I’ve been a happy iPhone user since 2007, so my recent purchase of an Android phone was not a decision I took lightly. In the end, the lure of a larger high resolution display was enough for me to seriously consider making the switch. Now that 3 weeks has passed since my Nexus 4 arrived in the mail, here is a list of my personal pro’s & con’s on the switch.
Nexus 4 Pros:
- The larger 4.7” screen great for reading; it makes a huge difference. My iPhone 4S screen was 3.5” and the new iPhone 5 screen is 4”. I can get literally twice the amount of text on the screen of my Nexus 4 than I could on my iPhone 4S.
- The Android “Return” navigation button great for getting right back to original app after linking out to the browser or another app. It also returns you to the original tab in Chrome after a link opens a new tab for you.
- The Nexus 4 keyboard larger, haptic feedback is nice, and it suggests 3 different words as you type for auto completion
- Chrome password syncing & tabs from your desktop Chrome browsers.
- I really like Google Now. It does a good job of anticipating what info I’m going to need, and displays it on my “Start Page” for me.
- Notifications are much better with the swipe down and little icons on the top left bar.
- I like how the voice recognition works in real time rather than waiting until I’ve pressed the stop button.
- Apps running button nicer than iOS double press of home button.
- Better collaboration between apps, especially for sharing links.
Nexus 4 Cons:
- I haven’t been able to find a podcast client not as good as Downcast on iOS.
- Some apps are not quite as polished on Android than iOS. Facebook & Navionics for example.
- As a teaching tool in education I miss apple TV screen mirroring. I can always use my iPad for that.
- Scrolling seems slightly less responsive… Not a big deal, but its different. I might get used to it with time.
- I miss the physical mute switch, although I just found an app that asks you how long you’d like to put your phone in vibe mode when you use the volume buttons to mute.
- I miss being able to use the volume control on my Apple headphones, and haven’t been able to find android equivalent headphones with volume control.
- More tinkering with setting required to reign in apps that are using too much power.
I do miss some things from my iPhone, but the larger screen for reading, and the better browser experience in Chrome are the things that will keep me using an Android phone for the foreseeable future. That said, I’d probably still recommend and iPhone for my less tech savvy friends who have the money to spend on a more expensive device… at least the ones who I might end up doing tech support for
Andy Ihnatko from the Chicago Sun wrote an excellent article, on why he made the switch from iOS to Android recently: http://www.techhive.com/article/2030042/why-i-switched-from-iphone-to-android.html
As Sal Khan admits in his book, One World Schoolhouse, that he has not proposed anything particularly new, but the popularity of his non-profit Khan Academy website has given him a prominent platform to advocate for educational change in the United States and around the world.
Ever since my high school aged son started using Khan Academy lessons to help him with the Physics class he was struggling with, I’ve been impressed with how helpful the web based lessons can be to helping students learn and master difficult mathematical concepts. Some students and teachers use the Kahn Academy for more than just remedial tutoring, and instead replace in-class lectures with the lessons, and then spend the majority of class time working through problems and related projects.
This teaching method struck a chord with me, so much so that I’ve created “flipped” or “blended” versions of two of guest lectures that I give at my University. I’m happy to report that the observed learning outcomes and student feedback from the new blended format lectures has been excellent.
In One World Schoolhouse, Sal talks about how the tutoring of one of his nieces was the impetus for him to begin tutoring part time, while working as a hedge fund manager. This snowballed, and turned into his passion, as he tutored more and more relatives and family friends. After a lot of positive feedback to both the lecture videos and online exercises, he took the plunge and started a one year experiment, to see if he could turn his passion into a career. After struggling for several months he, received one or two foundation grants to fund his little non-profit. With the publicity this garnered, he received several more large grants from the likes of Bill Gates and Google, and his organization was fully funded and in a position to hire some full time staff to help him.
