Using headphones to take photos with iPad or iPhone

I recently learnt a little known iPad/iPhone trick – that is really useful, especially for people using an iPad in a teaching and learning situation.
Using headphones to take a photo with iPad
If you have a newish headphone set that has a volume control on the headphones – then this can be used to take a photo or video on the iPad. Pressing the volume down button on the headphones – will have the same effect as pressing the button on the screen when in the default camera app.

There are a few uses of using this technique as follows:

  • If I am creating a video of myself (e.g. introducing a topic to learners) – I can start and stop the video with my headphones, which are out of site of the camera – without having to lean forward and (visibly) touch the screen.
  • If I am carrying out movement analysis in a sports setting, and I have set my iPad up on a tripod (see previous blog post on this topic) – if I touch the screen to start the recording – I risk wobbling the set-up, which reduces the quality of the video. By using the headphones there is no wobble in the system.
  • Again if the iPad is on a tripod and I am operating the taking of the photos/videos – by using the headphones, I can do this without having to look at the device – which means I can keep my full attention on the class. If I am pressing the button on the screen, I have to momentarily take my attention away from the class, potentially missing something important.
  • If working outdoors in the cold, it is possible to operate the camera with gloves on.
  • If working in certain environments such as a workshop, kitchen, farmyard – it is possible to operate the camera even without fully clean hands. At the end of the session you can wipe the controls of the headphones clean.
  • If working with disabled learners, the processing of holding the device, and looking at the screen, and pointing in the right direction, and then taking the photo can be tricky for some, often resulting in movement of the device as the on-screen button is pressed. By using the headphones (and possibly a tripod) we can reduce this effect. This won’t work for all – some will find the on-screen button easier to manage, but others will find the headphones option easy to control.

There will be many other uses that I haven’t listed here (maybe people will comment if they can think of any).

Device to attach an iPad or tablet to a standard tripod

image of an iPad mounted on a tripod

As a former PE/Sport science lecturer, the iPad is a wonderful device, that I wish existed when I was teaching, as  it’s potential for me to video something, then play it back easily with options to slow motion, fast forward etc. is superb, and if I wanted to carry out some slightly more scientific analysis, then we now have an affordable device, that can be easily used by the teacher or students, and I am very impressed by the quality of photographs and footage from an iPad, as even when capturing at a fast frame rate as is often required in sports analysis situations, the quality is excellent, even in low lit indoor situations.

If I am doing some analysis, then I need to mount the device onto a tripod so that it doesn’t move, shake or vibrate. I spent ages trying to source an affordable attachment that would attach to a standard tripod – and surprisingly I struggled. There are many expensive alternatives that are too costly for education (in my opinion) or there are some very wobbly looking options, which I wouldn’t trust, or the options were unique to a a particular model of device which I didn’t want. Luckily a colleague of mine, Ron Mitchell – did locate what I was looking for, which is made by a company called iStabalizer and is called the Tab Mount. The only place that I could find that sells this in the UK is Amazon (which is a shame, because as a company I prefer to use companies that pay their taxes), and the direct link (at time of writing this post) is here – cost at time of writing is £22.95.

Basically the device is a spring loaded mechanism, where the top and bottom pull apart then spring close again and clamps tight around the tablet, and then has a standard tripod thread on its back which can be used to attach to the tripod. It will work with a range of tablet devices of different size , and in most cases you shouldn’t need to remove the device from any protective case that it is in, which I think makes it ideal for education.

Image of the iStabalizer tab mount

You do lose the use of the arm of the tripod with this arrangement, but for sport analysis where the tripod isn’t going to move, this won’t matter. As well as uses in sport, this could have obvious uses for other subjects such as music, media, art or simply for a teacher than wants to film their students and doesn’t want to have to hold their device.

If any PE/Sport Science teachers are interested in a training session on how to use iPads or other tablets in a PE/Sport setting then I run bespoke training sessions through The Tablet Academy, details of the iPad based session is available at http://www.tablet-academy.com/courses/using-ipads-in-pe-and-sport/65.html. These courses can be arranged for an individual organisation, or there are the £99 courses which are great for schools that maybe have only 1 or 2 PE teachers, and the Tablet Academy isn’t just UK based, there are centres setting up around the globe.


