iOS and Android

I thought it a good idea to talk about the benefits and challenges I had with both the Apple and Android os and devices. I don’t want this to be a comparison or face off in the traditional sense, there are plenty of those floating out there already. Instead this is just things I noticed as a lecturer about the devices that made my life easier or harder. While the grant was only for an iPad mini, I actually had an iPhone 4 in my drawer which I had never used. I thought to immerse myself in the Apple experience it would be best to use both devices together. Previously I had been using a LG Optimus and Galaxy Tab 10.1, both of which I liked.

The setup was fairly easy on both platforms, and syncing them to all my accounts was super easy.

One thing I really admire about the Apple devices is they do what they are primarily designed for well. Texting, calls, email, and the calendar are all very easy to use on iOS. I have found Android devices not as easy to use, especially in the calling and texting camps.The interface animations are on iOS are fantastic, and always smooth. This was a stark contrast to the Android gear. I never realized how jumpy the transitions of the Galaxy tab were until I used the iPad. That said, the jumpy interface on Android were most likely due to the widgets I used, and really missed on the iOS gear. For example on galaxy tabs home page I had the weather report for the area I was in, my daily calander, and email notifications. This was incredibly handy as I could unlock the device as I got up in the morning, see my teaching timetable and meetings, latest emails, and if I needed to grab an umbrella. To get this same information on iOS requires opening and closing several apps.

Both the tablets came with devices to wireless connect them to either the classes projector or the Mobile Airplay Screens (MOAs) we had on loan. These were the apple TV and a Sharecast dongle Both devices connected with ease and I never had any problems with the connections dropping on either. The problems with both devices connecting was highlighted when students wanted to connect. The all share cast works on a pairing system that takes a minute or two to setup initially. Once a device is paired all it needs is to be plugged in and a switch flicked on the Samsung tablet and the device connects. This system made it so much easier to connect than apple devices so long as you only ever want to use one device. The pain with this system is that as soon as someone else wants to connect it requires the device to be paired to their device which is slow. It also does not remember previously paired devices so you need to constantly be pairing it. This hindered the class joining in with their own devices. Apple TV was much better for collaboration as once setup on a students device could jump on or off as they pleased. The problem with the airplay as it involved checking you are on the right WiFi network and sometimes required telling the device to “forget” other WiFi networks in order to work. Of the two I felt apple provided the best solution for collaborative class room sharing of mobile devices by a significant margin.

The inability to use Apple devices as a portable drive, and the inability to simply transfer files was the most annoying. With my Galaxy tab I could drag and drop an entire papers curriculum to the device and know its there whether I want to revise a lecture on the bus, teach from the tablet during a class, or use it as a flash drive. It meant my tablet could act as a one stop shop for every resource I needed as an educator. But this simple drag and drop operation on android takes constant fiddling on Apple. To do the same you need to upload all the files to cloud storage from your PC, then pull the files back down from the iPad. Even then you don’t have the ability to save all the files to the device, as iPads are picky about what they except. Often the apps would then need to process the files making what should be a something simple into something very roundabout.

Apps as a lecturer I found an interesting subject when it came to the OS. Both devices had a range of handy apps for helping out with learning. Both devices supported all the apps we wanted to use. Apple had less apps but more quality apps. Also worth noting that apps on iOS tended to work better. I am sure that this is a result of apple only needing to cater to a few devices as opposed to android which must cater to a wide range of devices from different manufacturers. This saw apple have a huge advantage.

What the students bought along to class was a mixed bag. Most students owned a smartphone. But the range was everything from the latest iPhones to $99 no brand android devices. This caused problems. Only a few students ever had the ability to connect to the AirPlays and Allshare Casts. Going forward if there is ever going to be hope of students sharing there will need to be standardized equipment they will need. Another option is to have all work students want to share online in some form or

One of the classes we were teaching how to create web apps then wrap them with phone gap. There is a clear cut hands down winner here and its Android. With an Android device a student can pick it up and transfer an app installer to it and open it on the device. Its a incredibly simple process that works well. Getting the same app onto an apple device required much work. You first need to be an apple developer. This takes a while to register. For individuals this costs $99 a year, but to apples credit there is a free university program which we opted for. The registration process required me talking to several people on both my end and on Apples and took 2 weeks to complete. At around this point apple shut down the developer community for roughly 10 days due to security issues. After just shy of a month Apple had granted me permission to install an app on a student project that runs for only six weeks.


