SlideShare: PowerPoint with animations on your iPad

I was prepping for a meeting recently and wanted to use some basic animations in a PowerPoint slide deck. Nothing fancy–just bringing bullet list items one at a time as a discussion unfolds. And was resigned to schlep my laptop great distances (10m from my desk to the meeting room). Until I remembered I could as the innerwebs.

Me: Hey innerwebs, can I use my PowerPoint with animations on my iPad?

Innerwebs: To a significant extent, yes. Try Slideshark.

Slideshark isn’t super-sophisticated. It’s also free for a basic membership. From first glance the paid versions (individual or “team”) come with more than the default 100MB storage. 100MB will be plenty for me.

You can either email (Open with…) or their web-based file upload tool to get your file onto your iPad. Once you’re in Slideshark the command are pretty straightforward:

  • Tap a presentation to open it
  • Sweep left or tap to advance slide–or the next animation on a slide with animations
  • Sweep right to go back a slide or animation
  • Sweep up to reveal all slides
  • Press and hold screen to activate the “laser pointer”

I tested it with a slide show that uses basic (fly in) animations on one slide. Worked no problem. The support info says “some sophisticated animations” might not work. I’m thinking scripted ones. For most users this should be fine.

One note of caution: Slideshark actually converts your PowerPoint deck to its own proprietary format: there’s no downloading and editing. Instead you need to go back to your original .ppt/,pptx file, make any edits, then load that updated presentation to Slideshark.

I’m generally suspicous of iOS apps that require signing up for  “free” account. I’ll let you know if I think these folks have sent me to spam purgatory.

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Emirates chooses Seattle; thanks GdC*

Got this email today:

Starting March 1, Emirates is offering new daily service from Seattle (SEA) to destinations in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the South Asian subcontinent via Dubai. With our new partnership with Alaska Airlines, travelers can take advantage of seamless connections from select cities in Western Canada to Dubai via Seattle. Passengers will enjoy the convenience of receiving their boarding passes at check-in, and checking bags through to their final destination.

In addition, passengers can accrue Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles when they fly to any of Emirates’ over 115 destinations worldwide, and Emirates Skywards® members can accrue miles on the Alaska Airlines network in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

For those unaware, Emirates wanted to fly daily from Vancouver and Calgary, but the Canadian government wouldn’t agree; subsequently Canadian Forces was booted out of their Gulf base in the UAE. Rumour has it Air Canada lobbied the GdC* heavily because they “can’t compete” with Emirates’ much fairer pricing structure for consumers. When I lived in Australia, Singapore and Qantas lost a lot of business to Emirates for travel to Europe.

Travelling to South Asia from Vancouver just got a bit easier–and probably cheaper. And for folks who–like me–have felt like something of a hostage to Aeroplan, Alaska Airlines already excellent frequent flyer program just got even better.

*Gouvernment du Canada

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Apple TV, Airplay and UBC

He asked for it. Here it is.  🙂

I’ve been fairly obsessed with “tablet teaching” as of late. Initially I was more than happy to plug my iPad into the projector (or podium) and use it like a laptop. Then I found out about Airplay, which allows you to stream content from any iOS device to a TV–or projector with an HDMI port.

The secret is AppleTV: arguably a tool to sell/rent rich content. And yes, I’ve done that a couple of times. But it’s the wireless sharing of content via a common wifi network that makes it all come together. Sadly, AppleTV’s wifi connectivity isn’t compatible with UBC Secure’s security requirements. D’oh!

I am not that easily defeated. So here’s my work-around: tethering. I activate personal hotspot on my smart phone (iOS, Android, I think even Blackberries can sort of do this), and connect both my iPad and AppleTV to my personal wifi router.

What does that allow me to do wirelessly? How about:

  1. Using 2Screens to deliver rich PowerPoint and web content with live annotation?
  2. Streaming content from any of the media apps?
  3. Skype?
  4. Collaborative writing with any of the writing productivity apps?

