Periscope as a teaching tool

What is Periscope?
Periscope is a live broadcast service that combines the best of video and instant messaging. The “scoper” or presenter broadcasts live while the viewers instant message the scoper and other viewers. It is like Skype except only only one person is on screen. And It is like a instant messaging chatroom while everyone is watching the same thing or person. It is also like everyone can now have their own live television channel with a Twitter feed on screen (so you can see why Twitter purchased it).

What is different about Periscope?
Periscope’s format is different in three ways to similar services or what had been attempted before. Firstly, open skype-style chatrooms (which Skype did try once and failed dismally) would make it impossible to tell who is talking and who the main speaker is. It would be (or was) like a cacophony of yelling voices at a cocktail party with no one as host. Secondly, live video allows scopers to interact immediately with viewers and other viewers as well, which video blogging on YouTube does not. This is done without distraction to the scoper by separating video and instant messaging between scoper and viewer. Lastly, Everything is instant. Video blogging is instant. Interaction with viewers is instant. Viewer reactions are instant. Gratification for both scoper and viewer are instant. And once you have your gratification you can move on and do other things. It is truly taking the best of all worlds of Skype, YouTube, chat and vlogging.

What is the potential of Periscope for teaching?
Given its instant nature, scoper/viewer interactiveness and visualness it has great potential as a teaching tool. I could do a live class where other students can join in and ask questions. There is no waiting between question and feedback. And as I said earlier it is like having one’s own television channel with a live twitter feed going at once. The videos then can be saved and even uploaded by you to YouTube or others to katch.me.

The new LibraryThing iOS app review

App Name: LibraryThing
Related Website: http://www.librarything.com
Version reviewed: 1.0.1
Price: Free

Release Date: 19 October 2015

Introduction
LibraryThing this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary as an online service. It is a book cataloging service for creating database of your books as well as connecting you to other people with similar reading interests. This is its first iOS app for its cataloging service (it has produced other apps not related to its original function).

As of writing it has nearly 2 million members whom have cataloged over 100 million books.

Design
The app has a three-tab layout, a Home, Your Catalog and Add to Catalog tabs. The Home tab brings up five icons, a Your Catalog, Add to Catalog, Cover Explorer, News and Account icon. The Your Catalog and Add to Catalog icons lead to the other two tabs. So essentially there are three new functions in this tab.

The Cover Explorer brings up a list of groupings of covers related to your books. The groups include Amazon Covers, Low and High Quality Members Covers. The News icon brings up a list of news about LibraryThing ordered by date. The Account icon brings up information about the login, settings for your choice of cover upload size and app version information.

The Your Catalog tab gives you a list of collections you can tap to view. This can either be a list or cover view. In the cover view you can further tap the cover to view the book details.

The Add to Catalog tab shows you your recently added books and allows you to add books by input search or camera barcode scan.

Usability (Simplicity)
The app is highly usable in that the three tab layout is easy to understand although the repeat of Your Catalog and Add to Catalog icons in the Home tab is redundant. I am guessing they were included because of the lack of content in this tab. Inclusion however does not harm its usability.

Usability (Usefulness)
Rather than being a book catalog viewer only the app can act as an input device. This was not available as an option for smartphones until now so it is welcome and perhaps long overdue. The ability to scan barcodes make this app highly usable.

Conclusion
Ten years ago when LibraryThing first came into being smartphones were almost non-existent. The website had not been designed with smartphone technology in mind. The timing therefore meant that sites which came into existence later had a head start to smartphone applicability (BookBuddy was ahead of its time with barcode scanning). This had meant that until now only desktop input was possible. With the bulk input disabled sometime after its launch this had meant that inputting books was a difficult and tedious task. With this new app LibraryThing may just have rejuvenated itself as a player in this day and age of smartphone dominance.

Pros

  • Simple easy-to-navigate design
  • barcode scan enabled

Cons

  • No groups and talk access
  • No iPad version available

(Rating: 4 out of 5)

Classroom productivity with Voice Memo

Apple’s preloaded Voice Memo has now become a more useable app for the classroom. The user interface is cleaner now with navigation easier. Trimming and deleting parts of the recording is simplified and saving files with appropriate titles streamlined. The app also allows upload to Dropbox which means easy sharing and archiving. AirDrop again means sharing with others with iOS hardware is one click away. 

The screen also rotates so that the iPhone can be held with the mic facing up to work like a dictaphone

Another feature that is useful is recording with the screen locked meaning you can record students without distraction to them while they perform tasks for you. 

How many apps have I downloaded?

Apple reports that iOS apps downloaded from the App Store have now totalled 100 billion. Considering that 1 billion devices have been sold that is on average 100 apps per device. And considering that there are 1.5 million unique apps on the Store that is an average of 66,667 downloads per app.  

Personally, I have downloaded at least a thousand apps on two owned devices. So I guess I am downloading five times more than the average person. Yikes.

How to get sub 1-minute times for timer in iOS Clock

One of the annoying features in the iOS Clock is that the minimum time for the timer is 1 minute. There are no ‘seconds’ increments that you can select from. For that most people download non-proprietary apps to get this feature. However, if you don’t want to download anything more you can still get sub 1-minute times on the Clock timer.

The work-around for this is to use Siri.

For example, bring up Siri voice command and say, “timer forty-five seconds,” and the timer will countdown from 45 seconds as commanded. Simple as that.

You can also get “in-between” times (such as 1 minute 30 seconds) as well by using the same method.

