Some thoughts about making choices about the software and systems you use, they may have hidden positives or negatives.

Featured image, iPhone screenshot, edited in snapseed

At the weekend during pedagoo muckle there was a mini TeachMeet. Everyones name was in a bowel and there was a series of random 2 minute talks. I though I was prepared with this tip. In the event I was quite glad I didn’t get picked all the people who got picked had two minutes of great ideas, as opposed to a wee tip.

I did mention it to one or two folk at my conversation and it was well received so I though it would be work posting.

One of the minor hassles I’ve been having with Glow and iPads is multiple logons. Some of the MS apps seem to get themselves in a state of confusion, requiring pupils to log on frequently, and more than once. This is a particular pain if you work in Word, save to Onedrive and then upload that file through the browser. I’d like this to be a thoughtless and painless process for my class but it is not. This is compounded by the fact you need to put a glow email address into an MicroSoft iPad app, this them loads the RM Unify logon where you need to use your glow username and password. Given you can use your glow email in place of your username this make the tip even more useful.

iOS has a text replacement function. You can type a shortcut and the predictive text will offer the expansion to insert.

You set these up in the Setting App, General-> Keyboard- Text Replacement, the phrase would be your glow email, the shortcut something memorable, not part of a real word. We used gw and initials, so mine is gwjj.

Here is a gif showing how much easier it it to log on with a shortcut.

shortcut-gwjj

As a bonus, some of the pupils in my class added other shortcuts, for example d: for define: which hlps find the meaning of words in google.

Finally ios allows upload of files from more than the photo library. This is just the first mp3 I found in my Dropbox. It is a recording n Buchanian st. In Glasgow.

The more includes OneDrive for glow folk.

image

This opens up lost of possibilities for blogging and podcasting on the move.

I had a bit of a play with Adobe Slate this morning. It is an iOS app for publishing words and pictures.

The Devil's Pulpit
The Devil’s Pulpit

It is quite a very process which allows you to get good looking results quickly. Macworld points out some limitations that struck me immediately.

It’s dead-simple, but also quite limited. You can choose from a handful of themes to change the whole look of the story, but can’t adjust individual fonts or formats, or even add a link within a larger block of text. (You can, however, place links as standalone buttons.) You can change image formats so they appear full screen, inline, or as a scrolling “window,” but you can’t add borders or freely move images around. Video isn’t supported at all.

What we gain

I guess slate is part of the same move to allowing producers to concentrate on the content while the ‘professionals’ provide the design.
Like Medium you cannot argue with the results from a clean readable point of view.
We can publish text and pictures easily on a blog. I am sure we can find a theme or two with typography that is as good, but I suspect it might be hard to find such elegant handling of images.

What we lose

I am not a professional writer or photographer, neither am I a designer or coder (obviously;-)).
I publish ‘stuff’, sometime approaching stories, because it is fun and I want to explore the potential of these activities for learning. I have different degrees of interest in all aspects of the process, I think I can learn from each.
I’ve been thinking about the tension between ease of use and creativity for a while. For learners we will sometimes want them to concentrate on one particular aspect of the work. I can’t be the only teacher who sometimes asked pupils to leave font and style changes till the story was finished. At other times we will want them to get fully involved in messy learning.
We also lose some control of the data when we publish to silo sites. I am pretty sure that Medium and Adobe will be around a lot longer than Posterous, but I still like backups.

Alternatives

Just as I am writing this I remember an earlier experiment A Walk to Loch Oss using Odyssey.js

The odyssey.js library is being developed to help journalists, bloggers, and other people on the web publish stories that combine narratives with maps and map interactions. The library is open source and freely available to use in your projects. It is initially being built to work with most modern browsers

from: odyssey.js README on GitHub. Odyssey.js adds maps to the mix but might be an interesting alternative to Slate that allows you more control and ownership. I am sure there are others out there.

update

After I posted this I kept thinking about the ‘own your own’ argument and decided to have a wee go at replicating the story myself.
A bit of googling for CSS hints and a couple of JavaScript libraries and I have The Devil’s Pulpit 2, handcrafted.

