Book Creator

picture of dilapidated phone box

Phone box, a dying icon

Today I’ve been playing with Book Creator on my iPad.

The App; designed for iPad, can be accessed on the iTunes store at http://bit.ly/10JrgV0

“The simple way to create your own beautiful iBooks, right on the iPad.
Read them in iBooks, send them to your friends, or submit them to the iBookstore. Ideal for children’s picture books, photo books, art books, cook books, manuals, textbooks, and the list goes on. ” [From page]

I became aware of the App during an iPad Academy session I attended last week.  This was presented by Lilian Soon at the University of York, to PGCE students.

I am one of the iPad Academy’s newest registered trainers (working across West Yorkshire, and East Lancashire) and had attended to get a feel for what is expected of a session. We explored a number of Apps (which I may deal with in a later post), but Book Creator was shown to me by someone else attending the session. I immediately saw the potential for this £2.99 App.

So today, after trying it out a few times – simply to get a feel for the menus etc, I set to, to make a book and to see how versatile the App was.  Book Creator allows you to assemble a variety of media and to present these in e-Book (.ePub) format for consumption on the iPad.

First of all Text:

Text is inserted in blocks, in much the same way you might insert text-blocks in older desktop publishing (DTP) software.  A sliding bar allows you to control the font size and a drop-down menu allows choice of font. The usual [B], [I] and [U] are available, along with [colour] and the chance to alter the background colour of the text-block. You are unable to edit less than the full text-block.

book-creatorNext Visual Media:

Inserting images and videos from your iPad library is swift and easy, as is the option to use the iPad camera to record a new image of video clip. Once inserted, the media can be re-shaped and sized with ease.

Next Sound:

You have two options for sound: record it there and then (useful for reading back what you’ve typed into the text-blocks, for accessibility purposes) or, apply a soundtrack to either the first page or all pages. Beware that this can be irritating if you do record an audio version of the text-blocks.

I’d hoped it could be fully accessed via any ePub reader, but it only seems to work in iBooks on the iPad. I’ve tried using an ePub reader on my MacBook Pro and it does show the pictures and allow me to read the text – but the video didn’t appear. So provided you can distribute the book efficiently, it should be a good way of consuming own-made books on the iPad.

Try mine if you like: http://bit.ly/10RIL23

You will probably need to download the file directly onto your iPad, unless you know how to get an ePub file onto it from your computer (another post, another day perhaps: but for now – http://www.apple.com/itunes/inside-itunes/2010/04/using-itunes-to-add-epub-files-to-ibooks.html).

My effort isn’t not much and it is messy, but it shows what can easily be done using this powerful App. Perhaps you could get your learners to CREATE something on their iPads?

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Metro

I’ve recently updated my iPad Metro App and I’m loving it. I suspect that a lot of thought has gone in to it’s design. Well done Metro.

It’s called Metro Online and once opened, you have the choice of downloading back issues or, more importantly, the current one.  Once downloaded, the publication resides in iOS5’s Newsstand, ready for you to open and read whenever you like – online or not.

screenshot of Metro on iPad

The reporting and story content is no different to that picked up in bus and train stations nationwide, but the way you access it is quite cool. The written word looks sharper on the iPad screen than they do in the paper itself and the images look superb with the ‘Window on the world’ photographs being particularly stunning. Access to each part of the publication is provided in several forms, making navigation really quick and easy.

But the best bit?

Well, the best bit is the way in which advertisements are presented. We all know that adverts are the lifeblood of ‘free’ papers like Metro, but are generally irritated by their all-invasive manner. How often, for example, do you see a YouTube video that hasn’t got an advert to be viewed (or more likely closed) before you watch the clip? With Metro, a full page ad. will appear on a page of its own, in full colour and you can read it or simply flip to the next page. I’ve actually read more adverts in is way than I have ever done elsewhere in the digital world.

Again, well done Metro and well done Metro advertisers.

