If the graphic above caught your attention, good. I achieved my purpose of getting you to read the start of this post. It’s amazing what a bit of colour and fancy fonts can achieve…anyway, this is my response to the 2011 Edublogs Teacher Challenge – Kickstart Activity 2 (Advanced). I’ll be using a post from the Rapid eLearning Blog by Tom Kuhlmann – Here’s How to Help Your Subject Matter Experts Build Better E-Learning Courses. If you don’t already follow Tom’s blog, I suggest you sign up straight after you sign up for my blog!
In reading the post about Nine Signs of an Effective Blog Post I was reminded of my days teaching secondary school English. I used to teach an Advertising unit and I was struck by the similarities between writing blog posts and designing adverts. Effective advertisements and blog posts both try to:
- CAPTURE attention
- ENTICE the reader to find out more
- Cause the reader to DESIRE what’s on offer
- Cause some form of ACTION or response from the reader
An effective advertisement captures its audience’s attention in some way. This might be with a striking dominant visual image, a buzz word such as ‘Free’ placed in a dominant position on the page, the use of colour contrast and/or manipulating the size (text or shapes) of features that were intended by the advertiser to stand out. So too does the blogger try to capture his/her reader’s attention, most commonly by the headline as that’s usually what we click to get to the post in the first place. One thing I’ve noticed is that headlines of posts that stand out for me include a phrase that I may have Googled, or at least have been thinking about something I wanted to know.
How did the Rapid eLearning Blog post capture the reader’s attention?
Whilst the headline is wordy (‘Here’s How to Help Your Subject Matter Experts Build Better E-Learning Courses), it contains the key phrase, How to. In fact, as I looked back over the previous 10-12 posts written on the Rapid eLearning Blog I noticed that Tom Kuhlmann uses two key phrases in his headlines, over and over again:
- How to
These capture the reader’s attention because in both cases, the reader knows he/she will take something away after reading the post regardless of the topic. This ‘goody bag’ so to speak may consist of a tutorial that introduced a new skill or it may comprise free PowerPoint downloads. Either way, the reader knows that he/she will not walk away empty-handed by taking the time to begin reading the post.
Entice the reader
With the reader’s attention captured, both advertisements and blog posts need to maintain the reader’s attention by drawing him/her further into the content. If the reader’s attention is lost immediately after it was gained, then neither the advert or the post was effective as the reader has not spent the necessary time to garner the content. Adverts tend to draw the reader into them by placing the headline at the top of the page and the main content further down. Blog posts, given the nature of the medium, entice the reader with the first 1-2 paragraphs and/or with the use of a suitable image.
How did the Rapid eLearning Blog post capture the reader’s attention?
Tom Kuhlmann placed an interesting image immediately underneath the headline. The image acts as a bridge between the headline and the opening paragraph. The sentiments of smart people, or experts is repeated from the headline to the image to the opening statements. This bridge idea is a way to keep the audience reading the post because he/she has familiar ideas presented in three visually different parts of the post. This helps to reinforce the topic of the post as most of us tend to stop reading relatively early if we question where it’s going, content-wise.
Create desire for the content
It’s one thing to get readers to begin looking at an advertisement or start reading a blog post, but it’s another to maintain their attention to the end. Although adverts and blog posts achieve this in quite different ways, the intended outcome is the same. If we’re interested enough to spend longer than 5 seconds looking at an advertisement, we need to be rewarded for our interest by being given further information about the product on offer. Likewise, blogs posts need a logical flow of ideas and interesting facts in order to maintain the reader’s interest.
How did the Rapid eLearning Blog post capture the reader’s attention?
You’ll have to take my word that each paragraph built upon the one before and the flow of the post had a clear beginning, middle and end. If not, please feel free to read the post at your own leisure. Maybe it’s the English teacher in me, but I over-analysed the post in question and have decided not to rewrite the other post about Nine Signs of an Effective Blog Post.
What I do want to highlight is how Tom Kuhlmann took the structure of his content and effectively combined his text with key presentation elements. I think this is important for blogs because it can be an effort to read essays of text on a computer screen.
