Remote-Control Keynote on iPad With Your iPhone

keynoteappnarrowThere are lots of options for giving a Keynote presentation from your iPad, most of which are sub-optimal.  This morning I discovered that I can do it over Bluetooth (not WiFi) from my iPhone. I didn’t know that was possible! It makes presenting from an iPad a realistic option.

Option 1 – AirPlay

You can AirPlay your iPad screen to an AppleTV, or to a computer running Reflector, AirServer or X-Mirage.  I’ve done that sometimes in the past, but there are four problems.  ① Sometimes AirPlay can be a little laggy – especially if you have video in the Keynote slides.  ② The iPad is a little bulky to hold while presenting. Its heft restricts hand gestures and I think, looks a bit awkward. ③ I find that sometimes when there are lots of WiFi devices in a room all accessing the WAP (as is usually the case in a classroom) the AirPlay connection tends to drop out altogether.  That happens too frequently to be viable.

Option 2 – Cable

You can hard-wire your iPad to to the projector using a VGA or HDMI cable and the appropriate lightning adaptor. But if you present from your iPad while hand-held and tethered to a cable; you’re likely to accidentally unplug it mid-stream when you trip over the cord. And if you are going to leave the iPad on the table, your own movement in the classroom is restricted (or you’ll be constantly dancing back and forth to change slides – which I think looks comical, and frankly, a bit amateurish.

Option 3: My new preferred option.

5cA third alternative is to connect your iPad to a cable, then use Keynote on your iPhone to control Keynote on your iPad. This has been possible for a while, but what has stopped me from doing it is that (I thought) it relies on having both iPhone and iPad connected to the same WiFi network.  I don’t trust that arrangement because I’ve sometimes found the whole “both-devices-on-the-same-network” thing to be a bit unreliable – with dropouts being too frequent.  Also in a number of schools in which I’ve worked, even though my devices are connected to the same WiFi network, they still can’t see each other (I’ve no idea why – but presumably there is something on the network preventing this kind of interoperability).

5c-600contBut I recently discovered that if you turn the WiFi off on your iPhone, you can use the Keynote app on your iPhone to control Keynote on iPad via Bluetooth (directly between the two devices). In my testing that provides a more robust link, making presentation from the iPad via iPhone viable.  While you do have to turn WiFi off on your iPhone, you can leave the iPad’s WiFi on which seems to work just fine. That is handy if you need to access the web, or another app during your presentation.

The iPhone app allows you to advance to the next slide, go back to the previous slide, navigate to any slide by number, and the iPhone’s screen displays the current slide together with either the next slide or your presenter notes.

It’s a pretty good set-up.  The iPad is directly connected via cable to the projector so video isn’t laggy.  The iPhone is not sending video via AirPlay - it’s just controlling the iPad – so it works reliably, and the iPhone sitting in the palm of your hand acts as a confidence monitor, too (so you don’t have to turn your back to the class to see what is on the slide – it’s in the palm of your hand!)

 

Tapes: A Ridiculously-Quick, Frictionless Screencasting Tool for Mac OS X.

AppIcon.175x175-75A while ago I wrote a post covering all the screencasting tools I could think of from expensive-and-complex at one end of the continuum to free-and-simple at the other. Since writing that post, I have discovered another screencasting tool that I am quite enamoured of.

Tapes is the simplest and fastest way to make a screencast I’ve ever seen. It’s quick. I mean really, really, quick to use.

Click on the Tapes menu bar item, choose “Record New Tape” and bang! you are recording. When you choose “Stop and Upload”, it instantly tells you that a link has already been placed on your clipboard. You can immediately paste that into an email or discussion thread, even as the video is still being uploaded in the background! It’s that easy and quick. Watch this little 1 minute demonstration to see what I mean. It’s really quite something.

It’s not the tool I’d use to make a full-featured screencast. But for a quick explanation, it just can’t be beat.

Tapes has a one-time purchase price of $12:99, which also gives you 60 minutes of recording each month (ongoing) but if you buy it from this promo code, you’ll get an extra 15 minutes per month.

