Heuristic Learning & Shakespeare

I used to write about apps I used or liked as part of my work, or at least I recognised could aid me in my work, but have been remiss on this front for a while. So, with the urging of a few peeps on Twitter (thank you) I’ll start it up again.

This new app I’ve installed actually covers two loves – learning/reading and technology. In my role as eLearning Consultant at Warwick Business School I am responsible for the University of Warwick’s Shakespeare and His World MOOC. My involvement with this course and Professor Jonathan Bate has kick started my love of reading – I studied English Literature A-level. So here we have an app that’ll help me understand the use of technology (and see a fantastic new approach to tech that can aid learning) as well as the understand the Bard’s language.

Back in 2011 I wrote this post about how ebooks, even apps, could be used to greatly enhance the learning experience beyond just the basic text-and-note features the early e-readers offered. It seems it’s coming true (I wish the images in that post had survived a server & hosting service migration)?

Heuristic Shakespeare - The TempestHeuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest (iPad): Like many I find Shakespeare difficult to understand, sometimes just plain obscure. Through the MOOC mentioned above I have learned a lot more about Shakespeare’s influences in the time he wrote the plays (literary, cultural, personal, etc.) as well as the subtleties of his jokes and digs(and careful similarities) to the establishment. This app, therefore brings everything together and makes this one play, The Tempest, so much easier to understand, read, watch, and like.

“The Tempest from Heuristic Shakespeare is the first in a collection of thirty-seven separate apps. Each app is a tool for demystifying one of Shakespeare’s plays and making it more accessible to a modern audience. Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate take us on journey of discovery using the world-famous Arden Shakespeare texts and their extensive essays and notes. The apps function is to provide an essential aid to understanding and enjoying the plays in the theatre or on the screen.”

Heuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest $5.99 / £4.49
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/heuristic-shakespeare-tempest/id1099176816

From the outset it is clear this app brings the very best of the internet (small ‘i’ these days) and learning. Not least the range of names and successful Shakespearean actors and scholars like Sir Ian McKellen and Prof Sir Jonathan Bate (both of who I worked with on another MOOC), but the way in which multimedia has been used to enhance the text, not replace it.

For those studying Shakespeare for any level of exam or are just an avid reader or Shakespeare lover this App is as good as any book or cheat-sheet note … if not better! If you ignore the videos where the actors read/act the play for you (a massive boost to my understanding – let the actors handle the difficulty of getting the pace, language and emphasis right, I can concentrate on the words and their meanings) the rest of the features are worth getting the app on their own – Shakespeare’s timeline, productions of the play, a copy of the First Folio pages, etc.

Note: I wont review each of the subsequent 36 apps, if indeed they do get round to them all, but suffice to say this approach is a quality one, offering everything I could ever have wanted when I was 16-18 and studying Shakespeare myself.

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 1  Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 4

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 5

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 2  Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 3

Now on to the actually purpose of the App .. and it being called ‘heuristic’. For me a ‘heuristic’ learning experience is all about having the freedom or opportunity to use my experiences to discover or solve something myself. I may be led to the subject, question, or the problem, but the process of learning and solving or answering the question is for me to work out. I wont use, or even know, the best or most efficient process to use to do this, I’ll no doubt flounder around while i figure out what I need to be doing, but it’ll be my decision, my design process, and my skills that’ll take me through this and towards a solution.

And this is exactly what this App offers … the ability to use/choose what version of the play I want: either the text of the play, the pages from the First Folio, actors performing the words, understanding where the play. This is amazing and there should be more opportunities for people to learn like this, Shakespeare or not.

If you’re an English Literature teacher, or a student who’s used the App please let me know what you think of it? Did it help? What aspect of the App you found most useful, interesting, distracting, good for comprehension, good for revision, etc.?

 

Why I tweet #edchat

Inspired by the many talented people who draw and sketch their thoughts (and hoping I can emulate even just a smidgen of their abilities) here is my first (public) drawing from the iPad App Paper by 53 – why I tweet.

