader apps, are built on the model of offering ebook editions of existing print-based books. Yet digital technologies offer an opportunity to expand our conception and definition of the book. The idea of “born digital” works is not new: Apple’s hypercard (1987), Eastgate Systems’ StorySpace (also 1987), even the web itself, offer ways to create books that include animation, hypertext, audio, video and interconnectedness. The three examples mentioned, designed not to be read in an ereader app but built as standalone apps themselves, explore some of those possibilities.

our choice imageChildren’s books, like the Loudcrow Interactives edition of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, reimagine a pop-up version of the book and include “read it aloud” audio features. Building on his work on global climate change, Al Gore’s Our Choice (Push Pop Press) combines photography, in depth and interactive graphics, even documentary footage all wrapped in the narrative framework. Even more recently, Touch Press, already lauded for its Periodic Table app, The Elements, has published an iPad version of T. S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland. The edition contains digital facsimiles of the manuscripts as Eliot developed them over time, perspectives and notes, audio recordings of several readings aligned with the text (one by Eliot himself), even a video performance.

So, your next favorite iPad ereader app may not be a reader at all but an ebook itself. Do you have a favorite reader or book/app? Have you discovered an interesting feature not described in one of the apps listed above? Let us know.

- Hope Greenberg, University of Vermont

If you have a new iPad 2 you may wonder what all the fuss was about. Now built into the device is the ability to project whatever is on the iPad screen, no special apps needed. Together with the built-in camera, this newer iPad is fast approaching the point where it might replace your laptop. Not quite yet, but it’s certainly easier to carry around.

Tip for today: need a screenshot of what’s on your iPad? Hold the “Home” key down while you press the power button. After a white flash you will find your screen shot in the Photos app. Connect to your computer to send it to iPhoto.

How do you use your iPad with a projector? For example, how do you project a slide show, make annotations, and display what you type on a screen? Are there other apps that allow for other interesting classroom activities?

You have an iPad, a vga cable, and a projector. Plug it all in and what happens? Not much. You will not be able to see your iPad screen on a projector. That is, you can’t just plug it into a projector and have it display, or mirror, whatever you are seeing or doing on the iPad. Instead of building into the iPad  the ability to mirror its display, the projection function is available only at the application level. What does that mean for you? You will need to look for apps that include “vga” support, and those apps will display only certain screens in the app. Fortunately, the number of apps that support vga is growing.

Let’s start with some simple ones. If you want to display a web page on a projector, Safari won’t do it. The options are to use a different browser or another app that includes web browsing capabilities. Both Atomic Web ($.99) and Perfect Web ($2.99) are web browsers like Safari. Perfect Web has several additional features that make it well worth the $2.99. Tabs, hand gestures, and the ability to act like different kinds of browsers so you can display a web page to its best advantage are a few. Try it and you may never go back to Safari again.

Several apps include the ability to browse the web among their other functions. For example, GoodReader and iAnnotate are primarily designed for you to download, read and annotate PDF files but include the ability to display web pages as well. More on those below.

For displaying slide shows? Keynote is Apple’s slide show creator, and it does what it does elegantly and simply. However, while you can create and display your slides with Keynote (or import your PowerPoint or PDF files to edit and display) you cannot annotate your slides while projecting a slideshow. There are other apps that can. After trying out several I find myself returning most often to 2Screens ($4.99). This app allows you to call up ppt, pdf, rtf, even docx files and draw or write annotations on them. You can open several documents, then tab back and forth between these documents and a blank whiteboard to write additional notes. Notice I say write and draw, not type. The annotations that you can create with 2Screens are those which you do with a stylus or finger. There is a note feature built in so you can type and store notes in your slideshow. However, these notes are only visible to you–they are not displayed.

Any drawbacks? The annotations made in 2Screens are not saved with the presentation, but you can save a screenshot of each slide with its annotations. Another thing that might take some practise to get used to is the way 2Screens displays your ppt slides. You can choose to have it automatically create thumbnails of all slides. These are displayed to you but not projected, making it fairly easy to skip from slide to slide. Or, you can move from slide to slide by vertically scrolling. The practise part is necessary because you are ‘finger scrolling’ and so need to line the slides up to the screen as you go. It’s not hard, just something to be aware of. So, by all means, create in Keynote, but display and annotate in 2Screens.