If you are looking for a free alternative, QuickCast is similar but not so amazing.  For example, unlike Tapes, when you click to record, it gives you a 5 second count-in, whereas Tapes just starts recording.  Also with QuickCast, once you finish recording, you have to wait until the video has finished uploading before a share link becomes available. Furthermore, once your video has finished uploading in QuickCast you have to pull down the QuickCast menu and click on the video, to copy a share link, whereas Tapes does all that for you.

Those shortcomings in QuickCast might seem inconsequential, but they mean you’ll find yourself wasting minutes every time you make a screencast, whereas in Tapes – as soon as you’re finished recording, you can paste the link somewhere, and forget about it, moving on to the next task. That increase in efficiency is noticeable - and since efficiency is the core reason for wanting to use either of these apps in the first place, Tapes is the better choice.

 

Finally! Record the Screen of Your iPad in Any App, with Narration.

Yesterday X-Mirage added the ability to record not only your iPad screen and audio via Airplay, but also your voice narration.  I’ve been waiting for someone to implement this for ages.

First, Before we get to the details, here’s a little video I made to demonstrate how good the result is.

I’m a fan of iPad screencasting apps like Educreations, Collaaj and Explain Everything, but the limitation on all these apps is that they can only record within the app itself, due to Apple’s sandboxing policy. In other words you can’t use Explain Everything to make a video tutorial about how to change settings in the Settings app, or how to create an eBook in Book Creator or how to write a formula in Numbers or Excel.  Nor can you use them in combination with a content-based app to make a screencast explaining a topic.

X-Mirage is not the first computer application to allow video mirroring from an iOS device. It’s not even the first to provide a video recording function. In fact, both AirServer and Reflector have made this possible for some time now. But X-Mirage does something these others don’t. [Edit: actually AirServer has recently added this functionality too]. It allows you, via your computer’s microphone, to simultaneously record your voice. Now you can simply work on your iPad and describe what you are doing, and X-Mirage captures it all!. When you are finished, the video and two audio tracks are mixed down into an MP4 video and saved to your computer. [It seems that this is only possible on a Mac at this stage. The PC version of both X-Mirage and AirServer will record iPad video and audio, but not your voice - sorry PC users].

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X-Mirage is remarkably simple to use. With your iPad and computer connected to the same WiFi network, Launch X-Mirage on your computer, then swipe up from the bottom bezel of your iPad to bring up the Control Centre. Tap the AirPlay button at the bottom of the Control Centre, and choose the X-Mirage option and toggle mirroring to ‘on’. You will then see your iPad screen mirrored to your computer.

To start recording, click the (quite obvious) red ‘Record’ button at the right edge of the window. To record your microphone as well, you also need to click the smaller microphone button immediately to it’s left. That’s in fact the only part of this process that is anything less than child’s play - you have to click both those buttons when you start recording. First you need to start the video recording, and then once that is going, click the microphone button to start recording your voice.

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Because X-Mirage uses your Mac’s microphone (not the microphone in your iPad) you do need to be aware of your computer’s proximity (Ie. you can’t be walking around with your iPad while recording). The upside of this, however is that if you have a good external microphone attached to your Mac, your screencast’s audio will benefit from better sound quality than if X-Mirage recorded from the iPad’s microphone directly.

X-Mirage is $16 with discounted educational pricing available from the website.

Even at the full price, It’s well worth the money (in my opinion).


 

PS. I do know that it’s possible to use Reflector (or AirServer) to mirror an iPad screen to a computer, then simultaneously use some other screencasting software on the computer to record what Reflector was displaying – I’ve done that myself a number of times.  It’s a lot of mucking around, though, and for all that effort you have to really want to make a screencast for it to be worth the effort!

 

Our Teachers Didn’t Have a Choice; We Do.

Many of the structures, processes and workflows that characterize schools, we’re designed by teachers in a time when there were no choices.  Our teachers were constrained by technological limitations that no longer constrain us (except for the limits we put on our own thinking).