Kuhlmann split his content into smaller chunks. He did this via:
- bullet points
- links to other related posts that he had published previously
When we continue reading a post these simple, yet effective, presentation elements go a long way towards keeping us engaged and motivated to read to the end.
Finally, an advertiser’s ultimate aim may be to get you to part with your money, sign up for a cause, ring a phone number, or something similar. Blogger’s have many reasons for writing posts and this impacts the type of ‘desired action’ from readers. A post may reinforce a reader’s opinion or it may challenge preconceived ideas. It may get us to delve further into a topic, read other posts from the same author and/or subscribe to the blog. All of these can occur when a post connects with the reader in some way.
How did the Rapid eLearning Blog post contribute to a reader’s subsequent thoughts and/or ‘actions’?
Towards the end of the post Kuhlmann provided a number of hyperlinks to previously published posts. This is effective because it allows readers to follow up related ideas
(a) at their own pace
(b) in a guided order
(c) all within the same blog (no sense in reader’s being left to their own devices afterall!)
Kuhlmann also posed a question (presented as a graphic) to the reader towards the end of the post – What am I supposed to do with all of this information? This was then quickly followed up with three suggestions. Each tip was written as an imperative and briefly expanded upon. Combined with the hyperlinks, the reader was left with ideas AND the beginnings of an action plan.
Effective blog posts have much in common with effective advertisements. Capturing and maintaining the reader’s attention is the most critical part of the battle. To be truely effective, and thus have a lasting impression on readers, blog posts and advertisements need to offer us something and/or challenge us in some way, however small.
Are you a middle or high school student? Do you want to use your iPad at school instead of carrying a heavy laptop? If you answered YES to either of these questions, read on to discover 11 must-have apps for 2011 – it’ll be worth it, guaranteed!
I don’t have any affiliations to the developers of these apps, so I can give an objective point of view. I have however, played around with each app listed and have tried to view them from a student’s perspective in particular. Each app listed here is intended for students ranging in ages from about 10 to 18. Many can in fact be used by other ages as well, but that’s the age range I deal with, so it’s natural to start there. All the apps can be considered worthy for general education support. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into the sciences, humanities, languages or technology – I’ve chosen to present these apps in particular because I think they would really help ALL students rather than a specific subject area.
Well, that’s enough preamble…let’s get to it. I’ve grouped the apps into 5 categories based on how students might use them:
- File management
iStudiez Pro ($4.19)
This app is great for organising your timetable, homework and when assignments are due.
You won’t need one of those A5, clunky diaries any more and you’ll never be late for class!
Of all the dictionary apps available, this has to be one of the best – it combines more features than other apps, and it uses a clean and intuitive interface.
You’re given word family, different meanings clearly defined, and etymology (word origins) of the words you look up. The thesaurus combines both synonyms AND antonyms, many of which are also hyperlinked to additional pages.
This app would be particularly useful if English is not your first language. In fact, it allows you to choose which language you want to translate from and which language you would like to translate to, so it’s a worthy app for all students.
It’s another example of an app that utilises a clean user interface and is therefore straightforward to use. As the adage suggests, sometimes less is more…
Word Study & Grammar ($2.59)
So you’ve got your English essay back and the teacher’s comment mentions that you use split infinitives, double negatives and keep ending sentences with prepositions. Think of this app as a grammar reference book that will help you fix problems with your written syntax. Even if you’re unsure of the basics such as the purpose of nouns, verbs and adjectives, this guide will help you to become informed of all things ‘grammar’.
3. Note taking
This app is the perfect tool for taking notes in class AND organising your schedule.
Better still, you can organise your notes into separate notebooks (say, a notebook for each subject) and even add sub topics within each notebook. It’s also possible to record your homework, prioritise tasks and list your teacher’s contact details/office hours. It’s a delight to use and isn’t bogged down with gimicky features that are found in many productivity apps,
I have to say that this is one of my favourite apps. You have to try it out for yourself!
Use this app when you’re taking notes from online sources.