All images by Dave Foord – http://www.flickr.com/photos/davefoord/sets/72157640918612424/

Using a phone to capture audio and make learning more fun

This is the 4th entry in a series on making learning more fun.

Students carry mobile phones around with them, and something that mobiles phones can do very well is record audio, either into the phone itself, or into a web based system such as Ipadio. (Which I have blogged about before)

We can use these ideas as a way of bringing variety (and therefore more interest / fun) into the learning process.

To listen about how this may work, here is an ipadio recording on this topic, that I have linked back into this blog.

Visit http://ipad.io/Txv to hear my latest ipadio phonecast

If you use things like Moodle or Blackboard then the embedding mechanism works even better, providing more information and a more attractive player.

Ideas of how you could use this technique:-

  • Ask learners to interview each other, whilst they role play characters within a scenario
  • Ask learners to explain the topic just taught using audio only (and therefore no visual information)
  • Ask learners to create memory rhymes for key information
  • Ask learners to reflect at the end of the session on what they have learnt
  • For the teaching of languages, the possible uses of this is enormous – the tutor could send an audio file to the learners each day in the language they are learning, or the learners could practice their speaking and then the tutor / peers can provide feedback.

This is an area where teaching can be radically transformed with just a bit of imagination.

Optivote change their price plan for Moodle Integration (because they listened to me)

A few weeks back, I blogged about Optivote’s Moodle Integration and how this could be a very useful feature for people that have Optivote of CPS voting pads already. At the time they had worked out a price plan which was a fixed price regardless of the organisation’s size – which was OK for the big providers, but less good for the smaller ones – and in conversation with the CEO at Optivote I pointed out that this may not be the best way forward.

Well – I am pleased to find out that they have changed their pricing plan in line with my suggestion, so the plan is based on the number of people that will be using it (so doesn’t disadvantage the smaller providers as much). They have also produced a ‘bundle’ plan where you get a 3 year licence for the price of 2. This (again my suggestion) doesn’t just save money, but if there are any future capital bids out there (OK possibly unlikely at the moment, but may happen) then this cost would be considered as capital rather than revenue – so could be bid for in that light.

Optivotes full price plan can be found at

http://www.optivote.co.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=OFM&Page=3

So I hope that my conversation with the CEO at Optivote has helped the education community (a little bit) especially the smaller providers for whom this now becomes a bit more viable.

I will point out here that I have no financial interest in Optivote – so I am not trying to ‘sell’ their system here, but I am aware that there are lots of providers out there with underused sets of voting pads that have been purchased, for whom this integration could improve their use of the voting pads, and improve the use of Moodle.

Integrating Optivote Voting Systems with Moodle

There are many Colleges and schools in the country that own voting pads sets, and alas many of them sit in cupboards gathering dust as staff haven’t been given the time and support to leOptivote Handsetarn the software and to develp the activities.

However – one of the voting pad companies (Optivote) has come up with a very clever idea – to integrate their software with Moodle.

I like the idea of this for various reasons:

  • It means that a tutor has less systems to learn
  • If a student misses a session they can still partake via Moodle
  • It will encourage staff to use the Groups tools within Moodle which I think are excellent but about 90% of the people that I come across don’t use them
  • The Moodle will hopefully have all the student names already in the system in the correct class so no problem with having multiple systems, or having to export and import CSV files etc.

There is a cost associated – which for small providers may be an issue, but for medium and large organisations it works out very cheap – so for people that have lots of sets of Optivote (green voting pads) or CPS (Blue ones – previoulsy sold by eInstruction)

Here is a video showing how it looks.

http://www.optivote.com/

Interactive whiteboards and CPD

Many educational organisations have invested (often huge amounts) in interactive whiteboards only to the be disappointed that they are underused or badly used by staff.

