Sunday, January 27, 2013

5 things I like about the Paper app

Screen-grab of the Paper app
I have been using the Paper app by FiftyThree for almost a year now, and I must say it is still one of my favourite sketching tool, no...make it my MOST favourite sketching tool in my iPad. And with my recent upgrade to the Retina display version of the iPad, it has been a godsend too.

Let me just state why it has been my app of choice for most of my sketches:

  1. The look-and-feel: The look-and-feel of the app is shall I say it...just right aesthetically. The team at fiftythree has spent a lot of effort, and indeed being voted as a winner in 2012's Apple Design Award is, I think, one of the more deserving accolade that they should win, perhaps of many more to come. The clean and simple interface just smacks of simplicity and zen-ness, whilst still maintaining a certain level of functionality in giving the users options and choices, to pursue and peruse the app in their own desired way.
  2. Undo: I find the undo concept, akin to the rewinding of a turntable, a very innovative one. Viewing the interview video done with the design team, I can now understand the background behind this unique design. It is indeed an efficient tool for me as a user.
  3. Colour palette: The updated versions launched recently includes a colour palette that enables users to have better and more control over the colour. I thought this is a neat idea, given the fact that I usually use several tones of some hues for some of my sketches.
  4. Sketchbooks: The idea of incorporating 'sketchbooking' elements rather than loose sheets, like some other sketching apps, is also a step in the right direction for me. It helps me to organise my sketches, and allows me to clarify my ideas and thoughts better too. With the added functionality of copying from one page of a book, to another, it makes the experience even better!
  5. Pay for what you use/need: Yes, although the basic edition is free, you can still upgrade, but just pay only for those that you use or need. But if you are like me, just get everything!
I guess there are several more reasons that I can quote, but the above are perhaps the major reasons, not in any particular order, that have made me really love this app.

But I do admit it is not perfect! There are some nice-to-have functions that I wish they could have added on, but alas, that in itself could be one post that I might be doing at another time then. In the meantime, I am just enjoying what they have to offer, and perhaps doing a little more sketching too!

For a look at some of my works, you can Like my page on Facebook, or view my 'A Sketch A Day Project 2013' (Twitter hashtag: #aSkaD2013) HERE, plus my other sketches and contributions. You can also see my works specifically on the Paper app on my Behance page HERE.

Friday, January 25, 2013

5 ideas to improve Edmodo

As I've said in my previous post, I have only been using Edmodo for 4 weeks. These are 5 ideas that I thought would help to make the platform more effective, but then again, these are only ideas from me as a very early adopter, and my teaching and learning workflow could be different from others...or not. So here are my 5 ideas to improve Edmodo:

  1. Show more preview of the attached files: I thought having the ability to show a little more of the attached files is a good idea to have, akin to how one can browse through the pages of a .pdf document in the Finder window on a Mac-based system.
  2. Being able to simultaneously dictate posts: Currently I have to rework on another assignment post if I were to assign the same assignment to different classes, at different times of release. I know that we could just edit the original post, and add in the target groups or classes later on, but I thought being able to do these staggered timings at one go early on, and once only, would be a better and more efficient way of working.
  3. Reorganising small groups: Currently the small groups are pretty much fixed, and when one needs to regroup the class into other variations for a new assignment, the old group would not stay, unless one takes the effort to create a new cluster of small groups! This might make the organisation of the small groups function a little unwieldly, especally over time. I thought it is good to have some form of a memory-system in place, so that for each of the assignment assigned to a batch of smaller groups, the teacher/user can make references to which students are in the particular small groups, for a particular specific assignment. This could also be extended to the Turned-In submissions, as only the particular student who submitted on behalf of the group would have the Turned-In status on. I thought having the status for the rest of the group members at the same time would be a bette means of indication.
  4. Editable grading for students: Something small, but I thought it would be good for teacher/users to be able to edit the listing descriptors whenever they are marking the students' turned in assignments. Descriptors like 'A Rockstar' might be helpful in certain contexts...but might also not be helpful in others. Best if this could be linked to some sort of a user-defined rubrics too.
  5. A much better in-built chatting/private messaging tool: I thought having this tool built in into Edmodo would be helpful, akin to Facebook's Chat and Google+'s Hangout concepts. It would help students to make connections and give feedback more quickly, within the system, rather than having to alternate to another tool to do so.
Disclaimer: Although these are ideas/suggestions from me that I deemed to be non-existent yet, I might be wrong in certain areas, and there might just be turnarounds to the challenges that I face above, that I have not discovered just yet. I would definitely love to hear from any Edmodo users out there, for some of these turnarounds, if any. Or perhaps I might have been doing some aspects wrongly, hence the shortcomings above. But whatever it is, I do hope that some of these improvements are things that could be in the pipeline, and who knows, the list above might just get a little shorter once I am done with it by the end of the year!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