For the past four years I’ve taught the session on Knowledge Management tools for Law Students in an Advanced Legal Research a Writing class. In an effort to help the students get more out of the session, this year I “flipped” the class. Instead of lecturing and demonstrating software for 80 minutes, the students watched the short instructional videos I prepared and installed software on their laptops in preparation for the class. This took them between 40 and 60 minutes depending on their technical ability.
Then in a shortened 40 minute class, I put the students together in groups of 2 or 3 and had them work on some exercises. This allowed them to practice using the using the tools they learned about in situations approximating how they’d be used in legal research.
The feedback from the students on the new class format was very positive. 83% of students preferred the blended class style to a traditional lecture, and 75% said that they felt more confident using the tools covered in class than they would have with a traditional lecture. At the end of both classes, most of the students stayed behind after the class was dismissed to continue playing with the new software tools.
Below, exercises A to H are to be completed before the class. The in class exercises are at the bottom. These materials are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License to encourage their use and re-use. In plain english this means that anyone can modify the materials, as long as they share the modifications back to me, and the materials can be used for commercial purposes.
We’re going to look at 7 different tools that will help you develop a more efficient research work flow. It is not expected that you’ll use all the tools, but most students find that they’d have a hard time living without two or three of them once they see how the tools make their research lives easier.
- The tools we’ll look at are:
- Desktop Search,
- Zotero for citation management,
- Evernote for saving general notes, capturing web pages and pictures for future reference,
- JotNot Pro to take the place of a photocopier,
- Google Drive for collaborative document editing,
- Google+ Hangouts for online meetings and document co-editing, and lastly
- backup options so that your digital life is safe.
Before you move on, please make sure that you have a Gmail account, and have signed up for Google+, as you’ll need access to a Google account for the exercises in this module (and in the next class). If you don’t have an account, you can sign up here: http://gmail.com
B. Desktop Search
- Using your desktop search tool, see if you can find a paper you wrote last year.
- Also using your desktop search find all the emails you’ve received from a friend. How many were there? (if you don’t see any emails in your desktop search you’ll need to add your webmail account to your desktop email program).
Introduction to the Survey Results
In addition to the technology questions we’ve been asking UVic Law students over the past ten years, we decided for the first year to ask more detailed questions about student use of tablets and e-readers for academic use, along with questions about their usage of “cloud” services for file storage and collaboration. This survey was completed by 126 incoming and transferring law students, which is a strong 90% plus response rate.
- 89% of incoming law students own “Smart Phones” that can browse the internet (up from 84% last year and 50% two years ago), with 48% of the total being iPhones, 29% Android and 11% Blackberry (Blackberry usage down from 27% last year).
- 31% of students own tablet devices or ebook readers, up from 19% last year.
- When it comes to reading school related documents, students report reading those documents in bound books 46% of the time, on laptops 35% of the time, on laser printed pages 16% of the time, and on tablet devices 3% of the time.
- 99% of students own laptops. 49% of laptops are Mac’s, and 48% Windows.
- The students’ average typing speed is 49 wpm.
- 68% of all students bring their laptops to school most days.
- 75% of students use laptops to take class notes, 63% use pen and paper, 6% use tablets and 3% use their cell phones.
- 53% of students use Gmail as their primary email account, 7% use UVic email and 20% Hotmail.
- 33% of students identified Google Drive as their favorite tool for collaborative document editing. 22% favor DropBox, 4% Apple iCloud and 3% Microsoft Sky Drive.
- 95% of students use Facebook (down from 97% last year, but up from 91% two years ago), 34% user Twitter, 21% Linked In, 10% Google+ and 4% no online social networks.
Smart Phone / Cell Phone Ownership
89% of students own “Smart Phones” or phones with built in web browsers that allow them to surf the internet on their cell phones. That is up significantly from 84% last year, and 50% of smart phone owners two years ago. Blackberry ownership dropped significantly from 27% last year to 11% this year.
On the other end of the spectrum, 4% of students do not own a cell phone at all which is up from 2% last year. This is still significantly lower than the 11% of our sample of all law students who reported no cell phone in the spring of 2010. Just as laptop owner ship has been close to 100% since 2007, cell phone is now almost 100% as well.