Reflections on 2010

Looking back (as we are apt to do at this time of year) I see that it is almost twelve months since I first blogged about the accessibility functions of the iPhone. [Link to first blog] Since then, a lot has happened in the digital world. That blog post had dealt with my then recent introduction to the Apple iPhone 3GS and how to operate the accessibility features. Since my post, Apple have launched the iPhone 4 (with iOS4) and the iPad, both of which have increased and improved accessibility features. See: https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/iaccessibility/

The iPad has been a real game changer. Unimagined (in its eventual form) in January 2010, it’s difficult now to imagine how such a tool had never previously existed. It is in no way a laptop replacement and cannot cope with some of the tasks [See earlier iPad post] even a netbook could cope with – yet it is becoming an increasingly important actor on the educational stage. This site by Ian Wilson is worth a look if you’re interested in learning more about the iPad in Education: http://www.ipadineducation.co.uk/iPad_in_Education/Welcome.html.

As the financial crisis continues to bite, many trusted and familiar Web 2.0 provisions have begun to teeter. For example, NING, the D.I.Y. social networking site, following years of adequate free provision started to charge at the end of summer 2010. I’m certain that this wasn’t a problem for too many educators but it was a harbinger of things to come. By December Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia was appealing for cash on every one of Wikipedia’s information pages.  Delicious was also under threat from its owner Yahoo! [See news of this] and although there was a form of retraction; the writing is still on the wall – even for this hugely popular and widely used site.

If we take the time to read figures, many such giants of the Web 2.0 world are feeling the pinch. Even Flickr, another Yahoo! provision, despite having a well supported ‘paid for’ membership, is seeing more competition from mobile-based tools such as Instagram and several other App-based photo sites (which will in time come under threat themselves).

Some people say that even Twitter will die – [See James Clay’s blog]

None of this is a bad thing, unless we invest time, effort and/or money into individual sites and provisions. I hope to expand upon this in a future post. Maybe I’ll title that ‘stick to basics’?

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope the financial crisis (caused by reckless banking) does not strike you too hard and that your wishes all come true. 🙂

iAccessibility

I read this post http://behindthecurtain.us/2010/06/12/my-first-week-with-the-iphone/comment-page-1/#comment-9947 by Austin Seraphin last week. I wanted to blog about it at the time, but my preparations for work in Prague prevented me from doing that. I did comment on Austin’s blog at the time though:

Thank you for sharing this.

I am a sighted iPhone user and reported upon these functions when they were introduced on the 3GS. I’d thought they were tremendous. To read your commentary of actual use and to understand more deeply, the pleasure these functions give has been enlightening.

Thank you.

I also noted that there were many others commenting who like me were very impressed with his post. So thank you Austin once more, for that food for thought.

Any regular readers may remember that I’d blogged about the iPhone 3GS’s voice over function back in January https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/iphone-3gs-accessibility/. In that post, I cited another blind user’s view of the then new iPhone accessibility functions. http://www.nillabyte.com/blog.php?b=280 Since January there has been an upgrade to both the phone and the operating system. What’s more, there has been a new and very popular device launch and the iPad is now amongst us and several of the updated features are available on that too.

IOS4 provides new and extended accessibility features.

Which means that the 3GS’s capabilities are improved – with the addition of (for example):

* Touch Typing – here, the user just draws their finger across the keyboard to hear each letter read out. Once the letter needed is found, the user simply lifts his or her finger to select it.

* Bluetooth wireless braille displays are supported too. Just pair up any one of 30 devices, choose one of the 25 supplied Braille language directories and off you go!

And not all improvements are for those with sight impairments or blindness. The deaf or hearing impaired can also be helped by using features such as:

* Face Time – which provides better access for the deaf with the new ability to communicate by phone using sign language

* Optional mono-audio – which if hearing is limited in one ear, can route both right and left channels into both earbuds

See http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/accessibility.html and http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html for much more.

But these in-built features are not the sum of what iPhones can do to help learning become inclusive. There are many Applications [Apps] that do similar, sterling work.

A selection of these:

* SpeakIt http://appshopper.com/utilities/say-it (£1.19) is a great way of vocalising text on the iPhone. Cut and Paste (or type) text into the window and it will read it back to you in one of several voices. The resulting file can be emailed!

