A round-up of favorite new apps, trends, and oldies but goodies in the world of technology for instruction and scholarship.

PDF Annotation

  • Preview – if you’ve only used it to read PDFs, check again. Look under the Tools menu for options to annotate your PDFs.
  • Adobe – the free Reader has some annotation features, the not-free Adobe Pro has even more. Just remember that if you annotate your PDF with a video file, tell your students to read it in Adobe Reader. Preview will not be able to show the video.
  • Resource doc – “Guiding Student Readings with Annotated PDFs

Annotations beyond PDF:



  • Screencast-o-matic – free or really cheap but full-featured screencasting tool. Limitations: records well from microhone but needs plug-in to capture system audio. Cannot import .mp4 files to edit. But for everything else it is easy, works well, and is well-documented.
  • Camtasia – more tools, good integration with PowerPoint (Windows only), imports .mp4, records system audio, Windows version can create embedded quizzes.
  • Explain Everything – iPad/Android app to build presentations with hand-drawing, typed text, pictures, and video, and record them as a screencast.

Digital Collection Building/Publishing at UVM



  • Hemingway http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ to suggest ways to tighten up your writing
  • Write or Die, Selfcontrol – keep writing, don’t get distracted
  • iBook Author, Calibre – when you are ready to create your own ebooks

Continuing Trends to Watch

  • MOOCs – now that the “hype” phase is over (“MOOCs will save/destroy education as we know it!) how will MOOCs really impact traditional education. (lots of articles at  https://delicious.com/hopegreenberg/mooc)
  • Flipped Classroom/Hybrid Courses – creatively rethinking how online can work with offline to improve learning (lots of articles at https://delicious.com/hopegreenberg/flipped)
  • Curating – aggregate, notate, and share your finds (see Delicious, Diigo, Scoop.It)
  • Learning Analytics – What can we learn from student assessment data that can help us tailor our teaching to those students? Should we? What about privacy (FERPA)?




Books 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.

Tech Dim Sum

Here’s the latest crop of app tidbits. I’ve included some of the oldies but goodies as well:

Research and Writing

Moving to mobile:


Writing on an iPad: if you don’t like the typical mobile stylus (the ones that write like fuzzy markers) you might like the JotPro: http://adonit.net/jot/pro/





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.

Replacing the slightly older concept of Hybrid Courses, the term “Flipped Classroom” has been gaining in popularity across blogs and news sources.  (And in terms of sheer buzz, both are currently being outdistance by MOOCs.)

If you have been wondering about what the Flipped Classroom approach is and what it might mean for your teaching these resources might help.

 A culled, yet comprehensive, list of articles about Flipped and technologies that might be useful for various aspects of the flipped classroom can be found at:


The growing collection of links on Flipped Classrooms, added to weekly, can be found at:


Most of these listings are annotated for easier skimming. As of now I have stopped adding general articles that describe what flipped is–there are just too many “us too” articles. However I will continue to add articles that contain some unique aspect, are discipline specific or suggest detailed activities  or approaches for use in (and out) of the classroom. In addition, changing the “flipped” term in the URL above with the term hybrid, MOOC, or FHM will call up all articles on hybrid courses, MOOCs, or all three flipped/hybrid/MOOC, respectively.

Given a series of online articles, which presentation format will make them easier to read: providing a list of links through which the reader must click or gathering them together as an ebook?

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 10.46.06 AMReadLists is an online site that helps you gather together a “group of web pages—articles, recipes, course materials, anything—bundled into an e-book you can send to your Kindle, iPad, or iPhone.”Books are saved as ePub files so they can be read in iBooks or any other computer program that handles ePubs. Once created, you can senScreen Shot 2013-04-11 at 10.44.30 AMd them to yourself or others as e-mail attachments, share them on Twitter or Facebook, or provide the link for anyone.

