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.

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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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 8.59.11 AM

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.

My First Use of Swivl

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I first saw Swivl at a conference (I think iNACOL) a few years ago and, while it seemed like an interesting idea, I wasn’t doing enough flipping or taping to warrant it. But I was giving a PD today and thought it might be a good reason to revisit Swivl, and I’m glad I did.

Let me say first and foremost that you’ll notice in the video that it actually doesn’t follow me. That is not Swivl’s fault; it is entirely mine. I was hooked in and ready to go, and realized that I forgot my presentation clicker. When I retrieved the clicker, I went out of range for the Swivl, which de-paired the receiver. I didn’t want to take the time to figure out the re-pairing on the fly since I needed to start the presentation. (It’s only fitting that the way I’m facing and the lighting makes the red light that signals that I’m not paired flare conspicuously throughout the video.)

In any case, the video below is as bad as the Swivl gets, i.e. because it’s stationary rather than following me, and it’s still pretty great.

Beyond the defining technical aspects of the Swivl (i.e. that it follows you), here are some other benefits to the Swivl:

  • auto-upload: the Swivl automatically uploads any videos to your account on their server
  • auto-delete: the Swivl doesn’t store videos locally, so your device stays unencumbered by all the video it’s taking
  • auto-awake: the Swivl keeps the device awake during the upload so, as long as you don’t interrupt the upload, it continues until it’s done (this can of course be a power drain, but I’d rather have to turn it off to save power than to turn it back on every few minutes after it puts itself to sleep)
  • (all of these are in contrast to Dropbox; I have the Dropbox camera uploads active and it is slower, needs to be turned back on constantly (especially for video) and requires me to manage the storage on my device)

So here’s the video. Again, it could be a lot better. But it’s still pretty great. Thanks, Swivl.

[Wordpress is being a bit finicky with the embed code, i.e. I can see the embedded video below in this edit page and the code worked in an online compiler, but when I view the post itself the video doesn’t show up. In case that happens, here’s a link for the video.]

//cloud.swivl.com/i/9f873673c0b2daa561ff152c7c6d8e32?bg=dark

Experimenting with AppleTV

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We had talked about it for weeks (months?) but I finally got the AppleTV installed last week. There were concerns (and there still are) about network issues (I officially am not yet allowed to possess the remote because of its access to Settings; they give me a lot more technical credit than I deserve…). And it’s in the conference room rather than a classroom proper, largely because of how it affects non-AppleTV connectivity to the projector. Thankfully, of course, my Classical Lit class meets in the conference room, which is why it was installed there.

In any case, I’ve not had a chance to do much with it (remember when I said they wouldn’t let me have the remote?) but the connectivity alone makes it worthwhile. Just sitting opposite the screen and with one click being able to project my computer makes life a lot more efficient and flexible. It’d be nice of course if the students were on the same network and we could project their computers as easily but, well, baby steps.

MB is pushing for AppleTVs for next year for the whole department and I am all for it. From what I’ve seen thus far (admittedly little), they make life a whole lot easier and more efficient, and that’s a good first step (even one of our techno-phobic, i.e. projects hardly ever, colleagues seemed intrigued).

Outfitting an iPad Pro

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Last spring, I was able to pilot the (big) iPad Pro and loved it. The keyboard had a great feel and the size made it practically laptop like. But the key word there is practically. It wasn’t laptop enough to be a laptop and wasn’t iPad enough (largely because of the size) to be an iPad. But it was hard to argue with the functionality of the keyboard and the Apple Pen, whose feel was by far more lifelike (pen-like) than any stylus I had used.

This fall then I wrote two grants, one to the Classical Association of the Atlantic States and the other to the Classical Association of New England, for an iPad Pro, this time the small one, and accessories for it. After maybe six months I think I can offer some sound advice on how to accessorize your iPad Pro. Or at least how I accessorized mine and why it works for me.