David Hopkins - Why I tweet

Please feel free to share or remix, comment or criticise  (although I’d rather you didn’t), and try for yourself. The Paper App and all the pens are now free (but wasn’t when I first found it!) and have produced some amazing artwork and drawings, some of which Julian Stodd used and allowed to be used in The Really Useful #EdTechBook.

It’s also worth noting why I add hashtags to my blog post titles, read about it from 2011!

The Unsung Tech Hero: iPod Classic

I’ve had (and still got, somewhere) an iPod Mini, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, and my iPod Classic. Why am I still favouring the unpopular Classic over the other more fashionable or stylish iPods. Easy … storage.

My music iTunes library is over 64gb, and the Classic (I have a capacity of an advertised 120gb – realistically only about 113gb) was the only decently priced option to store it all.

And Apple have killed it off. It’s probably in favour of the touchscreen rather than the out-of-date click-wheel (I still like it though), but there isn’t an alternative with the capacity for my whole library. This means I’m going to be mega annoyed when/if my Classic develops faults and I have to look a the quite frankly inferior options.

I have my Classic in the car during the week so I can listen to something I want (without the inane and annoying radio DJ dribble/banter), and it’s in the kitchen plugged in to the stereo at the weekend providing background music and a lively environment.

I have playlists for different moods, different stages of my musical journey, compilations for different tastes, etc. I still like to listen to an album in the order it was produced, I’m slowly digitising my 400+ vinyl collection so I can listen to it again (in all it’s vinyl LP crackles and scratches) and relive those awful teenage years. And my Classic makes this happen.

My Classic gets used, and get’s used a lot, and has done for over 6 years now. There’s nothing wrong with it. Do I now have to explain to my kids about the demise of vinyl LPs, cassettes, CDs, and now the MP3 player? Has it come to that? Is MP3 dead, long live the App?

A quick search shows the URL www.apple.com/uk/ipodclassic, but you won’t get the Classic, you are shown the Touch. I’ve nothing against the Touch, I still have mine at home, but it cannot hold anywhere near the 64gb of my music at once. I have an iPhone so I don’t need the apps. I know from some people the way to deal with this is to continually change what’s on it, depending on mood, etc. But I can do that quite easily on the Classic just by selecting a different playlist, artist, album, genre, etc. I also don’t want to keep connecting and reconnecting it to my old and creaky laptop.

So, is music & MP3 storage no longer important to Apple? What are you doing to hold your large (?) iTunes collections?

What Apple giveth (and get’s us hooked on), Apple taketh away (and leaves us high and dry).

Oh, one other thing – I stopped buying music from iTunes years ago. I still have a fair bit of music in Apple DRM’d format, but the vast majority of it is from my CDs or bought elsewhere online. Not only are the alternatives DMR-free, it is nearly always cheaper on Amazon or Play.

  • I see a whole raft of iPod Classics are now on eBay. I can pick up a 6th gen 160gb iPod Classic for £100 … tempting just to do it and have it in reserve for when this trusted piece of tech needs replacing.

iPod Classic

Image source: David Hopkins (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Digital Distraction

“The mere presence of a cell or smartphone on the table can disengage people during in-person conversations and hinder their empathy, according to a new Virginia Tech study that finds your attention is divided even if you’re not actively looking at your phone.”

The article ‘Your smartphone could be turning you into a lousy friend – even when you’re not using it‘ is as much about the social impact of the always-on connections we have through our mobile devices as it is about how we manage them.

“For many, digital distraction involves the “constant urge to seek out information, check for communication and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds,” the authors write.”

I like the term ‘digital distraction’ as it is something I find very easy to relate to – I am digitally distracted and I admit it. I look at my phone all too often – for the time, checking email, checking Twitter (saved searches, hashtags, lists, notifications, etc.) – as well as spending a little time on it – a few minutes on BBC News App or a game while waiting for the kettle to boil, Flipboard for something different, checking the weather, etc. – to a lot of time – YouTube or iPlayer videos, games, Kindle books, etc.