All while not being tethered to a cable. So long as I remember to recharge my phone and iPad

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Some apps I love

A quick metric for how overcommitted busy I am relates to my iOS devices. No, they’re not neglected–I use my iPad and my 2 iPhones (one is for work…but yes I’m a loser) every day. Certain apps would need to be resharpened a gazillions times by now–PDFExpert, Quickoffice, Kindle, Flipboard, the Economist–but there’s lots of impulse grabs (free today!$.99 today!) too…to an extent that I have a couple of “grap” folders for the ones that defy (obvious) categorization.

But a few I’ve added recently bear mentioning:

  • VanCity has an app! Finally!
  • CloudOn offers MS Office file editing/creation with a slightly more “MS”ish interface
  • Words with Friends is a scrabblish game that works well with your FB friends. Oh, right, I forgot: I’m crap at Scrabble! D’oh!
  • Ski Report is an app for my favourite mountain forecast–most skill hills in the world are listed, with multiple elevation 6 day forecasts

Anyone have any other suggestions? Warnings?

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c’est ma vie, je dis oui

I don’t often write about my life here. Perhaps I should? Or not?

This morning I had a marvellous ski up on Cypress Mountain. I managed to get all the way to the top of Hollyburn Ridge for only the second time ever. And…I didn’t have to take a break at any point to do so. It’s about 4k, mostly uphill, to the top of Romstadt. There was lots of fresh snow, so it was magical. Then I got to schluss my way down to the lodge for a cookie and hot chocolate, before skiing up and then out. Here’s the route I took (for my benefit really):

  • Base – Lower Powerline – Pop Fly – Upper Powerline – Pacific – Romstadt (turnaround) – Triangle Lake – Unknown Lake – Russell (open for the first time this season) – Brother’s Canyon West – Sitzmark – Lower Wells Gray – Roller Coaster – Old Rope Tow – Lodge.
  • Lodge – Old Rope Tow – Lower Telemark – Sitzmark –  Lower Powerline – Base.

Normally it takes about 20-25 minutes from my door to getting my mountain pass. This morning there was mixed precipitation in the city and snow as soon as you got 200m above sea level. So there was a traffic jam going up the mountain–first time I’ve EVER seen that: two lanes, bumper-to-bumper. Took nearly an hour for the journey…thankfully most folks were going to the alpine (rather than nordic) part of Cypress. We really are spoiled here: an absolutely decent mountain less than half an hour from a city as wonderful as Vancouver.

This past week I had my first experience on a major funding body’s grant review panel (as  member of the panel; I was an external reviewer last year). 3 half days of conference calls, much of it interesting, bits of it a bit tense. It’ll be interesting to see which applications are ultimately funded–and how much funding they receive. It’ll also be interesting to see if I’m invited back. 🙂

I’ve been doing ice skating lessons again this year, but not loving them. This session ends very soon; I won’t sign up again. I’d rather spend that evening in the mountains. The snow has been really variable this winter (snow one day, rain for two) and I’d much rather spend an hour boarding or skiing than skating.

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A new term: new cohorts, projects and adventures. And OMG iTextbookses!

Gung hay fat choy! Gung hay! Gung hay!

The latest cohorts of ETEC565A are well under way: somewhat smaller crowd (17 and 18 per section), but two quality bunches of folks in each.  Qualitative feedback on their Flight Paths has been released; almost all of them will be pleased with what they got.

Teaching the course while concurrently designing a research project related to it is rather interesting. One of the benefits of SoTL is this sort of thing: potentially a more rigorous reflection on: 1.) what I’m doing, and 2.) what is happening in my course. My goal of having my survey completed this week? Out the window…

A new term also means new student staff, this term in the form of two Graduate Academic Assistants (GAAs). Rather than one full-time co-op student I’m trying this to see if two people working a bit less time though with an overall broader range of skills works better. Early indications are it does. But ’tis early.

