Gisela Al-Hajjar in the International Office reviews the iPad for supporting staff who are travelling the world.
Kit review: iPad (PDF, 446 KB)
Using mobile devices can give you a lot more freedom in how and where you work. There is a huge range of apps available to help you deliver a presentation (or lecture), as this is a common task in the business world as well as in education. The apps cover everything from preparation to delivery, the downside being that as these are often aimed at the business market, they can be expensive. Here are some of the ones we’ve come across that you might find useful.
Creating/editing your presentation
The slickest choice for this must surely be Keynote, for iOS (Apple) devices. You can import existing presentations into the app, via email or cloud storage services like Dropbox – it will accept presentations created in Keynote (on the Mac) or Powerpoint (on a PC). You can also create a presentation from scratch, including images, tables, charts and animations. It even has an area for presenter notes. If you have an iPad 2, when connected to a video output the presenter display will allow you to see both slide and notes, and your audience will only see the slides.
For Android, Google docs seems sadly lacking in the absence of a presenter view for Google presentations. However, there are other options – QuickOffice or Documents To Go will both allow you to display Powerpoint files on your device for free. Both these apps have Pro (paid) options that will also let you create and edit presentations on the device.
Delivering your presentation
If you want to use your device to deliver the presentation, there are a few different options to consider. You can connect the device directly, using a VGA or HDMI adaptor. This is the easiest option, but it does restrict your movement (which can defeat the point of using the device in the first place). Alternatively, you can connect your device to the presenting computer using wireless or bluetooth:
- You may want to use your device as a simple presenting tool, to control navigation through the slides. In this case, apps like i-Clickr for iOS and Presenter for Android should do the trick.
- If you have the presentation on your device, there are also apps that will allow you to transmit it to the presenting computer. AirSketch for the iPad will allow you to project a whiteboard, images or PDFs (so convert your presentation first), and Scatterslides for Android works in a similar way for Powerpoint slides (note this requires a free client to be installed on the presenting computer).
- If you want to get really clever, you can even use a remote desktop application to run the presentation from your own computer via your mobile device, thus avoiding any embarrassing software version problems or incompatibilities. Apps like Splashtop and TeamViewer can do this for you, as long as you have a reliable connection.
The downside to the wireless connection method is that these apps generally need to be on the same wireless connection as the presenting computer – and to be able to find each other on it. This works fine on wireless that uses keys to authenticate, but often won’t work on secure wireless networks that use a browser login. If you’re planning on trying any of these, we strongly recommend a test run before the day of the presentation.
If you have any comments on the information above, or you’d like to recommend other apps that help you with learning or teaching, please feel free to add a comment or to email the team at LTSupport@northampton.ac.uk.
Disclaimer: these posts aim to recommend functionality, not particular products or services. The app world changes fast, and any third party app may not be available forever. Always make sure you have a back-up option.
As part of a wide project on Mobile Access to Learning and Teaching (MALT), in October 2010 the University of Northampton conducted a survey to ask staff and students about their needs with regards to mobile technology. The survey told us that demand was high – over 50% of staff and students already owned smartphones – and identified the need for more directed support and services within this area.
More specifically , the services rated most useful included: NILE (the institutional learning environment); timetables; University news; library and maps.
As a result of the needs identified, a project was commissioned to produce a mobile solution. The project brought together teams from across the University, including Marketing, the Web team, Library, Student Services, CIS and Learning Technology, as well as interested staff from the Schools. The detailed work took several months to complete, as we needed to revisit information being pushed out by a whole range of institutional systems, and reformat these with the user experience in mind.
The project team has worked closely with the chosen supplier (Blackboard, the company who also make the software we call NILE) throughout the summer, and iNorthampton – which includes mobile apps for the three main platforms, as well as a mobile web version – was created as a result. Needs identified from the survey were prioritised in order to create the first release of the app (‘Phase 1’), which went ‘live’ in the app stores in September 2011.