It is nowhere near as slick as the Adobe version(surprise) and so far does not look good on mobile.

It was a lot of fun to play with but I noticed a lack of attention to the actual story in my process.

I guess the best thing about tools like slate is the way they get out of your way and let you focus on content. I just like some of the fussing and futzing that goes with more basic solutions sometimes.

 periscope icon

 Periscope is a new video streaming service that hooks up through your Twitter account. It seems to have stolen a march over its rival Meerkat: Periscope v. Meerkat: Our Initial Re/action | Re/code

I gave periscope a quick test yesterday afternoon. In a break in the rain I headed to The Whangie for a quick walk. When I got to the Whangie itself I had I blob of 3G on my phone so without much hope I fired up periscope.

I was quite surprised that I seemed to connect and started walking and talking. I could not really see the screen due to lack of reading glasses and s rain speckled screen but I think a few people connected.
After nearly four minutes I finished. He app seemed to be trying to upload the video? Given the poor connectivity I was not surprised that it failed. The video was saved to my camera roll though.

Later reviewing the video I see that I made the mistake of assuming periscope would do landscape videos. The video look like a misty day in minecraft, I guess quality is decided by connection?

  

I’ve watched a few other streams and the quality has been a lot better than mine. It is quite strange watching random streams as folk try to figure out what is going on. I did see a broadcast of a ‘sporting’ event from quite nearby as swimmers in wetsuits tackled the Maryhill canal locks.

Educationally, what is this good for? Perhaps live links beamed back into classrooms from field trips or broadcasting egg incubators out to pupils at home after school.
The app is optimised for iOS 7.1 or later and iPhone 5 and up which I guess rules out my old iPhone 4 for experimenting with.
Why use it rather than other streaming apps, ease of use first and perhaps the low bandwidth requirements.

The new iOS WordPress app editor is so much better than before. I am not sure when this happened.

It is a vast improvement on the older version that I looked at before, much simpler and a reasonable WYSIWYG experience. 



The only useful feature I can think of that is missing would be an in app image resize to upload photos quicker on poor connections. 

I posted  #glowblogs improvements: mobile a few weeks ago praising the mobile browser but this is tons nicer. 

We ruled out using the mobile app for Glow reflecting security concerns from the technical team. I hope the mobile web follows some of the same design. 

This post is, of course, completely constructed in the mobile app.  

I quite enjoy scripts and things that make my computing life a we bit easier. I’ve blogged a few times about AppleScript which I find very handy on my mac. On my iPhone I’ve never really found a way of automating things that stuck with me. I’ve downloaded and played with a few apps, but mostly they have felt a bit too convoluted for me.

I do regularly combine application to get a result, the so called app smashing, although I prefer the less destructive sounding playflow (I think I am the only person who does).

Workflow Icon

I’ve now found an application which looks like making this sort of thing on iOS a bit simpler: Workflow.

Workflow is more like Automator than AppleScript as it uses the same sort of block steps. You can combine any of the actions to create workflows. These steps or rather actions can deal with images, text, maps in all sorts of ways.

The think that makes this application stand out is that it has arrived hot on the heels of the iOS 8 improvements to inter application communication. You can set the application to the a Action Extension, this means it can be run from the share sheet in other applications. As you can set the input for a workflow to accept different things you can control the sheets where it will show.

In the screenshot below I’ve selected 2 photos and then hit the share button. When I click the Run Workflow button I can choose a workflow from the next screen(shown on the right) . In this case one choice is a simple workflow I made to downsize image an save it to the camera roll.

Sharesheet

These workflows are made by dragging and dropping action blocks onto a workflow. Workflows can be set to be run from a icon added to your home screen, the Launch Center app or from share sheets in other apps. The latter can be set to accept different types of data and will then show up in the appropriate apps.

So far I’ve only made a few very simple workflows with two or three block, but there is potential to loop and have if-then type decision making.

