Today’s App: Swivl

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.

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.

Posted in FHM: Flipped, Hybrid, MOOC, iPad/Mobile Learning | Leave a comment

Tech Dim Sum, March 2013



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.


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? or you can create individual exhibits at:
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.
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 “” and that offers social networking plugins and easy design.
Where? (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.




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:

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.


Posted in iPad/Mobile Learning | Leave a comment

Today’s App: MyScript Calculator

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.


Posted in iPad/Mobile Learning | Leave a comment

DRAFT: POD Conference Report

The Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education’s 37th Annual Conference, “Pencils and Pixels: 21st Century Practices in Higher Education” was held October 24-28, 2012, in Seattle, Washington. This conference featured over 130 interactive, roundtable and research sessions, several plenaries, and poster sessions. So, a large conference. Highlights included:

Plenary: Michael Wesch: “The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever”
As one might expect, given his viral videos on student engagement and the impact of the web on education, his presentation was a fluidly choreographed,  inspirational delight of talk and video with such toss offed lines as “In the TV age we talk about critical thinking; in the information age we talk about information literacy.” His emphasis returned again and again to the importance of learning through real-world experience—learning physics instead of learning the game of physics tests, for example. (As did Schneiderman with his “relate/create/donate” ideas of several years ago.) He suggested that the process, the research, and the act of creation was more important than ‘covering’ content, that focusing on groups of students and supporting them in actual practice, in a ‘quest’ as it were, was more effective than focusing on specifying a particular design for an end product.

Emory University iPad Experiments
Emory has several iPad projects whereby they loan iPads with pre-loaded apps to classes. These loans tend to be for six-week periods but not full semester. They work with faculty beforehand to determine what the specific uses will be, what kinds of assignments the students will be doing, how will they design assessments (not complex: essentially will they be taking notes, writing, communicating?). They have one class session dedicated to how to use the iPad, and encourage students to use Evernote and DropBox as a way to keep their data after the project. The session tended to focus on the logistics of how they do this (they have multi-unit carts with a Mac to do the syncing, using Absolute Manager to manage the images which they take from one iPad via iTunes), with insufficient time to discuss specific projects and assessment.

A Roundtable session for Instructional Designers, Faculty Developers and IT Supporters
This ended up being an odd session. It started off with the familiar “post-its on the wall” technique for group work, but it became increasingly clear during the discussions that
a) definitions for the three categories (ID, FD, IT) are hardening, but as is typical of such things
b) those definitions are clearly not identical across institutions and disciplines.
So, some people were adamant that the definitions they were working with were absolute and well-defined in the literature and that other uses were simply a result of sloppy speaking based on ignorance. However, these assertions while they caused some confusion and rolled eyes, were not challenged. Instead the talk devolved into pockets of tangential conversations, discussion of what universities had good job offerings, and a sum-up session that seemed more focused on which table’s representative could speak the longest.

Plenary: Alex Soojun-Kim Pang on “Contemplative Computing and Our Future of Education”
Pang’s long, wandering, but quite engaging talk focused on “distraction addiction” and its impact on education. Playing on the well-known quote that “pain is inevitable but suffering is a choice” he ended the session with “[internet/telecommunications] connection is inevitable but distraction is a choice.” In between was a session that recalled, fondly, those late-night scintillating dorm-room discussions on life, the universe, and everything. The questions that followed ranged from interesting to convoluted thesaurus-busting attempts to out-convolute the speaker. But seriously, it was a fun talk.

Helen Sword on Writing  (who I didn’t realize until after I got to the session that she is the woman responsible for the book/website ‘The Writer’s Diet’) has just published “Stylish Academic Writing.’ The talk was based on the hundreds of interviews she did as the research that went into the book. Many great ideas, charismatic speaker, check the web sites for more information. Think I’ll buy the book.

And my session: Digital Humanities and CTLs: A Logical Partnership
Most surprising were the number of people (about 25) who came to what was, in this conference, a relatively esoteric topic. However, according to attendees, they are actually hearing from more and more faculty with questions about how to integrate digital projects into their classes and are trying to determine the best way to support this. I had framed the talk in terms of “things we have tried that failed” which turned out to mirror the experiences some had already begun to have. Others had begun to consider some of those same approaches and appreciated learning of potential pitfalls and consequences ahead of time. As a nice bonus, Paul Martin was there and willingly added good comments about his CTL experiences at UVM! Here’s the PPT copy of the Keynote file:
The slide show was brief and inserted in the middle was a discussion about DH themes and potential projects. Next I had them log in to my space and start to build a collection. This included downloading/uploading some images and adding metadata. (And it actually worked!) We wrapped up with a discussion of how these ideas reflected or might aid their experience at their own institutions.

Of course, this conference was also quite memorable for occurring at the same time that tropical storm Sandy descended on the east coast, rendering the stay in Seattle three days longer than expected due to flight delays–an utterly small inconvenience compared to the disaster that Sandy left in its wake.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Today’s App: SnapSeed

You may take a perfect picture every time. I sure don’t. I’m happy to have found SnapSeed, a dead simple photo editor. You can do all the things you expect: crop, adjust colors and brightness, sharpen, straighten–and do that all selectively. You can add a frame and various filters (even a vintage filter for you Instagram fans). Cartoon-like overlays show you what to do in each case.

You can Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 4.02.05 PMthen compare your current view with the previous view before you decide to apply your change.