When your iPad is in landscape, half the screen is a notepad and the other half is a browser window. It’s the app you’d use when you’re taking notes while researching a topic, yet you don’t have to have a separate pen and paper, or keep switching back and forth between two apps. You can read online material AND take notes at the same time in the one app!
You’ve probably heard of Apple’s word processing app even if you haven’t downloaded it yet. The reason it’s in this list is because at the end of the day, all students (regardless of subjects taken) have to write essays, book reports and so on.
Pages is a word processing tool that is incredibly simple to use and is not ‘fiddly’ like other apps of a similar nature. Use Pages when you’re writing your final English essay or History report and then email it to your teacher, all from the app.
4. File management
Downloads HD ($4.19)
A lot of apps allow you to view documents online, but few allow you to quickly and easily download files AND organise them in folders. If your school uses an online system such as Blackboard or Moodle to post resources, Downloads HD is a fail-safe app to use.
I found that many other apps either took far too long to download even fairly small documents and/or stopped working when I tried it in Blackboard. I’ve had no problems with this app at all though. You can also transfer downloaded files to your computer at home if you want as well.
The free version of Downloads HD has all the features of the paid version, but you can only store up to 7 files at a time. This could become annoying, especially if you’re used to teachers posting PDF and PPT files etc online, so the paid version is well worth it.
FlashCards Plus Pro ($6.49)
This app’s user interface has a high visual appeal and it’s very intuitive. The Pro version allows you to create your own flash cards within the app, including images on the cards, so it’s worth the small investment. You can also download card sets from Quizlet.com.
It’s what I’d call one of the more advanced flash cards apps available because it uses the Leitner system of spaced repetition – huh? What this means is that the app keeps track of the cards you get right and the ones you get wrong. The cards you get incorrect will be shown to you on a more regular basis than the cards you already know. The advantage here is that the app really helps you to commit key terms and concepts to memory rather than repeatedly showing you things you already know.
Most people have trouble studying for long periods of time and iStudyAlarm is designed to help you. Using research that suggests that the optimum study time is 20 minutes, you can set the alarm for intervals of this length. When the alarm sounds you’ll know it’s time to have a 5 minute break before hitting the books again.
The app also includes some really useful information about how to get the most out of your study time and also lots of tips for sitting exams.
Popplet Lite (FREE)
This is one of the easiest mind mapping tools I’ve come across.
It fits well with using the iPad’s touch screen to enter data and it’s user interface is very intuitive. Other mind mapping apps I’ve tried are just too fiddly in comparison. When you’ve created your mind map you have the option to send it in an email as a JPG. This can then be saved to the iPad’s camera roll. If you want to keep the mind map yourself rather than share it with others, the easiest way would be to take an image of it by pressing the on/off button and the Home button at the same time. This way the mind map goes straight into the Photos app (i.e. camera roll) and bypasses the email step.
The Lite version is fairly basic and only appears to let you work on one mind map at a time, but I figured that you can get an image of your map to use elsewhere anyway. Upgrade to the paid version ($12.99) if you regularly use mind maps as part of your revision process though.
Finally, one more tip to enhance your research, note taking and learning…
Diigo is an online tool for highlighting text and creating sticky notes, among other things. You can download a plugin for iPad’s Safari browser which allows you to highlight text from documents and web pages that you’re viewing online rather than downloading. It syncs to your free Diigo.com account, which records the article/web page on which you’ve highlighted text (and the text you’ve highlighted, of course!)
Imagine critiquing an author’s work, researching the origins of WW1, or commentaries on the latest economic crisis. Using your iPad, you can collect important quotes, identify recurring themes and write your own thoughts on the fly using Safari and Diigo’s web highlighter tool.
Now you (and your iPad) are armed with a software kit ready for the start of a new academic year – and all for less than $35!
I’ve spent several hours today customising a new blog template and ran out of steam when it came to writing a suitable tag line. Soooo…..I’m after suggestions because
- Title: Flexible Learning Environments
- Tag line: A teacher’s perspective…
lacks impact and is just lame.
Please add a comment if you’ve got more inspiration than me!