On Tuesday morning I had a very full but nicely organized week of work (go project manager me!); on Tuesday afternoon I was handed a new (major) project and learned I was getting a new staff member. Well, it’s a new role: the person filling it (it’s a contract) is someone who’s worked both for CTLT and for me as a TA previously. And she’s awesome. But the week fairly ran away from me from then on. Interesting project, great people, what’s not to like?

Last year I was asked to be an external reviewer for CIHR; this year I’m on the full committee. So I had 3 grants to review (one as primary reviewer) that were due on Wednesday. I got them in (I started reviewing them weeks ago), but it’s going to be an interesting committee conference call. That’s all I can say. I also gave a SoTL workshop for CTLT staff, with an overflow attendance of 4.  Good times!

In fact, I’ve been so busy I missed the big Apple media event on Thursday. Normally I wait a couple of hours and look for syntheses of the event–but this week’s was about education. Turns out the rumour mills were fairly accurate: Apple endeavours to do for textbooks via iBooks what iTunes did for music. And with iPads what it did for iPods. I’ve only been able to explore one actual iTextbook, but it’s impressive: it’s intuitive, non-linear, and has all sorts of rich media embedded. The focus of the event was on K-12, but what I’m pre-occupied with is university-level science (particularly biology/anatomy/physiology texts–major Wow potential here. Oh, and anyone with a Mac computer (with the “Lion” version of OS X) can create iTextbooks for FREE.

Some folks in the open movement are, unsurprisingly, not entirely impressed. I get that. I’m largely in that camp myself. But in a lot of ways I’m more concerned with getting things that work well and easily: when Windows and Android have a q/c system for their ecosystems I’ll give them another look.

BTW if you monetize an iTextbook you create Apple gets 30%. But you can create free ones–and distribute them freely.  Apple is a kapitalist enterprise and yes they’re driving users towards their product line with this sort of rollout. Just like they did with the iPod.  No surprise there.

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Je reviendrai à Montréal…

…et après Québec. J’aime la belle province (oui, c’est un province; n’importe) et j’y allais en 2009. Québec me manque!

Il y aura deux conférences à Montréal en juin; donc je serai là pour une dizaine de jours. Et pour la première fois (pour moi) la Fête nationale du St-Jean Baptiste! Après la Fête je reviendrai à Vancouver pour une semaine puis partirai encore pour Québec–la ville. Je ferai un cours dans la langue française pour trois semaines. En été. Pendant La Festival d’été.

Woo hoo!

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another suitcase, another hall

Or, rather, another teaching term. 🙂

This terms I’ve got two sections of ETEC565A; in the end I suspect I’ll have just under 40 students in total. A nice, manageable number! I’ve made a few tweaks (with my colleague Jeff Miller) to some of the summative assignments and to how the participation mark is calculated. And have some new scenarios for the LMS evaluation rubric activity. Which will also give me a bit of a refresh, I hope!

I’m also in UBC’s Faculty SoTL* Leadership Program, which involves the peer evaluation of my teaching. Since I teach wholly online there’s not a lot of information out there upon which to rely. But it shall get done and it will be fine.

I’ve also some grants to review for CIHR in advance of a conference call later this month. Think that’ll be today’s tasks, along with some more FCP reading.


*SoTL: scholarship of teaching and learning

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Adieu 2011

Another year has zoomed by. It’s been an interesting one for me, particularly on the professional front. I’ve taken on–and settled nicely into–a newly created role in a newly created service unit. I’ve built a new working relationship with one supervisor and deepened one with another. I’ve also collaborated with all sorts of awesome folks from other parts of the world.

I’ve also learned that German and I will never be friends. I’m just not that into you it. Time to shift my focus back to French, je pense. Hopefully via an immersion in Québec next summer. It’s been a year of travelling too: I racked up about 60k miles, including 3 trips to Europe. Yes, Iceland counts as part of Europe! Today’s my last working day in 2011: tomorrow it’s off to parts East for an Oirish Catlick Christmas. I hope my poor heathen husband’s head doesn’t explode.