Once done you can send your image to Google+, Email, Twitter, Facebook, or Open it in any app you have that can use images (including DropBox), or you can save it.

Best of all? The app used to cost $4-5 but is now free!

Posted in iPad/Mobile Learning | Leave a comment

MOOCs draft

MOOCs are courses that are:

  • Massive: designed for large-scale participation by dozens or even thousands of
  • 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 aneffort 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?


  • 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. [15]

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.


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

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 As of today, it is not too late to join CFHE12 at

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. For a recent recap of the 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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Today’s App: Margins (for book notes)


Writing in the margins of books, though it may be a bibliophiles nightmare, is a time-honored way to to keep notes on your reading. But they are not easily searchable. Adding notes and annotations to ebooks is easy and they are certainly searchable, but not all of your books are in electronic form. Certainly you can take notes about any book you are reading using a text editor or word processor on your laptop. You could even take notes on your iPad or iPhone using any note-taking app.

Enter Margins, a book notes app. In true app form, it takes a task that could be handled in other ways and builds it into a simple program that makes it portable as well as organized. You add your book by manually entering author, title, publisher, etc. or by entering the ISBN. Once your book is added you simply add your notes. You can input the page number, a quote from the page, and your own notes. These all become searchable fields. Simple.

Now for the downsides: the app is showing its age; it is for iPhone, so you can run it on an iPad but in small form (though the 2x view is crisp and frankly easier to type in). You can send your notes out by email but there is no cloud-based saving. It is built by Architechies, better known for their converter apps, but has not been updated since 2011. Nevertheless, it does what it says it does,

Posted in iPad/Mobile Learning | Leave a comment

Tech Dim Sum: The List

Tech Dim Sum: “Bite size” introductions to a variety of applications that you might find useful for teaching. You might use them to provide information for your students or for assignments you create for them.

If using for assignments, consider:

  • What are your goals for the assignment?
  • How will you tell whether a student has met those goals?
  • Does the use of this tool add to the possibilities of the assignment?
  • Are there copyright, FERPA or administrative considerations related to using this tool?
  • Will you need help supporting your students as they use this tool?

For our first Tech Dim Sum session we’ll be taking a look at the following:

What? create or participate in online meetings and presentations.
Why? To have multiple people on one space communicate and share presentations.


icon-camtasiaCamtasia or Jing: capture what you do on your computer, add a voiceover, even cationing (with Camtasia). Do you typically write, draw, or diagram things on the classroom board? Do it on a tablet instead and capture that as a video.
Screencasts and Education by Paul McGovern’s article “Screencasts and Education.”


icon-dspacedSpace at UVM:
What? A UVM-based digital collection site.
Why? To build an online public/private searchable database of digital objects, usually images.
Talk to CTL for details.


eBooks: icon-sigilCreate materials to be read on smartphones, iPads, or even big laptops. There are several apps for this (ex. Sigil).


icon-google-mymapsGoogle MyPlaces (was MyMaps):
How? Instructions at Google or at this document from Carleton.
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)


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 “” and that offers social networking plugins and easy design.
Where? (small fee for a small site: $2.95/month)
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? or you or your students can create individual exhibits at:
Chronicle article: Jeffrey W. McClurken “Teaching with Omeka
Our most recent Omeka project is HST095. The report is here.
Talk to CTL for more details.


icon-pbworksPBWorks wikis:
What? A non-UVM public/private wiki site.
Why? For individual or collaborative web projects that combine text, audio, video.
Pros and cons of Blackboard wikis vs. PBWorks:
Bb: all students are already in course; PBWiki; must manually add/invite students
Bb: once semester is done, wiki is gone; PBWiki: stays until you close it, can reuse or augment. If the wiki is created by a student, they can keep it after the semester is over and control who can see it.
Bb: very rudimentary interface; PBWiki: works as expected, easy, robust
Bb: definitely FERPA compliant; PBWiki: can be open or hidden, your choice


Twitter: who are the “must follow” tweeters in your discipline? Follow your favorites or post your own tweets. Search for hashtags to find tweets on specific subjects.


icon-uvmwordpressWordPress Blogs: you’re looking at one now. If you have a UVM account you can have a blog. In fact, you can have multiple blogs, any number of which can be used for your class to create posts. Unlike the blog tool that you have access to in Blackboard, this blog can be made public. It can also stay active once a course is over so you can continue contributing to it from one semester to the next.
Considerations: Students can create their own blogs or sub-blogs, or you can create a sub-blog and add students as authors.


icon-xtranormalxtranormal: 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: xtranormal gives you and your students a different way to present information.
What? An application that animates dialog.
Why? To make written information auditory.
How? Onscreen prompts as you create the movie. Also several on YouTube.
One idea: Jason B. Jones article “Using Xtranormal Against Straw Men.”
…or use for:
digital storytelling
concepts or policies
explaining processes
expressing contrary opinions/building an argument


  Zotero and Zotero Groups
What? Zotero is a bibliographic management progem. 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.


Posted in iPad/Mobile Learning | Leave a comment

iPads, Second Adopters and Apple’s upcoming event (iPublishing?)

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.

Posted in iPad/Mobile Learning | Leave a comment

eReaders: What’s on your iPad?

“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 iconKindle
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.

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 imageKobo
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 imageStanza
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.

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

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 (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 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

Posted in iPad/Mobile Learning | Leave a comment