The ‘winner’ gets credit in a future post and I’ll add you to my blog roll. If you’re on Twitter I’ll also RT your details to my followers.
Looking forward to the replies.
Down Blog’s Memory Lane…An interview with my blog
Reporter: When did you start blogging?
Gadgetgurl: This particular blog has been in existence for a little over 2 years although I’ve had other blogs (and hosts) since 2007.
Reporter: Why did you start blogging?
Gadgetgurl: I first started blogging because it was a requirement for university study. I completed a Master of Information Technology in Education at The University of Melbourne in 2009. It turned out that all of the papers for this degree involved blogging in some form or another.
Reporter: Would you have started blogging if you had not studied for your Masters degree?
Gadgetgurl: Hmmmm. I’d have to save that back in 2007 I probably wouldn’t have started a blog on my own. A lot has changed in 4 years though, so I think I would have been a blogger by now even if it wasn’t for my Masters study.
Reporter: Given that you’ve completed your Masters, how has this impacted the purpose of your blog?
Gadgetgurl: I guess the main purpose of my blog is to document my thoughts and experiences in using technology with high school students. http://gadgetgurl.edublogs.org is a educational / professional blog rather than a personal one – you’re not going to be seeing holiday snaps or my thoughts on politics here! The title of my blog, Flexible Learning Environments, is actually the name of one of my university papers. I’ve chosen to keep it as the title because my interests align with this sentiment anyway. The Masters may have ended, but the learning certainly has not! When studying, my posts reflected the progress of the course, whereas now my posts are determined more by my current interests, what’s in the news technology-wise, and what I’m doing (or working towards) in related to my work as an ICT / Computing teacher.
Reporter: Does that mean you’re naturally inclined towards blogging?
Gadgetgurl: Ha, absolutely not!
Reporter: What do you mean by that?
Gadgetgurl: Well, I’ve never been one for writing diary entries or anything like that, so while I enjoy writing (if I’ve got something to say that is!), making posts is still something that I have to work at.
Reporter: What’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced with blogging?
Gadgetgurl: I guess my main weakness is in terms of the regularity (or lack thereof!) of writing posts. I can go for an entire school term, or even several terms, without posting anything. I guess that doesn’t encourage people to follow my blog as a result and it’s something I need to try and improve.
Reporter: How do you find the technical aspects of setting up and maintaining a blog?
Gadgetgurl: I’m very comfortable in this area. I’m not inclined to read a manual first, so I’m happy to dive in behind the scenes and just see what happens. The only problems I’ve had relate to plugins and widgets that were more involved as they don’t always come with an intuitive interface. In such cases I search the Edublogs forums and/or send an email detailing the issue – there’s great support here!
Reporter: What advice could you offer a beginning blogger?
- Try and add some customisation to your theme when you first start. Little things like adding a title and tagline, perhaps the colour scheme or style of font (if your theme allows this) and a couple of basic widgets will give you a sense of ownership even before you write your first post.
- Add an ‘About’ page. Tell potential readers about yourself. E.g. are you a primary, secondary or tertiary educator? What are your general interests?
- Shorter posts are fine. I think one of the reasons my post rate is not high at the moment is because I have a tendency to write mini essays for each post. That takes time; something which I often don’t have, especially during term. One of my goals this term is to try and write at least one post each week even if that post is only a paragraph reflecting on a technology story that has been in the news that week.
Reporter: Finally, what was your last post about?
Gadgetgurl: My last post contained my thoughts about why the iPad doesn’t need a USB port. This came about after hearing and reading a lot of comments in the media and online about people lamenting the fact that this isn’t a feature in the iPad. After using one for the past 6 months, I realised that (a) the iPad operating system doesn’t treat files in the same way as Windows or Mac OSX and (b) as a result, file management relies on apps, not hardware or the operating system. If you’re interested in reading it, my post is here: http://gadgetgurl.edublogs.org/2011/01/04/why-the-ipad-doesnt-need-a-usb-port/
The Wordle word cloud at the top of this post is taken from my entire ‘Flexible Learning Environments’ blog. I know one of my current interests is mobile learning with devices like the iPad etc, but I didn’t realise how much this was gleaned from my blog as well until I created the Wordle!
