Saturday, 2 November 2013

Join us to evaluate new Museum Studies app

Our next Handheld Learning Group meeting will happen on Monday, 11 November 2013, from 12.30-13.30 at the usual place of 105 Princess Road East, room 0.09 (the Learning Inn!). Nicola Beddal-Hill, currently working with the Representing Re-Formation project of which Museum Studies is a major partner, will demonstrate the new iOS app developed as part of the project. We will have a chance to evaluate the app, called 'Thetford Tomb Raiders'. The app will likely not have been released by Apple by this time, so this will also be a chance to experiment with direct download of the app to our iPads. 

Nicola recently presented this app at the ALT-C conference in Nottingham in September 2013. I had the privilege of being there (as did Stephen Downes, I may add). I was intrigued by the fact the app uses augmented reality technology to create engagement with history and archaeology. I am looking forward to this session and encourage you to join us. Please expect the usual homebaked treats, and feel free to bring your lunch.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Notes from 'Staff for iPads' Project Session

Some notes from the presentation by Olaojo Aijegbayo, on Staff Use of iPads, the BERA-funded project which supplied Univ Huddersfield's Business School staff with iPads and evaluated their use in admin, research, and teaching-related tasks:

A link to the project and a preliminary look at a survey of staff using their ipads, with Wordle summary of the apps they use for each of the three kinds of tasks (admin, research, teaching):

And a link to the recording I made of the session itself, by Adobe Connect. The sound is not great but it's alright. I'm still learning with Adobe Connect!

One important issue that came out in discussion is the need for some form of support for staff, to enable them to maximise the affordances of a tablet in learning and research. For example, one staff member used Educreations app to mark up and sketch out an explanation of a difficult concept, incorporating images and photos, and saving the whole thing as a short video which is distributed over their VLE, and this gave other staff some ideas to try. At Huddersfield, they are beginning some iPad Coffee Club meetings which try to provide this support.

So on that note, if you have a handheld-learning related issue you would like to explore or question to address, please let me know and we'll figure out a way to address it in an upcoming meeting!

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

Friday, 20 September 2013

Livestreamed Handheld Learning Meeting 20 September 13.00BST

Just a quick note to say we will be experimenting with live-streaming the Handheld Learning Meeting today.   If all goes well, we will also record it and make the recording available later. Many thanks to Ola for being a willing victim participant in this experiment! To link to the session today, please click here:

Select to enter as a Guest, and type your name in the box. Once you are in, please do Meeting -- Audio Setup Wizard.

Sadly we have not figured out a way to livestream the treats to remote participants. Maybe by next meeting something will have been invented to sort that out!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Evaluating Academics' Use of iPads for Academic Practices

Ola Aiyegbayo, University of Huddersfield
This Friday, 20 September 2013, sees the reconvening of University of Leicester's Handheld Learning Group. We welcome Ola Aiyegbayo from University of Huddersfield, who will share with us his findings from a BERA-funded project evaluating academics' use of iPads for their own academic practice. I also have it on good authority that Ola hopes to see how our ad-hoc Handheld Learning Group is working out, as he is looking at support models, both formal and informal, for university use of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

So please join us at 1pm at the Learning Inn, Room 0.08 105 Princess Road East. Bring your lunch if you like; we'll supply a cuppa and a home-baked treat!

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Terese Bird, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

Thursday, 15 August 2013

'iPads for Staff' study is topic of next Handheld Learning meeting

Announcing the next gathering of the Handheld Learning Group at the University of Leicester - Friday 20 September at 13.00, at the usual venue of 105 Princess Road East -- the newly-renamed Learning Inn. Bring your lunch; we'll supply a cuppa and a home-baked treat.

Speaker: Olaojo Aiyegbayo, University of Huddersfield
Title: Academics' use of iPads @ University of Huddersfield
                                                Staff with iPads - Photo by ShawnKBall on Flickr

This session will focus on how academics at University of Huddersfield (UoH) are using their iPads for academic practices. It will also focus on the reported benefits and limitations of using the iPads for academic practices as well as provide a list of popular apps used for academic practices.

The findings are drawn from data gathered via an online survey which was completed by 84 academics as well as semi-structured interviews conducted with 22 colleagues.