Phase 1 (Sept 2011)
- Campus Maps for Park and Avenue
- Timetables and course info
- Ability to browse the library catalogue
- See University related videos and photos
- Latest campus news
- Ability to find staff in the University communications directory and get in touch instantly
- Latest University events
- Access to learning resources on NILE
Phase 2…….and beyond
The pace of change is rapid in the mobile environment, and so iNorthampton is an iterative project – we anticipate this will be ongoing with continuous improvement based on feedback and needs. We have already identified some priorities to look into for ‘Phase 2’ (including linking events to locations on the map, including travel information, information on accommodation; and links for the digital prospectus). We’d love to hear your ideas.
iNorthampton is owned by the staff and students of The University and we need to ensure that it provides the tools and services which you want to see on your mobile devices. If you have any suggestions or comments, please send them to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tablets seem to be the new ‘must have’ device, and a few staff have been asking us for our thoughts on these. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend a particular device, we do have a couple you can try out, and the thoughts below might be of some help.
What are they good at?
Tablets are great for carrying around. They’re small, and lightweight, and as a general rule, start-up time and battery life are both much better than a laptop. They are great for on-the-go tasks, like checking email and browsing the web. The point to remember though, is that they usually use a mobile (cut-down) version of the operating system, similar to that used in smartphones, which means that they can’t run the same type of software as a laptop or desktop computer. The software usually comes in the form of ‘apps’, which have different functionality to their desktop counterparts.
What are they bad at?
This varies between models. They usually have a mobile (cut-down) web browser installed by default, which can struggle with web pages that are not designed for mobile use. Famously, the iPad won’t play any Flash content in the default web browser (Safari), so watching video content on the web can be tricky unless there is “an app for that” (for example, there are native apps for Youtube and BBC iPlayer). It can also be tricky to transfer files between your desktop computer and your tablet, unless (for the iPad) you are an expert iTunes user, or (for Android) you use other ‘cloud’ applications to store your work online (such as Google docs).
A quick note about browsers: if you have a tablet, you don’t have to use the default browser that is already installed. Other browsers are available to download, although they may not be free.
Common tasks for University staff
We put some of our tablets through their paces to see if they could support some of the common tasks staff carry out using technology. The findings are below. If there are some more key tasks that you would like us to try out for you, please add your suggestions as comments on this post.
|Task||iPad (Apple)||Motorola Xoom (Android)|
|Syncing work email (Exchange)||Works fine, including calendars and contacts. New appointments can be added but can’t be set to private.||Email, calendars and contacts all work fine.|
|Editing documents||Has a basic Notes app already installed, that allows you to type text and email it to yourself.
The iWork suite of apps allows you to work with Word, Powerpoint/Keynote and Excel, and document transfer is done via iTunes or cloud storage services.
Google docs can be accessed via the app or the browser, although editing is fiddly.
|Doesn’t come with a basic note-taking app, although Freenote is a good one you can download, that also saves handwritten notes.
Documents, spreadsheets etc. can be imported/exported via Google docs, although disappointingly the editing functionality in the browser/app is not much better than in the Apple app.
|Using NILE* (Blackboard 9.1)||NILE can be accessed through the browser, but editing and adding new items is fiddly as it can only be done with the Visual Editor switched off.||Box pages display slightly strangely in the browser. You can add and edit items, and type using the Visual Editor, but it struggles applying settings from pop-up menus (e.g. text colours).|
|Using Turnitin and GradeMark||Originality reports can be viewed, but navigation doesn’t always work properly. Commenting in GradeMark does not work.||As with the iPad.|
|Presenting||The iPad 2 supports video output, so as long as you have the right connector, you can plug it in to the VGA lead on a lectern (as you would with a laptop), or the HDMI lead for your HD TV, and demo whatever you like.