In the linked article ‘Digital overload: How we are seduced by distraction‘ it is easy to see why, by the end of the day, my eyes are sore, thumbs aching, and my iPhone battery is nearly dead. It’s been in pretty much constant use all day, even if for only short (<1 minute) periods – it still needs to connect to a network or search for a data connection.

If I could stop doing this I’d be happy, but I know what I’m like – I want to know what’s going on, therefore I will continue to  access my online networks. It’s not a fear of missing out (although I’ll admit there may be an element of it in there somewhere), it’s more a need to know about is sooner and not later as it could help me out in the here-and-now.

How digitally distracted are you (if at all)?

Digital distraction

Image source: Michael Verhoef (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The trails we leave #eLearning

Continuing my interest in data and how it can be used, this project and associated video is a very useful indication of how data from one App (called ‘Human’) can show us how we move.

Do you walk, run, cycle?

“Human is an iPhone app that runs in the background of your phone and automatically detects activities like walking, cycling, running, and motorized transport. All visualizations and charts are solely based on aggregated data from people using the Human app. “

The ‘maps’ generated from the (anonymised) data in the video are not matched to any mapping software, the white pixels are purely activity and movement of individual App users.

Think what something like this could do to your learning materials and your understanding of what, why, or how students interact with it? Whether it’s location-based (see where students go on campus, in rooms, through the library, etc.) or virtually (through learning resources, materials, help or study guides, etc.). Mind you, would the data and data maps be a distraction from the more important issues of quality of learning or hands-on help?

Do you see ‘big data’ as something that is worth investing time and effort in, for the benefit of students and/or institutions? Are we running down an avenue that is actually distracting us from providing quality learning materials and quality learning experiences? What do you think, did the Horizon Report get it right or wrong?

This is how we move from Human.

Here’s a GIF of motorised transport in London:

'Human' Data map

Big Data, Learning Analytics, and the Learners

Big Data is the new buzzword. It’s not ‘big’ enough to topple MOOC from the lips of educatros, but it is becoming a topic that is being talked about more and more.

Firstly, what’s the difference between Big Data and Learning Analytics (if there is one)?

Learning Analytics, as defined by the 2013 Horizon Report is “big data applied to education”. There, that helped yes? No?

Then what is Big data? According to Lisa Arthur it is confusing in that it isn’t just one thing or the other, it is “a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis”. Ed Dumbill says that Big Data is “data that exceeds the processing capacity of conventional database systems. The data is too big, moves too fast, or doesn’t fit the strictures of your database architectures. To gain value from this data, you must choose an alternative way to process it.

Data, big or not, is something that is captured and stored from our exposure and interaction with external sources. Offline data could include things like purchases, (credit cards, etc.) and travel (petrol pumps, airlines, trains, etc.) where as online data that is captured include searches, browsing history, accesses, and habits,

How is this pertinent to education and educators? Think about your phone or tablet. If you use it on campus, and have at any time logged into the (free?) wifi then the odds are that it will still connect to the network next time you are in range. The system can track where on campus you are from the node you access or connect to. Also tracked (actively or not) is your activity through the network – websites, systems, movement/locations, etc. All before you actively use the device.

The other (positive?) aspect of Big Data and Learning Analytics are those associated with online behaviour in a specific system … the VLE maybe? Once the student logs in it is possible to track each click, every keystroke, every interaction, and more besides. The idea is to ‘learn’ the profile of the student through their behaviour in order to track unusual activity and, possibly, be alerted to anything out of the ordinary - students lagging behind or finding particular subjects or topics difficult.

Learning Analytics, then, is all about finding patterns and clues in the volume of ‘big data’ sets and numbers, and using them to help students.

