Amazon Kindle for education

Recently I had the good fortune to attend the IMS Learning Impact Conference at Long Beach CA. While I was there I ran out of reading material and tried to find a bookstore. Well, things have changed since the last time I was there (what with the demise of some major bookstore chains) and I was unable to find a good bookstore. In the end I found myself at a Best Buy store looking at e-readers. Amazon had this special on the Kindle with special offers. At a great price, it looked very good and a great solution to my lack of access to some decent books – so I bought one.
I must say that after about an hour’s use I knew I had made a rash decision. ‘special offers’ turned out to be a discounted Kindle with ads to subsidize the price. There were ads across the bottom of the screen, ads in place of the screensaver and annoying as they were, I knew it was going to get a whole lot worse when I got home as they were American ads and well, I don’t live in the USA.
Fortunately for me Best Buy has a great returns policy so I returned the device and upgraded it to the 3G version (wish Australian retailers had the same attitude towards customer service).
What a transformation! No more ads and free worldwide access to 3G networks. Think about that for a moment and the potential it offers for education. No more paper text books to weigh kids backpacks down and no traffic costs for downloading content. Now if only education could get it’s act together and negotiate something like that.
I have never really given much thought to e-readers and have had an iPad instead however they are completely different experiences. The Kindle leaves the iPad in it’s wake when it comes to reading texts. Sure the iPad can do a whole lot more but for the simple use case of delivering text books to students and readability there is no comparison. I have several apps on my iPad for reading but none of them come close.
The only downside I have experienced so far is the woeful keyboard (although you don’t use it much). Lining all the keys up vertically as well as horizontally just doesn’t work. Touch typists will find it a nightmare. The keys themselves are concave which has the unfortunate characteristic of always catching a light reflection making it very difficult to see the letter on the key (which is hard to see anyway given the lack of contrast to the Kindle surface) which you tend to rely on given the awkward alignment of the keys. For me the keyboard is a usability disaster.
Overall though these things would be fantastic in a classroom in place of paper textbooks (especially the 3G version if you could get access to curriculum texts). They are at a price point well below iPads and while they do a lot less, they really deliver on the functionalty they were designed for. 

Cheers,
Jerry
Ps and after all that I found a good bookstore near Best Buy.

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photography apps on the iPhone

Haven’t been compelled to blog for quite a while now but have been following with interest the exposure (excuse the pun since this post is ostensibly about photography apps) that Apple has had recently with regards to privacy and recording location information has caused me to think a bit about what I’m putting up on the Web with some of the photos I take with my iPhone.  There’s no doubt that some of the great apps that are available on the iPhone have kindled or rekindled all sorts of interest in photography.  Lets face it the camera (and its notional flash) are pretty ordinary when compared to digital cameras and many other
camera phones but the fun and creativity you can have using some of the apps available make it a very compelling camera option.  Problem is of course, all the metadata that is embedded in your images.  Location information, in the wrong hands can be put to very bad use.  On the other hand, used in a positive sense with users well aware and informed of their privacy implications, can be put to great use and benefit for the user.   So anyway, here’s a quick snapshot of what photography apps I have been using on my iPhone.  First of there is Tiltshift.  Probably only used this once or twice – the novelty soon wears off.  Anyway, Tiltshift gives you that miniature/toy effect in your photos where objects look small and toy-like.

‘Camera Genius’ is probably what sparked this post.  It lets you do some great and creative editing however is aggressive in its privacy invasion.  I used to really like this app but given all the shite about privacy at the moment, decided to turn location settings off most of the apps on my iPhone.  Well, the geniuses (@#$heads) that wrote this app insist on having location information on or they won’t let you edit your photos.  Privacy levels should be decided by the users not the software developers.  This app has gone from being one of my favourites to number 1 on my sh#$list!

Not to worry because right next to it is Camera+, loaded with great editing features and all sorts of cool effects, and more thoughtfully written with regards to privacy.

Dash of Color lets you switch you photos to black and white and selectively add colour back into areas of you photos, and vice versa.  Can create some great looking photos but the iPad version is a whole lot more easy to use (the bigger screen makes all the difference).

Duplicam is an interesting app that lets you integrate your iphones/ipod touches to your iPad.  Haven’t really found any great uses for it yet.

Instagram lets you take pictures, add effects and post to the Web.  Just another social networking app for iPhones really.  Unfortunately most of my contacts are on other social networks.  Haven’t used this for a long while so not sure what’s going on with it now.

Hipstamatic – the coolest app on the iPhone.  I think this is the one that really captured people’s attention.  Introduced ‘Lomo’ to the masses.  Acts like an old film camera (complete with painfully slow processing so you have to wait to see your photos).  Has a cult following and deservedly so.  I don’t like the waits and the slow interface so have stopped using the app which is a shame because it is great other than that.  Not sure if the attempt to capture the feel of old school has gone to far – after all in the days of film they had to wait days to see their photos so why introduce this stupid artificial delay?

Format126 also captures the feel of old-style photography.  A bit limited in what it does but all that it does is cool.

PS Express – another great little app that has some interesting editing and effects.

100 Cameras.  Has a huge range of effects and combinations but not that many that really standout.  Maybe its a case of offering too much that’s too similar. I don’t really use this anymore at all.

TwitPict – a nice little app for uploading to Twitter.

The other main photo app that I use, but isn’t on the screenshot but is an essential, is of course, Flickr.  My iPad has a range of photography apps but that’s the subject of another post (maybe).

screenshots for iPhone

screenshot of home screen for iPhone

iPhone

Had to get a few screenshots of an iPhone app that we are developing today but no developers were around to access the dev environment for me.  Found a really great little undocumented? feature of the iPhone to do the job.  Seems all you have to do is hold the Home button then the sleep button at the same time and the iPhone will take a snapshot of the current screen for you.

You will hear the camera sound and the screen will flash a bit then the screenshot is added to the camera roll.

Then its just a matter of emailing the photo to yourself or whatever other way you have of moving pics from the camera roll to somewhere off the iPhone and you’re away.

Common Cartridge in action – some teachers perspectives

A great video here providing some perspectives from teachers on the use of Common Cartridge and the application of it in Moodle.  The video was taken at a summer school for the ASPECT project in Europe.

There are some really savvy teachers and others in the support of education in this project.  They really understand what interoperability can achieve and how to adapt content and their teaching/learning environments to meet their needs.  I would love to see examples of their work – I am sure they would stand out as stellar examples of leading practice.

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