* iConverse http://www.converseapp.com/ (£5.99) ‘iConverse is an educational tool designed for young children and individuals with communicative disabilities, and also toddler-aged children who have yet to master language.’ At it’s simplest you upload a photo, annotate it and the software reads out the annotation.

* Google Voicehttp://www.google.com/mobile/google-mobile-app/ (free) simply click the microphone icon and speak your search term. No fiddly spelling and pretty accurate.

* Soundnotehttp://soundnote.com/ (£2.99) is an iPad App. It is a note pad. However, the killer feature is that it also records audio. Lots of audio. So, a learner (lets say a dyslexic learner) can make brief notes as he or she listens to the speaker (teacher?) whilst recording the entire class. The recording can then be saved.

What are you using? How are you using it?

iPad stuff

A small thing that I find irritating about my iPad is the way I have to hold the device to type.  Here I am now, typing into the ‘documents to go‘ interface and I’m not comfortable.

I want to sit (I’d envisioned myself sitting) cross legged, with the pad on my knee to type. Now that would be relaxing after a day on a normal keyboard (straight beck, eyes level with the screen etc.) but I can’t. Why? Well, when I cross my legs and put the pad in a comfy position, it slides down to my tummy and I can’t easily get to the keyboard without hunching up. I can do it ok if I hold it with one hand and type with (just) the other but otherwise (faux leather cover on or no cover on at all) it slips down. So typing with two fingers, i.e. both hands, is not as comfortable. Just saying!

Perhaps someone could design an ‘iPad knee perch’? (10% commission please).

I bought an iPad Camera kit yesterday. It wasn’t a necessity, after all I can get photos onto the iPad in any one of a number of ways but I was attracted by the saving (£19$29 – as opposed to £25 at home) and the fact that the kit included a USB adapter and an SD Card reader. Although I’m happy with my purchase, I realise now that I should have done a little more research – and adjusted my expectations accordingly. The USB does not allow anything other than cameras equipped with PTP to be connected and any SD Card contents other than photos cannot be read. So it does what it says on the tin and I have used it for my convenience several times already. Fair enough.

Perhaps someone could design an’ iPad Camera Kit pouch’? (10% commission please).

All this got me thinking about how I could take photos with the iPad. There is no camera (dammit) but that shouldn’t be a barrier! I found a free App called EZ Cam Lite. I think that there is a paid-for version, but I probably won’t bother. The whole thing is a real faff and the results not really any bettter than the old 1.3 megapixel shots we used to take. The idea is that you connect both the iPad (no camera) and the iPhone (with camera) via bluetooth and as if by magic the iPad becomes a camera. Actually the idea if fine – you could have the iPhone (with camera) turned on in one room while you sit in another room with the iPad (no camera)  viewing input from iPhone’s camera. Which might be ok if you have no baby alarm for example but the shots taken are truly awful. The one good shot I took was posed and close-up. Why I would use the iPad for that, when I had the iPhone anyway will forever remain a mystery to me.

This experiment was a real example of tailoring need to fit the technology (like the guy who finds a crutch and wonders who’s leg he can break?).

Beware: when bluetooth is turned on it sucks all the life out of your batteries. I’ve been getting a day or two out of intermittent use of the iPad but since using bluetooth, battery life drops remarkably.

I’m still liking the sociability of the iPad. It’s quick and convenient to pick up and use for all sorts of things. Don’t let me put you off with my (apparent) negativity :0(

Putting iPad to work

Because my various posts about iPad use have received a modicum of interest, I thought I’d make a few other observations and recommendations. I’m sure that there are people out there who can’t decide whether they need one or not.

No one ‘needs’ one. That’s the first thing. Everything an iPad does can be done, often better and quicker with another tool. First of all it’s too big to fit in your pocket – so it’s less ‘mobile’ than a mobile phone. To prevent damage and to make it easier to use, it will need some sort of cover; I’ve already discarded a rubber ‘condom’ cover and now use a faux leather one: each adds to the bulk, if only slightly. So why not use a laptop? Even Steve Jobs says that the iPad is not a laptop replacement (although in his heart of hearts, I’ll bet he wished it was). Most modern phones knock it into a cocked hat for multi-functionality (e.g. they can take photographs and videos) and portability.

