Wednesday, March 14, 2012

iMovie on iPods

My iPad 1 does not have a video camera like the iPad 2 (and New iPad), but I just got some iPod Touches for classroom use. I shared them with my students to make videos. You can see the videos they produced in under half an hour. As of this posting, the longer video is one that I made over the weekend, and the one that looks fanciest (on poetic forms) was produced on an iPad (which seems to have more capabilities in iMovie than the iPod Touch. Check out the videos here:

I like easy-to-use portable technology that lets you do something on the spur of the moment without much effort that can apply directly to what you are teaching. The production values aren't great, but that is beside the point; you're making something that meets an immediate need, not something that you would turn into a best-selling product. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dead iPad, New iPad

Over the weekend, my iPad died. Actually, it didn't completely die, but it wouldn't charge, which meant I only had a few hours of use left in it. It also wouldn't sync with my computer. Fortunately, I had synced recently enough so almost everything was backed up. I checked online and several people recommended a soft reboot (holding down the power and start buttons until it restarts), but that didn't help. I took it to the Apple Store (in the Towson Mall after making an appointment at the Genius Bar). They checked it out and confirmed that it wasn't getting anything out of the port. They noticed a ding in the back (I have no idea how that got there because I have been very careful with it) and said that that probably caused the damage and wasn't generally covered under the warranty. However, they swapped it for a new (refurbished) one anyway for free. After confirming that the new one synced fine with my computer and was restored from my computer, we cleared the old one. The only cost was a new case I bought to try to prevent any damage to the new one.

I was very pleased with the great service from the Genius Bar. If you go, try to go before normal store hours (they have appointments before the store opens) because the place went from calm and serene to a zoo very quickly.

Finally, I mentioned to another employee that I got great service at the Genius Bar and asked if they accept tips, but she said that they generally don't (although she didn't make it sound like a hard-and-fast rule); she suggested that my thanks to the person who helped me would be enough.

David Marcovitz

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

iPad Screenshot

I was looking for some information about something for the iPad, and I came across a new trick. You can take a picture of the screen (screenshot) of your iPad by pressing the two buttons simultaneously. You should hear a camera shutter sound, and the picture gets saved in your Photos. It's not the most amazing thing in the world, but I find screenshots to be very useful on my computer for all kinds of things. If nothing else, it will be helpful for people writing tutorials about how to use the iPad.

David Marcovitz

Monday, April 11, 2011

iPads for Kindergarten

One school district in Maine is going to use iPads in kindergarten. Part of the reason is so they don't have to hire more teachers. Quite interesting:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I had an interesting experiment in my class last week. I used, and it works on the iPad. The main idea is that it provides a chat area for side conversations. The goal is to direct the side conversation energy toward the class. I kept a window with the chat area projected on the screen during class, and I posted some rules:

1. Use your real name
2. Be polite
3. No side conversations (i.e., don't create another chat area)
4. Stay on topic

After some initial banter about the weather, the chatting went extremely well. Students (these are graduate students; I'm not sure how well it would work in K-12) asked questions, made points without interrupting the main conversation, and contributed positively to the conversation. Every now and then, I would glance at the chat stream and respond to some of the comments there.

It was very easy to use. Just go to and set up an area. You can set the area to expire in a few hours or a few days so it will disappear when you are done. Then tell everyone the name of the area. They don't need to sign in, just enter a name to use in the chat (which is why I told them to use real names). Everyone in the area is updated automatically as the comments come in. I was also able to save a transcript after the class.

It had some problems, but they were generally overcome quite easily. Throughout the class, the refresh was very flaky. It would usually work once or twice and then stop. However, a quick click on the browser refresh button took care of that. Unfortunately, at the very end of class, the connection got very flaky, and I had trouble refreshing at all and got an error message. But for over two hours, it worked perfectly.

When I brought it up, one of my students said he had actually used it with his middle-school students the day before. He said it worked very well while they were watching a video. It allowed for a bit of silent discussion during the video.

I can see some major drawbacks in the K-12 environment. First, it seemed a bit too flaky for young students. I wouldn't want to have to interrupt class to troubleshoot individual students connections. But the biggest issue is also one of the biggest advantages. The fact that there is no login makes it really easy to use, but that means students can put in whatever name they want. A couple of times my graduate students spoofed other peoples' names, but it was all in good fun and not constant, but I could see this being a real distraction for K-12 students. On the other hand, I could see that a teacher could simply take it away if the students are violating the rules.

I'll probably try it again but not right away. I think that using it too much would probably diminish its value.

David Marcovitz

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Public Radio App

My new favorite app for my iPad is actually an iPhone app (which means it is unnecessarily space constrained). I love the Public Radio app. I can listen to any public radio station in the country and even look up which shows are playing now. This is great on a Sunday afternoon when your local station insists on playing the [insert name of boring show you hate], and you would rather listen to [insert name of interesting show you love]. Right now, there are 102 stations playing Morning Edition, but there are a couple of hundred other choices from classical or jazz music to Maryland Morning to Democracy Now to On the Media to Newshour to ...

It also offers a limited number of shows "On Demand" so you can listen any time. Finally, it has some interesting features like an alarm clock and Sleep feature so you could use it in place of a clock radio.

It is a bit flaky, especially when my Internet connection is flaky so I have found that restarting the iPad helps, but when it is working, it is wonderful.

David Marcovitz

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Figures in Textbooks are Problematic

I mentioned in an earlier post that some students had bought the Kindle version of some of the texts for one of my classes. For this particular class, they are having a great deal of trouble. I have found iBooks to be great for straight text (and the Kindle owners have found the same to be true for Kindle), but the problem arises with figures, especially complex ones. One of my texts has computer screen shots to show the reader what their screen is supposed to look like on the computer if they are following the instructions. This can be difficult, but it is made more difficult by including text that the reader is supposed to type. Normal text can be easily adjusted and resized so just about anyone can read it. It seems that figures cannot be resized on either the iPad or the Kindle. On the iPad the normal pinching action does nothing for the pictures. The Kindles doesn't even have such a feature.

One student was so frustrated by this that she gave up on the Kindle version and went to the paperback version. Fortunately, I was able to loan her a copy of the book so she wouldn't have to buy it again (I wrote that particular book and have a few extra copies lying around). As a reference book, after the class is over, the Kindle version will probably be sufficient, but as the primary book for use during the class, it is not.