There’s been much speculation in the media over the last couple of weeks about the iPad 2, reportedly due for release early in 2011. Two of the many rumours I agree with – 2 cameras and retina display – because they are already present in the iPhone 4 and latest iPod Touch. HD video recording is also a real possibility in the next generation of iPads because again, this ability already exists in the aforementioned iDevices. Talk of the iPad 2 having a USB port however is leading people down the wrong path, IMHO.
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port. The camera connection kit that already exists as an accessory provides a USB connection with your camera, but only that – your camera. You can’t plugin a memory stick as the iPad’s operating system (OS) only recognises signals from a camera; the ‘universal’ part of USB doesn’t apply to the iPad like it does to your laptop. Instead, if you try and access data on a pen drive, you’re presented with the following error message:
So unless you’re transferring photos from a camera, the kit’s USB connector is a no-go zone.
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port. The other connector in the current camera connection kit supports SD cards. Great you say, but again, like the USB connector, this is inextricably linked to the iPad’s camera roll, so it’s another example of only being able to transfer photos. I like the SD connector though as it means no cables are needed (I don’t even use cables when transferring photos to a laptop – haven’t done so in several years! – always use the SD slot instead). When the iPad’s OS registers the SD card, the camera roll opens and you can download any or all of the photos that you wish.
Too bad if your camera uses compact flash though…
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port. There are already heaps of apps, paid and free, that allow you to transfer photos between iPhone, iPod, iPad and computer. Some of these focus on transfer between iDevices only, some are just Mac and others support PC as well. Some use WiFi whilst others use Bluetooth. The point is, it’s already possible to transfer photos between different devices using apps AND wirelessly. What then, does a USB port offer users, really?
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port – and this is the clincher! The iPad uses the iPhone OS. Given the nature of the OS it’s easy to identify that the iPad is NOT a full replacement for a laptop or desktop – not yet, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE my iPad (and will likely be first in line for iPad 2), but I’ve found that the iPad’s biggest area of weakness is related to file management. I lot of people seem to assume that the iPad can be a replacement for a laptop, but don’t understand the implications of the menu-based OS that controls how users interact with the hardware and application software.
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port because the OS dictates that all file management is app-based only. Sure, you can import and export Word documents etc to and from apps, although I’ve found this to have a high failure rate. Developers have made some improvements, but there’s still much work to be done in this respect. The ‘open in…’ feature seen in Safari even doesn’t respond particularly well to Apple’s own Pages app. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve tried to view a document from the Internet in Pages, Goodreader, ReaddleDocs and many other (generally good) productivity tools only to have it fail. It works about 10% of the time, which quite frankly is unacceptable. The iPad’s OS doesn’t have a My Documents/Library (PC) or Finder (Mac) component built into it, unlike the operating systems we’re familiar with on our computers.
Seeing a quick view of a document in Safari works, but trying to download this document into another app is a different ball game and one in which is the most frustrating thing about the iPad. I’ve had students wanting to download documents from their Blackboard courses onto their iPad, only to discover that they can only ‘view’ the file, not ‘download’ it. Even Pages doesn’t allow you to organise documents into folders. If you’ve only got a limited number of files then fine, but imagine being a student trying to organise potentially hundreds of files across all of your courses in even one academic year. How many files do you have on your laptop or desktop right now? How do you organise these files? Could you replicate that file/folder structure in the iPad? If you’re a student or teacher, my answer to that would be probably not.
The iPad doesn’t need a USB port because the OS precludes it’s use. Wireless technologies mean users can transfer photos and files (sometimes!) from one iPad to another (or iDevice), or from computer to iPad. I have so many productivity apps on my iPad that it’s a bit embarrassing to count them all! Yet I haven’t found the one killer app, mainly because whilst each have advantages, they all seem to fall down in how they manage files (documents such as PDF, Word, PPT or equivalents etc, not photos) and/or in what type of files they allow users to transfer (especially without having to use iTunes, which is bloated and horrid on a PC!) There’s no coincidence that it’s photos that seem to be the easiest to transfer rather than documents. That’s because at the end of the day the iPad, being a consumer device, was designed for media rather than file management. There’s much potential in this hardware, but there’s still some way to go before we all ditch laptops and desktops in favour of a slate – teachers, students and businesses alike. And until we get to that point, there’s really no clear reason why the iPad needs a USB port at all.
