Dropbox Sharing

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So we figured out the Dropbox sharing details. A bit cumbersome to set-up but apparently handy once it’s ready to go.

Students came to my computer and entered their email addresses in the share window for the __CE4 Work folder (double underline makes sure it stays at the top of my folder list). At this point, they tried to move their Friday Night Lights letter to the shared folder in their Dropbox. But it wasn’t there (yet). So after some investigation, here’s what we figured out: each student needs to go to the Dropbox website (http://www.dropbox.com); this does not work on the iPad app (which is unfortunate). Once they log on to the Dropbox website, they need to click on the ‘Share’ tab (which should have a red-circled 1 on it, indicating the presence of an invitation). Once there, they click on the ‘accept invitation’ button. This finally allows the folder to be shared.

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Some User-generated Tidbits

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In doing the FNL-letter assignment (see post below), some students shared some tips of how they’ve been using their iPads.

One student, whose fictional letter is from a university, wanted to include the university’s logo in his letter. He copied the image from Safari but couldn’t paste it into Office2HD. We figured out that, rather than copying the image, by tapping and holding the image, which brings up the menu (make sure it’s un-highlighted to tap and hold), and saving it to iPhoto, we could then use Office2HD to bring the image in to the document from iPhoto.

Another student showed off his Notetaker and how he’s using it in class: he took a picture of a handout with his iPad, imported the picture into Notetaker, and now has notes to go along with the handout right there.

And on a completely different note, about 5 of my boys were playing Tiger Woods 12, which apparently is normally $16 but is now free ‘and I have┬áto get it’.

Sharing Documents with the iPad

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Today in class we are choosing a character from the Prologue (Bissinger introduces 5 or 6 of the characters with separate vignettes & descriptions) and writing a fictionalized letter to them as well as a response, i.e. students assume a persona (which can be themselves) and write a letter to a character based on what Bissinger includes in his Prologue, and then the character writes back (and students are welcome to extrapolate within reason). The assignment is to be handed in at the end of class.

So how best to hand it in? School, of course, provides It’sLearning for our course management, but It’sLearning isn’t entirely smooth with the iPad. Dropbox? I had students come up to my computer and input their Dropbox emails so I could share with them a __CE4 Work folder to which they will save their letters. (And Office2HD allows saving to Dropbox, one of the main reasons I prefer it over Pages.) A few students are using GoogleDocs. I find GoogleDocs a bit cumbersome, but we’ll see.

So not much to conclude at this point, but I’ll update as the assignments come in and I start to grade them.

(Final) Reading and Notetaking Assignment Follow-up

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I did the find-descriptive-writing assignment with the non-iPad class yesterday, and one interesting tidbit merits sharing. Most of the descriptive writing in what they read (Prologue & Chapter 1) comes from the Prologue, which is paginated with Roman numerals. So when students were sharing their quotes, they at first stumbled over the Roman numerals, not knowing how to say them (eventually they resorted to just describing them: ‘ex, ex; ex, ex, eye, eye’). So score one (ok, maybe a half) for no page numbers in iBooks.

Background and Inception

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I can’t remember who brought it up, I or my tech director, but at some point we agreed that I would be willing to test iPads in a pilot one-to-one initiative. I had agreed in the spring but wasn’t quite sure if it would go anywhere; I figured I would wait and see. But by the summer it seemed that this initiative had some legs, and by August it was confirmed.

We agreed that I would pilot the iPads with one of my 2 College English 4 sections. This would allow us to have a control section, i.e. one section that was covering the same material but doing so without the iPads, which hopefully would isolate the effectiveness (or not) of the iPads. It at least would give us some comparisons to make, even if more anecdotal than statistical. We also agreed that a College level section would be a more viable group because they can tend to be less self-motivated in terms of their school work; perhaps the iPad could change that.

The administrators put together a letter of introduction to the program that included the school’s Acceptable Use policy as well as a signature sheet for parents to allow their child to participate in the program. We also agreed that if a student or parent did not want to participate because of personal reasons (technophobia; fear of change, etc.; we agreed to assist with any financial difficulties, if that were the hesitation), then we would consider that an acceptable reason for changing sections, either to the control section of my course or to another College English 4 section.

We also agreed that we would follow the Burlington High School model, which has gone to a school-wide iPad one-to-one, namely that the management of the iPads would be decentralized. Students would sync them to their own computers and their own iTunes account with a list of apps and ebooks to purchase from us (which they would then keep; we kept the purchased materials to less than $25, which we figured was an acceptable onus), rather than us syncing and managing the iPads.

We had a meeting for parents at the end of our parents’ night; most of the questions there concerned liability issues (not surprising). My understanding, though I don’t know this for certain, is that homeowners insurance will allow for a low price a rider put on to the policy that will cover the iPad (though one parent brought up the deductible and whether that would negate the insurance policy; that I definitely don’t know). The Monday after that we distributed the iPads, and that Thurday we put them on the network.

