The Swivl Expand Lens

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As a Swivl Pioneer, I received a set of Swivl Expand lenses for use in classroom and group-work observations. I’ve not had a chance to pilot them yet in full flower, so to speak, but did a get-to-know-you session with one of the lenses yesterday in class. Pretty cool, I must say. I’ve pasted below some screenshots from the Swivl Expand website that illustrates and explains what they are and what they’re for, and below that I’ve embedded a quick video from my class that shows it with and without the lens. Full disclosure, I’m using the lens without the Swivl case, which includes a stabilizer for the lens, which explains some of the choppiness, but I’m excited to use them and I’ll let you know how it goes.

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ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

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.

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

Can’t Say Enough About the ApplePen and the Smart Connector

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I recently posted about accessorizing the iPadPro and how I rolled the dice with the smart connector when choosing a keyboard, and how pleased I was with that decision. That decision has been further confirmed.

I’m at a soccer coaches conference. They provide the handout with drills and notes-spaces as a .pdf, and I’ve always taken notes digitally. In previous years, that was on an iPad Mini with a stylus; the notes were predictably messy. With the Apple Pen, however, the notes are clear, tighter, and easier both to produce and consume.

The smart connector, however, lets me swap out the keyboard effortlessly. I can’t really use the keyboard to take notes; much of the time I’m standing (ok, because I’m on the short side and have to see over people; don’t worry: I sit at the back so I don’t block anyone by standing), so, with the iPad in my hand, the pen is ideal. My hand can rest on the screen and I can write naturally. It is no different in my mind from writing on paper. 

When I sit, however, and want to type (like I’m doing right now), the keyboard is a simple snap on and go proposition, and I can’t emphasize how much easier that makes life, that I can just effortlessly swap between laptop-mode and tablet-mode with no difficulty and, really, no time.

So, kudos again to Apple for both the pen and the smart connector. They both distinguish the Pro from its iPad brethren in a way that is impossible to replicate.

Here are what notes look like on the Pro:


Compare to what they look like on the mini:

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.

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