We often ask ourselves questions regarding what works when creating digital learning objects (DLOs). I’ve come across the following three principles of how to approach multimedia resources on a number of occasions. I’m reminded to look further into the work of Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer as well, both of whom have conducted much research into how multimedia impacts learning.
1. The Contiguity Principle
This relates to how we use text with images. This principle also applies as much to print-based resources and well as to digital resources. Depending on the image, it’s prudent to place a caption underneath or overlay text on the image itself. This could be done by changing the text colour and/or using call-out boxes – it’s in effect, labelling parts of an image. What we don’t want is to have learners split their focus between an image and a legend that provides the necessary detail. Instead, combine these two features – image and text – so that learner’s can intuitively combine the text and visual modes.
2. The Multiple Representation Principle
Basically, resources that ONLY use text are not as effective as resources that combine text and images. For me, this is a particularly important principle when thinking about PowerPoint slides. Admittedly I have a lot of presentations, especially at A-Level, that are extremely text-heavy. I need to do something about this. Because I’m teaching Computer Science topics, ClipArt images are not often satisfactory and a Google image search regularly returns images that include information beyond my students needs. I’m sure there’s room for creating my own images though especially in regards to using AutoShapes to help construct suitable diagrams (e.g. how registers function in the CPU’s fetch-execute cycle). This HAS to be a priority in 2011.
3. The Split Attention Principle
This principle illustrates how audio is often used poorly in multimedia resources. For example, if you create an instructional video, DON”T NARRATE TEXT that the learner can see on the screen anyway. Audio needs to add something concrete to the DLO, not slow learners down (we read a lot quicker than the spoken word) or bore them to death. Don’t use audio otherwise.
Note to self – two resources to perhaps look at in the near future:
(a) E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer (2009)
(b) Better than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging e-Learning with PowerPoint, by J. Bozarth (2008)
(I think I have the second one on my iPad…)
Underlying my current research interests is the concept of instructional design. I’m worried that my PowerPoint presentations and current iterations of Blackboard courses (especially for senior students) are ineffective on one hand and a digital filing cabinet on the other. How far do these resources and environments impact positively on my students’ learning? I’m not sure, but I feel I’ve gone backward to a certain extent, so it’s as good a time as any for a review. Whilst focusing on apps for handheld devices, this article gave me much food for thought in regard to LMS course structure too.
This post is my summary from an article by Carmen Taran entitled ‘From e-Learning to the iPad: Don’t Just Move Bones from One Graveyard to Another’ (Learning Solutions magazine, eLearning Guild, 20 December 2010). It’s the first, of what I hope to be many, responses to reading. I hope I can formulate a clearer plan in my own mind as to how I can improve my digital options for students.
I’m struck by how many of these sentiments apply to traditional website design as well. The underlying idea that Taran is trying to express however is that designing digital content needs to reflect the unique qualities of its media, not just the regular considerations of purpose and target audience. She sums this up aptly in one of her final sentences – “Refrain from merely dumping electronic content into an app shell.”
An iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad (iDevice) affects the development of the resulting digital learning object (DLO). It’s not just the obvious issues related to screen design, but how the iOS impacts what instructional designers can do also plays a huge part in the software solution. It’s not just Apple handheld devices that need to be considered either. The term ‘iDevices’ can be applied to any brand of smart device as they can all potentially be used by students in the learning process and in the case of Android devices, the OS is similar to the iOS regarding user interaction.
This article focused on the importance of designing the user interface when developing digital learning apps. Five key questions are asked when reviewing any DLO:
- Where am I?
- How did I get here?
- How can I return to where I once was?
- How far have I gone?
- Where else can I go.
