Thursday, 5 December 2013

End of an era, end of this blog - NEW BLOG - http://www.learntechlearn.com/

This is the end of an era.  I will stop posting to this blog as I have started a new blog hosted on a platform which suits my needs a little better.  What I wanted was a website where the front page was a blog but I will also build up a website with a logical structure around it.  This way every time I blog the content gets puts in the correct place.  Although tagging does this at a basic level, I want something more.

So with regret this blog will cease to be.  Since I start this blog a few years back I had periods of regular postings and periods of neglect.  This year hasn't been great for blogging.  It's been a year of change and blogging fell by the waste side.  I regret this and will now try and establish it as part of my working practice.  I have a structure in place on http://www.learntechlearn.com/.  Using weebly, I will try and feature video tutorials I am creating.  This will be interspersed with the normal reflective posts.  This co-incide with the establishment of my youtube channel - https://www.youtube.com/user/tpreskett where I share all my tutorials.

As I write this I'm nostalgic about the blogger interface, this text editor and the whole feel of it.  But it's time to move on and I hope you will move on with me.  The blog will remain open for a while in case anyone wants to read my past musings.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Using iPads in Education Setting - creating this workshop

I wanted to take stock of what has been an important stage in my development - the creation of a workshop I'm currently running called Using iPads in education settings.

I began thinking about the possibilities and potential of tablets in the classroom about a year ago.  This was based on a few things I've read and a belief that the seamless integration for this book size device could really work in a classroom setting.  Then I bought an iPad2 and my feelings were confirmed.  I started explore educational apps and made a concerted effort to absorb knowledge from my PLE and PLN.  I then sought and receive some well timed funding to buy 15 iPad2 with a view to running workshops introducing potential tablet use in classrooms.  The great things about having multiple devices was that I could run practical workshops and draw in educators who wanted to try using these devices before bought any.  I went with iPads because this is what I knew about and was the best instance of a tablets available at that time.  Working in central London means that we could easily be reached by a massive number of schools so I thought this could work well.

The whole enterprise has been successful, rewarding but challenging.  I was only ready to run 2 workshops before Xmas 2012 - these both sold out.  This term we are running 5 and they are all full.  It seems that many schools already have a class set or are thinking about buying a set.  The context I went for was apps which enable certain types of activity suitable for cross-subject use.  I could have gone for subject specific apps but I wanted to start with something more pedagogically interesting.  I spent countless hours organising, testing, researching apps and came up with 9 mindmaps of aggregated lists.  I wanted to include the app names/prices but also easy to understand categories.  Refinements are constantly occurring but I'm pretty happy with what I've come up with.  They can be found here - http://www.weebly.com/weebly/main.php.  The categories aren't perfect but I don't like just give app names, I want to present types of activity and then provide apps to achieve the processes involved.

The workshops are run by demoing and exploring a number of apps carefully chosen to represent a certain type of activity.  I've installed the same apps on each device and guides participants through their use.  By printing and handing out the mind maps I was able to put each individual app into the right context and highlight the wealth of options.  I do this as I'm never comfortable endorsing individual apps or bits of software.  Add on a presentation about the nature of tablets and a presentation about device/data managements and I have myself a workshop.  Importantly for most of the workshops so far I have had the support of Gavin Calnan, an ICT teacher in a north London school.  His input has been invaluable and, when he can attend, provides really good real life input.  An important area I need to improve upon is the showing of actual examples.  We have some of this but need more.

Another important aspect of this workshop is the website I've developed - http://ipadsioe.weebly.com/index.html.  I've left this public as a supporting resource for past participants and anyone else interested.  There are so many free website on this subject it was pointless closing this off.  Even though anyone with enough time could learn everything they need to know through these type of web resources, there will always be enough people that want a face-to-face learning experience.  By providing this type of resource I am hopefully demonstrating expertise and attracting people.

The learning curve was and is very steep.  Initially the logistics were a nightmare.  For my previous session Using 21st Century tools for teaching and learning, I simply created a website, booked a computer room and off I went.  Although the website took a while to construct you only need the internet to run the session.  For this endeavour there were many, many more processes and logistical hoops to jump through.  It didn't help that the Volume Purchasing Programme wasn't available when I started (this began in the UK in Sept, 2012), also mobile device management service weren't known to me.  The option of an apple server (or their cart thingy) weren't available to me due to budget constraints.  I had to do things manually for each iPad.  For each device I created an apple id and email and bought and redeemed a gift card.  I then got busy downloading about 60 apps for onto them all manually.  In addition, the process of arranging apps into folder and a particular order takes time.  All this was pretty last minute for the first workshop.  Although we don't have time to practice on all the apps I've added I wanted to get a load on there for participants to explore throughout the workshop.

