.pdf-Notes Update II

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A few other notes about .pdf-Notes:

– saving as a flattened .pdf indeed allows the documents to be read in Dropbox (which is easier) but only hand-written notes will appear in the flattened .pdf; text boxes / typed notes do not appear; this is unfortunate because typed notes are easier to enter and to read but then it becomes more difficult to grade them because the text boxes can only open in .pdf-Notes

– as far as I can tell, .pdf-Notes doesn’t / can’t rotate a page; I looked around and couldn’t find that function, which makes reading a double-page spread scanned horizontally tricky; the work-around, of course, is to rotate the iPad so that the horizontal page fills the horizontal orientation but then to lock orientation so that it doesn’t flip (tools, though, will still be vertically oriented)

– I also figured out a solution to one of the more vexing problems: when in pen mode, it was tricky / difficult to swipe pages (because a pen stroke would show up rather than changing pages); it was also annoying to have to cycle through the different tool modes to the no-tool mode (which enables swiping); but what I figured out is that tapping the tool itself in the upper left turns it off and re-tapping turns it back on; this toggling makes it much easier

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iCloud & iCal II: A Bit of Confusion

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I’ve run into a bit of an iCloud / iCal roadblock. I was entering my November syllabus into my iPad. When I chose the calendar for each event, I noticed that there was a Local (not sure if that’s the right heading, but something similar) version of the calendar and an iCloud version. I was using the Local calendar because that was the only one I had initially seen and it was first. But I wondered about the distinction (in addition to which, when I first synced to iCloud, I ended up with multiple entries of the same event in my mobile calendars, including iCloud; there’s a resolve sync conflict option when you first sync, and I thought I did what I was supposed to do for that, but maybe not). So after inputting the syllabus, I was curious to see if it ended up on the iCloud calendar; I figured not because it wasn’t the iCloud calendar that I chose when I input the syllabus, and indeed I was right. Those events didn’t show up on the iCloud version of the calendar.

So here’s the confusion / questions:

– what’s the difference between the iCloud calendar and the Local / Default calendar? or perhaps better, why is there a distinction / two different calendars?
– if the iPad events didn’t go to iCloud but will go to iCal when I sync the iPad, does that mean that the iCal events (synced from the iPad) will go to iCloud? or, what is the relationship among iCal, iCloud, and mobile iCal?

iCloud & iCal

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I’ve finally gotten around to exploring iCloud a bit, Apple’s new iOS 5 cloud computing service. I had downloaded iOS 5 when it came out, noticed some of the new features on the iPad (found the Find my iPhone / iDevice function very cool, especially in terms of sending messages to it), but didn’t delve into it too deeply, and certainly didn’t consider its school / one-to-one pilot implications.

But I went to icloud.com this evening and was terribly impressed with what I saw. Apple is now letting me do what I tried countless times to get Google to let me do (unsuccessfully, no matter how many times I tried): sync my iCal to the web and update it automatically.

I plan my courses on iCal, each course with its own calendar, as well as soccer, family, etc. I use iCal to generate syllabi for my classes: I print .pdfs of the course calendar, along with the general school calendar (letter days, other events, etc.), post them to It’sLearning and outside my door. This is a decent system, and to me worth some of the down sides, which are, of course, having to either fill out the calendar on my desktop (inconveniently located in the kitchen) or on one of my devices; before the iPad with the keyboard, this was much more of a pain. I tried to get them to sync to Google, so I could update the calendar via GoogleCalendar, but I could never quite get them to talk back and forth. I managed to get my Google school calendar (managed by the school) to download to iCal, but never my iCal calendars to upload to Google (which, for me, was the more important feature).

iCloud, however, does what Google couldn’t. I logged in to the web-based iCloud on my laptop, clicked on the iCal icon, and was presented with all of my iCal calendars. I added an event via iCloud and almost instantaneously it was on my iPad. In addition, I can share a specific iCal calendar via email (an unfortunate, though ultimately inconsequential, liability is that the two sharing options are either private-and-editable or public-and-viewable-only; I of course don’t care if the general public sees my syllabi, but it’d be nice to have a private-view-only option) so that anyone with iCal (I assume) can view the calendars. This means that, in theory (haven’t put it into practice yet), once I update a syllabus / calendar it is automatically updated on shared computers / devices.

.pdf-Notes Update

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Few extras that just came out as we were saving and opening.

– annotated .pdfs (i.e. still editable) will not open with any notes in Dropbox (or I assume in other readers)
– I assume that flattened .pdfs (that save the annotations as images) will open with notes visible in Dropbox (or other readers)
– it might be worthwhile (in retrospect) to save as flattened .pdfs, because to open / read / grade annotated .pdfs, you have to load them all into .pdf-Notes and read them there, which is both a bit cumbersome time-wise and clogs up your library (or requires management to unclog it)

I’m sure I’ll think of some more things as the process continues.