Looking into 2012 there’s project to move forward, others to get off the ground. I’ve got a research project to shift into ethics then data collection. And come July we should have a new permanent Academic Director in place, though I rather like working with our pro-tem one.

Have a peaceful, safe, and joyous holiday time. Appreciate what you have; recharge your batteries so you can work towards achieving what you’ve not (yet) got in 2012. I certainly will. Try. 🙂

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wanted: Graduate Academic Assistant SoTL and Curriculum Educational Developer

I’m hiring a GAA for Jan-Apr 2011.  You must be a UBC full-time graduate student. Job ad is here; feel free to circulate widely.

Applications close 1159PM Sunday 18 December.

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OECD ranks Canadian public schools 3rd in the world on PISA

The Guardian UK reports the latest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, or those kapitalist bums, as I like to think of them) education rankings. Overall Canada comes in third, behind South Korea and Finland. New Zealand is 4th, Australia 6th, the US 14th and the UK 21st.

The graphic alone on the article is worth taking a look at. It demonstrates nicely that the Koreans and Finns are doing a great job in all three subject areas (math, science, reading). Canada’s 3rd in reading, 5th in both math and science. These scores are based on the PISA (Programme for Internatonal Student Assessmen, or those high-stakes testing bums, as I like to think of them) tests administered to 15 year olds each year.

Suffice to say proponents of standardized testing in countries performing well will laud these results: those doing not so well will call into question these assessments or standardized tests in general.

Go Canada go!  😀


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Bless me blogosphere for I have sinned. I should’ve posted this a couple of weeks ago. Had other things to do. Sorry, sort of.

I calibrated my recent travels in Europe to be in Riga for Latvia’s indepdence celebrations. Like the other Baltic states, Latvia celebrates when the first sovereign Latvian state was declared at the end of WW I–in 1918. Ethnic Latvians and ostensibly international law view the period from 1938-1991 as an occupation–by the Soviets, briefly Nazi Germany, then the Soviets again. This is also the basis for one of the more controversial aspects of post-Soviet Latvia: citizenship laws that view anyone who arrived in the country during the occupation years as being occupiers–and therefore not entitled to (automatic) Latvian citizenships. That goes for their progeny as well.

Roughly one third of the population of Latvia are not ethnic Latvians. Most are Russians; most of the rest are russophones from other parts of the Soviet Union. They were shipped to the Baltics to work in industry and collective farming. Many never learned the Latvian language, since russification was an integral part of Soviet policy. These people could gain Latvian citizenship if they could pass a Latvian language test. Latvian, if you’re unawares, is a rather complex language to learn.  Many claim the complexity of the original exams for citizenship were purposely designed to make it nearly impossible for “occupiers” to pass.

Latvia is 1/3 ex-Soviet. Riga, the capital, is nearly 50 per cent ex-Soviet. All of which makes “indepence day” in Riga very interesting.

a wreath for Latvian independence day, From the indepedence memorial

During the day there was the obligatory quasi-militaristic ceremony (I sorted of went, but couldn’t be bothered to find a spot where I could see). Throughout the old town persons of all ages–schoolchildren, adults, seniors–were wandering around with paper flags and lovely fabric flag lapel pins for revellers.It all had a rather nice, low key vibe to it–although, to be fair, I was unable to understand any of the rhetoric of the day.

Like Vilnius, Riga has a museum dedicated to the years of occupation–and it’s a very good museum. Visiting it on their national holiday was particularly special: parents and grandparents old enough to remember the Soviet era leading children through the exhibits.

The Museum of the Occcupation of LatviaAfter many hours enjoying the old town in the day, I went back to my hotel and rested a bit before heading back out for the evening. All told I walked perhaps 15km that day and night. In lovely, bracing, +2C weather.

