Mellel Lite

I've been using Mellel for many years now as an excellent alternative to Word - a word processor specifically for Mac and good for scholarly use, dissertations and other long documents. They have just brought out Mellel Lite available from the Mac App Store at an introductory price of only £2.99. If you don't use it already give it a try.


iPad questionnaire

If you get a moment please complete my questionnaire about the use of the iPad, or other touch screen tablet computer, in teaching and assessment in higher education - it will only take a few minutes.
The link is here.



Oh dear! I have been neglecting this blog, that doesn't mean to say I haven't been beavering away at all things academically technological, just not sharing them here.

A recent post from Christopher Long reminded me to mention Zotero. I had been using Mendeley but have gone back to Zotero because I found that Mendeley desktop crashed on quitting rather too often but also because of Zotpad for iPad and iPhone which I prefer to Mendeley Lite.

Zotero is a plugin for Firefox and now also for Chrome and Safari and it also has a stand-alone desktop version allowing off-line usage. For me though the extra plus is using the iPad to read PDFs of journal articles and being able to annotate them when reading in any number of the PDF apps available for the iPad. I use a couple of different ones - I like Notability (see post below) but like Christopher Long I also use GoodReader. You can annotate then return them to ZotPad and they are then updated in the Zotero library.



I've just discovered Postbox, an email client based on Mozilla Thunderbird for Windows and OS X. Here at Bath Spa we have gone over entirely as an institution to Google mail and all the other apps that come with it, which I think is terrific but I've always found the email interface rather unfriendly and, frankly, rather ugly and old-fashioned. Postbox looks great and is easy to use. It works well with GMail and Google Calendar, it has a button to send message content to Evernote and, in the Mac version, you can send attachments to Dropbox. I discovered it through the Prof Hacker blog of the US Chronicle of Higher Education. In the Mac version you can try it free for 30 days but at the moment it costs only $9.95.


iPad software

I've given a couple of short presentations at BSU recently on using the iPad for teaching and assessment, here is a little information on what I'm doing and the software I use.

Word processing
I've spent some time trying out different apps, the good thing of course is that they're either free or very cheap. The most expensive i use is Quickoffice Pro HD (just bought by Google) which I think is the best app for word-processing, Excel and 'PowerPoint', although Doc2 HD is very good and the most recent version supports tracked changes/review comments.

PDF and annotation
I guess this is the heart of my project and the way I am lecturing at the moment. I am not a lover of PowerPoint and other similar versions of presentation software though I have yet to try Prezi which many people find much more flexible and intuitive. What I have always done is to have my materials as PDFs, pictures, mp3s etc., and move between them rather than following the structured slide-by-slide format. I used to use overhead projectors but now use annotated PDFs using touchscreen technology on tablet computers. I have been using neu Annotate PDF which is very good, but more recently have moved over to Notability which I think is terrific. One of the good things about it is to be able to sort all the PDFs into folders. Annotation is very straightforward with a stylus. GoodReader is also very good but rather more complicated because of the number of features it has so I find it more difficult to use.

I use Scanner Pro which is a portable scanner for iPhone or iPad. You simply take a picture of a document and it turns it into a PDF file. Not the greatest quality but quite useful. I'm also going to use a Fujitsu ScanSnap document scanner as I move further towards a 'paperless workflow' (getting into the jargon here) but it hasn't arrived yet.

In the Cloud

I use mostly Dropbox but also Sugar Sync, Box and SpiderOak all offering either 2 or 5 GB of free storage - these four together give you 14GB. You can use an app like Primadesk where you can view all your data across all cloud storage in one place, which is quite useful. I also use Evernote quite a bit.

Referencing managers
Before I had the iPad I used Zotero (Firefox add-on) but then changed to Mendeley, which is also free, and now with the iPad Mendeley is the only one unless you are prepared to buy the excellent Sente for laptop (quite expensive, $90, but the iPad app is free). Mendeley has a desktop version and an iPad version called, unfortunately, Mendeley Lite. While you can read and annotate PDF versions of journal articles in Mendeley Lite I find it a little cluncky on the iPad and tend to open them in Notability and annotate and save them there. Christopher Long of Pennsylvania State University philosophy department has some interesting things to say about all of this on his blog The Long Road.

JISC elevator

Apologies for the silence for the past couple of months, endless exams and marking as well as many performances with the Gavin Bryars ensemble of The Sinking of the Titanic, it is the centenary year, as well as other concerts including playing Maxwell Davies' Hymnos at the Elektrostatic festival in Bristol with Max in the audience. Just got back from a Titanic performance in Cork, anyway enough of all that.

Many thanks to all those who voted for my JISC iPad project, it wasn't funded but was on the short list if any other projects that were chosen didn't go ahead. I did have some positive and useful feedback from the assessors and I have put in a proposal for funding to the Higher Education Academy, we shall see.



The JISC Elevator scheme closed on March 30 and there are some excellent ideas well worth a look. The 'winners' will be chosen by the end of April http://elevator.jisc.ac.uk/

My iPad project has also won some funding from my own institution's E-learning Projects together with four others.

I'm marking an up-coming assessment over the Easter break using both audio feedback and pdf annotated feedback. This is also part of a large-scale JISC funded project we have running here in collaboration with the University of Winchester called FASTECH which is specifically about using currently available technologies to support and enhance assessment and feedback. There is some information here on the JISC site but our own website will go live quite soon. I'll report here on how it goes!