Big Data Learning Analytics

In 2011 Cailean Hargrave presented at the FOTE conference the ‘Student Analytics for Success’. It was not received well at the time, not least as it was based on predictive crime (remember Minority Report anyone?) purporting to predict behaviour based on assumptions made about the student and his/her background. I felt worried that a student who was busy and might have let a milestone slip might be flagged as ‘in-need’ unnecessarily, and that a student who was struggling personally (not academically) would be by-passed in the system as they were getting everything handed in on time and attending all lectures.

Data can be manipulated according to the need of the analysis, and I would not want the ‘individual’ taken out of the data – the system can be programmed to look for certain traits or behaviours, but that needs some far reaching assumptions to be made, assumptions that need carefully defining.

Diana Laurillard writes in The Guardian that “Big data could improve teaching, but not without educators taking control of this extraordinary methodological gift. At present the field is being driven almost entirely by technology professionals who are not educators and have never taught online. Instead, we could be recruiting all lecturers everywhere to collaborate and generate their own large-scale data collection and analysis. Then big data could really make a difference.”

Blackboard, of course, has the Learning Analytics dashboard that takes a students’ progress through a set of defined goals as a mark of learning and achievement, but the one thing it doesn’t do is measure ‘learning’. But how do you measure learning … by looking at participation in a self-assessed multiple choice test? By taking a percentage pass rate in the test or in progress through the course materials? That doesn’t show anything other than a click rate.

I was present during a presentation at the 2014 Blackboard T&L Conference in Dublin  where Blackboard introduced the Blackboard Store where I was told (in relation to students buying the core text through the system, therefore tracking could be applied to the purchase) that I would be able to easily see the students who weren’t engaged with my course as they hadn’t bought the book! I do hope that isn’t what Blackboard really think … ??

In 2012 an Austrian student, Max Schrems, launched a legal case against Facebook over the use of his personal data. The premise, by Facebook, is that is collects only the data it needs in order to keep the network running (The Independent, 20 Oct, 2012).

Schrems knew Facebook kept large amounts of information on its users, but the sheer volume of his file still amazed him, he said. Pictures uploaded from smartphones included precise global positioning system coordinates, the identities of anyone tagged in the photos and the moment — down to the second — when the shutter clicked. Information that users thought they had deleted survived in Facebook files.

So, we have data, we have ‘big’ data, and we have (limited) knowledge or control over how that information is stored, used, massaged, accessed, or even sold.

Doesn’t that scare you? It does me. And yet I continue to take photos on my iPhone (geo-tagged), share photos (Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Flickr), and much more, and each interaction with my phone and an internet connection (wifi or cellular) results in a wealth of information about me, my habits, my actions, etc. is shared with … well, ultimately I don’t know who with. One thing I do know is that there may not be much value in this data now, but in a few years it could be worth so much to governments, advertisers, brands, corporations …

Reflection: Does anyone else remember the album from Billy Idol: Cyberpunk in 1993? No? It must be me then. If you do you’ll remember the reading on the first track, adapted from Gareth Branwyn’s “Is There a Cyberpunk Movement?”. Here’s the bit that matters (remember, this is 1993 – before Google!!):

“Mega-corporations are the new governments;
Computer-generated info domains are the new frontiers.
And though there is better living through science and chemistry,
We are all becoming cyborgs.
The computer is the new cool tool.
And though they say all information should be free,
It is not.
Information is power and currency in the virtual world we inhabit,”

The cyberpunk movement gave us a fore-warning of Facebook, Google, Apple, etc. … “Mega-corporations are the new governments … though they say all information [data] should be free, It is not. Information [data] is power and currency in the virtual world we inhabit”.

Image source: JD Hancock (CC BY 2.0)

Photowall from Chromecast App

Photowall from ChromecastPhotowall for Chromecast (iPhone/iPad): I recently wrote about the Chromecast I bought and have been trying out. This App, Photowall, is probably the best app currently available for schools and classroom activities.

Photowall enables students in (and outside) the classroom to ‘send’ images to the TV screen.