The iPad 1 only supports video output from certain apps, like Keynote.
|Motorola haven’t as yet produced a VGA connector for the Xoom, although it does have HDMI output via the mini-HDMI socket. Apparently it is possible to adapt this to VGA output – see this forum on the Motorola site for more.|
|Adding blog posts (WordPress)||Works in the browser, but better in the (free) app, even though it does display the HTML version rather than WYSIWYG.||Slow and clumsy in the browser – again better in the app.|
|Reading e-books & journals**||Online journals: the Metalib search pages work fine, although the fact that it opens everything in a new window can mean you run out of browser windows quickly (you can only have 9 open at a time). Other useful apps include EBSCOhost, iBase (searches open access repositories, arXiv (e-prints for science subjects) and iScholarReader (Google Scholar app).
Library eBooks: Dawsonera – read online works fine, but it doesn’t seem to want to download for reading later. Safari Tech books online works fine, although watch it for it locking you out as the browser has trouble with session IDs. Netlibrary books also work for online reading, although these will soon be moving to EBSCOhost.
Other eBooks/files: The iBooks app (already installed) allows you to download from the iTunes bookstore, and EPUB/PDF files can be transferred via iTunes. There is also a free Kindle app available.
|Online journals: Metalib works fine, and opens new tabs, which is more manageable than the iPad browser. There are also Android apps for arXiv and gScholarReader (Google Scholar).
Library eBooks: Dawsonera books do not display in the browser (blank pages), and the download option doesn’t seem to work either. Safari Tech books load ok, but scrolling is tricky. The Netlibrary reader also displays as a blank page.
Other eBooks/files: The Xoom can read EPUB & PDF files, using an eBook reader app such as Aldiko (files can be transferred via USB). There is also a Kindle app available.
|Watching video||Major video streaming sites Youtube and Vimeo will play in the browser, however Flash-based video (on sites like the BBC and the University’s Video Library Server) will not.
A number of apps are available for streaming, including BBC iPlayer.
Video files can be transferred and played using the VLC app.
|Plays Flash-based video, so BBC video and the University VLS work fine, as do Youtube and Vimeo.
Video files can be transferred directly via USB. As yet there isn’t an official VLC app, but QQPlayer seems to handle most file types ok.
|Taking Photos/Video***||The iPad 2 comes with a camera that takes VGA quality stills (0.69MP). There are two options for video, with VGA quality on the front camera, or HD (720p) on the back.
There is an iMovie app but it’s only for the iPad 2, and costs £2.99.
|The Xoom has a 5MP still camera, which will take better photos than the iPad, although they don’t always look as clear on the screen.
Also shoots 720p video, and comes with an editing app (Film Studio).
*more information on accessing NILE on mobile devices will be coming soon, watch this space for more details…
**we also have a Kindle available for loan – if all you want to do is read, then this might be more suitable for you (and cheaper). You may also be interested in the Web Tools for Researchers guide.
***If the camera is your thing, have a look at this comparison by PC World, or this one from TechCrunch.
Richard presented on his experiences of Using the iPad in the teaching of Journalism at The University of Northampton’s Technology Enhanced Learning Showcase 7/7/11. The event used Twitter hashtag #TELUoN.
This session demonstrated a number of apps for the iPad that will allow the delivery of lectures, support in broadcast subjects and portable access to your desk top. The session also illustrated some of the new ways of delivering the news.
- Of Sound Mind Exhibition 2023.
- Blackboard Upgrade – May 2023
- Sunshine and Showers – 12th May 2023
- Blackboard Upgrade – April 2023
- The computers are taking over?
- H5P (HTML5 Package) Interactive Learning Resources are enjoyed by the students of Dr Mosavar Farahani, PhD, FHEA, Fellow of IBMS, Senior Lecturer in Haematology, Faculty of Arts, Science and Technology
- Generative AI – Exploring the Potential Impact on Education and Creativity
- AI-generated images in celebration of International Women’s Day
- Blackboard Upgrade – March 2023
- 3D printing and scanning workshop opens new possibilities for Hair and Makeup students.
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