Trying Out Swivl’s Recap

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I’m a Swivl Pioneer and so was alerted to the launch of Recap, a website that allows students to interact via video with questions the teacher poses. (I’ve heard this is similar to VoiceThread, which I know of but with which I am not directly familiar.)

In my Medieval Lit class, we’re focusing on manuscripts for the next few weeks, and so I thought I’d turn my class loose with Recap and some introductory videos on MSS to see how Recap works.

Once you’re logged in to Recap, you make classes:

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 9.00.49 AM

There’s my Medieval class.

At the upper right of that screen is the ‘Add Recap’ button, which allows you to write questions for your students to answer and you can set the length of max response (2 mins max).

When I first started writing the questions, I was sticking to largely objective questions (because they were the ones that came to mind) but I realized that it seemed somewhat wasteful for students to record answers to objective questions (though I was happier with the video responses to those questions than I expected; more on that below). As I went on, however, I made more open-ended questions, including questions that required physical props; this, it would seem, is the real advantage to Recap, is the ability to hold before the camera in a dynamic way objects to enhance a response.

Once the students answer and submit, the teacher has a summary screen:

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 9.25.00 AM

(At the risk of sounding defensive, the students were working in groups, which is why the percentage is so low.)

You can see too that students are able to rate their understanding with a simple visual key and student videos are available for watching at the bottom.

Here’s a screen-scroll of all of the responses / summary screens:

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

Recap also produces (and I mean that to some extent in the technical sense as well) a ‘Daily Review Reel’ (at upper right) that puts together the videos with some music, borders, and the question at the beginning. (I’m not quite sure why all of the videos didn’t make the review reel but I did find that you could add or subtract videos from the reel; perhaps they try to keep the review reel on the shorter side?)

Here’s a link to the video (Recap provides this; no embed code as far as I could find). And here’s the screen-grabbed video:

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

In the end, I’m always trying to assess whether a new tool like this has staying power. Is it an effective tool for me and my students to make more efficient and more successful my teaching and their learning? The easy answer is I don’t know. They were initially skeptical (at best) of videoing their answers but, once they got used to the idea, they produced good responses in a more natural and comfortable way. I enjoyed listening to the answers because their personalities came through. And even for the objective questions, which, as I said above, I felt like was a bit of a waste for this kind of format, it seemed like they had a better handle on that objective information than they would have if they were writing it down, filling in a blank, etc. I will try to do circle back to this information later to test that sense, but that was an initial impression.

So a good first foray. I think finding the right kind of assignments for this is important, but I’ll continue to experiment with it.

IPad Pro (Logitech) Keyboard (Redux)

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If you read my intro post to the iPad Pro, you read about my struggles with the Logitech keyboard that came with it (mostly having to do with lag time and capricious auto-correct). One of the Genius Bar kids at my school emailed me the following: “There is an update for your iPad Pro, which fixes compatibility with the Logitech CREATE Keyboard (the one with the back-light keyboard). There was an issues in 9.2 and 9.2.1 that caused the keyboard to be laggy and miss keypresses; however, in 9.3 this issues has been addressed. If you would like to try the keyboard out again after you update your iPad please let us know. If you need help updating your iPad Pro please let us know.”

I had already swapped out the Logitech keyboard for the Apple keyboard (which I’m using now; more on this below) before I got the email (and the update), so I can’t attest to the correctness of the email or the improved performance of the keyboard. But it was comforting to hear that I was not the only one having trouble with the keyboard. And I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the email / the suggestion. (I also found the lagginess inconsistent, almost as if it was app-to-app, such that with some apps the keyboard worked fine, while with others it barely functioned.)

So I’m now using the Apple keyboard and, to be frank, loving it. It took a few seconds to pair, that is for the first minute or two the on-screen keyboard kept appearing and the Apple keyboard didn’t work. It was such even that I Googled it to see how it pairs (not realizing the existence of the Smart Connector nor how it worked / what it did). But now that it’s in place, it’s great. The keys are responsive and intuitive; low profile, high performance. And, more important, the shortcuts are in place. I can highlight letter by letter (shift-arrow keys), which is one of my favorites. And there are arrows. One of the great mysteries of the iOS keyboard / the tyranny of Steve’s design standards, is the persistent absence of arrows from the iOS keyboard. I love tapping a screen five times just to get the cursor where I want it to be (really I do). Having arrows (which is not unique to the Apple keyboard, of course) makes life countless times easier.

At the risk of revealing too much about myself, I will say that I find the zigzaggy nature of the Apple keyboard somewhat labyrinthine to navigate. The first time I got it, it took me a good few tries to find the right combination of folds to transform from minimalist cover to functioning keyboard and stand. Likewise refolding it / putting it away. I was reading a bit (like here) about how the Smart Connector can be limiting in that it forces the iPad Pro to be oriented in only the landscape direction. On the one hand, I get this and don’t disagree; I found that frustrating about previous iPad keyboards. On the other hand, one of my complaints about the Pro is that it is so laptop-like and so screams out for a keyboard that I’ve not really used it like an iPad. I’d like to spend more time with it out of its keyboard so that it functions more like a tablet rather than an iOS version of a laptop. The Apple keyboard, however, perhaps allows the best compromise on this front. With its foldability, I can fold it relatively easily behind the iPad to use it as a straight iPad (with little added bulk) or go back to it being a performance machine with the keyboard back in place. I will add too that the keyboard with the Pro seems best suited to landscape. While I would like to use the Pro in portrait mode, I can’t see a lot of keyboard uses for portrait mode, which is why the flexibility (literally and figuratively) of the Apple keyboard works well.

