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    e-Learning Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2012

    January 1st, 2013

    A somewhat quieter year this year with just over 100 blog posts posted to the blog.

    As I did in 2011, 2010 and 2009 here are the top ten blog posts according to views for this year. Interestingly, the VLE is Dead – The Movie blog post which was number one last year and number two for the previous years, does not appear in the top ten , it was the 15th most viewed post.

    10. Keynote – iPad App of the Week

    The tenth most viewed post was my in-depth review of the Keynote app for the iPad. I wrote this review more for myself, to get a my head around what the app was capable of. Whilst writing the blog post, I was very impressed with the functionality and capability of the app, it was a lot more powerful and flexible than my first impressions of it.

    Keynote opening screen

    9. ebrary – iPad App of the Week

    I spent some time trying out the various mobile ways of accessing our college’s ebook collection which is on the ebrary platform. This was a review of the iPad app, I was both impressed and disappointed. It was much better than using the web browser on the iPad, but was less impressed with the complex authentication process which involved a Facebook connection and a Adobe Digital Edtions ID. Very complicated and as a result less than useful for learners. Though it has to be said once the book was downloaded it did work much better than accessing it through the browser. The only real issue is you have to remember to return the books before they expire!

    8. MindGenius – iPad App of the Week

    MindGenius is not the best mind mapping app for the iPad, that has to go to iThoughtsHD however if you have MindGenius for the desktop then this app is an ideal companion for starting mind maps on the iPad and finishing them off on the computer.

     7. iBooks Author

    In January of 2012, Apple had one of their presentations in which they announced iBooks 2, iBooks Author and an iTunes U app that built on the iTunes U service in iTunes. At the time I wrote three blog posts about those three announcements. All three of those blog posts are in the top ten, the one on iBooks Author was the seventh most popular blog post in 2012. It looked at the new app. I’ve certainly not given it the time I thought I would, maybe I will in 2013.

    6. A few of my favourite things…

    Over the last few years of owning the iPad, I have downloaded lots of different apps, some of which were free and a fair few that cost hard cash! At a JISC RSC SW TurboTEL event in Taunton I delivered a ten minute presentation on my favourite iPad apps. The sixth most popular blog post of 2012 embedded a copy of that presentation and I also provided a comment on each of the apps.

    5. 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip

    The fifth most popular post this year was from my ongoing series of ways in which to use a VLE. This particular posting was about embedding a comic strip into the VLE using free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet. It is quite a lengthy post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE. The series itself is quite popular and I am glad to see one of my favourite in the series and one of the more in-depth pieces has made it into the top ten. It was number eight last year and tyhis year was even more popular.

     4. I love you, but you’re boring

    This blog post was the first in a series of blog posts looking at Moodle and how the default behaviour of the standard system results in problems for learners and staff.

     3. “Reinventing” Textbooks, I don’t think so!

    In January of 2012, Apple had one of their presentations in which they announced iBooks 2, iBooks Author and an iTunes U app that built on the iTunes U service in iTunes. There was a lot of commentary on iBooks and how it would reinvent the textbook. Looking back I think I was right to be a little sceptical on this one. Maybe in a few years time, we will see e-textbooks that change the way in which learners use textbooks.

    2. Thinking about iTunes U

    The blog post on iTunes U, which followed posts on iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, is the second most viewed blog post this year. I discussed the merits and challenges that using iTunes U would bring to an institution. Back then I wrote, if every learner in your institution has an iPad, then iTunes U is a great way of delivering content to your learners, if every learner doesn’t… well I wouldn’t bother with iTunes U. I still stand by that, I like the concept and execution of iTunes U, but in the diverse device ecosystem most colleges and universities find themselves in, iTunes U wouldn’t be a solution, it would create more challenges than problems it would solve.

    1. Every Presentation Ever

    Back in January I posted a humourour video about making presentations, this was the most popular blog post of mine in 2012.