This session will be of interest to academics and learning technologists using or planning to use iPads as well as other tablet devices.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Providing ebook learning materials for distance learners to use on any handheld device

Creating an ebook with iBooks Author: .pdf and .ibooks

On 5 March 2013, the Handheld Learning Group met to hear from Jeremy Turner of the Centre for Labour Market Studies and Management. Jeremy has been involved in the production of materials for distance learners from these departments, and consequently he has seen a lot of paper being printed and shipped out ---- perhaps too much paper. It has recently been decided, therefore, to produce the learning materials in ebook formats -- both pdf and epub --- and next to totally discontinue the production and shipping of paper materials to distance students. The idea here is that students will probably already own some sort of mobile device, be it smartphone or tablet. Providing reading material in these two formats will ensure that students can read the ebooks on pretty much whatever mobile device they own. Hence, this is a BYOD or Bring Your Own Device solution for distance learners.

Jeremy uses inDesign to set up and create the ebooks. inDesign can be purchased for either Macs or PCs (I saw an educational price of about £120 but I am not sure it was the latest version of the software). Jeremy and his colleagues have been using inDesign for a long time since that was how they had been producing paper materials. inDesign is a professional tool, and it creates books in both pdf and epub formats. epub is the format used in all mobile ebook readers *except* the Kindle, which uses the mobi format. Jeremy stated that Kindle users know how to convert epub files into mobi -- this is part of the email service Amazon provides to Kindle owners.

Jeremy found that creating ebooks in these two formats was no more difficult than the format-for-print he had been doing already. One issue arising is that while pdf files preserve the pages and hence the page numbers, epub files do not preserve pages. An epub file resizes its pages to fit the size of the mobile device screen, whatever it is, and so page numbers become irrelevant, possibly causing confusion for referencing. This is the situation with ebook readers generally. One way I have seen this dealt with, has been to cite chapter, paragraph, and line, rather than page number. I imagine as ebooks make their way deeper into the academic experience, new conventions for citing ebooks will develop.

I have never used inDesign so cannot comment on its ease of use or otherwise. My impression is that because it is a professional tool, it is at least somewhat complicated. I have used iBooks Author, and it is easy to use. I've included a screenshot of an ebook file open in iBooks Author as I was creating the ebook. It's a small picture, but you might be able to make out the different templates along the top. I find this a bonus, enabling me to make the ebook look really nice even though I have no talent in graphic design. iBooks Author is Mac-only and it is free, and ebooks created with it can be saved in pdf and .ibooks which is the proprietary Apple iBooks format. But it does not save as epub, which is a bit of a problem. For a couple of ebooks I worked on, I created them first in iBooks Author, then I copied and pasted the text into Pages, which does save as epub. Pages, again Mac-only, costs about £20 and is easy to use.

The meeting was attended by many people from across campus who were interested to see how these departments have decided to handle distance learning materials. Jeremy promised to come back in a year and report how things are going. I for one would love to see student evaluation of their courses with learning materials provided in this way.

Since the meeting, I have been thinking about the trend, if there is a trend, to create learning materials in mobile-friendly formats. In a sense, pdf is the lowest-common-denominator mobile-friendly text format, but one needs to be aware of its limitations. With pdf, the page size is staunchly fixed. Is it a nice experience to read a pdf on a smartphone? Personally, I would say it is not a nice experience, but at least it can be done. In fact, one person attending our meeting said her department decided to create pdf documents in smaller page sizes, to fit mobile devices better. This is not a bad idea and I wondered who else might be experimenting with this. Epub should be a better reading experience on smartphones because the text is shaped to the screen. The Apple-only .ibooks is great for iPhones, but doesn't work on Androids. At the moment, my conclusion is that it is best to try and create both pdf and epub. Using inDesign sounds like a pretty tidy solution but I wonder how many academics would be happy to try using it themselves. iBooks Author is a more likely candidate for a busy academic to use, but it doesn't do epub.

Publishing for mobile is not really that new, but it does not seem to be settling down into tidy, easy solutions very quickly.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester

Monday, 25 February 2013

Leicester mobile learning roundup, 5 March 12.30pm

Map Our next informal Handheld Learning gathering will be on Tuesday 5th March at 12.30pm, in the usual venue of 105 Princess Road East - in the Learning Innovation Studio.

This meeting will be a roundup of Leicester uses of 'by-design' mobile in learning... in other words, use of mobile by the plan of the instructors, as opposed to simply the students being able to check a discussion group on their mobile device, and will feature Jeremy Turner from the Centre for Labour Market Studies describing his work to create ebooks which are usable on any mobile device.

All welcome - see you there.