Alongside was the issue of projection.  I got the iPad to VGA cable but was hoping to use apple TV or reflectorapp mirroring.   For the first few sessions I had to make do with the cable as our wifi isn't quite up to scratch.  I've now managed to get the reflector software mirroring to work via bluetooth.  It's a pretty convoluted way of achieving a wireless solution and it can freeze when doing something complicated but its better than the cable.  A DIY spirit needs to be employed with this sort of activity.  IT dept will have rules and security measures to make the system run smoothly.  Quite often my questions are answered in the negative.  What you have to do is keep asking, keep making the teaching and learning case and get others on board.  I'm hoping that eventually apple TV will work but investment is required in our wifi.  Fingers crossed.

A key part of the process of this workshop is the continuous learning process.  With over 300,000 apps its impossible to look at all of the relevant educational apps.  However, a concerted effort to explore as much as possible needs to be present.  I do this by regularly studying the web resources, blogs, my twitter feed, google reader subscriptions, news and talking to others.  For this I mainly use the flipboard app on my iPad which I've carefully setup to include all my aggregated content from twitter, google reader and linkedin.  I try and spend time looking every other day and then consolidating new knowledge once a week.  This consolidation of new knowledge is reflected on my website - http://ipadsioe.weebly.com/index.html and then in my workshop design.  I, of course, would like to do more, but I have to be realistic.  I'm also trying to build links to with past participants to keep learning from their practice and I know I need to do more of this.  It helps that I run the workshop twice a month at the moment as the pace of improvement is pretty quick.

It's great when you get a chance create and then refine something that is interesting and engaging like this.  I hope to continue and develop this project by developing knowledge around subject specific apps.  This way I can run further workshops and create and interesting projects for myself.

Going forward I want to develop an android tablet workshop.  The process starts again.....

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Annotate documents on the iPad


This post is the second of a series written about different types of iPad apps that can be used in educational settings. It summarising elements of the workshop Using iPads in Educational Settings which is running throughout 2013 at the Institute of Education, London, UK. You are welcome to explore the web resource - http://ipadsioe.weebly.com/.

Set 1: Annotation/note-taking

Annotate documents on the iPad
The ability to annotate onto on existing document is an important enough process to demand apps specifically for this.  There are many to choose from.  By annotation I mean the ability to draw, highlighting, add text or even add audio onto an an existing document.  All of the apps listed in the relevant mindmap section below do drawing and highlighting.  Most do text additions although some of the free ones don't do this very well.  Only iAnnotate and PDF Connoisseur (of the apps I've found) deal with audio.  Regarding document type, most of them deal exclusively with PDF.  However, some cater for word/powerpoint (iAnnotate and AnnotDoc).  I've included DiigoBrowser in this list which is about web-based annotation.

It's difficult to give a firm recommendation as I haven't played with all of the pay apps.  However, my preference in the free category is Adobe Reader as this has good usability for text/draw/highlight annotation and a clear interface.  For the paid ones I favour iAnnotate as this caters for multiple formats and allows audio comments as well as the usual stuff.  The drawback is its relative complexity when compared to the other apps.  It's still pretty easy to pick up but if you are looking for your colleagues to use it this would be a barrier.  Perhaps, better to start with Adobe Reader and work up to iAnnotate.  I would imagine PDFPen is pretty good at the reviews are good and the price is high.

Within education there are a couple of common processes which could be enhanced by annotating on an iPad instead of pen/paper or indeed a computer/laptop.

Individual document markup
Firstly, there is individual use.  Annotating documents for your own work and the sharing with yourself and others.  I already do this on occasion when I'm on a train or in meetings.  The integration with cloud computing is easy with all these apps and its easy to sync with dropbox (and other cloud storage service).  You simply "Open In" and select the relevant app.  I've only worked with PDFs thus far.  I can see this being useful for any student as papers and documents get emailed or shared for homework/coursework and you want to mark up on first/second reading.  There a limitations as continuing to work on something after annotation is difficult and not possible on most apps.  However, as I know this I don't even attempt and just annotate for future reference.

The enhancement value is in the paper saving.  You get a PDF over email and you no longer have to print it.  Simply "Open In" an annotation app on your iPad and start reading/marking up.  I've only done this for myself as I connect this process with rough and ready annotations that will only make sense to me.  Currently, not many schools have an iPad for each pupil and this can only work when this is the case.  However, if teachers have ownership of an iPad then they could do this for themselves.  As suggested above start them off with one of the free ones with good usability like Adobe Reader.  This way, it can become a gateway process into using iPads for education like writing notes.  By gateway process I mean opening someone mind up to the potential of this new device for professional and educational use. 