    It reminds us of all the mistakes we can make when making presentations.

    So that was the top ten posts of 2012, which of my posts was your favourite, or made you think differently?

     


    A few of my favourite things…

    July 8th, 2012

    Over the last two years of owning the iPad, I have downloaded lots of different apps, some of which were free and a fair few that cost hard cash!

    At the recent JISC RSC SW TurboTEL event in Taunton I delivered a ten minute presentation on my favourite iPad apps.

    Here are the links to all the apps in the iTunes App Store as well as a brief description of what the app is about and why I like it. Read the rest of this entry »


    ebrary on Bluefire

    February 15th, 2012

    One of the criticisms I had of the official ebrary app for iPad was that if you used Federated Access or Athens the only way to authorise the app was via Facebook.

    I am never a fan of making people sign up to a social networking service just so that they can do something else or to support their learning. Also in many FE Colleges, Facebook is blocked for either staff, learners or both, or there is restricted access.

    I had heard of the Bluefire app before, but hadn’t looked at it, as the reports I heard was that it “didn’t work” across Federated Access or Athens and needed a dedicated ebrary account.

    Whilst researching my ebrary on Android article I decided that the Bluefire app may be worth another look, as I had read that it was possible to use Bluefire with an Adobe Digital ID to access and download ebrary books, all without needing to go through Facebook.

    Download the Bluefire app from the iTunes App store, it’s a free app.

    Authorise the app with your Adobe Digital ID.

    Visit the ebrary platform in the mobile Safari browser. Sign in, through Federated Access (or Athens) and then find the book you want. Select Download and then download the book.

    If you have the ebrary app on your iOS device then you will be asked which app you want to use with the download.

    Select Open in… and then select Bluefire Reader.

    In terms of usability both Bluefire and ebrary work in a similar manner.

    The advantage of Bluefire over ebrary, is not just not needing to connect your ebrary account with Facebook, but also you can use the Bluefire app for other e-books, so you can use a single app for all your reading. If your college is publishing resources and assignments in ePub format then you will be able to read these in the Bluefire app.


    ebrary on Android

    February 13th, 2012

    I have reviewed the ebrary App for the iPad, and a few people asked if there was an Android version? ebrary is currently working on an Android app, in the meantime it is possible to read ebrary e-books on your Android device. You can of course read e-books on the ebrary platform through a browser on your Android device, however this requires a live internet connection, which is fine if you have wifi, or unlimited data.

    Using Adobe Digital Editions on your computer it is possible to download e-books from ebrary and transfer them to your Android device using a compatible eReader application, myself I used the Aldiko app as a “bookshelf”. You can then read these books offline without needing a constant internet connection.

    Alas it isn’t possible to download the books direct to your Android device, you will need to go via your computer. There is a “bug” that stops you downloading direct to your device, this may be fixed at some point.

    You will need to first download and install Adobe Digital Editions and then sign up for an Adobe ID. This will allow you to “authorize” transfers from your computer to your Android device. On your device you will need to install a compatible eReader application. I used Aldiko as I already had it on my Google Nexus One.

    Start Aldiko on your Android device, then connect to your computer and where necessary turn on USB storage.

    Having connected your Android device then start Adobe Digital Editions, it should recognise your device and add it as a “bookshelf” to your library after you have authorised the device.

    Once this is all done then you can go onto the ebrary platform, select the book you want to read, click the download link.

    There are a few options, you can download a DRM-free PDF containing part of the book, or a DRM’d copy of the whole book.

    It will download an acsm file, open this file and Adobe Digital Editions will start to download the book from ebrary.

    Once downloaded you merely need to drag the book from your library to your Aldiko bookshelf, this will then transfer the book from ebrary to your Android device.

    You can then read the book on your Android device. Remember though you only have the book for 14 days before the DRM “expires” the book and then you will need to delete the book.