Uses need to know where they’re going, where they’ve come from, and where they’re going to – and not necessarily in a linear fashion! Two concepts spring to mind when I consider these questions: transparency and consistency. How the user navigates a DLO needs to be intuitive and unimposing. Content is still king, even when chunked, after all! Like all good web design, the placement of navigation buttons and menus, along with the colour scheme, also needs to be the same throughout the DLO.
Taran critiqued five very different apps according to these questions and my summary of the findings are below. Again, so many of these features are common to traditional web design as well.
- Less is more. Don’t bombard learners with too many options all at once. Once example of this is with menus. If you have many menu items, each of which have sub items as well, just show the main menu items first. Then using a concertina-style or pull-out menu design, display the sub menu options when the learner selects one of the main choices.
- Show how far the learner has progressed (and how far he/she needs to complete). Keep this is the same location on each screen as well (and the same size). See the next point about terminology as well…
- Terminology – ‘screen’ versus ‘page’. We view DLO’s on a screen, so use the word ‘screen’ when indicating learner progression throughout the app (i.e. Screen 5 of 12). Leave ‘pages’ in books…
- Title each screen. Tell learners what the main focus of a screen of content.
- Be consistent. Ensure that your screen titles and menu options use the same terminology. There’s no need to confuse the learner…
- Book templates in DLO’s need chapters. And I guess having a contents page (whoops, ‘screen’) wouldn’t go astray either. I love it when ebooks on iBooks or Kindle for iPad have this as it’s really handy, especially for non-fiction books.
- When is a button not a button? Make sure that the state of buttons is really clear to the learner. Don’t blur the lines (in the name of some fluffy ‘artistic design’) between when a button is enabled or disabled, or if a button has been clicked (i.e. depressed) or not.
- Back to the beginning. Each screen should allow learners to return to somewhere where they’ve already been (e.g. a ‘Back’ button) and/or skip to anywhere in the DLO (e.g. ‘Main Menu’ option).
- 80/20 split in screen real estate. 80% of the screen should be for content, 20% max for navigation options.
- Proofread carefully. Avoid spelling errors or unwanted repetition, in content or navigation.
Designing user interfaces for DLO’s (whether on an iPod Nano, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Galaxy, Galaxy tab, Playbook, PSP, etc – or even an online course in a more traditional LMS) is not about trying to find the ‘one right way’ of optimizing layout, because there isn’t any. It’s about looking at how the qualities of different media and platforms can be utilised to support learner’s needs. This, combined with evaluating your app or course against the questions raised here will do much for your understanding of the importance instructional design principles play when developing learning resources for your students.
Ok, so finally getting around to adding images related to my previous post about the new iPad operating system – this is the bit I can’t do using the iPad itself! So…back to the laptop.
This is the view you get when you tap the Home button twice.
The lighter icons in the top row are on the task bar of the Home screen. The coloured icons are the 5 that I had running at the time the shot was taken: Kindle for iPad, Angry Birds, Twitter, Photogene and Safari, in this case.
Click the lighter section of the screen to exit the multi-tasking view.
As you can see, you have the choice of different wallpapers. I don’t think this really adds anything to how you use the device, but it does give you options. The iPhone 4 does the same thing.
As mentioned in the previous post, you can now arrange your apps into folders. The iPad allows for a maximum of 20 apps in one folder. You can also rename the folders to whatever you like. The default folder names given by the OS matches the category of the initial app that you put in the folder (i.e. category from the App Store).
I’ve been using a beta version of the next iPad operating system – version 4.2 – for about seven weeks now. So how is 4.2 different to the iPad’s original operating system? Four aspects immediately spring to mind:
It’s now possible to run more than one app at a time. It does this in the same way as OS 4.1 on the iPhone 4, not like Mac OS X or Windows does (i.e. multiple forms). You’re still restricted to the menu-based interface, but currently running apps can be easily accessed by double-clicking the Home button. The 4.2 upgrade is more about adding functionality rather than aesthetics.
I haven’t noticed that this has an undue effect on the battery life, but one would think there is some impact. I’m in the habit of closing apps that I’m definitely not intending to use in my current session. To do this hold your finger down on one of the apps in the multi-tasking section and click the top left-hand corner of the apps you want to close when the red/white crosses appear.