Some Workflows

There are over 150 actions you can use to build a workflow:

Actions

I’ve only scratched the surface of workflow over the last week or so, but it looks like it could make iOS more fun and effective.

A few links:

I am not sure where I saw this technique mentioned first, it might have been: Build cheap panning camera mounts for time lapse photography, but there are plenty of other links: stop motion pano ikea timer – Google Search

Pretty simple idea, you use a cheap ikea kitchen timer with some stop motion app, I used iMotion HD.

The above is not a very long one, the midges made it pretty short. Here is the setup:

IMG_5156

I’ve been reading a lot about teaching code in schools and computational thinking recently, good to see an alternative view Why Pushing People to Code Will Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor | Wired Opinion | Wired.com

Public vs. Private – Should Student Work Be Public On the Web? | The Edublogger, When I started blogging with my pupils, the whole point was to be public. Recently, I’ve been involved in setting up e-portfolios with hundreds of pupils and the idea we are missing a trick by making these private is always at the back of my mind. In North Lanarkshire, where I work, there has been a recent flourishing of use of glow blogs, but a lot of the public ones are written to by staff as an adjunct to their school website. I wonder if this will develop to more pupil publishers? I also notice that now blogging is much more widespread that many using them are not involved in the social aspect of blogging: commenting and reading other blogs. The are perhaps being used more for communication with parents and the local community?

appear.in – one click video conversations is one several sites that have popped up recently offering WebRTC video conferencing in some browsers (Chrome, Firefox, opera).

I’ve been doing a bit of iPad screencasting of late this is a good guide on how to do it. I use Airserver and screnflow rather than the applications Ben Rimes use but the process is the same, Ben’s scren cast is in a competion at the monet so if you want to help him win give his youtube the thumbs up. How To: Screen Record Your iPad – ScreenChamp Finalist 2013 – YouTube

Here is how to turn your smartphone into a digital microscope for just $10: DIY

Pulp o Mizer rtc Nuggets

TL:DR or Highlights

  • A chat with Jenni Robertson about meraki and VPP
  • John Hurst’s talk, a flavour of which is in this boo: Audioboo / An open approach to web filters
  • Ian Wilson‘s demo bossjock
  • OscarStringer: making iMovie title screens with Explain Everything
  • Joe Moretti Showbie, looks like the best thing on the iPad for handing out and gathering in work from pupils.
  • Dalry Primary School

I’ve spent the last couple of days at Dalry Primary School for the Apple Regional Training Centre Conference. I’ve been to two or three ADE events but this was my first RTC.

Apart from the obvious focus on pedagogy and learning other than tech, the main subject was the iPad, not much about macs other than as content creators, iBook Author, for the iPads.

The school itself was a pretty amazing building. The school is a ‘flagship’ building and worth looking at inside and out (pictures here).

Day One

The first day consisted of a series of half hour presentations, the stand outs, for me, were:

  • Jenni Robertson from Edinburgh talking about how they delivered courses on the other side of Scotland. Afterwards, in conversation, Jenni explained how they use Meraki and volume purchasing . some of the North Lanarkshire schools already use Meraki, but Jenni had a good model for covering a whole authority. They way Edinburgh has accessed VPP sounds as if it might be possible in other LAs too.
  • Torstan B Stauch, demoed AppShed which allows you to Build HTML5, iPhone and Android apps online for schools, education and business, and looks like it is worth following up.
  • John Hurst HT of Lever House Primary School tyalked about his schools approach to education, having taken control of their networking from the LA without Going Academy; risk assessment, outdoor fun, starting fires, getting mud between your toes and more. This was a great presentation and I managed to get a quick audioboo with John later for edutalk talking about filters:

    We hope to have John as a guest on Radio #EDUtalk next session.

  • Babar Baig and Kim Byrding talked about an app WriteReader, but their Danish approach to getting very young children to record their activities was fascinating. A combination of taking photos and have a go writing was great.
  • Ian Wilson, Mark Bunyan and Mike Watson gave a quick fire Golden Nuggets section with some great app suggestions and ideas for using them.