10 things why I like Edmodo

Screenshot of the homepage
I have been using for about 4 weeks now, and I must say it has been a good experience thus far. Here's my 10 reasons why I like to use it for my lessons:

  1. It is similar to Facebook: The fact that the interface and the way it works is similar to Facebook, perhaps the #1 social media tool used by my students, is already a plus point in itself. Students would have a very short learning curve to work their way around the interfaces and being able to 'recognise' the similarities between Facebook and Edmodo.
  2. No ads: At least not now. The fact that there are no ads help teachers like me to focus more on what is the main intent of using Edmodo, that is for teaching and learning. Having no distractions like advertisements, however appropriate (or worse still, inappropriate ones!) is a godsend, as it just looks a little cleaner to me, for my intended tasks.
  3. Closed system: The fact that you can control the level of privacy of your group/class is another tool that is useful. Whilst this is also possible in tools like Facebook and Google+, I thought the fact that the focus of Edmodo, being a tool more for educators, than the former two, just helps to redefine and make the system more exclusive, and thus enhance the closeness (or openness), of it.
  4. Assignments: The ability for the teacher-user to define the assignments and immediately upload the posts, or having them posted in a delayed manner, is a good tool for me, especially when I can key in all the assignments to my classes at one go, but then stagger their uploads/posts onto the main public board, according to the timings that I dictate
  5. Linkage to G-drive: Having the Library function linked to you selected Gmail account, and consequently, the corresponding Google Drive is a good step, as it helps me to just keep track of the single folder or G-drive account that I would need to monitor, for all my lesson materials, that I would want to upload, or refer to.
  6. Ability to monitor students submissions: One of the shortcomings of using other social media tools, is their inability to monitor closely the submissions by students. Hence the ability of Edmodo to give the teacher an overall view of students' submissions, is indeed useful. More so too if you have more than one class/group to teach.
  7. Ability to differentiate instructions through small-grouping: Being able to form smaller groups within the class is another useful my opinion. Teachers like me can better manage their assignments, and shall there be a need to, use differentiated instructions methods to targeted groups, for a more effective learning environment. 
  8. Polls and Quizes: The use of polls and short quizzes, with time limits, is a good tool for one to use, as it helps to complete Edmodo, as a tool for teaching and learning. As of now, I have not use this tools yet, but I thought having them as part of the suite of tools made available to the teacher-user, is indeed something worth exploring, and using, later on.
  9. Commenting on students' submissions: This must be one of the tool that I have been using the most thus far. Especially when one talks about submissions of digital artefacts that are subjective or aesthetics-based in nature. The ability of the teachers to include personalised comments, and suggestions, is really a wonderful one!
  10. Badges as rewards: I guess students are also motivated by some form of rewards, and having this small, but useful feature, is a step in the right direction, towards affirming students works and/or efforts.
And there you go, the 10 things that I like about, not in any particular order. There are still a few more that I might have missed over here, but it is definitely one tool that educators should try to have a go at, even if its not on a 1-to-1 computing classroom model.

Do give me a tinker if you have ideas, or would like to share with me your thoughts on this.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In search of that perfect stylus

I am currently into sketching, digital sketching to be precise, and am furiously looking out for that perfect stylus for my sketching style and medium. I sketch mostly on my iPad tablet, for digital media, and on any piece of paper, for the more traditional alternative. I am hoping that my recent purchase of a moleskine would help to discipline myself to start to compile all my sketches into one book, but that would be for a post on another day.

Now back to my hunt for that perfect stylus. It hasn't been easy, and like others who also sketch on a digital medium, I have seen my fair share of ones that perform well in certain areas, but still fails miserably in general. My last one was an AlumPen, a Red-Dot Design award winner, and I must say it has not dissapoint, well almost, in enabling me to sketch out my ideas and thoughts.

Until that is...the Bamboo stylus came along. I've just gotten myself the Bamboo stylus solo version, (the duo version comes with a pen, but I don't quite like the dual-functionality of such styluses, but that's just my personal opinion) and I must say it is one of the best so far. Not that it would help me to impove my sketching skills by leaps and bounds, but it definitely has a slightly better feel in my hands. It just feels more balanced in my hands, and lengthwise, it is of the right one for my hand size. The front tip is also of the right degree of softness and sensitivity to the tablet surface, a perennial problem that seems to affect the first generation of styluses in other brands. I hope to be able to sketch more with this Bamboo stylus, and hopefully, get to work on levelling up on my sketches too.

To those still in search of that perfect stylus, if you can, do try a few, and do try the Bamboo too. You never might end up liking it too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad