Why didn’t you buy an iPhone 4 ?

June 26, 2010

I seriously did consider buying the new iPhone 4 on the day of release.

However when I was faced with this…

I couldn’t face the idea of queuing. I also had to be somewhere else too…

I am still in two minds about buying the new iPhone now, or waiting until my contract ends.

Yes it has some great new features that I would like to see and try like the new camera; however part of me is thinking is this just because it is shiny or something new and different!

What about the reception left hander issues?

Personally I think, yes there may well be an issue, but is it really worth all the column inches that have covered this? There may be a design flaw, but all devices have design flaws, doesn’t mean they don’t work most of the time. My Google Nexus One for example, if it gets too hot (from being on for too long and doing stuff) the touchscreen stops working! My old LG Viewty kept turning itself off and the only way to turn it back on again was by removing the battery! Where was the Guardian and BBC on that issue?

Of course the iPhone is selling really really well. Some estimates say 1.5million of them have been sold. So that any flaw in the design is going to impact on a lot of people, a lot more people than the flaw in the LG Viewty! That’s probably the reason behind the column inches.

I do like that even though we have moved from analogue newspapers to online news sites, the term “column inches” still works. Thought I suspect a lot of people might think “inches” what are “inches”? Wonder what the metric or European term is for “column inches”.

Anyhow even with the reception issue, I don’t think that would stop me buying one.

I have already installed iOS4  on my iPhone 3GS and am finding it useful. I like the rotation lock. I like the quick App switching. Folders I am less keen on, but they do mean I can now see all the Apps on my iPhone, whereas before some were off the screen at the end! I like the spell checking (this is also on the iPad) and as someone who can’t spall it’s grteat! Not at all impressed with the digital zoom, but then I have never been impressed with any digital zoom. Less impressed with the home screen wallpaper, the first one I tried made the whole phone look cluttered… The Nexus One does seem to do this much better. Keyboard support may be useful in some instances, I do do a lot of writing.

So what will the iPhone 4 hardware provide that is so “essential”?

Facetime sounds great, but really we have been here before. My old Nokia N73 had a front facing camera and could do video calls over 3G. Well actually I never did do video calls, the main reason was that no one I knew did video calls, so I never had one. Also when I got the N95, I tried to call myself to just see how it worked, and it never worked! Facetime only works over wifi, if I have wifi I probably have a laptop or my iMac so I would be more likely to use Skype. Another big reason I wouldn’t use Facetime, is that very few people I would call in this way would have an iPhone 4. Like the idea, but can’t how it would benefit me at this time. Should I be buying two iPhone 4s then? No I think not.

I do like the concept of the retina display. I really like the display on the Nexus One which is sharp and looks great. The 3GS has a 480×320 resolution, the Nexus One has 800×480. The iPhone 4 has 960×640 which is to be honest incredible for the size of screen, but is not that far off the Nexus One. It would be interesting to compare all three.

I do like doing video, and though many phones I have had, can do video, none have really got there. The Nokia N95 which took great images had an okay video camera, but not fantastic.

This video was taken with the iPhone 3GS and is actually not bad, certainly much better than the N95.

If the video on the iPhone 4 is as good as the video that is been shown on the web, then I would be impressed. I also like the idea of the iMovie App. I must remember though I have ReelDirector on my iPhone, I have only used it once or twice in anger!

I do like the idea of a 5MP camera, as I do use my camera a lot on the iPhone 3GS for taking images (in the main for uploading to TwitPic). Of course 5MP is nothing new, I did the same for many years with the Nokia N95.

Of course the front facing camera on the iPhone 4 is only a 0.3MP camera like most other phones that have front facing cameras. Two 5MP cameras would have been nice…

No idea if the battery life is any better, the stats indicate it is, but I suspect that this may not reflect actual usage. 6 hours on 3G doesn’t really cut it for a full day in London at a conference and for the train home.

So at this time, I am in two minds about the iPhone 4. I think I would like one, but whether I would really like one right now, I don’t know.