The interface is straightforward, the process simple and the results mostly good. Some minor issues include incomplete pages (which is not too terrible–the link to the article is always included), nor can it provide PDF files in reading view although it will provide the link to the PDF so you can click and open if you are online. You can link to YouTube or other video sites but the videos are not embedded, so, as with PDFs, you will need to be online to access those. Despite these minor limitations, ReadLists does what it says and does it well–the true test of a good app.

To see a sample, take a look at this Readlist I put together on the topic of the “Flipped Classroom.” Here’s the online version at ReadLists:


and here’s the epub version that will open in whatever epub reader you have handy (click this one if you are reading this on your iPad):


I think about apps as belonging to one of two categories: 1) apps that have pre-packaged content that you can read or play with, and 2) apps that are designed to let you create, manipulate, capture or collect your own content. The world of maps and navigation apps contains both.

For simple consumption (look at a map of the world, take a map quiz, etc.) the number of map, geography and navigation apps is daunting. Here are a few examples:

HistoryMaps (Free) A collection of maps of historical sites and events.
National Geographic World Atlas ($1.99) As beautiful as you would expect it to be.
WorldMap (Free) A decent  map of the world but annoying in it’s determination to make you buy the pay version.
TapQuizMap (Free) A geography game: it tells you the state or country, you tap the map where it belongs.
There are plenty more kids/games types here:

Of even greater interest to me, and to anyone who wants to create and work with place-based information, or locative data, are the apps that let you create new information. Place-based projects offer students some interesting approaches and dimensions to a variety of topics. For example, PLACE (Place-based Landscape Analysis and Community Education) Program provides local residents with a forum for exploring and understanding the natural and cultural history of their town landscape. You can build a place-based journey complete with informational markers as this class did for the novel Candide. Other examples of how mixing locative data and other online data to create compelling educational experiences can be found at the ARIS site.

Here are some apps that will help you get started:

  • MyMaps  ($1.99)  The closest thing to real Google Earth. You can add markers, lines, or shapes to any map using a variety of icons. In addition to the geolocation information the markers can be titled and include a description. In the description box you can use your iPad’s camera to take a photo. You can also add links to external web sites. The standard views are satellite and generic map but you can turn on a special Google overlay (provides 45 degreee angle view, and multiple Google layers like Businesses, Wikipedia, Roads, 32 Buildings, etc.  You can also pull in any KML/KMZ site from its URL to open in MyMaps. Save your map, then login to Google Earth or maps.google.com with the same google account and pull your map into Google Earth or Google Maps. You can also export your MyMap as a KML file. And as these are synced with maps.google you can get a URL to link them to your blog, websiet, or Blackboard or other LMS courses.
  • Google Earth  (Free): the “lite” version of the robust full-featured laptop program. This iPad version gives you access to a gallery of Earth tours but, more importantly, allows you to connect to your collection of public maps that you have created at maps.google.com.
  • KMLMapHD ($3.99)(see all kinds of data details about your KMZ/KML maps – haven’t plumbed the depths on this one quite yet)-$3.99
  • KMZ Loader (Free) It seems to open the KML file so you can see all the encoded data but I can’t get it to actually display the map.
  • iMaps+  ($1.99) This app is similar to the Map app that comes with your iPad but it adds a few features like bike routes, traffic lights, and bus route numbers.
  • GPS Toolbox ($2.99) A basic GPS program, the tool box lets you measure in metric as well.  You can create location lists, map them out, and load them in to Google Earth or other GPS devices, find a location relative to another location, find what is located at a given GPS location, directly transfer your data from one device to another, etc.
  • Galileo (Free) Record, save, share your GPS track as you walk or drive it. It will draw your route as you go. It is possible to save the file as a KML file, which can be imported into Google Earth.
  • Field Notes - For use in the field, FieldNotes records your location (latitude/longitude) and let’s you add a name, note, and photos. The $10 upgrade adds the ability to record and attach audio and video files. One nice feature is the ability to refine your location manually. Tap and drag the location pin to exactly where it should be. You can export your notes as a proprietary file, KMZ, text and zip, or as a 1, 2, or 4 photos per page PDF file. They can be uploaded to email, iTunes, DropBox or FTP. (This app does not need wifi/data service to collect and save your notes but you will need it to upload them.)