Annotating students' work
There is potential here to make a real difference on a large-scale across formal education.  At the moment I know of only one example where a teacher is using an annotation app (happens to be iAnnotate) for this process.  I'm sure there is more but I'm also sure that it's being done by isolated individuals keen on educational technology.  To scale-up beyond will take a big effort but one that's worth doing.  The method with which any teacher marks is a very personal one.  Everyone has their own system and time/place.  Doing this on an electronic device will feel quite alien, quite strange.  Indeed any suggested change can feel quite threatening.  Do it for yourself first and then model the behaviour with your colleagues.  The usability needs to be spot on for this process to scale across education.  One of the main arguments against marking essay on computers/laptops is the eye-strain.  I think with tablets this issue is greatly reduced.  eBook readers like the kindle have e-ink technology which negates any eye strain.  It's not quite so good with tablets, but ther are not far behind now.  The process of making an annotation especially a text comment is slightly (very slightly) slower than marking with a pen.  However, the time-saving is at the other end of the process when it comes to sharing as there is no copying process to turn the physical into the electronic.  Emails can be used but sharing via cloud computing is preferable. 

Introducing others to this process can be done by getting a group together and doing a demonstration/practice on a example document using in a chosen app.  Walk through the process from beginning to end and let them explore it for themselves.  You might get a few converts.  Just think of the paper-saving and time saving potential.  

The more I write about annotation apps the more I know I should be doing more of this.  Anyway, check out some of the apps listed below.  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.



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The structure of the iPad blog posts is listed below with links where possible:

Set 1: Annotation/note-taking
  1. Write-record notes
  2. Annotation
  3. Drawing
  4. File Management
Set 2: Creativity

  1. Digital Storytelling - Cartoon/Comic creation
  2. Digital Storytelling - Flipbook animation
  3. Digital Storytelling - Story from research
  4. Drawing
  5. iBook creation and reading
  6. Image Creation
  7. Poster/Collage Creation
Set 3: Mobile Learning

  1. Location-based
Set 4: Creativity - Multimedia

  1. Audio - Record/edit/share
  2. Digital Storytelling - Narrated slideshow
  3. Digital Storytelling - Narrated Cartoon
  4. Screencasting
  5. Narrate over drawing/image/text
  6. Video - Stop-motion
  7. Video - Analysis
  8. Video - Create/edit
Set 5: Classroom Management


  1. Fun classroom management
  2. Computer Connection
  3. Projecting an iPad
  4. Teacher Organisation
  5. File Management
  6. MS Office/Windows Connection
Set 6: Reflective or critical thinking development

  1. Audio - Record/edit/share
  2. Blogging
  3. Mindmapping
  4. Noticeboards
  5. Narrate over drawing/image/text
  6. Quick brainstorming
  7. Revision - Flashcards
  8. Screencasting
  9. Social Networking
Set 7: Research/Aggregation

  1. Bookmarking
  2. Research - Browsing
  3. RSS - Aggregation
  4. Research - Tailored Browsing
Set 8: Teacher presentation/Resource creation

  1. Audio - Record/edit/share
  2. iBook creation and reading
  3. Mindmapping
  4. Narrate over drawing/image/text
  5. Poster Creation
  6. Presentation
  7. Printing
  8. Screencasting
  9. Video - Create/edit
  10. Revision - Flashcards
  11. Video - Analysis
Set 9: Real-time class collaboration

  1. Class collaboration - viewing lesson on each device
  2. Computer connection
  3. Q&A - Real-time
  4. Webinars

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Write/record notes on iPads

This post is the first of a series written about different types of iPad apps that can be used in educational settings. It summarising elements of the workshop Using iPads in Educational Settings which is running throughout 2013 at the Institute of Education, London, UK. You are welcome to explore the web resource - http://ipadsioe.weebly.com/.

Set 1: Annotation/note-taking
This set is about types of activity they are realised traditionally by some form of pen/pencil and asome physical surface to write on.  The iPad affords or lends itself to the replacement of these practices - and, crucially, does it well.  What I've learnt over the last few months about iPads is that lots of things that can be achieved clunkily or messily with other devices can be achieved with ease and comfort.  As a result, people will do these things.  For the types of apps in the below mindmap this is most definitely true.

Represented below is an embedded mindmap which groups types of activity and then identifies individual iPad apps which fit within this category.  Find the best fit for your context by exploring them.  With the many 1000s of apps out there the list can only be introductory.  However, all those listed have been tested and some recommended by colleagues.



Write/record notes
This is a crucial area because this process is often the gateway application of iPads into this type of devices and its use in any context.  As this process applies to any meeting, any lecture and any class this is a core function.  The key strength is its multi-purpose use as any self-respecting note-taking app will perform a number of functions which previously would require a number of devices or objects.