RSC SW 5th Annual Conference

June 26, 2010

Last Thursday saw me venture down to the University of Exeter for the JISC RSC SW Annual Conference. I have been to all of the conferences and presented at many of them, keynoting at last year’s with David Sugden.

This year I was just a normal delegate, which was nice and different. I rarely go to conferences as just a delegate these days.

I also took the chance to try out just using my iPad as my main note taking, blogging and twittering device. It worked out just fine as you can read here and here. Following on from my earlier blog post on using the iPad at a conference I can see the iPad now replacing my laptop at these kinds of events. For longer events such as ALT-C or Handheld Learning I will take my laptop with me, but leave it in the hotel room so that I have use of it in the evening for video editing or audio editing.

Well back to the content of the conference…

I didn’t get much from the two opening keynotes, they were interesting, but didn’t in my mind inspire me to change my practice. Others though did find them more inspiring.

The opening keynote talked about the enterprise culture at the University of Plymouth and how it was changing what they did.

The second keynote was on Business and Community Engagement, which was by JISC.

The first session I attended was on Social Enterprise and how many business organisations now have a social motive over a profit motive. 

The second session was from JISC TechDis on engaging with SMEs. Gloucestershire has a large number of SMEs compared to somewhere like Bristol and often they can not “afford” to send their staff on training and staff development. In an interesting discussion we looked at the issues and challenges facing SMEs in the South-West and how FE providers (and others learning providers) can engage them and use technology to meet these challenges and break down invalid assumptions. One of the key conclusions was that there are cultural barriers both in the SMEs and in learning providers that need to be broken down before we can really provide solutions.

After a good lunch and lots of networking, it was time for the afternoon sessions.

I (with a little reservation) attended the session on Second Life by Bex Ferriday from Cornwall College.

She gave a very entertaining and informative trip through Second Life, lessons learned and some really good ideas on how to use Second Life for teaching and learning. I liked the idea of how it can be used with some groups to break down barriers and enhance communication – and once Second Life goes browser based I think this could see much more use being made of Second Life.

I also liked the idea of the underwater art gallery that contains student art that couldn’t exist in real life.

After more tea, it was Vicky Weavers from Weston College and their VLE Bronze, Silver and Gold standards. In many ways their standards are similar in concept to the five stage VLE model I put forward in an earlier blog post. One aspect of their model I did like, was that you only gained the standard if learners actually used the VLE.

What I was also interested in was the implementation, the carrot and stick approach. Weston College like most had tried the softly softly approach with limited sucess. The enthusiasts had certainly used the VLE effectively, but the use was sporadic and whole areas were not using the VLE. The college did feel, from student feedback, that access to online resources and learning was a “student entitlement” and that provision of such was patchy and lacked consistency.

By using a combination of clear standards, senior management, quality, other college processes and importantly middle management; the college was able to increase use of the VLE by staff and to increase use of the VLE by learners.

Some good ideas to take away.

I then popped to see the Futurelab demonstrations, some nice new technology there.

The final keynotes were on cloud computing, specifically Google Apps. I can see many FE Colleges moving over to Google Apps as a way of both enhancing student provision and saving money.

Overall a very information and interesting conference with lots of useful stuff to take away.

100 ways to use a VLE – #24 Course handbook

June 25, 2010

One of the things that Ofsted often look for when inspecting courses is a course handbook for the course. The idea behind the handbook is to provide students with all the information they are going to need for the course and to provide help and guidance while on the course.

In the past this may have (and may still well be) a physical handbook. Today much more likely to be an electronic Word document that may well be uploaded to the VLE. This will probably be referenced once by the learners and possibly ignored for the rest of the course, which is a pity.

By using something like the Book module on Moodle, it would be possible for the student to have much more accessible course handbook, one that has live links and could also use audio and video to enhance and enrich the information. Why have a written overview of the course, why not create an audio recording? Instead of pen pictures of where students go after the course, why not video recordings of past students? Making it real and more relevant to the learners.

Handbooks often are “ignored” by learners, by making reference to the online version on the VLE, tutors can ensure that the help and advice is referred to on a more regular basis.

Photo source.

More iPadding

June 24, 2010

Okay so we coming up to lunch here at the RSC SW Summer Conference and I only have my iPad. Am I missing my laptop?

To be honest no.

I will say typing is a little more challenging depending on the room you are in. makes me realise I might need to get a case that allows me to slope the iPad for easier typing. Or I should have bought my Bluetooth keyboard as well ( though that would have meant more to carry).

It would be nice to have the camera adapter then I could easily upload photographs to the iPad. Having said that I guess I should have set up my Eye-Fi to wirelessly upload pictures to my iPad using the Eye-Fi App, though I am not sure if that is possible. Something to look into for the future.

Osfoora HD is working well as my Twitter client, but I have been using my iPhone to take some photographs and upload them through the iPhone Twitter App.

Working well and showed it off to a fair few people over coffee.


June 24, 2010

So after writing a post about using an iPad at a conference, here I am at the RSC SW Conference in Exeter and I have left my laptop back at home and I have only bought my iPad.

Will it work for the whole day?

Will I be able to use it to make notes, check URLs, Twitter and Blog?

What about wifi? Well I have bought my Google Nexus One with me with it’s portable wifi so hoping that will work if the wifi doesn’t. I also have the iPhone as a backup.

I am not presenting so that is one less thing to worry about, though I can present with the iPad as I have the VGA connector.

It will be interesting, more later…

iPad Conferencing

June 23, 2010

So here’s a question, will Apple’s new iPad make a significant difference to the way that delegates will behave and work at conferences?

It’s still (very) early days for the iPad, and even though it has been on sale here in the UK for less than a month, many people I have spoken to are looking at the device and wanting to buy one. Equally there are others who won’t touch it with a barge pole!

Handheld Learning (now happening in January) will be an interesting conference for many reasons, one of the things that will make this conference specifically interesting will be the number of iPads at the conference. This year if you register early you will receive a free iPad. Now this means at the conference itself, a large proportion of delegates will be bringing an iPad.

So how will they be using that iPad and what difference will it make to the conference?

I have previously on this blog written about amplified conferences and social reporting. In the article I noted at the JISC Experts meeting that:

We used Twitter quite a bit today, so much so that the tag #jiscexperts09 became a trending tag on Twitter.

Lots of comments, discussions and conversations. Some went off tag and continued outside the event.

A really useful and interesting back channel to what was happening in front of us.

I did note the limitations of using Twitter at conferences as well as the advantages.

If you are using Twitter to allow the delegates to converse about the event in a kind of back channel then the fact they are not using it, is probably not a bad thing, as they are probably interacting face to face.

I made the suggestion back then that:

One of the downsides of Twitter (which is also a plus point) is that it is just text and only 140 characters of just text. If you did use social reporters then they could also use other tools to help capture the event for both the delegates and others. They could be uploading presentations to Slideshare, posting photographs to Flickr, pushing videos to YouTube, broadcasting live using Qik, blogging, recording to Audioboo, etc…

So how would this kind of thinking relate to the iPad?

Well the iPad does allow people to use Twitter, but does not have a camera, so stuff like Qik or use of Flickr is not possible; so there are restrictions on how the iPad can be used to amplify the conference.

If lots of delegates have an iPad, then you would expect the back channel to be quite active, but would it be any more active than it is already. I don’t think it will be. Those already using Twitter on other devices, will either continue to use those devices or will switch to the iPad. The key question is will the iPad encourage and facilitate those who don’t use the back channel or use it rarely to engage with the conversation if they had an iPad. Personally I don’t think there would be a big impact, a few delegates may join in with the conversation as they now have a connected device, but I can’t see why others would start to join the conversation. If they can’t see the benefit of using Twitter in this way I can’t see them changing their behaviour as they are now holding an iPad.

However Twitter is just one way for delegates to engage with the conference and is most certainly not the only way and the iPad then can have a much greater impact.