So would I give mine away? Not on your life ! There’s no way on earth would I give it up without a fight. WHY if it’s so apparently useless, why would I fight to keep it?

Well first of all it’s not meant to be a mobile phone or a laptop. Maybe not anything that has gone before? It’s NOT a tablet PC, it’s NOT a Netbook, it’s NOT an iPod Touch even (although it does lack that same feature that would make the iPod Touch a must have mobile tool – a camera). What it is – is a perfect device for just doing ‘stuff’ on. As I’ve said before, I can quite easily make notes, write essays, and type emails on it. I can access most parts of the Internet (just not those parts that need ‘Flash’) and I can use many of the Apps that are essential parts of the ‘i’ family. And the experience is excellent. The way sites represent themselves on the iPad (and the way some Apps are designed specially for the iPad) is pleasurable and easy on the eye.

My favourite App this week is that from IMDB (http://www.imdb.com), the movie site. It’s a far better experience than the normal site and much easier to find information. And, because the iPad is able to just lie around the living room and because it has a long battery life – it’s also convenient to settle those little arguments you often have (b.t.w. that WAS Juliette Lewis I saw in the Ad for The Switch).

Another, put to the test today by Sis-inLaw, and only available for the iPad is called SoundPaper. This is a powerful notepad special developed for the iPad. Not only can you make notes but you can record the speaker (teacher, keynote, etc.) at the same time. Then, when you want to access your notes and can’t remember exactly what the speaker was talking about, click on the note you’ve made and the audio track will jump to 7 seconds before you made you note and allow you to re-listen to the talk. If you like you can email the notes (plus audio) to ‘whoever’, save as a .pdf or share with a Mac or Laptop. 1 hour of audio = 20meg. How cool is that for $4.99? App Store.

iPad in Tulsa

Here I go again, using the iPad to compose a blog post and anticipating the fact that It will be impossible to complete my task without help from a proper blogging tool (the MacBook Pro).

I’m sat in a very hot kitchen because the ‘majority rule’ has crap on T.V. That’s ok though, because it was me that put the oven on – I just can’t be blamed for the HOT sun streaming though the window blinds. I still love that fact that I can type with two fingers, quickly, on the landscape iPad keyboard, it makes typing really easy. I’ve also noticed that although I have to touch the [.?123] button to get an apostrophe it defaults back to [ABC] without me having to slide my finger over the keyboard (did you know that if you want something on the [.?123] keypad, you can just slide your finger onto the [.?123] key, keeping your finger sliding, slide over to the key you need and let go: the keyboard recognises your choice and then reverts to [ABC] straight away).

It’s frustrating not to be able to do several things on the iPad.

I know that it’s a tool in a Class of its own and that it’s not meant to be a laptop replacement, but there are some basics that it would be nice to have – like Flash video for example. The new BBC App is so gorgeous, it begs you to investigate most things it throws at you, but the videos are barred because Steve Jobs and the guys at Adobe have thrown their corporate dummies out of the pram. Come on chaps, I get the argument, but what about your customers? e.g. There are so many .flv videos out there, that will not go away Steve, why can’t I watch them on my iPad (I’ll concede my iPhone, although …??) I do get your argument re: HTML5 but how long before web sites (and the majority are very very small web sites and provisions) can catch up?

Another thing caught up in the Apple v Adobe fight is my ability to blog via the WordPress App. and via Safari. As soon as I try to embed an image (even before I get the URL from Flickr) WordPress gives up the ghost. Why? That particular bit of technology is Adobe’s. I know that I can email to WordPress but I can do that from my Mac, my PC, my phone – even my older Nokia phone, but the iPad should be ‘special’.

Grrr

See the following blogs for non-work related ‘stuff’ while I’m here in the States:

http://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/ipad-goes-to-tulsa/

http://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/route-66/

http://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/route-66-a-little-more/