Firstly, the usability of typing on an iPad is surprisingly good.  I have played with an external keyboard but I prefer the onscreen keyboard display (just remember to turn the sound off to avoid annoying others).  It's really no different than a laptop in this regard and the eye strain is less.  Most apps allow for finger/stylus drawing and the easy creation of simply shapes.  If you stopped there it would still be worthwhile using an iPads for these functions as the integration to cloud computing services (described below) save time. 

However the additional functions are the real selling point.  With an iPad I can take photos.  My app of choice is notability.  With this app I can take a photo of a detailed, wordy slide to save me frantically typing it.  In addition, I can record the audio.  I no longer need a dictatphone for this.  Of course, everyone in the room need to agree for this but to have this available easily is great.  From the iPad 3 onwards there is a record button on the keyboard.  If you have an iPad 2 you'll find record options within most of the note-taking apps.  Then there is this thing called the internet.  Embedding screenshot, adding hyperlinks and simply accessing the internet during a meeting is of real value.

In the below video a UK university student reflect on her use of notability for note-taking:


How I use my iPad - Emma Vaccari from Manchester Medical School on Vimeo.

Of the apps listed in the relevant mindmap section above my favourite is notability.  I often export in pdf format by the old school email route but increasing I am taking notes and then simply storing then in the app for future reference.  This shows that the iPads is becoming embedded into my practice.  I also use Pages because this is the only one I've found that allowing for exporting into word for continued editing.  However, the price of this annoys me so it makes scaling onto numerous devices a costly business.  Of the free one, paperdesk is a good starting point as well as the native notes app.  Also, I could see a scenario where I switch to evernote which is also free.  Evernote is a fantastic , established note-taking, archiving service and the iPad app they have created is a good one.  The synchronisation with your evernote account means that if you are an existing evernote user there is no need to email or use a cloud computing service for extraction.

It's worth mentioning a couple of write to text apps - Smart Writing Tool and WritePad.  However, it would be wrong to comment further as I have not played with them (the costs is pretty high).  On this subject, the fact that most note-taking apps cater for stylus or finger writing means that the perceived threat the handwriting need not be the case.  You could even perform handwriting classes using the iPads.  Although I can type faster than I can write these days I try to use my stylus every so often just to keep this core skill up to speed.

As note-taking is of value in workplace as well as classroom settings this type of activity is easy to practice in a risk free but authentic context.  You can simply ask a colleague to try a note-taking app in a meeting. It's easy to pick-up and demonstrate and the benefits will speak for themselves.  Pick a context where the ability to take photos, go online or draw shapes would be useful.

Next time - Annotation. 

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The structure of the forthcoming blog posts is listed below:

Set 1: Annotation/note-taking
  1. Write-record notes
  2. Annotation
  3. Drawing
  4. File Management
Set 2: Creativity
  1. Digital Storytelling - Cartoon/Comic creation
  2. Digital Storytelling - Flipbook animation
  3. Digital Storytelling - Story from research
  4. Drawing
  5. iBook creation and reading
  6. Image Creation
  7. Poster/Collage Creation
Set 3: Mobile Learning
  1. Location-based
Set 4: Creativity - Multimedia
  1. Audio - Record/edit/share
  2. Digital Storytelling - Narrated slideshow
  3. Digital Storytelling - Narrated Cartoon
  4. Screencasting
  5. Narrate over drawing/image/text
  6. Video - Stop-motion
  7. Video - Analysis
  8. Video - Create/edit
Set 5: Classroom Management

  1. Fun classroom management
  2. Computer Connection
  3. Projecting an iPad
  4. Teacher Organisation
  5. File Management
  6. MS Office/Windows Connection
Set 6: Reflective or critical thinking development
  1. Audio - Record/edit/share
  2. Blogging
  3. Mindmapping
  4. Noticeboards
  5. Narrate over drawing/image/text
  6. Quick brainstorming
  7. Revision - Flashcards
  8. Screencasting
  9. Social Networking
Set 7: Research/Aggregation
  1. Bookmarking
  2. Research - Browsing
  3. RSS - Aggregation
  4. Research - Tailored Browsing
Set 8: Teacher presentation/Resource creation
  1. Audio - Record/edit/share
  2. iBook creation and reading
  3. Mindmapping
  4. Narrate over drawing/image/text
  5. Poster Creation
  6. Presentation
  7. Printing
  8. Screencasting
  9. Video - Create/edit
  10. Revision - Flashcards
  11. Video - Analysis
Set 9: Real-time class collaboration
  1. Class collaboration - viewing lesson on each device
  2. Computer connection
  3. Q&A - Real-time
  4. Webinars