Mix Methods Research

I read this Poem today as an argument for mix methods research. I had heard it paraphrased before without realizing it came from another source. It made me smile so decided to share it here.

John Godfrey Saxe’s ( 1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend,

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Google+ and group assignments

We experimented using Google+, results were a mixed bag. For classes it worked very well, however as an informal meeting space for grouping researchers it did not work well.

As a tool in class I was very impressed by Google+. It was implemented in Creative Practice and provided a great digital meeting spot. Both teams used it extensively with very little encouragement needed. Both teams seemed to enjoy Google+  as it afforded them a simple way to keep in touch. A great example of this  is one student was not present for a month of classes. He was able to keep in touch with his team in the class and ensure that his team was on track and contribute. For the other students they used this ability to delegate tasks and both ask for and give feedback throughout the week, rather than having to wait for class to roll round. Also as a lecturer this was a handy tool for distributing knowledge quickly.

Where I encountered issues with Google+ was when I tried to establish a group for students currently doing research within honors, masters, or PhD studies. As there are no classes and I am not the supervisor for these students it is very difficult to encourage people to not only join but sign up for what some students perceive as “another Facebook”. I had encountered some resistance from students in the past signing up for such services based on these perceptions.

Overcoming these perceptions is difficult if you are not in contact with the students, and makes me wonder if Facebook would actually be better as there is, in my experience, higher student by in. Another consideration is buy in from practitioners. Inviting people from industry to be involved with groups suffers the same problem. It seems what makes Google+ strong as a tool for education  the fact no-one uses it, also seems to be one of its greatest limitations.  It warrants further investigation.






Using WordPress to capture student progress worked very well. In the group context it provided a forum where the students could collect their ideas, thoughts, and progress. It was interesting see how the two teams responded to the opportunity to use word press. One team did not see any value in the exercise and chose to avoid keeping a word press, while the other team appointed one person to keep the WordPress blog current and produced an interesting artifact.

The team that did not keep a WordPress site felt that the maintaining of a Google plus community served well enough for documenting their progress. This line of thinking did have some advantages. In terms of use of social media the team preformed better than the other as everything was forced through Google plus. This however did not lead to as much reflection on decisions as the other team, and did not clearly document research. Also worth mentioning, as an observer the team that did not use WordPress made their information much harder to access. In order to understand the decisions made required digging through various posts made within a social media site. I also felt that as there was no clear space specifically assigned to record progress, decisions, and research, a number of decisions happening outside of Google plus were never documented.

The team that did keep a WordPress benefited from having an edited diary of all decisions that transpired. The ability word press has to generate clean presentation of a groups thoughts is also a great plus. I think the success of the teams WordPress can be attributed to appointing one person to maintaining the site, or that the appointed person came up with the idea therefore having higher buy in.

In future we I will be rolling this out in a number of classes. I can see the creation and maintenance of a word press site by students could easily replace activities like class presentations and provide a space for not only practicing critique but receiving it too.

AR and Geo Location…

AR layers (and Geo-location)


Trialing Geo-location was a bust in the web apps class. I had a feeling that this would be the case as a device with a keyboard is needed to code and a mouse or other such accurate pointing device is needed to create the graphics needed. As this was most likely going to fail given the subject matter it has been pushed to another section of the paper. Geo-location will be used in the next assignment which involves shooting in various locations, rather than sitting static in a lab or home PC.

While exploring geo-location, we stumbled across the idea of using augmented reality markers. This idea does side track from the idea of geo-location but is often packaged with the tools. The basic idea of augmented reality markers is they allow for the overlapping or converging of digital and physical space. Some ideas were kicked around as to how this could be used with both the students and other lecturers. One idea with potential was using physical notes to generate digital ones.

Students will often begin all ideas with pencil and paper. As most designers know this is because they are tools we have been raised to use from a young age, and are very efficient with. Most attempts I have seen as a lecturer to replace pencil and paper in the class often leads to double-ups in effort from students. As students start on paper then repeat there thinking within another context (as asked for by assessment criteria often) while adding affordances of blogs and social media, ect. There is good in this, in that the translation exercise often forces reflection, but I am curious as to if this step is needed and how students would perform if it was not needed. The ability AR markers give do allow students to skip this step which in theory seems more efficient.

The idea of using AR markers is that they allow for a student to pencil all their ideas down within a note book or on sheets of paper. Then they can go back to that doodle, scan and upload the page to a service such as layar and then add digital content on top. For example a student could draw a mockup for an interface with written notes, then augment that drawing using layar to include links to examples of similar interfaces, related imagery, blogs on the theory used, ect. See it in action.