There were fireworks over the river, but what I really came out for was Riga Lights. Each year on indepence day–where the days are already very short, with perhaps 6 hours of full daylight–the old town is turned into a multimedia festival. Images, video, animation and light shows are projected onto buildings. There’s performance art, music, it’s a wonderful evening. Some installations are up all evening; many others pop up for  perhaps 30 minutes and are then shut down. So wandering around is very much a good thing to do.

performance art badly captured as photo of building.This installation featured a bahia riff, Latvian spoken word, the sound of a typewriter, and all sorts of cool imagery (like this sound wave). My photos don’t really do it justice.

the Latvian parliament (Saeima) with lights projected upon it so it becomes a Latvian flagThis is the Saeima (parliament) dolled up with lights so it becomes a Latvian flag.

Eventually my legs were rubbery so I went home. I got a bit sidetracked and ended up near the Russian orthodox cathedral–well outside the old town–which seemed to be hosting a different party for folks not as thrilled about Latvian independence.

Complete photo set found here.



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Pan-Canadian Assessment Program: Meaningless

Today the CBC had a story on the most recent results of the PCAP tests, which are administered to grade 8 students across the country.Unlike many of my colleagues in education I think have some sort of national assessment of student performance is a good thing for tracking accountability and educational efficacy. Which is not to say they should be the only measure of these.

These assessments were given at a sample of schools across Canada–a rnadomized stratified sample. 32,000 students wrote the exams across the country, 8,000 wrote it in French. Featured in the story are comparisons between provinces, including:

  • In Math only students in Ontario and Québec score above the national average
  • In Science only students in Alberta and Ontario scored above the national average
  • In Reading only students in Alberta and Ontario scored above the national average

But before you pack your bags for Calgary or Etobicoke…think about these findings. First, the national averages are comparing each provincial sub-sample to the overall sample. And here’s the distribution of the samples on a per province basis:

  • BC 3559
  • AB 3515
  • SK 2918
  • MB 3110
  • ON 5883
  • QB 5237
  • NB 2664
  • NS  2843
  • PEI 484
  • NL 1861
  • YT 305
  • NWT or NT zero

Thus, a plurality of the sample were from Ontario, roughly 17 per cent of the overall sample. This is, interestingly enough, probably too small a sub-sample: Ontario holds approximately 35% of the total population of Canada. So from the outset we know the sampling strategy wasn’t based on province/territory:national population. In fact, the full report explains the sampling was done at the school level. The samples were built based on having entire schools’ grade 8 students write the exams.

Second, given that these are standardized scores–not the actual student scores, but a standardization across all of the sample, which assume the student performance is a Gaussian distribution–the mean of 500 applies to all of the assessments. As well, the standard deviation used for these adjusted scores is 100.

Third, drilling down you’ll find the Differences between provinces aren’t actually that large. For math PEI had a mean score of 460–the lowest mean of all provinces. Ontario and Quebec scored 507 and 515 respectively. So these are not normally distributed even after standarization. No one province does exceptionally well in math–PEI’s not doing well, but isn’t doing poorly either. For science Alberta and Ontario were “high” (515 and 510) and the Yukon low (478). For reading Ontario was above the mean (515) and the Yukon the lowest (465).

If the standard deviation was 100, all these results are well within the range expected. None of the provinces or territories are “outliers” and the differences between them are not nearly as pronounced.

Nothing earth-shattering here; share the raw testing data with us and we might have something. Full report available here.

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I awoke today the freshest so far: darn near bright eyed and bushy tailed, as Mom used to say. After a mediocre buffet breakfast, I set out for my first sightseeing destination:

Lieutuvos Radio Television (TV) Tower

It’s honking’ big and there’s an observation deck (and obligatory rotating resto), but it was foggy again. Besides I wasn’t there for the view: it was the Lithuanians who first took on the Soviets in 1990–for which they paid dearly. Estonia had. “bloodless” singing revolution because blood was spilled in Vilnius.

Why a TV Tower? Well, s/he who controlled the state broadcaster could rally their side–or demoralize And disinform the other. Unlike the other Baltic SSRs less than 10% of the Lithuanian population was Russian: over 80% were ethnic Lithuanians. In Latvia and Estonia a third or more of the population were Russophones trucked in during the Soviet occupation to “Russify” each republic.