There are various reasons for this but the biggest in my opinion comes down to getting the staff development element right and for this we need to understand the issues.
Short Throw projector on SmartBoard

The first problem is that we have a habit of putting the interactive whiteboards in classrooms, and then we fill the classroom with students making it difficult for staff to get to the board when it is not in use, and even if they do find a time when the room is empty many people don’t like to ‘play’ with the board in a large room like a classroom especially as they will be stood at the front in a position where people are usually looking at them. If I wanted staff to use something like a video camera I would let them take it home so they can ‘play’ with it on their sofa – a safe environment to experiment or learn. Even the staff room is seen by many as a safe place to learn, whereas as the classroom isn’t and this is a fundemental issue for staff development in this area.

The second issue is then what and how much training do we give people. it is very easy to pull in an enthusiastic user to run an inspirational training session which will have a wow factor as we use and integrate all the wonderful features that the board and software offers, but there is a risk that a nervous user may think that they need to use it to that level, when in fact they are better off doing a bit one lesson, then a bit more next time etc. and building up their skills and confidence that way. I once ran an interactive whiteboard session to over 30 people which I managed by doing a simple opening presentation then I split them into about 4 groups and sent them off to different rooms with a challenge sheet to work their way through the software – this sesion actually worked really well, we didn’t cover as much ground as usual but I think the staff used the boards better as a result.

A third problem with the interactive boards is their positioning on the wall. I too often see a board positioned too high either due to the person fitting it not thinking about other people heights or because there is some electrical trunking at half height that they have gone above. Having a board in the wrong position is a huge barrier to many.

So what should we do.

1) Get teaching staff to influence the location of the boards in the rooms, check that the board works for people of varying heights and left and right handers.

2) if you have enough money to buy say 6 boards, then buy 5 only and use the money saved to invest on staff development. 5 well used boards is better than 6 badly used ones.

3) If you are buying multiple boards then put 1 of them in a safe place for staff to practice using it. This could be a staff common room, a training room etc. this will give staff the chance to ‘play’ and to become confident. After a year then move the board into a teaching area if you wish

4) work out what your licence will allow you to do. For example some of the boards will allow staff to install the software at home or at least on other computers owned by the institution. This is essential for staff to prepare resources for the boards as well as helping them to become familar with the software.

5) Think about running shorter training sessions but more often. I think an initial 1 hour session will get people going, then another short session a few weeks later is much better than a half day session up front.

6) Offer some sort of post training support – this could be turning up at the beginning of their first lesson to make sure all switched on etc. or having a mechanism where staff can easily ask for help

Used well the interactive whiteboard can be a very useful bit of kit. Used badly and it is an expensive gimmic that may have a negative effect on the learning, but the simple message is to invest in the staff development and CPD

Using a digital camera with a 3 year old (and older learners)

A lot of people in education are using the various forms of cheap, easy to use cameras – with the arguement that the fact that they are so easy to use (just press big red button to record/stop) is one less barrier to technology. But I personally haven’t got on with them, their inability to zoom, the low quality of the output, the poor sound etc I think outweighs their ease of use, and I am of the opinion that buying a standard compact camera that does photographs and video is a viable option. Some will argue that as these don’t have the built in USB connector you have to mess around with cables – but the simple solution to that is to permanently attach the cable to the camera, using a cable tie and adhesive cable tie mount.

We have purchased one such camera (£40) for our kids (aged 5,3,and 1) and the oldest 2 have worked out how to turn the camera on, how to take photos, how to zoom, how to view what they have done, and how to switch the camera off – so if a 3 year old can manage these things, then I think even the most technophobic adults could manage this.

Last night I was helping my 5 year old son with his homework, and they were doing 2D and 3D shapes. I had been asked to go around the home with him seeing how many shapes he could find, name and then draw. We tried this at first but he wasn’t very excited by this, so I suggested that he went round with the camera and photographed different shapes. This was much more exciting – he knows where the camera is kept, so fetched it himself, set it up, and took the photos without any input from me. I then uploaded them into PowerPoint, resized and printed to stick into his book (where he could then name and draw). Below is the output of this exercise.

Using a camera with a 5 year old

Using a camera with a 5 year old

There are so many examples in education of how we can quickly use cameras for an exercise, and with most learners in FE and HE owning phones with cameras built in, we don’t even need to provide them with the cameras.