“Photowall for Chromecast is a new Chrome Experiment that lets people collaborate with images on the TV – using phones or tablets. Anyone can take a picture and send it to a Photowall to instantly see it on the big screen.” 

Photowall from Chromecast (free):
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photowall-for-chromecast/id814088518

All you need, from what I can see and have tested, is one device that can connect and ‘open’ the Photowall through the Chromecast. Once the Photowall has been created anyone can connect to the website on g.co/photowall, enter the passcode for that particular ‘wall, and send images to the screen.

  • Select images, doodle/draw on them, add a caption, and/or send to the ‘wall.
  • Send the code you’re provided when you create your Photowall to others you want to participate and they can send their own photos to the ‘wall – use the g.co/photowall link.
  • Save your ‘wall in a YouTube video for posterity.

You don’t have any input into the layout, length, music track, etc/ used to create the YouTube video, it’s all done behind the scenes. Here’s an example created from my first Photowall experiment:

YouTube: David’s Photowall

Here’s some images of Photowall: setting it up, using it, etc.

Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast Photowall Chromecast

Build your own ‘App Swap Breakfast’ event #AppSwap #AppSwapLeic

This morning I saw an innocent tweet from my pal David Walker (@drdjwalker) about the concept of an ‘App Swap Breakfast’. Needless to say it got me thinking …

App Swap Breakfast

It’s quite simple – friends, colleagues, interested individuals, etc. meet at a set time & place and showcase their favourite App of the moment.

So, here’s a call for Leicester friends and interested individuals – do you want to set one up and try it out? Shall we try and engage this on a frequent basis … every month, and if so where? There’s plenty of space.

As per Fiona MacNeill’s insightful post ‘DIY: Build your own App Swap Breakfast Event‘ you will need:

  • A group of people with devices
  • Session leaders (learning technologists / librarians / teachers / student advisers / mentors / etc.)
  • A space/s for sessions to be held
  • Common interests (teaching / learning / scholarship / institutional / subject / revision / reference / entertainment / etc.)
  • Branding
  • Catering
  • A data projector
  • A wall or screen on which to project
  • Resource lists
  • QR Codes
  • Audience Feedback

The concept / idea put forward by Fiona MacNeill, from an idea on LifeHacker website, the AppSwap idea has been licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License meaning anyone can share and redistribute the materials, and adapt, remix, or transform / build upon them but with appropriate credit is given and that any new work is also provided under a Creative Commons license.

Anyone interested is trying to get a Leicester App Swap Breakfast working? If you are interested (or have a particular reason why not) then please reply below or tweet with the hashtag #AppSwapLeic. If there’s enough interest perhaps we can try it out?

‘The Survival of Higher Education’ by @timbuckteeth

I’ve been following and talking with Professor Steve Wheeler for several years now, and have had the honour of presenting at his Pelecon conference and sharing the billing at the eAssessment Scotland conference.

Steve often writes individual posts or, like recently, he writes a series of post with common themes to expand or challenge a certain approach or concept of education – his 2010 series on ‘Distance Learning / Distance Education’ initiated some interesting discussions. Steve has, this time, been looking at the survival of Higher Education – please read all of Steve’s posts, you know you’ll be the  better for it.

I’ve linked to Steve’s original work here, as well as my response I posted to his website – I concentrate on  specific aspect of his posts/series, but please be sure to read the full posts so my comments (and the quotes) are not taken out of context: 

The survival of higher education by Steve WheelerThe survival of higher education (1): Changing roles

“The embedding of digital technology into the fabric of everyday study has also changed the way students learn (Colllis and Moonen, 2002) and is more in keeping with what younger people expect (Veen and Vrakking, 2006). Now students can assume more responsibility for their own learning and design their own study trajectories. They are able to learn while on the move using personal devices, and are able to access a vast storehouse of knowledge through ubiquitous access to the Web. Communication is also an easier prospect with texting, instant messaging and shared learning spaces becoming ever more common place. In many ways, and for most students, it would be hard to conceive of a way of learning and working that was devoid of the Web, e-mail or mobile phones.”