Reflections on PG class

So I just finished a 6 week (@ 6hours a week contact time) class teaching web app development. Why web apps you ask? Sure they are becoming less popular but with phone gap they can be ported to all the popular mobile platforms with ease, which is a nice feature. Also  HTML, CSS, & JavaScript are more common languages than the C variants that android and apple use. We have run  the assignment the year previous with a positive response from the class, with students even finding immediate real world application and employment opportunities – not bad for 6 weeks. With a solid background set, we decided to advance the class further this year. Thanks to a teaching grant we got a bunch of cool toys and tech and tried them out. The following is my reflection on these


The moas are a simple idea – a big flat screen tv hooked to some speakers and an apple airplay TV. The construction of these devices is impressive; they can be moved around with ease and only require one power plug to be connected and a couple of on switches flicked to bring the whole system online. It allows students to share there iPhone or iPad screen with the TV anywhere there is a power socket. The idea of such a device that can share mobile devices sounded fantastic given the class was all about building web apps. In the first couple of classes the MOA saw good use as different apps were demonstrated for the students consumption by the lecturer. The lecturer also invited students to share via their own devices but a lack of appropriate student equipment limited the amount of students who could participate. The labs contain a Mac Pros with dual monitors, so sharing was often facilitated through these. The computer labs the classes were held in (and all the Digital Media labs) severely limited the ability of the MOA to be moved around, meaning it essentially became a fixed screen in the room. As there was already a projector in the room which was larger than the MOA and in a better viewing position, the MOA was rendered almost redundant. This was a sad realization for the device, though not a wasted exercise.

The MOAs I believe still to be valid, just in the right context. Rather than pout about the defeat we decided to think through the intended affordances of such devices and consider how to apply them in the context of the labs. Technology such Lanschool allows sharing of students computers and may allow us to share in much the way the MOA intended to. This could allow for students to use mobile devices connected to web based services outside the labs, then connect to these same services using a lab computer during class, as to share over the labs data shows. This software does run the risk of becoming “nanny ware”, used to monitor students. Careful consideration of its implementation would be needed to ensure it is used in the spirit of collaborative learning.

more thoughts to come, including google+, wordpress, and layar.

JSON – Building a custom YouTube app

I was playing with JSON on youtube the other day and built a web app that just pulls down videos and presents them however you like. The idea was to show a class that JSON is not to scary and that making a app is not to hard if you have jQuery mobile or a boilerplate kicking around. The app can be seen running here (dubbed youTube awsome-er app), though be warned, it had no love put into it and was for teaching purposes.

It did get me thinking that this would make a great platform for teaching. Armed with a smart phone with youTube capture you could quickly make content and students could very quickly see that content. Might be good for capturing FAQ in papers.

The basic JSON request looks like:

function showSkrillexVideos(data) {
  var feed = data.feed;
  var entries = feed.entry;
  var html = '
    '; for (var i = 0; i < entries.length; i++) { var entry = entries[i]; var title = entry.title.$t.substr(0, 60); var thumbnailUrl = entries[i].media$$thumbnail[0].url; var playerUrl = entries[i].media$$content[0].url; html += 'html goes here' + title + 'html goes here' + playerUrl + 'html goes here' + thumbnailUrl + 'html goes here'; } html += '
'; document.getElementById('videos').innerHTML = html; }

The Art of Seeing

I stumbled across this book by Huxley, as most do who study visual communication, and was fascinated by his views on learning to see empirically. I did also get quite a good laugh out of some of the other ideas like “palming” and “sunning”, which is essentially rubbing your eyes and starring at the sun to make your eyes work better. I’m no optometrist so I could be wrong, but these both sound like bad ideas. Since the book is 70 years old there seems to be some pdf copies of it floating around on the internet, though there is nothing better than a print copy 😀

Proposed Methodology & Methods

The study I propose is still very rough around the edges, however, being the visual person I am, I thought a diagram was in order. In my attempt to make the diagram look serious it wound up looking like a 5th form science text-book diagram. The approach uses heuristic inquiry, practice-based research, and a mix methods qualitative and quantitative approach for data collection. This approach should allow enough flexibility for the rapid changes taking place with mobile technologies. That said, the approach still needs tweaks and clarification and is a work in progress.Diagram of methodology and methods