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:

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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:

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(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.

Grading Presentations with Noteshelf and the ApplePen

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I have always graded student presentations on my computer using Excel. I have four categories, enter the grade and comments for each category on the computer during the presentation, and Excel does the math for the final grade.

Recently, though, I’ve been using my computer to project the presentations; I seemed to have some trouble with the frequent swapping in and out of multiple (student) computers. But if I use my computer to project, I can’t use it to grade.

This year I figured I would be able to use the iPadPro to grade. So I opened the spreadsheet via Dropbox in Excel and off I went. Except…the iPad told me that it was read-only (in Excel) and I had to convert it to be able to edit it, and the convert button didn’t seem to want to convert.

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So I took a screen shot of the spreadsheet and made it my default page in Noteshelf (see here for Noteshelf and other notetaking apps) and used the ApplePen to grade it.

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I screenshot the completed sheet for each student, uploaded it to Dropbox, and uploaded it to ItsLearning. As usual, the ApplePen made it worthwhile; I wouldn’t have wanted to do that with a regular stylus.

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Becoming a Swivl Pioneer

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I had applied to become a Swivl Pioneer and tonight was the introductory webinar. The company now seems to be focusing their technologies on individualized classroom observations, i.e. teachers using a Swivl set-up to observe up close individual student work. The Swivl+ app connects to devices at student workstations which then feed into the primary video of the teacher (student video is not necessary; by using Swivl microphones the same can be achieved with audio only). Teachers then use these closer perspectives of student work to assess the impact of lessons, classwork, engagement, emotion, etc. It seems both overwhelming and intriguing at the same time. I think my biggest question is how to manage that much video. The reason I prefer reading is that I can change my pace: I can skim or slow down based on relevance or interest. With video, I’m largely stuck (I know that I can change the speed). So I’m interested to get to know the system better.

Notetaking Apps for the iPad

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With the advent of the Apple Pen, notetaking apps become even more versatile and provide even more potential. I’ve been using them for a while, but sparingly because they’re somewhat cumbersome with a stylus and, to be honest, I’m not in the position to take notes in that way much anymore.

I’m at a coaching conference, however, where I am taking notes in that way (with the Apple Pen; amazing) and so I thought I’d revisit notetaking apps.

Here are the ones I (re)looked at (and I didn’t include pretty standard ones like Evernote, (Apple’s) Notes, and OneNote):

What I was looking for was something that would let me integrate images and text / notes. I have a handout for the conference workshops that I wanted to include, reference, and annotate in my notes.

I’ll start with Concepts and, to be fair, it is not strictly speaking a notetaking app. It is more a drawing / design app. With that said, its interface is complex, one that I suspect would be more familiar to a designer but complex enough that I couldn’t figure out how to change the color to one that I wanted.

SuperNote seems to have potential. It is along the lines of Noteshelf. But it was difficult to integrate the image; it added it as an attachment rather than having it be part of the note itself.

Noteshelf had changed its icon so when I opened it I realized that I had used it before. Noteshelf’s strength is creating notebooks of similarly formatted notes. I remembered that I used its photo feature to take a picture of a scrabble score card so I could keep score on the iPad and repeat its use (without having to worry about running out of scorecards). 

Similarly, I’m trying to find a good app to take notes during a game. I had thought about how I would design a template and then transfer it somewhere, and I’m thinking that I will use Noteshelf to keep those game notes, i.e. I will create the template, import it into Noteshelf, and keep my game notes there.

But for versatility and functionaliy and simplicity of use, really Notability is hard to beat. It has just the right number of and flexibility with tools, it can integrate images well (I’ve used it plenty for home improvement projects where I photograph something and then use Notability to add the dimensions / measurements), and it exports to a .pdf.

So in the end, Notability is my recommendation for a notetaking app, though Noteshelf is a close second for a different kind of taking and organizing notes.