I replied “yet, despite the movement towards ‘student as agents‘ is there not also talk about the reluctance to engage with students in this way? I read about so many examples of teachers and educators trying new and different approaches to engagement and ‘learning’  yet the common theme of all the posts is the seemingly lack of support from their management and/or school authority. Is it the technology that is scary or the concept of including the students in devising and creating their own learning … after all, how do they know what they need to know as they don’t know it yet?”

The survival of higher education (2): Changing times

“The essential premise underpinning the use of any Social Web application is that over a period of time it genuinely becomes self-supporting, and that the students will enjoy the freedom to produce their own content and study pathways. The problem with this is that students may not always be as accurate or fastidious in their content generation as they could be, and may need guidance on the pathway they choose to take. However, there is evidence that students begin to support each other when they share the same online space and have mutual goals to achieve.”

This can be the best and worst element of the inclusion of social tools in a learning environment – for some it will take longer to learn the tool than perhaps to learn the subject? We already recognise the importance of including new tools, software, or technology in a sensitive manner, but we cannot escape the fact that some will adopt it easily and quickly, and for others it will be a barrier to the actual learning and put them off the whole process.

I guess it’s a case of “know your audience” and include when and where you think appropriate and, if necessary, be prepared to adjust so individuals are not disadvantaged?

The survival of higher education (3): The Social Web

“There is a sense from many younger students that the institutional managed learning environments are not popular tools, because they fail in comparison to the more colourful, flexible and accessible social networking tools that are available for free on the internet. Further, students enjoy personalising their online spaces, a task that is not particularly easy or positively discouraged within institutional systems. This is particularly evident on a cursory inspection of any social web space, whether it be Facebook, Snapchat or any other popular free space. Students ‘pimp’ their pages, adding colour and textures, favourite images, links to their favourite websites, including mashups to video sharing sites such as YouTube and photo sites such as Flickr. This was often impossible or forbidden on university and college sites, where a corporate branding and image uniformity was enforced and surveillance imposed.”

How do we, the ‘institution’, deal with this? Many Institutions have an expensive and ‘recommended’ learning management system (LMS) or virtual learning environment (VLE) which, obviously, they want to see used in order to tick a box to say it’s being used and it’s been worth the effort and money spent on implementing it.

If these systems are not up to scratch, that they don’t or can’t mirror the systems and tools students are used to using in their everyday ‘social’ activities then is the time of the single-instance LMS / VLE come? Are we better off using off using multiple tools (with multiple sign in accounts) for our needs (Apps, DropBox, WordPress, FaceBook, Twitter, etc.) or does the single sign-on system still have it’s place?

The survival of Higher Education (4): 5 key objectives

Steve makes some good points here about what ‘we’ need to do to make technology less conspicuous and more inclusive, that  it’s not always good to lead the drive for this technology but it’s possibly worse to be the follower or laggard?

“Teachers need to see the relevance and application of new technologies. For teachers to adopt new technologies, they must first see the applications and understand the benefits (as well as the limitations) of the tool. If a tool adds nothing new to the teaching and learning equation it will be perceived as irrelevant and will be rejected (cf. Norman, 1990).”

As always I can go back to my age old answer that the inclusion and use of any technology, not just for education or learning, needs to be ‘appropriate’ and ‘considered’, that there needs to be a reason for it’s use and that it needs to add something to the requirement for learning. The reason for implementing something new or something innovative can be as simple as saving time, increasing efficiency, improving effectiveness, streamlining workflow, etc. but the improvement should be as a result of the technology, not because of it.

The survival of Higher Education (5): Recommendations

“Teachers may see new technologies either as opportunities or as threats. Whatever their views, the teachers who are most likely to be successful will be those who embed new technologies into their courses, and who adopt a role that us supportive of flexible and mobile learning. Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who adopt new technologies will probably replace those who don’t.”