From the library and faculty’s perspective this is an important area to watch, as there are a number of interesting new technologies (like QR Codes, NFC, Mobile websites and Adaptive websites) that could potentially enhance the services that depend on library patrons having access to the internet on their mobile devices.
I’ve used Google+ Hangouts for several meetings now out of the necessity of bringing together three other colleagues from across North America to collaborate on a day long seminar. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked, not only as a group video conferencing tool, but also as a document collaboration platform (using the embedded Google Docs functionality). For me these two features combined made it almost easier to conduct our meeting remotely from the four corners of North America than it would have had we all been in the same room.
In preparation for our meeting I initially assumed we’d be using Skype for the meeting, and wondered if anyone had a paid account so we’d be able to use the group video conferencing feature (person to person video is free on Skype, but multi-person video is only available if one of the participants is a paying customer). When I realized that the main focus of the meeting would be to prepare the outline for our seminar, I remembered reading something about the collaborative document editing feature in Google+ Hangouts.
My suggestion to use Hangouts was agreed to, and the meeting was very productive. The video and audio quality were excellent, and the ability to co-edit a our outline document, and see who is editing the document in real time, was extremely useful. The ability to take and share our notes speeded up the meeting considerably, as once a point was typed out, if everyone agreed, we simply moved on. If there wasn’t agreement, we discussed further and the point was edited. No misunderstanding, no rehashing who agreed to what days later. Here is a short video (with no audio) demonstrating the co-editing feature of Hangouts.
That said, I highly recommend you give Google+ Hangouts try for an upcoming meeting, even if the participants are local! Here are the pros and cons of the software from my perspective:
Google+ Hangouts Pros:
- High quality video and audio for up to 10 users.
- Cross platform: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS.
- Collaborative document editing.
- Screen Sharing.
- Sketch pad capabilities.
- Hangouts on Air feature allows more than 10 users to view the meeting.
Google+ Hangouts Cons:
- Everyone has to use a google account to participate.
How hard could it be? Those are usually the last words I utter before descending into a quagmire of technical pain as I work through how to use and master a new technology. Fortunately this time, making an eBook and related hard copy book turned out to be a straightforward and fairly easy process to master… once all the appropriate tools were identified and lined up, that is. An added bonus is that all the software is free to download and use on both Windows, Mac and Linux computers.
This project started a couple of months ago when a coworker kindly suggested that I write a paper based on a presentation I give to classes of law students on software tools for research and collaboration: Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: Creating a Modern Memex. With that encouragement I started writing with my current favourite writing tool, Google Docs.
Related YouTube Video: eBook Publishing Made Easy
Step 1 Google Docs: Google Docs is particularly good for collaborative document editing but it is also capable enough for academic writing. This means that it supports footnotes, endnotes, bibliographies, tables of contents, inline images, and style sheets among other things. For the purposes of this project, it also does a great job of exporting all of these features and formatting into a HTML document, which is exactly what we need for the next step of our project… creating an ePub file in Sigil. If you use Microsoft Word or OpenOffice instead of Google Docs, you can still save your document as an HTML file and then import it into Sigil. Note, you should not proceed to the next step until you have completed writing, editing and revising your document. This is because if there are any changes you need to make after this point, you’ll need to redo steps 2 and 3 every time you “edit” your document.
I’ve just finished creating eBook and paper book versions of a paper that I recently wrote called, “Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: Creating a Modern Memex“. It should be helpful for anyone doing research, but especially for high school students, university students, teachers and faculty. At 55 pages in paper book format, it is a short but informative read.
As a personal learning project, I’ve made the book available in multiple formats, so that it is accessible to everyone who is interested in reading it. Feel free to send a link to this page to anyone who you think might find this short book helpful. I’ve published it using the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
If you have an iPad, be sure to download the “iBooks for iPad only” version, as it is a multi-media edition, that includes embedded videos that unfortunately the other formats do not yet support.
Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions for the book. If you read a free version of the book, please leave a review in the Kindle Store, as I suspect this will help others discover the book.
Last week I spoke to 70 members of local women’s group about how they could potentially use iPhone’s and iPad’s in useful ways in their lives as retirees. As I made a list of apps and use cases for my presentation I thought about how much I’d miss my iPhone if I were forced to give it up, and remembered a story that my father used to tell about a Yankee Clock Peddler. The story goes like this…
The Yankee Clock Peddler and his travelling companion start out on a sales tip in a rural area, and they stop for the night at a farmer’s house. In the morning before leaving to make sales call in neighbouring communities, the clock peddler asks the farmer if he’d store a clock for him for a couple of weeks, and that he’ll pick the clock up on his way back home. The farmer agreed to this, so the Peddler wound up the clock and placed it on the farmer’s wall before leaving (the farmer does not yet own a clock). When out of ear shot, the traveling companion asks the clock peddler why he left the clock at the house. Didn’t he want to sell the clock on the trip? To this the Yankee Clock Peddler replied, “don’t worry, by the time I come back in a couple of weeks, the clock will be sold… the farmer will happily buy it from me.”
The moral of the story is: “We can do without any article of luxury we have never had, but when once obtained, it is not in human nature to surrender it voluntarily.”
I’m often asked by people who have just purchased a new iPhone or iPad what apps they should get for their new device. Right now this is what I’m recommending:
- Kindle & iBooks – The Kindle and iBooks readers are the only apps you’ll probably need for reading books, and PDF files that people email to you. Both Do are excellent eBook readers, but books typically cost less in the Kindle store. On the other hand, I’ve found it much easier to get PDF files into the iBooks reader, so you’ll want to have both installed on your device. Don’t waste your time on the Kobo reader.
- Zite & Flipboard - Zite is a free personalized magazine for your iPad that automatically learns what you like and gets smarter every time you use it. Flipboard on the other hand had a little bit slicker interface than Zite, but it does not learn your likes and dislikes as you read over time, but stick with the sites and categories you’ve chosen to read. I’d try both out to see which you like better.
- Facebook & Path - Almost everyone is on Facebook now, and if you are, you should install the Facebook app. The user experience using the app is much more responsive and polished than the mobile web browser interface. You might also want to try out Path. Path allows you to post through to Facebook if you choose, or limit your posts to other Path users. If you try it, I suspect you’ll like it.
- Evernote - An excellent tool for capturing, syncing data between your desktop and cell phone. I love the ability it gives me to take a picture of a white board, and then later do a key word search on the text that Evernote has OCR’ed for me. I like to call it my “external brain”.
Why would someone use an web based word processor for a school paper instead of Microsoft Word? Here are three reasons:
- When collaborating with classmates on a group project, do you get tired of trying to figure out which of the versions that have been emailed to you is the most current?
- Do you get discouraged when you are faced with the task of merging edits from 2 or more students into a single document near the end of the group project?
- Do some of your edits get lost in the group collaboration email shuffle?
If you’ve said yes to any one of the questions above, then you should take a serious look at using either Google Docs or Microsoft Word Web App for your next group project. That said, here are a few things to keep in mind as you being to collaboratively create and edit documents on the web:
- While the look and feel of Microsoft Word Web App is very similar to the desktop version of Word, you cannot add or edit footnotes, end notes, or tables of contents in the online version of Word. You can connect to the file from your desktop version of Word to add and edit those elements in your group document however (on a Mac you’ll need Mac Office 2011 to do this).
- Google Docs supports foot notes, end notes and tables of contents in the web browser, but the editing interface is not as rich as the desktop version of Word. For some people this is not a problem. For others it is a show stopper. You can decide for yourself.
In any case, if you need to collaborate on a document, don’t just reflexively email it to your collaborator, instead think about writing it in Google Docs and sending them a link and leave the email document shuffle behind.