So the Soviet Army went in. Almost 20 Lithuanians were killed; upwards of 200 injured. Moscow won the battle, only to lose the war a few months later when the independence of all three Baltic republics was recognized by Moscow.

Suffice to say this impresses me more than any view or buffet ever could. Pretty awesome I say.

I next wanted to head back to the Old Town, since a couple of sites closed in the morning were scheduled to be opened. But stoopid me wanted to try a different route. Somehow I ended up at Akropolis, Vilnius’ mega mall. Found Japanese for lunch: here’s the view from my table:

Hockey lines and curling sheets, all in one. How economical

At this point I betrayed my gender and asked for directions to a bus back to my hotel. Then I headed back out to catch the twilight (at 16h30). Visited the mega cathedral ( where the 18 killed in 1991 were given a mass funeral in the square out front). And then I found the Holy Mother:

From the street; I went up too

After Krakow this apparently the most sacred shrine in Polish Catholicism. The end. 😉

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A measly 50 minute flight, pas grand chose, ouais?

After a relaxing morning at my Warsaw hotel I decided, as much to shake myself out of lingering jet lag torpor, to head to the airport a bit early. Upon my arrival I do as I always do: I checked to see if that elusive bulkhead aisle forward seat had become free. Because being stuck precisely one row back was a human rights violation.

I then got in the queue to drop my bag, which wasn’t moving very quickly. No…make that not moving. At all. Several passengers were,in fact, sitting on scales blathering into mobiles. The check-in agents were all doing nothing. Eventually a wandering LOT agent trundled by: their entire airport management system had crashed.

No check-ins. No gate controls. no airport operations, in other words.

I did discern, however, some slight movement on the right periphery of my vision–aha! One queue was moving, albeit rather languidly doing so. It was, as it turns out, the online check-in podium (I was in the Star Alliance hawt poo line up, ’cause Air Canada see I’m hot poo), so I jumped into that queue.

The computer processed a person every 10 minutes. Thus in 40 minutes it was my turn. Ten minutes later I was at security: ten after that in the lounge. eventually enough passengers for the Vilnius flight trickled through and we boarded. And left an hour late.

Oh yeah: while we were waiting to board an air ambulance crew and some military personnel came out of the gate. 15 mites later they returned with a blonde fairly strapped onto the gurney shouting “nooooo!”. Very disturbing.

Vilnius has an adorable little airport, where the bags come out quickly, the tourist info folks are charming, warm, and multilingual, and the woman in the kiosk is too. Because of my large bag I needed 2 tickets into town. The citybus was waiting and jumped on just as the doors closed.

TheComfort Hotel was about 100m away. After twice trying to stiff me with a dumpy room, Mrs Egan’s withering glare appeared–at which point they transferred my booking to the much nicer Panorama Hotel hotel. A large studio suite in fact. With a jacuzzi bathtub.

My wanderings around Vilnius at night led to pizza and salad. And a sound night’s sleep

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As I wandered through the Castle in Warsaw's Stare Miasto (Old Town) I thought to myself "a culture must value itself that goes to such great efforts to ensure its legacy is maintained.

And then I remember 95% of what I'm experiencing was recreated after WW II. Almost entirely financed by the Polish people themselves, despite the privations of communism.  That's pride folks.

panoramic view of main plaza in Stare Miasto in Warsaw

The Castle itself was razed by the Nazis as punishment for the Warsaw Uprising. This is a remarkable recreation then, a monument as much to collected memory as to the history embodied here. Tenacious seems an understatement. 