    As for the reading experience, well this isn’t a true e-book experience and I found it quite difficult to read the book on the small screen of the Google Nexus One.

    However on an Android tablet with a larger screen I suspect the experience would be as good as reading on the iPad.


    ebrary – iPad App of the Week

    February 7th, 2012

    ebrary – iPad App of the Week

    This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

    This week’s App is ebrary.

    Researchers now have an optimized way to experience authoritative content – both online and offline – from multiple sources including e-books that their institutions acquire from leading publishers and materials uploaded and integrated by librarians.

    Free

    I have a bit of a passion for e-books. It’s not about replacing paper books, much more a way to provider greater access to books at a time and place to suit the learner.

    The e-Books for FE from JISC Collections enables FE Colleges to start with e-Books through the ebrary platform.If you can it makes sense to provide authenticated external access, either through Federated Access or Athens.

    One of the disadvantages of the ebrary platform was it was browser based, though that meant you could easily access the collection through a PC or a Mac, it did mean that it was either not possible or challenging to read them on a mobile device.

    Recently ebrary have added a download feature to the collection, this means you can download either 40 pages as an unprotected PDF or the whole book for a 14 day loan using Adobe Digital Editions. This means you could transfer it to some e-book readers such as the Sony Reader.

    ebrary have just released an iPad and iPhone App. What surprised me was how much better the app was for reading books than the browser based platform on the iPad.

    Disappointingly the only way I could get the app to work was to link my account on ebrary that I use with Federated Access with my Facebook account and then link the App with my Facebook account. There didn’t appear to be a way of logging into the App using Federated Access (and I also believe it isn’t possible with Athens either). I guess there is a technical reason for this, but this could cause problems if your institution blocks Facebook for staff or learners (or both).

    The app doesn’t “hold” the authentication for very long either, so as a result you do need to re-authenticate on a regular basis. So it’s not like you can authenticate at home and then use it in college, you would need to authenticate across the college network. Though if staff or learners have a 3G iPad then they could just use 3G to authenticate and then go back to wifi to access the book!

    In my own college that wouldn’t be an issue, learners would have access to Facebook over the student wireless network and though we do block Facebook to staff, staff who have an “academic need” to use Facebook can get the block lifted. Using Facebook to access ebrary would be a legitimate “academic need”.

    Once authenticated you can search and browse for books as you can on the browser platform.

    The books download page by page which on a slow connection can be frustratingly slow. It makes much more sense to download the books, but to do that you need an Adobe ID for the Adobe Digital Editions. This is in addition to the other IDs. I can imagine that this could be complicated for learners in having to combine various IDs to use the app. Also if they have been using Ebrary purely through IP authentication on campus they may not even know they need an ID to access the books.

    The books are quite large too, the ones I looked at were in the 70-100MB range which on a slow broadband connection will take a while to download. Once downloaded though, moving between chapters, or flicking between pages the experience is so much faster and better than trying to read the books “live” having to download each page. Also it doesn’t require you to re-authenticate so making it much easier to read books on the move. However once you have downloaded a book and it expires you don’t seem to be able to download it again!

    I am looking into this limitation. You can return a book early, so I am guessing that is one limited solution. I have managed to re-download an expired book, but I suspect that there may be a watiing time before you can “borrow” it again. The ebrary help does cover some of this, but as the ebrary platform can be used for a variety of books and collections, the help isn’t always specific to the e-Books for FE or the iOS App.

    You can copy and paste text from the e-books and what I do like (as it does in the browser) is it adds the appropriate reference to the pasted text. This makes it much easier for learners to understand and recognise the importance of referencing the text they cut and paste.

    I will admit that the ebrary app is not perfect, but it does work and it does allow you to access the ebrary collection from your iOS device, there is an app for the iPhone as well as the iPad.

    If you are subscribed to the ebrary collection, have a Facebook account and have an iPad, then get this app.

    Get the ebrary app in the iTunes App Store.