Our teachers couldn’t choose where or when to interact with their students.  They had access to their students for a limited amount of class time each week. We do have a choice. We can engage with our students in class, but we also have a choice to interact with them via any one of numerous synchronous or asynchronous online platforms. 

Our teachers couldn’t choose how their students would publish their learning / ideas / stories / art / research. In fact, they couldn’t  choose to publish at all. Our students, on the other hand, have a dizzying array of available, socially relevant publishing options, the possibilities of which, ought to have us spinning in our chairs with excitement.

Our teachers didn’t have a choice about covering the whole curriculum in class – how else would their students be exposed to all the nuggets of knowledge they needed?  Our students have the Library of Alexandria at their fingertips! That gives us a choice that our teachers didn’t have, about which parts of the course to spend time on in class and which parts to let our students take responsibility for covering themselves – or with the help of a smorgasbord of online teachers / animations / forums / courses / tutorials / screencasts / podcasts.

Of course, just because we have a choice doesn’t mean we should necessarily exercise it in any given situation. Conceivably, the way our teachers did things might sometimes still be the best way.  But one would imagine that with all the choices now available, the old ways are unlikely to be most effective in a majority of situations.  (Though they are still practised in a majority of situations).

A gasp-worthy context-aware healing brush app for iPad

2074924066-roundedEvery device has it’s particular strengths and weaknesses, and while it’s true that there are certain tasks you can do on a computer that are not as easy to do on an iPad, the list of tasks that can’t be accomplished on an iPad is an ever-shrinking list.

Photo editing is a case in point.  It’s been possible to do basic photo-editing on the iPad for years now, but anything beyond basic has always sent me back to my computer.  That’s starting to change though, as new apps such as Handy Photo ($2.49)  emerge which let me do things for which I used to need Adobe Photoshop ($9.99 per month).

Context-aware healing is a great example.  In Adobe Photoshop the context aware healing brush lets you select an object in a photo that you want to remove and Photoshop will remove it and fill in the background intelligently – guessing at, and reconstructing what might have been behind the now-deleted object, based on its context.  (It’s quite magical to watch, really).

Amazingly, you can now do that on the iPad using a remarkable app called “Handy Photo“.  It’s very simple to use, and besides letting you delete objects, lets you move them and perform a range of other photoshop-like tricks that I haven’t seen in any other iPad apps. The gap between computer and iPad is closing rapidly.

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I’ve been using Handy Photo for a while now (for personal use), but demonstrated it for the first time at a workshop the other day, to the amazed gasps of the audience.  I thought if it impressed them so much, it could be worth sharing here, too.

OCR With your iPad

Grab it while it’s hot! – at the time of writing this app is free!1431425451-rounded

Let’s say you find a newspaper article that is stunningly relevant to what you are teaching at the moment, but the language in the article is pitched at the wrong reading level.  Maybe you teach primary students and the AGE Journalist has used too much scientific jargon in an article that is also too long. How cool would it be to substitute a few words, and delete a few paragraphs? Or perhaps you teach VCE students and the Herald Sun editor has dumbed down the terminology to make it more … accessible, but you’d prefer to edit some of that meaningful terminology back in to the article to strengthen its ties to what your students are learning.

Scanner with OCR will allow you to take a photo of the article with your iPad’s camera, and it will ‘read’ the text in the photo and give you a plain text document that contains the entire article! You can edit the text, delete sections, copy and paste bits out into another document. It also means you can save the article to (say) Dropbox, and because it is text you will be able to search its contents, later.

There are other iOS apps that will OCR a scan. The most obvious one is Smile Software’s PDFpen Scan+ which has been around for a long time now (perhaps six months or more).   That app is expensive though – at AU$9:00. It’s also nowhere near as good (although the interface is more nifty and it will let you scan multiple pages). It’s OK for a standard typed page, such as a letter, but it has real trouble with columns of text, and in my experience it makes quite a few errors even with a standard page of text. It also seems to struggle with things such as bullet points.  In one document I scanned this afternoon, it interpreted one bullet point as a “$” and another as a “0″. Also once the OCR is completed, you have to export the entire document to (say) Pages, and then edit the text there; you can’t just select and copy a paragraph, like you can in Scanner with OCR.