I'm not exactly a photographer, so I tend to snap a lot and often at random things.  Here's some randocity, inspired by texture, colour and light:

After the Castle I meandered down through Nowy Miasto (also rebuilt after the war) and visiting the Marie Curie Museum. Which is in the apartment where her parents lived when she was born. Curie was the 5th child and youngest of 4 daughters born to two educated parents. Curie was the first person to win Nobel prizes in TWO disciplines (physics and chemistry) and the only to do so in two science disciplines. She was also the first woman professor at the Sorbonne, having taken over the lab run by her husband after his death (about 2 years after they jointly won her first Nobel).

The second woman to win a Nobel in Science was her daughter and her husband. Curie and her daughter shared another aspect of life: both died from radiation exposure (Curie from anaemia, her daughter from leukaemia). Remarkable family; charming wee museum (no photos; I just grooved on the nerdy feminist vibes).

Jet lagged and disoriented, I decided to try and find the Warsaw Uprising Museum–and failed. But I did find the Memorial. Which fairly took my breath away:


And then I went back to my hotel and not sleeped.  Full set of photos to be found here

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Been playing catch-up on a number of fronts as of late. Mostly because I loathe not being on top of things; partially because I’m in the office 4 days this week, then on holidays for 11 days (w00t!). Consider this something of a drive-by post.

Interesting reading:

Ever heard of unschooling? Curious? This month’s University Affairs has a pretty good article on the subject. I’m was of mixed feelings: now I’m solidly in the opposed camp. Your 11 year old just learned to tie their shoelaces? Fail….

Student Evaluation of Teaching (SEoT) is an important aspect of ensuring the quality of both course/curriculum development and teaching in higher education. But what about evaluations halfway through a term? Some schools have formalized such processes, as indicated in an excellent article in the Chronicle. I’m not convinced–while I believe students need to have prominent voice in educational development I’m a big believer in learning-centred, rather than learner-centred pedagogy. Or andragogy, si vous preferiez…

Last week’s U21 Teaching and Learning Network meeting seemed to go rather well. In particular, CTLT’s Events team really outdid themselves. It helps when we work in a great unit in a great university.  Anything involving the Liu Institute and Museum of Anthropology can’t be bad either.

Edits for the January 2012 offering of ETEC565A are largely finished. Largely.

Ich habe kein Nachrichten mehr.  Except I’m not failing German…though I’m not sure I’m learning German either!


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Recommended iPad app: 2Screens

I had a meeting with a faculty member a couple of weeks ago about “tablet teaching”. For many folks tablet=iPad; given he’s a scientist I suspected he might be using a Wintel tablet–a PC with a touch screen.  Turns out both were right: he was using a Wintel tablet, but was interested in possibly moving to an iPad.

So I asked him to show me what he did. And what he did blew me away:

  • Pushing PowerPoint out and annotating on the slides
  • Zooming in and out of the screen
  • Sending the annotated slides to his students after class
  • Other kewl stuff my 47.5 year old brain cannot recall.

I was mightily impressed. And shortly thereafter was determined: is there an app for it? In fact, the number of productivity apps for presenting in a more interactive way was a surprise. After testing a few, one standouts. More about the app in a minute…

Using an iPad to teach/present/lecture/natter

If you want to use your iPad to teach, you need to get yourself properly kitted out. For sure you’ll need:

  • An iPad 😉
  • An iPad case that works in landscape position
  • Either a VGA or HDMI iPad out adapter (depending on your projection source; I’ve got both)
  • A stylus or digital pen that won’t scratch your iPad but will allow you to write and click.

If you want to use a presentation slide deck upon which you can easily annotate–and one your students can print post-class if they wish–a white background works best (and uses less ink). You’ll also need to accept that no slide animations (on a slide or between slides) will work. Which, contrary to many people’s assumptions is not the end of the world.

Finally, most apps that allow you to annotate on PowerPoint will convert your presentation to either a PDF or JPG: maintain control over this by creating your own PDF of the full slides (not handouts).  Now we’re ready to roll!

2Screens – recommended app

 2Screens couldn’t replicate everything my colleague did: it didn’t allow zooming in as deeply. But on balance that’s a minor limitation–this app rocks.  Here’s a quick overview.