Projecting the iPad Pro

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With the iPadPro I received a video adapter to project the iPad. I decided to try that today to project the movie I’m showing my English class. I have digital copies of most of my movies that I bring with me on a portable hard drive; this particular movie I did not have and so needed to use Netflix for. The adapter worked great. I plugged in the iPad Pro and its screen was on the big screen. But when I went to project Netflix, the adapter (or, better, Netflix) prevented it from projecting. The message was one of those ‘This monitor isn’t supported by this adapter’ type messages.

Now, on the one hand, I get it. Netflix doesn’t want to be (and likely legally can’t be) a movie projection service, whereby their content can be easily delivered to a room of 25 (or more) people. There are plenty of apps that don’t allow mirroring or projection for that very reason. On the other hand, I can project the same movie from my computer without a problem and, more important, if the iPad is limited in functionality, as it is in this particular instance, in a way that is not outlandish, that is it’s not unreasonable to expect it to do this, it becomes less viable as a 1:1 device. In our case, the iPad Pro is not being considered for teacher use, so this particular instance might not be as essential, but, if the students have it, it seems logical that teachers will eventually have it. So, the fact that the Pro can’t project certain apps limits its functionality in school.

Socrative Redux (Redux)

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So I’m back to Socrative. Again. (Hence the (Redux).) Not full time / as my primary online assessment tool, but it has a fantastically useful feature: spontaneous quizzing, i.e. a quiz / online assessment that can be used without any set-up ahead of time.

The National Latin Exam is tomorrow and review can be, well, fairly deadly. It generally consists of a day or two of going over old exams to reinforce format and content. Not a ton of fun. So, going over my options before class, I remembered this feature of Socrative, and realized that it could at least accomplish two things: provide immediate interaction (rather than answering all questions and then going over them), immediate feedback / data, and required only that which I already had: the old National Latin Exam.

Here’s how it works. You login to Socrative (you do need an account) and you are presented with this screen:

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.19.36 PM.png

The Quick Question option is what you want. You then choose the type of question you want (I tend to choose Multiple Choice):


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.33.09 PM

And then you are presented with your answer graph (below; only one student has answered). You simply ask the question however you want: out loud, on paper, toggled on another screen on the computer; whatever works. Once the students answer, you get the graph below (with more answers). The one potential difficulty is that students can answer more than once (I only have 20 students in that class; you can see that Socrative thinks that there are 26), but that is a relatively minor difficulty for an otherwise very useful feature.


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.15.58 PM

Welcome, iPad Pro

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I got the iPad Pro from school today and this is my first crack at it (typing this on it). Here are some first impressions:

  • It’s big. Real big. And I’m trying to figure out whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s basically the dimensions of my MacBook Air but the Pro is thicker, especially with the keyboard and when compared to the skinny end of the Air. This affinity really begs the question of functionality / purpose. Is the size indeed to market it to artists / creative types, giving them the biggest e-canvas that is feasible? Or does the size (and the ubiquitous, almost inevitable, nature of the keyboard) suggest that it can and should replace my laptop? (And, of course, I realize, that plenty of laptop substitution experiments have been done with previous, smaller, iPads.) My goal will be to ascertain its functionality as a laptop-substitute / potential 1:1 device.
  • The keyboard. The Pro I have has the Logitech keyboard (as opposed to the Apple keyboard).  Can tell you already that I am not impressed with the keyboard. ‘S ally in terms of biting up my ting and has done something phantom overs (repeated spacing or design). [From ‘Can tell’ to ‘design’ was typed straight through with no correcting on my part. The mistakes are a combination of the laggy keyboard (compounded by fast typing?) and a capricious yet automatic auto-correct. What it’s supposed to say: I can tell you already that I am not impressed with the keyboard. It’s laggy in terms of keeping up with my typing and has done some phantom moves (repeated spacing or deleting).] If I can’t type quickly and reliably (which, at least as of now, I can’t), there’s no point in even trying to assess it as a laptop substitute.
  • The case / enclosure (and a footnote to the keyboard: it auto-corrects slashes to apostrophes (for some unknown reason)). An advantage the Logitech keyboard has over the Apple keyboard is that it provides a full enclosure, including the back, while the Apple keyboard provides coverage only on the front (similar to a very elaborate Smart Cover). My only potential criticism here is that the case is almost too seamless, i.e. I have trouble figuring out which side opens and which half is the iPad and which is the keyboard. (Minor, I realize, one to which I likely will become accustomed or is idiosyncratic to me.)

Beyond those, I’ve not used the iPad itself much. I’ll keep you updated as I use it more.

On Not Using Laptops / Phones in (a College) Class

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An interesting article from the Chronicle about a laptop policy and, for the most part, even more interesting comments / discussion below.