A related app:

  • GPS Everywhere – A cute app designed for use when driving (well, for use by your passenger if you are driving). It will display speed, compass, average speed, long/lat/alt, time, map, temperature, weather conditions, humidity,and wind. (It doesn’t really belong in this category of “creating” apps but it’s a fun.)

I hesitate to post this one as a “Today’s App” because I have not actually gotten or used it yet. However, it looks like it might be a good solution to a recurring difficulty.

One of the challenges in implementing a Flipped Classroom is video capturing a lecture or demonstration. Yes, you can set your camera on a stand, tripod or table and record your lecture yourself, but that limits you to one small area. If you like to move around, or if you are trying to write on several boards or demo a process, you may end up walking out of the frame. Of course, you could find a cameraperson to film your every move but that turns a process that should be simple, and that can be done at a time convenient to you, into a scheduling nightmare.

swivl.comNow there’s a app for that. Rather, it is a device: Swivl. http://www.swivl.com

Pop your iPhone into the holder, put the lanyard on, and the device swivels the camera to follow the lanyard (it’s infrared). I imagine audio will be a challenge. One solution would be to add the narration later using simple screencasting software. Available for $179. iPhone/iPod Touch now, iPad version coming this fall.

As I said, haven’t tried it yet, but if the funds become available I think this might be a keeper. If anyone else tries it first I’d love to hear your reaction.



WordPress Blogs

What? You’re looking at it now! If you have a UVM account you can have a blog. In fact, you can have multiple blogs.
Why? You might want to use blogs for your courses, for posting resources, for posting your own to-do lists or projects. All Blackboard courses can have internal blogs which are private to the course and only available as long as the course space is open. UVM’s WordPress blog is not tied to a specific course and can remain open after the course is over.
Considerations: Students can create their own blogs or sub-blogs, or you can create a sub-blog and add students as authors.




What? Create or participate in online meetings and presentations.
Why? To have multiple people on one space communicate and share presentations.
Where? http://bigbluebutton.uvm.edu


Omeka icon

Omeka at UVM

What? UVM-based digital collection and exhibit site.
Why? To pull together digital materials (with metadata) and build an exhibit with narrative.
Where? http://badger.uvm.edu/omeka or you can create individual exhibits at: http://www.omeka.net
Chronicle article: Jeffrey W. McClurken “Teaching with Omeka.
Talk to CTL for more details.



dSpace at UVM

What? A UVM-based digital collection site.
Why? To build an online public/private searchable database of digital objects, usually images.
Where? http://badger.uvm.edu/dspace
Talk to CTL for details.



UVM MediaManager

What? A utility for UVM affiliates to upload and store videos in their “zoo” accounts, then generate a link or an embed code that can be used to link that video to a website or their Blackboard space.
Why? Video files tend to be large. Uploading a video to Blackboard or other web sites can sometimes be problematic. In addition, Blackboard courses are removed on a fixed schedule. Storing your video resources in your own space ensures that they will be available for reuse at a later date.
How? Login to the site with your UVM NetID. Upload your files, then click the file name to find the link or embed code. Full directions on the site.




What? Capture whatever occurs on your computer screen and turn it into a video.
Why? To show demos, steps, processes, for example, how to solve a math problem, or add an image to a web page, or use a particular software program. Add a voiceover, even captioning (with Camtasia) or add pauses in the video to add a Quiz (Camtasia for Windows). Do you typically write, draw, or diagram things on the classroom board? Do it on a tablet instead and capture that as a video. For more ideas see: “Screencasts and Education” by Paul McGovern.
Where? Camtasia ($$), Jing (free), Screenr (free), or Screencast-o-matic (free). (Can also use the built-in screen recording feature in Quicktime/Mac.)