Live conference programme

We are use to having the conference programme handed to us in paper format. People scribble, fold (and generally in my case) lose it. Imagine an iPad App that holds the whole conference programme. One that can be updated if things change, links to presentations and recordings either before, during or after the conference. It would be nice to be able to star sessions so that you don’t miss them,

Venue Maps

Interactive maps of the venue so you don’t get lost! Some venues are very compact and it is impossible to get lost, but at large events or those on university campuses it is very easy to get lost as you trek miles (okay yards) to find the room in which the session is taking place. Add in GPS tracking and you could “track” other delegates!

Sharing contact details with other delegates

There is already an iPhone App for the purposes of sharing contact details. Bump already allows you to very easily over the internet to share contact details. In order for it to work though you do need to enter in your contact details.

Shared note taking

Anyone who has used an Etherpad clone will realise how useful shared note taking can be between delegates at a conference or meeting. Ensuring URLs are correctly written, e-mail addresses, references, questions for the end of the session, etc… It saves everyone making their own version of notes from a session. It is also useful for those that couldn’t make the session, say they were in a parallel session.

Of course anyone who has an iPad who has tried any Etherpad clone will realise that Etherpad doesn’t work on the iPad. Nor do most wikis I have tried and Google Docs.

Evernote has an iPad App but in order to share a notebook you need to have Evernote Premium which is not something everyone will want to pay $5 per month or $45 per year for.

There are some Apps that allow you to collaborate on a virtual whiteboard, but this is not the same kind of functionality as the note taking capabilities of Etherpad.

Shared whiteboard

The Groupboard App allows delegates with iPads to share a common whiteboard to make “notes” and draw diagrams. The free version allows up to five people to collaborate, anymore and you have to pay.

Live streaming

Many conferences stream keynotes and sessions live over the internet. Allowing remote interested parties an insight to the conference and join in over Twitter or similar channels. Streaming sessions is also useful delegates attending the conference, for those that can’t get into sessions which are full, those that are running stands, those networking or for those sessions which start first thing in the morning! One consideration that conference organisers may want to consider is that standard Flash based streaming doesn’t work on the iPad or the iPhone. If you use services such as Ustream it is possible to send an iPhone friendly stream that can be viewed by the Ustream App.

Live blogging

Blogging about keynotes and sessions is a great way to make both notes and reflect on the key points. Adding images to the live blog can make it real for those remote readers and remind those who were there what happened.

There are certainly many ways in which you can live blog using the iPad, if you have a WordPress blog there is the WordPress App for example.

Another way of live blogging would be to use a Posterous blog, this can just be e-mailed from the Mail App on the iPad. You can attach images and video.

So how do you get images and video on the iPad, considering it doesn’t have a camera. By using the iPad camera connection kit, you can easily add images and video from a digital camera.

Key is that the blog posts are tagged with the conference tag.

Reflective blogging

Blogging after the presentation or keynote, during a break or back at the hotel, the iPad again makes an ideal tool for this.

Enhanced presentations and keynotes

Presenters at a conference where the majority of delegates have an iPad will have the opportunity for a more enhanced conference experience in relation to viewing the keynotes and presentations.

I have been using Twitter during various presentations, not always successfully but when it works it works well. The ability to deliver live links, images and information to delegates can really enhance a presentation make it more relevant and useful. You can also pose questions to the audience and with a voting platform or polling tool you will be able to view results.

Or just get them to raise their iPads….

This can certainly engage the audience. Using services like Twitter allows presenters to ask questions that delegates can answer via their iPad is another way of asking questions.

Enhanced workshops and debates

As with presentations, using an iPad at a conference would allow workshops to be a more enhanced experience. The iPad could be used to both deliver key parts of the workshop and as a tool to allow workshops participants to collaborate and work together. Most workshops require delegates to feedback, undertaking this activity through the iPad (say via a blog) would allow others in the workshop to comment on the feedback. Likewise it would also others (who did not attend) to see the feedback.

Using an iPad during debates for votes and questions as well as adding to the debate virtually would make for a deeper debate in some circumstances.

Shared bookmarking

From my experience, a conference is full of useful links, blogs, articles. Bookmarking services such as Delicious allow delegates an easy way of adding and sharing links.