I know that for my two boys – one just started school, the other starting in September – I want their teachers to prepare them for the world they live in. This is not the world the teachers (of whatever experience or background) were trained in or grew up in themselves, this is the world in which my two boys live in NOW. This world has touch screens and streaming video, it has gesture control and games with artificial intelligence, it has possibilities and no apparent limitations. If my children are to survive and flourish in tomorrow’s world then it starts now; at school , at home, with friends, with teachers.

Photo by Felix Burton on Wikimedia Commons.

VideoScribe HD App

VideoScribe HD AppVideoScribe HD (iPad): I’ve enjoyed watching videos from RSA Animate, as have others, that take an audio track (usually a presentation or speech) and animates the drawing of concepts and take-away quotes. The best of these is the speech of Sir Ken Robinson ‘Changing Education Paridigms’.

“Award winning software, Sparkol VideoScribe is a completely unique way to create engaging animated videos quickly and easily. Often called Whiteboard animation or sometimes Fast Drawing, VideoScribe replicates the stop-motion capture style of drawing that’s so popular on commercials at a fraction of the cost.”
VideoScribe HD (£3.99)
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/videoscribe-hd/id505464331

Advertised features of the App include (and are also available on the PC/Mac 7 day free trial): 

  • ‘lifelike’ drawing style
  • scale, rotate and arrange images & text with endless possibilities
  • link to Dropbox for image import, music and exporting Movies
  • draw anything to any timeframe
  • add an audio (music or narrated) backing track
  • full colour, outline, black and white and more effects
  • move-in drawing style
  • change the paper texture & colour
  • draw the movie left handed, right handed or without a hand
  • record your own voiceover & mix with a backing track 

Here are some screen shots from the iPad and from my VideoScribe I created for the recent #BYOD4L course:

YouTube: BYOD4L Reflection

VideoScribe App - the screen VideoScribe App - artefact VideoScribe App - text input VideoScribe App - galleries

Despite enjoying creating this scribe, and the excellent results I got, I had some issues which dampened my spirits:

  • the App crashed quite frequently during a variety of tasks.
  • each time you start the App, including after every crash, it goes through a slow ‘loading essential data’ process.
  • despite specifying a URL for the audio track (background music) it was not used or downloaded for the processed video.
  • you need to sign in to your online account every time you use the App, it doesn’t remember your details (including after every crash).
  • I didn’t try the Drop Box integration for bringing resources in or saving video out, so I can’t comment on whether this works.
  • connection to YouTube did not work, so video had to be exported to the iPad camera roll for manual upload … but YouTube was unable to process this file as it did not recognise the file format.

To upload the video with audio to YouTube, this was the full process I had to endure (bearing in mind the video output file wasn’t recognised by YouTube):

  • output video from VideoScribe HD App
  • import into iMovie
  • add audio backing track
  • output from iMovie
  • upload to Dropbox (iMovie couldn’t connect to YouTube either)
  • download from DropBox onto PC
  • upload to YouTube through PC browser.

Not a brilliant workflow, but at least I got the video working and on YouTube.

Unfortunately the support team at Sparkol could not help me; problems were blamed on iPad (it’s a 4th generation, so not at fault), poor wi-fi (I tried at work / University and at home, so not at fault), not the latest iOS (it was updated last week, so not at fault), not enough memory (it was the only App running, so not at fault). In fact everything was at fault except the App itself, according to Sparkol. The only solution they had for me was to reset my iPad and start again or get a refund. Neither are routes I want to go down. Reading through the Sparkol support site it seems I am not alone in the problems I had, in fact it seems I got off quite lightly.

I can see this as a great tool for teaching theories or concepts of making audio recordings more interesting, even better if students could use and create narrative to cover their own work. But until the reliability of the App is sorted I’ll be waiting for a promised update or looking at alternatives.