What? A free online image editor that can also make collages and banners.
Why? Because PhotoShop is expensive and more than you often need.
How? Go to the web site, upload your picture(s) and follow the easy prompts and icons. Where can you get copyright-legal images and learn some search tips? Check out the CTL’s “Images, Videos and Audio Resources” page.



Google MyPlaces (was MyMaps)

Why? To pin notes and images to a Google map, then share it.
How? Instructions at Google or at this document from Carleton.
Education Examples:
Literature: mapping a character’s route (sample assignment: Candide Maps)
GEOL197 places mentioned in lecture
CCT335 Technology and the City, assignment:  (additional note: they have put the class materials in Wikispaces, a free wiki tool)



PBWorks wikis

What? A non-UVM public/private wiki site.
Why? For individual or collaborative web projects that combine text, audio, video.
Another popular wiki hosting site is Wikispaces. Both PBWorks and Wikispaces have a free and a pay version. Check the sites for which features are covered in each.



What? One of many non-UVM web site and social networking sites. Included because several people have asked about it.
Why? If you want a site that is not addressed as “uvm.edu” and that offers social networking plugins and easy design.
Where? http://www.ning.com (small fee for a small site: $2.95/month)




What? An application that animates dialog. Write a script, choose your avatars and voices, make a movie. Tell a story, argue two sides of a question, explain a challenging topic succinctly
Why? To make written information auditory and animated. xtranormal gives you and your students a different way to present information. Use for digital storytelling, explaining concepts or policies, explaining processes, expressing contrary opinions, or building an argument.
How? Onscreen prompts help as you create the movie. There are also several tutorials in YouTube.
One idea: Jason B. Jones article “Using Xtranormal Against Straw Men.”







What? Two completely different sites that do similar things: keep your web bookmarks in a central place that is accessible anywhere, searchable, and shareable.
Why? So you never lose a bookmark again.
How? They both have plug-ins for a variety of browsers that make them “click and go” easy to use.


 icon ngram

Google nGram

What? A site where you can compare the frequency of occurrence of words or phrases that appear in the entire Google books corpus.
Why? To follow (and enjoy!) changes in language and the popularity of topics.
How? Type in the words or phrases separated by commas. Narrow the search parameters to see details.


zotero icon

  Zotero and Zotero Groups

What? Zotero is a bibliographic management program. Zotero Groups is a space to share bibliographies with others.
Why? To collect, manage, and use (in Word or other word processor) citations and create bibliographies.
Where? http://www.zotero.org, http://www.zotero.org/groups




What? Create materials to be read on smartphones, iPads, or even big laptops. There are several apps for this (ex. Sigil).




What? Concept or mind mapping software for brainstorming ideas and diagramming how they connect.
Why? To provide a graphic visualization of ideas. Can also be used for visualizing project management.
How? Sign up for a free account (limited number of maps) and sync across other mobile devices.


 Shared, or Requested, By You!

C-mobile: Officially licensed Craigslist app for iPad/iPhone.

UrbanSpoon: Restaurant reviews. Here’s the Vermont page: http://www.urbanspoon.com/c/315/Vermont-restaurants.html

Switchboard: Online phone book also has reverse lookup and zip codes.

Aroundme: Uses your GPS location to let you know what services are nearby, like hospitals, banks, coffee shops, gas stations, etc.. For iPad or iPhone/Android/Windows phones.

StadiumVIP: Order food at the game, have it delivered to your seat. iPhone/Android/Blackberry. (I haven’t tried it but what a neat idea.)

Sliding Ruler + Tape Measure: Slide the app alongside the item to be measured. Measures in inches or centimeters.


Take an old-fashioned slate tablet (yes, I do mean old-fashioned–a slab of rock glued to a board–you know, ‘Little House on the Prairie’ style), do a little arithmetic problem on it, then cross it with an iPad and what happens? MyScript Calculator.

Somehow the idea of doing handwritten text recognition doesn’t seem that magical anymore. But handwriting a math problem and having it generate the answer? Ok, that just seems much harder.

But click and feast your eyes on this:


Does basic operations, shares to the usual places. ‘nuf said.


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