Latin on Social Media

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On the 23rd, of course the Friday before December break, we had the requisite post-test pre-vacation party. Food was brought in, good times were had by all. I didn’t want it to be completely void of content, however, so I decided we would post to social media about the party. I copied the food vocab […]

via Latin on Social Media — Adventures in latin teaching

An iOS Email Client I Actually Like

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I have never been a fan of Apple’s Mail, either on the Mac or especially on iOS devices. I used it early on when, in OS X, it was the only (obvious) option, but, once I shifted to Gmail, I used (and liked) the Gmail interface. It’s not particularly slick, but it’s functional and easy. I especially like Gmail’s columns / categories (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums). I have more email addresses than I care to admit forwarding to one Gmail address, so those columns provide a good baseline of organization.

I avoided Apple’s Mail on my phone and iPad from when I first got them. I was on Gmail, liked its web interface, and so just used it via iOS Safari. I would see on the App Store, in MacWorld, through various promotions, different mail clients that tout greater efficiency and organization over Mail. I tried a number of them but found them too slick, e.g. swipe slowly to archive and quickly to trash (I archived a lot more things than I wanted). I did like some of the organizational tricks (at least a couple had a feature that would redeliver a message at a future date, say the agenda for a meeting that isn’t for another week, and CloudMagic has a version of this (see below)) but not enough to override my familiarity with Gmail.

I heard about CloudMagic (can’t remember where) and, as I’ve done with similar email clients, gave it a shot, figuring that I would not take to it any more than I did the other clients I tried. But, a month or so later, I have conferred on CloudMagic the ultimate compliment: I have replaced Safari with it in the dock on my phone; it is now, with Messages, Phone, and Calendar, among the Big Four.

CloudMagic presents a relatively straightforward interface (and I will say at this point that it does not maintain Google’s columns / categories, even in a sidebar-way like Gmail presents on iOS Safari; the linearization of my inbox isn’t great but, since I don’t use any phone client for hard core emailing, I can get past it). Messages appear with a search bar above, the account name / label above that, a compose button at upper right, and a menu button at upper left: clean and straightforward.

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The menu button brings up a list of folders / storage that mimics whatever your account has. The settings button is at the bottom right of this menu.

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There is one swipe available: trash, archive, and mark read/unread (whichever it is not). I do wish (and I have looked, though might have missed it) that there is a preference or setting that could customize these choices; I’d much rather a file option than a mark read/unread option, but I can live with that. I appreciate the simplicity of the approach, rather than the perhaps more common and more heralded fast swipe / slow swipe for different options.

The star function is a common one and you can of course isolate based on your starred messages (as well as your inbox, which I use, and your unread messages. Tapping and holding the star, on the other hand, brings up a delay option whereby you can hold a message for a fixed period of time. I would like to see a few more options here but this is a handy feature for organizing email (if a bit unintuitive being hidden behind the star).

The lock screen and out-of-app functionality of the app is adequate, if not perfect. Messages of course appear on your lock screen if notifications are enabled and a swipe to the left allows archiving or deletion (a swipe to the right takes you to the app). The only potential annoyance to this (which might, I admit, not be unique to CloudMagic) is that messages will not actually archive or delete without inputting your passcode or fingerprint (if enabled), which makes the process a bit less efficient. Other messages in the same group of notifications, however, can be deleted without reauthenticating.

More useful is the functionality of notifications when using the phone. They appear at the top of the screen and a swipe down allows for archiving and deleting.

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I think I’ve covered the range of at least basic functionality of CloudMagic. I’ve been using it consistently for at least a month now, which is about three weeks and six days longer than I used any other iOS mail client. And I no longer use Gmail via Safari on my iOS devices. I still do (via Firefox or Chrome) on my Mac; there is a CloudMagic app in the app store, but I’m not sure it’s $20 better than the web-based Gmail interface. But I recommend the iOS app, especially if you are a dissatisfied (Apple)Mail user.

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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.

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