My Situation – I use the iPad Pro to…

  • …bring to class
  • …connect to my computer via WiFi
  • …control my computer (via the Doceri app)
  • …annotate the computer while mobile

What that means is I need portability, reliability, and efficiency. (And I get it: don’t we all want that, but if you’re sitting at a desk with a machine all day, you can, say, sacrifice some efficiency for something else.)

The Keyboard

The biggest, and most obvious, choice was the keyboard. I spent a lot of time looking into keyboards and still wasn’t certain when I made my final decision. Ultimately I went with, and rightly so, the Apple Smart Keyboard, but here’s how that process went and the factors that influenced me.

In addition to the Apple Smart Keyboard, I looked at the Logitech CREATE and two keyboards from Zagg: the Rugged Book and the Slim Book. The two Zagg keyboards are similar: both connect via bluetooth, both include integrated clamshell cases, both have professed long-life batteries (two years of use without a charge, according to Zagg). The Logitech has those features (minus the battery life) but includes a holder for the pen which, for me, was the fatal flaw of the Apple Smart Keyboard, that I had to carry the pen: not uncommon to Apple, beautiful in the design category but less than beautiful in the secondary function category, the pen had a detachable cap about the size of a Tic Tac and no flat sides, which means that it rolls freely on a tabletop. Because of my need for portability, the pen factor was a big one. And I was almost ready to pull the trigger on one of the Zagg keyboards (probably the Rugged Book, just because I would be mobile with the iPad so much) but…

The Smart Connector

The innovation of the iPad Pro is of course the smart connector and, in the end, I went with it and I was right. The smart connector makes everything easy (more on that below). With a little research (also more on that below), I realized there were workarounds for the pen factors but not for the smart connector. So, in the end, the smart connector was the selling point of the Apple Smart Connector. (And I had used a Zagg keyboard with my iPad 2 and realized the relative clunkiness of inserting and removing the iPad.)

Making the smart connector the driver then dictated cases as well. I ended up buying (read: overpaying for) the Apple silicone back because it left exposed the smart connector. (I realize of course that it is not the only one but I wanted as seamless a fit as I could get and so sprung for Apple’s.) I also bought the smart cover, somewhat hesitantly because I wasn’t sure why, in effect, I would need two covers (the keyboard being the first). But the smart connector made the two cases both viable and helpful. For every day use, pull the keyboard off and use the smart cover. When I need increased functionality, it’s an easy switch to the keyboard. This was my first introduction to how essential the smart connector is. (And the keyboard is small enough, unlike the others I considered, that it’s easy to carry it with the iPad even when I’m not using it.)

Charging

I also endorsed the smart connector by buying Logitech’s BASE Charging Stand. Again, I wasn’t convinced I would love it, but it seemed too convenient to pass up. If it didn’t have the smart connector, it might have been more trouble than it’s worth but, again, the smart connector makes it: the case pulls off and the iPad snaps right in to charge, while remaining upright and visible. As with the keyboard and the smart cover, there is a seamless transition between use and charging.

Managing the Pen

By going with the Smart Keyboard, and eschewing the Logitech keyboard with the pen holder, I needed some pen accessories, which, and I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, were available in abundance. I bought two cases for the pen: a simple case from MoKu and Amazon for $8 with room for accessories.

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And an Insignia sling holder that goes over the smart case and/or keyboard.

I thought I would use the sling holder more, but the case is my everyday carrier because I can bring the pen and the adapter to class easily. On a field trip, however, when I’m not bringing the adapter, the sling is perfect. I went to the Harvard Art Museum with a class and was going to use the pen to annotate some digital handouts. The sling was the perfect way to transport the pen on the road.

And finally, the Insignia cap holder. So simple but so necessary.

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Conclusion

So that’s about it. I’m happy with all of my purchases because they enable me to use the iPad Pro exactly how I want to; they enhance the experience rather than inhibiting the experience. Your experience might be different, and so you should make decisions based on your situation, but this is mine and what led me to make the choices I made. Hope it was helpful.

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

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