If you want to do typed annotations on a slide show the choices are more limited. Infonet Presenter ($9.99) is similar to 2Screens in that you can open ppt pdf files and annotate them. It also lets you open a variety of image and video files, even xls files. You can annotate with finger/stylus drawing but it adds the ability to type in a text box that you draw on the screen. You can collect a variety of files and images, place them in a folder that you then use for a presentation. This is particularly nice if the slideshow is composed of many images; no more having to mess about with PowerPoint, dragging dropping and resizing, when you simply want to display lots of images. Just drag them all into a Librry in Infonet Presenter and away you go. This is a somewhat different approach to presenting material and the app as a whole has some quirks. So, worth a look but may not be precisely what you need.

So how can you project text as you type it? Surprisingly, presentation apps are not the best choice. Instead, take a look at some of the note-taking apps that are available. Some now come with vga support. My favorite at the moment is Noterize ($3.99), but PaperDeskLT ($1.99) is also worth a look.

Like the other annotation apps, Noterize let’s you open a variety of file types (ppt, pdf, txt, images or even snapshots of web pages) and then draw or write on them. If you insert a new blank page you can type on that page, or you can annotate a page with a text box into which you can type. There are several fonts and font sizes available as well as a handful of colors. You can even turn on audio recording and attach that recording to your notes. These notes can be exported to Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Box.net, Dropbox, Email, or opened in any iPad apps that support “Open In” for these file types. To save a copy of the note with the audio intact, you save it as a pdf+audio file that will be transferred and accessible through iTunes.

PaperDeskLT is a similar product, simpler and less fully-featured than Noterize but contains the basics: text, drawing, audio that can be stored on the iPad or stored and synced with an account at paperdesk. It takes a slightly different approach to vga display: you need to create the notes as a “vga whiteboard” to display them, that is, when creating a new note you can choose the standard notebook or a vga whiteboard.  You cannot simply display any notebook that you have created.

Other notable vga apps? Penultimate ($1.99), the handwriting and annotating app is a delight. No typing, but everything else works simply and smoothly. As mentioned above, iAnnotate ($9.99) and GoodReader ($2.99) both have vga display capabilities. Both are wonderful at storing and organizing your files. GoodReader annotations are particularly good because you can send the annotated files to yourself or others by email, with the annotations stored directly on them. Another plus is the way you get files into GoodReader. I find the apps that have to talk to iTunes are just annoying. GoodReader can access files by webdav, through a web browser, by email, etc. And, once the files are in GoodReader you can project them or a simple “Open in” command lets you open the files right in 2Screens for projecting and annotating. Fast. Easy.

imageAnd then there is AirSketch ($7.99). All of the apps mentioned above work with your projector by plugging your iPad into the projector itself. AirSketch takes a different approach. You connect a laptop to the projector, fire up a browser on the laptop (must be HTML5 compatible, like Firefox, Safari, Chrome), direct the browser to the address AirSketch tells you, then walk away from the laptop. You carry the iPad around the room and write on the iPad screen from wherever you are. What you write will be appear on the laptop screen and be projected from there. You can open pdf files, open ppt files that have been saved as pdf, or open images and annotate all those as well. Since the display is your laptop, you can even start a screencasting program on that laptop and capture what you are drawing or writing on your iPad as it is being displayed on the projector. The educational possibilities are obvious: project a piece of code, a formula, some grammatical errors or piece of writing, pass the iPad around and have students annotate what’s on the screen up front. Have students draw graphs on the iPad and project those. This one definitely deserves a look.

So, there’s a quick round up of some of the current vga enabled apps. If you are a UVMer and would like to see any of these in action just let me know. I’d be happy to show them to you (hope.greenberg@uvm.edu). And for a little screencast of AirSketch in action, here you go: AirSketch