John likes that  2Screens:

  • Supports Dropbox
  • Annotation tool is flexible
  • Built-in pointer can be an arrow, a laser dot, a highlight bar (among other options)
  • Display photos from your Photo Albums
  • Multiple tabs to switch from presentation to other collateral
  • Can save each slide/screen/tab with annotations to share with students afterwards
  • Built-in webbrowser for annotated webbrowsing, including bookmarks
  • Ability to taken notes that only you can see: they’re not broadcast on the external display
  • Incredibly good value: $4.99Supports Airplay, so you can send presentation wirelessly via AppleTV

This last point is easy to underestimate: by using Airplay via AppleTV, I can move around with my iPad in the classroom. Range is estimated at 10m, which is enough to wiggle around a fair bit of even many megalecture halls.

Under the hood

The interface isn’t entirely intuitive: the fact that the manual is for an earlier release of the app (with significant differences) entirely unhelpful. But it didn’t take long to get the gist of things.

Here’s the main interface whilst pushing a PowerPoint presentation:

As you can see there’s a few ways to move through slides (click or slide slider; there’s a couple of other ways too), the enhancement tools for adding private notes and annotate the slides are on the bottom. The web browser and tools are accessed via the top toolbar. Tapping any of these–ideally with your stylus–enables them.

With respect to the annotation tool options you can select to draw shapes, lines, or freehand. You can also pick the colour of the annotations–very useful, but do your audience a favour and avoid using white text on a dark background (owsie on the eyes).

You can also pick the point size of the pen (in pixels) as well as the eraser size. How do you enable the erase? Tap the pen in the top toolbar so the erase is point down!

Not perfect

It’s a great app–but it’s not perfect:

  • If the annotations would be appended to an entire PDF (rather than each slide as a JPG), circulating things would be much easier. I’d prefer to be able to  annotate using my keyboard (on the screen or my Bluetooth one).
  • I’d like really like to be able to resize the speaker notes and private notes windows via the iOS “pinch/flick” interface.
  • The pointer doesn’t seem to work when using Airplay to my Apple TV

Overall, though, this is a great start. Already I can’t wait to use this at a conference–I presented using my iPad at a conference in June and it worked well. Being able to annotate would’ve rocked it.

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MET Moodle now version 2!

The awesome folks in the Faculty of Education’s Computing and Media Services unit have moved our MET Moodle server to a new box AND upgraded us to version 2 (2.1 I believe).

If you’ve built a course under 1.9.8 it should work fine–but go test it before you actually need to use the site. I’ve tested most of the core functionality and found no problems. But it was a cheap and cheerful test.

Unfortunately I cannot provide tech support if you do have challenges…there’s a surfeit of resources online to help though, including videos, wikis and webpages.  But if you have any feedback, comment below!

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2 – 4 – 6 – 8 can you say e-val-u-ate?

Apparently many of you can. Just reviewed my evaluations for the summer offerings of 565A.  Overall folks are pleased with the course and the work Robert and I did (thanks again Rob, if you’re reading this). I, of course, zoom into the negative parts and think “am I that bad?”

No, I’m not. But there’s room for improvement in the course–and in my practice. Though some folks’ feedback makes it difficult to see the point through the snark. Or veiled homophobia, as it were. What. Ever.

In terms of the former I’ll be looking at the following as possible changes for the January offering:

  • A downloadable course syllabus
  • Harmonizing the Course Intro section with the learning modules
  • Updating the assessment rubrics
  • Recalculating the overall course workload
  • Developing new cases for the small group task
  • Mmmmmaybe developing new cases for some of the weekly discussions. Especially Raj (resource issue)
  • Maybe dropping one of the cases near the end of the course, since there are two assignments due
  • Revisiting (again) how participation is assessed

As for me the lessons learned are more straightforward: 4 sections is insane, even with a TA. I think I did a good job this summer: I prefer to do an excellent one. Folks don’t seem to believe me when I say I’m harder on myself than anyone else…

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