    Many of these are captured on twitter, and I’ve bundled a lot of the tweets I made or liked during the first day into Storify #AppleRTC Thursday 13 June 2013..

    One of the most interesting was Ian Wilson‘s demo of bossjock, I’d looked at that before but turned it down due to price. If I had a class I’d buy it in an instant now. Really good for audio storytelling with sound effects.

    Another goodie was sent to me from my NLC colleague Ian, PULP-O-MIZER: the custom pulp magazine cover generator with which I knocked up a quick cover(works on an ipad) in a couple of minutes and tweeted as a golden nugget.

This last activity was the only audience participation in the first day via twitter. This would be my only criticism, given that one of the themes was: Conversations, collaboration and community, a semi-formalised sharing for all participants, would I am sure, have produced some interesting stuff. But there is only some much time and almost everything we heard was of value, a good day.

Day Two

Most of day two was spent in three different workshop sessions, in order I took them:

  1. Oscar Stringer covered the workflow for Keynote to Explain Everything to iMovie and iBooks Author.

    One great tip was to use Explain Everything to create, credit or the end animations for import into iMovie, dead simple and very effective, this example took about 2 minutes to make

    Although I used iBook Author a bit last year it was nice to have a refresh of the basics and to hear the answer to our problem of importing books over Wifi to ipad: don’t make the books so big. iTunes U would seem to be the way to go, splitting the books up into chapters. The guy siting next to me in the session had a nice example of this.

    We also saw a new version of wallwisher, Padlet which works really well on the iPad for classroom collaboration.

  2. Next Dalry Primary HT Maureen Denningberg talked to the, mostly english, attendees giving an overview of Scottish Education and CfE. A few english folk now seem to be looking for a job in Scotland.

    We then were allowed to tour the school and chat to the pupils. Given the unique design of the school and the integration of technology I think the pupils are used to this. There are some interesting reviews on the school website.

  3. My final workshop of the day was with Joe Moretti. After a discussion of how to introduce iPads to staff, most of the session was dedicated to Showbie which badges itself Assignment workflow for iPad. This was the best piece of information I got in the whole show. Joe went through the basic features of the app, giving us the chance to act as pupils. We:

    1. Joined a Class
    2. Received Tasks
    3. Submitted work (from any app that can use ‘open in’ or from the camera roll, camera or via direct text or audio)
    4. Got feedback, in lots of different ways, stand out was by the teacher recording direct audio. how quick and easy it that!

    All this with the free version of Showbie which the devs have assured us will always be around and keep at least the same feature set. Although nothing lasts forever 1, showbie takes so little effort to set up for such valuable results it would be daft not to use it if you have a few ipads in class.

Joe has an iPad app Teaching With ICT which covers Essential Settings, Book Creator, Showbie, Pages, Explain Everything, Puppet Pals and iFiles. This would be a good starter selection for any classroom, based on this session would be well worth getting. I’ve certainly bought it as a thank you for the intro to Showbie.

The PirateBox

After the piratebox’s first non appearance, I was hoping that here might be an opportunity to give it a wee go. A previous ADE conference I had attended made me think the Golden Nugget session would be a bit like TeachMeet nano presentations so I packed the box. Turned out this was not so.

So on the second day I just plugged the box in and tweeted out an invitation or 3.

I must not have been inviting enough, or there was more interest official stuff going on or perhaps apple fans lack a pirate attitude? My only disappointment of the two days. I did see the lights on the box flicker a connection or two, but no one uploaded anything or left a note in the chat. I still hope that the pirate box will one day sail distributing and gathering booty. I am also wondering about using it to distribute content, say iBooks to a class without slowing the main network down.

RTC Stuff

There was also a fair bit of information on the Apple Regional Training Centres setup and it was good to clap eyes on the folk supporting the program and find out what is going on in other centres.

1.podcast producer, posterous, google reader, I am looking at you.