The iPad supports six app icons across the width of the screen. So what happens if you have more than six apps running? Just swipe your finger from right to left to see the other icons.
Locking the screen orientation
The previous iPad operating system (3.2 from memory? The OS that came with the iPad when purchased) used a button in the top right-hand side of the device to lock the screen orientation – I wish the iPhone had this feature! In 4.2 this is now accessed through the software itself.
Double-click the Home button to enter the multi-tasking view. Swipe your finger from left to right. The ‘lock screen orientation’ button is on the far right. There’s also a button to quickly access music and adjust the screen brightness.
Like the iPhone 4, you can have two different wallpapers; one as the home screen and a different wallpaper for the lock screen. You can have the same wallpaper for both the home and the lock screens too, if you wish.
Another feature that 4.2 has in common with 4.1 OS on the iPhone is the ability to group icons into folders. It’s possible to have up to 20 apps stored in one folder (the iPhone stores slightly less due to limitations posed by the screen size.) Rename folders to suit your purposes as well.
It seems like an innocuous feature, but it makes a huge difference when you can create some sense of organisation with your apps AND not have to flick through many screens – it’s possible to cut this last aspect down to two or three screens, yet still have hundreds of apps on the device.
What’s not quite right with 4.2….?
The only issue I’ve experienced with the beta is that some apps don’t work. An app may initially load, but then quit as soon as you try and use it, or an app will refuse to load at all. In this case the screen may just flash before returning to your screen of icons.
Surprisingly though, I’ve found most apps to work fine under 4.2, including apps that I’d (inadvertently) transferred from my iPhone to iPad (I reeeaaalllly DON’T like iTunes…)
Developers recognise that some apps may have problems with 4.2 though and updates to their software contain fixes. I now have apps that didn’t run on 4.2 when I first upgraded the OS, but now they do.
Now if I could just get WordPress and Safari to work in harmony on the iPad, I’d be sweet. I’ve typed this post on my iPad (admittedly with a wireless keyboard), but can not get images uploaded. Hmmm…may try my laptop later…
Well it’s been a while since my last post; sooo busy! With school starting again on Monday (Semester 2) it’s also time to re-evaluate what research I’d like to focus on for the rest of the year. I figure that if I write down my intentions, I’ve got a better chance of making at least some progress…
My two main areas of focus at the moment are:
- Instructional design
- Mobile learning
This will involve reflecting on my Blackboard courses in terms of:
- How courses are constructed in terms of content areas / Blackboard tools used etc
- How students are guided through a Blackboard course
- What learning resources are available for students, especially resources for self-study prior to exams
Given that my classes are face-to-face with Blackboard courses in addition to this, the questions I’ll be looking to answer is how do my Blackboard courses support student learning AND what are the current weaknesses in my courses and how can the courses be improved as a result.
I have 7 courses in total, so think I may focus on the development of one course in particular – Year 11 IGCSE ICT. I’m sure lessons gained here can be transferred to other courses in time.
Mobile Learning (mLearning)
Last year one of my colleagues did some great work converting PowerPoint presentations and StudyMate quizzes to mobile platforms, specifically for iPods. All my students have at least one of the following gadgets, which could be used for mLearning resources:
- iPod (original, nano or touch)
- iPhone (or a similar smartphone)
With the advent of Apple’s iPad (still waiting for the official launch in New Zealand though!!), there are so many devices that could be used as platforms for learning resources. One reason I’m particularly keen on this area is because these are resources that could be used offline. I have students who do not always have access to the Internet at weekends or holidays, so resources on Blackboard are not available to them. It seems crazy to place all our eggs in the same basket re. availability of digital resources when many students have easy access to devices that can be used for more than one purpose.
I can’t wait for the iPad to be released in NZ. I’m intrigued with it at a personal level because I’d like an eReader. It’s a pity that Steve Jobs has such an aversion to Adobe Flash, but still, from an educational standpoint, the iPad may have huge potential for student learning.