Scanner with OCR on the other hand was practically flawless in my testing. It rarely makes a mistake, even with bullet points – and copes with multiple columns deftly.

Normally just AU$1.99 – today it’s totally free.

What To Do With The Extra Class Time? – Teach Like a Pirate!

If you flip your classroom – what will you do with the extra class time you free up?

If a teacher’s answer to that is that kids will do the work that would previously have been assigned to them as ‘homework’, then I feel a bit sad (for their students). There are so many more valuable things we could be doing with that precious ‘together time’ – things that can’t be done any time or anywhere else.Teach Like a Pirate on Kindle app

Book recommendation: Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess. It’s not an EdTech book. It really has nothing to do with technology – but in a way, that’s why I’m recommending it. The promise of the flipped classroom model is that class time will be freed up for … whatever you want to use that time for! In my view, that time is best spent doing things that students can’t do anywhere else. Those things are scarce, and if scarce, then valuable. Many of Burgess’ classroom ideas and strategies are time-consuming, (which will be the major blocker in a traditional classroom). But that’s my point really: If you are considering flipping your class and wondering what you might do with all that extra class time, I think Teach Like a Pirate will expand your thinking, or at least give you some inspiration for time-consuming but valuable learning experiences you could be giving your students.

I especially love the thought-provoking questions Burgess has included in the book. Here are three that I found particularly thought-provoking:

  1. If your students didn’t have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?
  2. Do students wait to go to the bathroom until their next period, because they are afraid they will miss something unforgettable in your room?
  3. Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?

In a world with Google, Wikipedia and YouTube – a world where information has lost it’s scarcity, teachers need to be ever-asking ourselves what do I bring to the classroom that is scarce?, because if I am really doing something valuable in my classroom, my answer  to Dave’s three questions above will be “No”, “Yes” and “Yes”.

Schools are beginning to get it.

I’ve noticed more change in education in the past two years, than over the preceding two decades, especially regarding teachers’ enthusiasm for using technology. Hopefully that’s a harbinger of things to come. Maybe we’re finally beginning to get it.

The operative word in that sentence is ‘beginning’.

The extent of technological change that has taken place in the last two decades is self evident. What is less obvious, but perhaps more profound, is the the social change that has come with the technological change.

I think schools have responded to (or at least acknowledged) the technological change. I mean, in every school I visit I see computers, tablets, interactive whiteboards, AppleTVs, 3D printers and a range of other gizmos. But I don’t think we have responded to, nor for the most part, even acknowledged many of the social changes that have ridden in on technology’s coat-tails.

Most of our mental models about the nature, timing, location, responsibilities, format and assessment of education have really not changed much and what we need now is not so much a technological evolution but a pedagogical one. Moving forward; really moving forward will not just be about keeping up to date with technology, but about adjusting our mental models so that schools remain (or at this stage of the game – again become) socially relevant.

The IT tail wagging the pedagogical dog

I was recently talking to a teacher who attended a PD day I ran in Melbourne, when he expressed an all-too-common frustration. He returns to school after such a day, inspired to implement his new ideas – but finds his efforts thwarted by roadblocks at every turn. Roadblocks erected by his school’s computer technician who has unbending views about which web services, sites and devices are ‘best’. Teaching staff have no say in the matter.

On his school’s network YouTube is blocked. iTunes is blocked. Dropbox is blocked. One teacher wanted to bring in his own AppleTV and connect it to the projector in his classroom, but the technician wouldn’t allow it. Staff are not permitted to install software on their school-issued laptop and if a teacher brings in his own laptop to school, he is not able to connect it to the school network.

I hear teachers lamenting this situation often (more often than you probably imagine). I’ve even known a few teachers who, having started out inspired to reform their teaching, have eventually given up trying because their IT department wouldn’t support any of their initiatives.