Keyboards, Keyboards, Keyboards

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Part of the iPad pilot plan was to give students a case and/or keyboard. Part of my participation, then, was testing various keyboards to see which one might work best.

I tested four:

1. Apple’s wireless keyboard with InCase’s Origami Workstation

2. Kensington KeyFolio iPad Case & Keyboard [site wasn’t working when writing]

3. ZaggFolio iPad 2 Keyboard & Case

4. Logitech Keyboard Case for Zagg

I had been using the Apple keyboard. It was nice to have when I needed it; writing long emails or longer documents for school made it worthwhile to have it on hand. And the Origami Workstation complemented it nicely, both covering / protecting it when not in use, and increasing the functionality of the iPad when using it by giving the iPad a nice place to stand (sit). The Origami Workstation doesn’t sit too easily in one’s lap; the corners of the stand and your legs have to match up well, but it was serviceable enough in this capacity. And of course Apple’s keyboard has a tremendous feel to it. The keys are natural and easy to use. The fatal flaw for me, however, was the mercurial nature of Apple’s keyboard’s bluetooth connection. I would put the keyboard away but the iPad would still be connected to it, and so I had to take it out again to turn it off (again) or turn off bluetooth on the iPad (which then made reconnecting more cumbersome). Ultimately, the power button and indicator are not intuitive on Apple’s keyboard; the push button doesn’t indicate when it has received the signal, and the indicator light seems inconsistent with the action of the button (both of which of course are related). This is something I wouldn’t necessarily mind dealing with but certainly not something I was going to have a class of 18 students deal with on a regular basis.

I next tested the Kensington KeyFolio and the Logitech Keyboard Case. I knew pretty immediately that the Kensignton wouldn’t do the trick. The pleather is just that: pleather, which feels and looks cheap. Not that that is a make or break factor but it didn’t help as a first impression. More problematic was both the keyboard itself and the angle / proximity of the iPad. The keyboard did not feel natural at all and the iPad seemed to close and too high for easy viewing and use.

The Logitech Keyboard Case is a great keyboard. The keys felt natural and responded easily. Most impressive, however, was the Bluetooth. Unlike the Apple keyboard, when the iPad was on and the on-screen keyboard appeared, it took the Logitech about four keystrokes to put away the on-screen keyboard and be recognized: no system preferences, no power issues. This ease becomes essential when distributing something to and using it with a group of students. My only criticism of this case is the tightness of the fit of the iPad. In case mode, the iPad slips into the four corners of the case, which mimics the iPad’s brushed aluminum appearance. This is both an attractive and effective means of protecting the iPad. On the other hand, separating the two felt more difficult than necessary or efficient. I had to tug (and I mean tug) to separate the iPad from the case, such that I was worried at times that I might somehow break it. A flaw that can be worked around but I didn’t love that.

The ZaggFolio was a late addition. My tech director found it and asked if I wanted to check it out as a final possibility. I said yes and got it on Friday. It is a sleeker design than the Logitech Keyboard Case in that it is shaped more like the iPad and so doesn’t feel quite as bulky. It has a pebbled plastic exterior, which I don’t love (seems like it’s trying to look like leather from afar) but am not going to complain about. The iPad slips in to one side and the keyboard into the other. It clasps shut and then the iPad side of the case is hinged so that the iPad can sit in the groove to support it when it is on. This case is a great combination of features: easier to open than the Logitech but with the same bluetooth ease, keyboard feel, and protection in addition to the ease of opening and use. The clasp isn’t quite as secure as I would like (I think it feels less secure than it actually is but I do have to double check it to make sure it’s closed) and it is difficult to use the iPad in portrait mode because the hinge is (necessarily) flimsy. It is relatively easy to slip the iPad in and out, so it can function as just an iPad (albeit an unprotected one), as can the keyboard, which it has to be, at least on occasion, to be recharged (no, the port is not available while the keyboard is in the case). This seems a curious requirement (the hole in the case would have disrupted its integrity that much?) but I suspect a relatively easy one to work around.

So the big winner is (drum roll without much suspense, I imagine) the ZaggFolio. Hopefully they’ll be here next week and the kids can start using them.

On a broader note, the keyboard significantly increases the iPad’s functionality. It also significantly decreases the iPad’s, well, iPad-ness. This is neither a criticism nor a compliment but rather an admonition to consider how you want to use your iPad. As a classroom tool, and really a laptop substitute, the keyboard is almost necessary for my students. For your own iPad, however, if you are not doing significant typing, then the keyboard is likely unnecessary, and more trouble than it will be worth given the sacrifices many of them require (this is where the Apple keyboard might be your best bet: separate and so not burdensome but there when you need it).

Reading and Notetaking Follow-up

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Just a follow-up to the previous post. Once we standardized the font size, it was relatively easy to (quite literally) stay on the same page. We also had to standardize the font; Palatino seems to be the default (or did I change it way back when) but it and Baskerville, concidentally, both produced the same last word on the test page (though apparently in different sizes). So a few more wrinkles but we worked them out and went from there.

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