The four configurations of iOS apps

The ubiquity of iPhones and iPads these days means there is great app support and variety for these devises. But you would think that an app running on an iPhone or iPad would work on either devises because they are running the same OS – Apple’s iOS. This is not true. To make things worse it isn’t explained to users, at least, how apps relate to the hardware either in the App Store or elsewhere.

So here is my summary.

There are four configurations for apps in relation to hardware running iOS.

  1. Universal app
  2. Separate iPhone and iPad apps
  3. iPhone only app
  4. iPad only app

A universal app is one that runs on both iPhone and iPad with a single purchase. That is, if you bought it on either your iPhone or iPad it will be available to the other device without extra cost. Furthermore, the design adapts to the hardware. The use interface UI will look and behave differently depending on hardware is an iPhone or iPad. Here are two screenshots of the same app. The first is running on an iPhone and the second on an iPad.

An iPhone or iPad specific (for the lack of a name) app is one that is available for both the iPhone and iPad but require the user to purchase both separately. One has to be careful as to which version to buy. If you purchase an iPhone specific app it will work on your iPhone as it is designed to. It will also work on your iPad but the design will not adapt to the iPad hardware but will make your iPad look like a huge iPhone. But if you had purchased an iPad specific app be aware that it will not run at all on your iPhone even though the developer has made both versions available but as separate purchases. So if you want to run this app on your iPad either purchase the iPhone version or else purchase the separate iPad version.

iPhone only apps are apps which are available for iPhones only with no separate iPad apps made available by the developer. There are various reasons for this. The most common or likely reason is that the apps are designed specifically for the form and functionality of iPhones. Here is a screenshot of a notetaking app for the iPhone. Not only does it not have a ipad equivalent it only works in portrait mode with the keyboard positioned for single hand inputting.

Finally, iPad only apps are ones that are designed for and are only available for the iPad with no iPhone version purchasable. These apps are designed specifically for the tablet form with way to make it work on iPhones. The reason here again is about form, functionality and practicality. Below is a screenshot of a drawing app designed to work on iPads alone. The small size of the iPhone screen will make drawing impractical. But other drawing app developers may beg to differ and design either a universal or separate version for the iPhone as well.

There are reasons why you may want an app to run on both your iPhone and iPad. Mine is that having access to certain productivity apps on my iPhone means I will always have a backup to use in case my iPad dies on me during teaching. But even if this doesn’t matter you should be aware of your options when making purchases on either your iPhone or iPad. The compatibility designations are anything but transparent.

What is the difference between an “app” and a “program”?

Typically it is best to think programs and apps as the same thing with different names, just like cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons which technically these three storms are the same thing. So an app and program are just the same thing with different names.

In common usage though you will never call a something running on iOS or Android a program, or something on Windows, Mac OS or Linux an app. These terms seem to reflect on the environment they run on. And they install differently. A program usually requires an installer and will install various files needed on the computer for it to work. An app on the other hand will usually be (or at least feel like) one file downloaded. It will have one icon. And deleting it will be just to tap on “the cross”. A program will include and require an uninstaller in order to get rid of the various files installed all over your hard disk. Programs in general are pretty messy looking things.

One must also think of what usually becomes an app. For the most part we never install anything to do, for instance, Gmail on a computer. Add-ons to browsers may be the in-between case for some functionality, but we still use online email services through a browser. Whereas on an iPhone your email will be an app. In other words some things which are usually done on a browser on a computer will be done by an app in mobile devices.

Byword – Short Review

This app is great for text-oriented content blog posting. It directly links to WordPress, Tumblr, Evernote, Blogger and Scriptogr.am. You can also export as HTML and PDF to the Cloud, iTunes or share through various means in another app, Twitter or Facebook email and Message as well as copy as HTML.

Byword also supports Markdown and allows you to preview it. Some more other important features include being able to post images to WordPress, sync through iCloud and TextExpander extensibility.

Non-English external keyboards now work perfectly with Byword (tested with Japanese layout keyboard and iOS8).

Byword is free but publishing cost 500 Yen (in-app purchase). Single purchase for all iOS devices.

Is it really GoodNotes vs Notability?

I have been using both GoodNotes and Notability for a bit now. Both purchases were made after recommendations and some research. Most people seem to pit these two against each other as if they are rivals. But I beg to differ. I’ll tell you why at the end.

Continue reading

Using GoodNotes in the classroom

Recently I have been upgrading in the apps department to match my needs for English language teaching. By far the iPad is the best thing for presentation of teaching material on the big screen (the classroom projector screen, that is).

Having held back on forking out money for apps which do similar work to free ones I thought it was high time I tried some to see what all the hype is about.

One apps which I heard recommended over and over again is GoodNotes. Particularly it is the handwriting input system which has caught all the attention. And low and behold I wasn’t disappointed. The implementation of the handwriting by zoom input and auto-shifting (or auto-scrolling, call it what you like) is fantastic. And this works really well with its Presentation Mode which hides all your actions from the students makes it ideal as a teaching tool.

For me I mostly use the projector to show the textbook and teaching material (in PDF format) while we go through it. So being able to annotate there and then is all but crucial. My students love watching the action and it certainly has made my teaching much easier to follow since I use only English to my non-native students. So any instruction tend to be lost or difficult to follow for them.

Checking the answers with students has also made it much easier and more understandable since I can show students exactly where a problem might be for them. By filling in the answers in together as if directly into their textbooks or handouts students tend to respond much better than if checking the answers verbally only.

Ironically it is this aspect of my research about the importance of embodiment which has enhanced and informed my overall teaching skills.