It’s wrong.

I’m not saying some sites shouldn’t be blocked at school and I absolutely appreciate the instrumental role that a technician plays in a school (great technicians are worth their weight in gold! — this I know from my own school experience). Neither am I saying that technicians shouldn’t offer advice and guidance about technology choices. They obviously have invaluable experience, insights and knowledge. But a technician’s primary focus is necessarily on technology, whereas a teacher’s is on pedagogy. We need to remember the primary purpose of schools and keep those two foci prioritised accordingly.

If an application or service poses a real threat to the security of the network (Bit Torrent, P2P), then I think it’s the technician’s place to make that call. But in many schools, something is disallowed because the technician thinks students will waste time on it (YouTube, Twitter) or they just don’t like it (Macs, Weebly), or it side-steps a system they have spent time setting up for the school (DropBox, Schoology). In such cases it’s not an issue of network integrity but classroom management — making it an educational decision that should be decided by teachers.

Great technicians are enablers – reducing the friction of implementing new teaching ideas.  Alas, in some schools the technicians are the source of the friction.  Teachers (and principals) shouldn’t put up with that.

Make screencasts interactive with eduCanon

I’m daily investigating teaching tools in the hope of finding one that gives me the dopamine hit I get from discovering a really great one. Every once in a while, something comes onto my radar that immediately stimulates my brain’s reward and pleasure centres. That’s what eduCanon did.

Like most great ideas, eduCanon is based around a really simple concept; it really only does one thing – but it does that one thing very well. It allows you to embed questions into any screencast (or any video for that matter) hosted on YouTube, Vimeo or TeacherTube, and it tracks your student’s responses to them.

As students watch the video (from within eduCanon), and the playhead reaches the time marker at which you’ve inserted a question, the video automatically pauses, and the question slides in from the left. Once the student has read and answered the question, she clicks “Submit”. Then your explanation appears, either explaining why the response they chose was incorrect, or confirming that it was correct. On clicking the “Continue” button, the video automatically resumes playing until the next question is reached. It’s really quite a fantastic thing to add to your video lessons, helping students to stay focussed and leaning forward while watching.

Because eduCanon uses HTML5, rather than Flash, playback works great on an iPad, too.

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The first time students watch a video, they are unable to skip through the video; they have to watch the whole thing from start to finish and attempt every question. Once they have watched it once, however, they are then able to come back at a later date and skip around the video reviewing specific parts. This is useful if (say) they understand the introductory concepts in a video, but want to review more sophisticated concepts toward the end.

The process of building questions into your video is utterly friction-free (that’s one of the things that impressed me most about it). You paste in the URL of the video, then watch it play. When it gets to a point at which you want to ask a question, you simply click the “Build Question” button. Then you type in the question, two or more (multiple choice) answers, click the radio button beside the correct answer, type in an explanation for each of the multiple responses, and click the “Save Question” button. Simple!

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You have the option of publishing your videos as “public” which means you can share them with anyone to use for personal learning/revision. If you would like to see it in action, have a look at this sample which I have published as a public video. The answers people choose in a public video are not collected by eduCanon.

The real magic happens though, when students link to you (using your teacher code). You can assign a video to the class, and then eduCanon collects data for you on your class’ completion of the task and their responses to your questions.

One of the most commonly asked questions I receive about flipped and blended learning is “How can you know if your students have watched the video?”. Well, this is one way to know!

I think it’s remarkable that all of those features are 100% free! (and that includes add-free). An optional “premium” subscription ($48/year) gives you additional features, such as the ability to export your class data as a .csv file so you can import it into your own class record-keeping software or Excel spreadsheet. A premium subscription also gives you the ability to create free response questions (whereas the free version only allows multiple choice questions).

Verdict: This is the most exciting new web 2.0 platform I’ve found this year so far. I’d recommend it for anyone who makes screencasts or educational videos for their class.  The small investment of time required to type in the questions should see a big payoff in student engagement.