There is an iPhone App (which works on the iPad) and an easy to add bookmarklet to Safari. The only real downside is that Copy and Paste is not as a easy as with using a standard computer.

Key is that the links are tagged with the conference tag as well as other relevant tags.

This will allow delegates to find links later back at base.

Flickr feed

As well as blogging you could also upload images to Flickr, something like FlickStackr can be used for uploading images from the iPad.

So how do you get images and video on the iPad? As already said by using the iPad camera connection kit, you can easily add images and video from a digital camera.

Key is that the images are tagged with the conference tag.


Many of the above points can also be useful for teaching and learning as well as conferences and events. Maybe the basis of a future blog post.

Anyone who has read this far will realise that none of the above is in fact dependent on all delegates having an iPad. All of the above can be easily done now even if delegates only use their laptops or their phones. In some cases it will be easier with a laptop (look at Etherpad or a conference wiki). However the key isn’t it in fact with the technology but the culture of both the conference organisers and very importantly the conference delegates. I have attended many different conferences where use has been made of social networks for the conference, a conference wiki, cloudworks and more.

However my experience is that the majority of delegates do NOT participate in these extra-curricular networks whilst at the event, some do before and some do afterwards, but generally very few do during the actual event. It is key for any of the above to work that giving each delegate an iPad isn’t sufficient, they also need to be motivated to participate over and above been a passive delegate at the conference. That is a responsibility for both the delegates and the conference organisers.

National Trust – iPhone App of the Week

June 22, 2010

There is much debate at the moment about the growth of Apps versus the web. Especially paid apps versus free web content.

But, after 15 years as the net’s publishing platform of choice, a movement is growing that wants to put the web back in its box.

Blame the ‘app’. With little prior culture of mobile web consumption, publishers have barely given their HTML efforts five minutes in the sun before preferring to code snazzy, custom, closed interfaces instead in the likes of Xcode and Objective-C, in iPhone’s case.

This isn’t really the article for this debate (maybe later) however the reason I bring this up, is this week’s App of the Week, which is about an App that replaces a web site. I don’t think this is an issue, but does cloud the debate over Apps in that some Apps are there to complement web content and others replace it with an App that costs. Anyway onto the App…

National Trust – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone and iPad Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will work on the iPod touch or the iPad, some will be iPad only apps.

This week’s App is National Trust

Fancy a day out and wondering where to go? Want to visit glorious coastline, wander through wild countryside, relax in exquisite gardens or explore historic houses? Find a National Trust place near you, wherever you are in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. See it on the map, find out opening times, prices and facilities and access information. Find nearby places, or choose from an A-Z list.


All the information in the App is available online through the National Trust website.

So why on earth would you use the App?

Well though the website is fine, it’s a complicated site and hasn’t really been designed for a small mobile screen, despite the superior browsing capability of the iPhone.

Using the App means not having to worry about the busy web site and can focus on the content.

Well if you have an iPod touch and no connectivity, then this App does work offline in a manner, though you can access all the information (so it’s like a virtual National Trust handbook), but the maps don’t work!

The main reason for using the App is that it is a better experience than using the web site.

The App will find National Trust properties close to your location, using the location based capability of the iPhone (and iPod touch), though as mentioned you will need an internet connection to “see” the map.

It will give you information about the property and details on the facilities on offer.

You can browse an alphabetical list too.

Of course this is one useful App if you are a member of the National Trust, it’s also useful for when you are on holiday.

However I also think it has the potential for travel and tourism courses on looking at particular properties for the basis of activies for that subject.

  • Create a marketing plan for a National Trust property.
  • Devise a tour of National Trust properties in a particular region.
  • Undertake a SWOT analysis for the National Trust on a property close to the college.

If you have other ideas please let us know in the comments.

Though if you live in Scotland (or are going on holiday there) do take note…

Please note, this app does not include information from the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). The National Trust and NTS are two separate charities, run independently of each other. Our app is built using the data from our handbook, and as this does not include any NTS properties, we are unable to include this information.

Ah well.

Overall a nice App that does what it does well.