.pdf-Notes in Action

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So we’re using .pdf-Notes to complete a worksheet (paper-free). Here are the steps I used:

– save worksheet as .pdf in shared Dropbox folder (see other posts for that)
– open .pdf-Notes
– make sure .pdf-Notes is linked to Dropbox account (Dropbox icon at bottom left to log in)
– open worksheet in .pdf-Notes

These are the general steps. Here are some more specific things / tips for using .pdf-Notes:

– when the worksheet shows up in your library, click the edit button in the upper right
– a blue ‘i’ in a circle will appear on the document
– tap that ‘i’ and have students change the name of the document to their name (or whatever you specify); otherwise, when the annotated worksheet is saved, it will upload as multiple versions of the same document name with a number after it; if you want to skip this step, make sure students write their name on the document itself
– now, open the document in .pdf-Notes

– the tool bar at top defaults to the pen tool
– by clicking the pen icon at upper right (between the cropping tool and the stroke / thickness selection), you can change the tool: highlighter, sticky note, nothing, etc.
– a student (Ariel Cormier, who gave me permission to use her name) figured out that you can zoom in with the finger swipe and still write, which lets the handwriting be neater
– using a stylus or using the sticky-notes tool helps with neatness as well

– when finished, click the email button (square with a curved arrow through it) at bottom left, and choose how to save (either flattened or annotated), and then choose Dropbox (I recommend making a folder for each assignment) and whatever folder it should be saved in

It sounds somewhat complicated, but most of the steps are standard among apps, i.e. there aren’t really any terribly new steps (other than perhaps getting used to the tool bar).

The students, perhaps predictably, are a bit resistant to it, asking for paper copies of the worksheet to complete. But of course the point is exactly the opposite: to avoid paper copies and do everything on-line / via the iPad. Once we do more of this and get used to .pdf-Notes, I think it will become easier and they will become more accustomed to and ok with it.

.pdf Readers

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One of the more vexing problems of the iPad is document management, both in terms of moving / transferring documents and reading / utilizing documents. .pdf Readers then become an essential app for the iPad. But there are so many. How to choose?

I had downloaded maybe four or five of them via my Foundation grant last year, and had used most frequently Good Reader, which seems to be at least the most visible of the readers, and iAnnotate PDF. I found them both, however, very cumbersome for different reasons. Good Reader’s file interface, which is present when you open it, is overwhelming, with any number of different choices. I suspect that this would be a handy feature if I wanted to take the time to figure it out. I’ll be honest. I don’t. iAnnotate PDF is ovewhelming in terms of its annotation features. It comes with a hideable info box at the top of the screen (tips, help, etc.), a page window at the left for swift browsing, and a tool menu at right. Furthermore, the tool menu has about thirty different tools that can be cycled through as needed. It is a multi-featured reader but it is perhaps too multi-featured, or would only be useful for a very frequent and advanced .pdf user. Not I.

I’m hoping to do a worksheet with the class on Monday, and would like to do it paper-free through a .pdf reader, so I’ve been revisiting them as part of preparing for this. And I think I found a happy medium. It was a reader that I hadn’t really utilized since I downloaded it, but it was there and I checked it out: .pdf-notes. A free version (with ads), an iBooks-like interface (shelf for documents, similar editing-/organizing-of-documents functionality, and what appears to be the right number of tools to maximize flexibility while minimizing visual clutter. The interface is smooth and clear (tool bar at top; navigational tools at bottom) and includes everything you need. And, what seems to be a deciding factor for me these days, it links to Dropbox. It doesn’t open anything but .pdfs, but to have that capability is a huge draw.

So check back in a few days. Hopefully I’ll have good news about the worksheet-on-iPad activity.

Required Apps

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A friend of mine pointed out that I hadn’t posted some of the background info in terms of prepping the iPads (thank you, JM). So here’s the list of apps that we required the kids to buy (as part of the agreement, they had to commit $25 to purchasing apps or other content; because the kids are syncing to their own computers, they will keep whatever apps and content they buy rather than having them revert to the school once the iPads are collect were the iPads synced to school computers):

Office2HD (7.99)
Dropbox (free)
Evernote (free)
Wordpress (free)
PreziViewer (free)
iBooks (free)
Dictionary.com (free)
Good Reader (free; though, the kids said that the free version doesn’t exist any more; any .pdf reader will do)
Friday Night Lights ebook (6.99)

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