Westminster

Visit to Apple Regent Street

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On Friday 31st March, lucky Digital Ambassadors (including myself!) were invited to take part at an event at Apple Regent Street (yes, it’s no longer officially called “Apple Store”). Although Apple have done this before, this was the first time Westminster collaborated with them.

In case you didn’t know, the redesigned store has been visioned by Jony Ive, who designs nearly all of Apples latest devices, including iOS. We also got to see a room very little people get to see; the new board room!

The day lasted 3 hours and was packed with talks by Apple members of staff including Creatives who talked about Apple awareness. A video at the start talked about how iPad is enabling people to get things done from anywhere – including the top of a mountain where there may or may not be 4G…

After a lengthy talk about how to help people through effective questioning, we were shown how to use iMovie, Slide-over, the Camera app, and Keynote. This was a really useful section of the event as I picked up some new skills.

They explained how these tools can be used together to create content. I had never used the ‘instant alpha’ feature in Keynote before, and I suggest you try it out too – it eliminates colours in an image to make them transparent. I know I will be using it more often!

We were then tasked to create our own presentations on a topic of our choice, related to our course.

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After presentations, we were given a store tour which included lots of interesting facts such as:

  • Apple moved the pillars on the top floors of the store to be in line with the ones at the bottom floor of the store – the attention to detail
  • Apple Regent Street was the first Apple Store in Europe
  • It was also the largest store in Europe
  • The walls are covered in marble and use Jony Ive’s idea for the design of the stair bannisters.

An amazing day with lots of information taken away, including new skills picked up by tutors, who are already using their newly learned skills. One tutor has experimented (successfully) with Keynote Live in the lecture:

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Irfan

Why I Like iPad For Learning 

The more posts I write, and the more I go back and look at them – the more I realise that I haven’t explicitly told you my reasons for liking iPad for learning with at uni. So here is a list of just that. 

  1. It’s the future!
  2. It’s useful for tube journeys (shameless previous post plug!)
  3. Blackboard is quick to access
  4. I like having my uni stuff separate from personal iPad and iPhone stuff. 
  5. Don’t need to carry laptop just to take, download or follow notes
  6. I can annotate on notes!
  7. Syncing of files is excellent (iCloud)
  8. iTunes U is the best education app I have ever used – lots of useful courses and videos 
  9. The app selection is incredible – “there’s an app for that”
  10. Good for typing quick emails and for keeping a tab on incoming emails too
  11. It doesn’t complain if I leave it at home 
  12. It’s thin and light and I barely know it’s in my bag
  13. iPad doesn’t act like a barrier between me and the lecturer like a laptop does
  14. The battery lasts longer than my laptop sometimes
  15. My timetable works perfectly with the native calendar app
  16. Because I have my timetable in calendar, it tells me the times I should leave so I won’t be late
  17. Two things at once on screen mean I can have Pages and News open (Slide Over)
  18. AirDrop notes and things to my laptop/iPhone is very convenient 
  19. I can access OneDrive, iCloud Drive and Google Drive without logging in every time 
  20. It’s the best tool I’ve used for revision – lightweight and easy to revise on
  21. iBooks keeps my coursework specs in one place

I’m sure this post sounded more like an iPad ad in some ways, but those are all valid points! There are loads more, but can’t think of anymore right now. 

Some things I don’t like about using the iPad for learning:

  1. Due to the MDM profile, I’m forced to type in a long password, when I would really like to use a quicker pin (it doesn’t have Touch ID)
  2. I’m reminded on the lock screen and settings app that my iPad is managed by the university and that my location and web traffic is monitored. While this is fine, it still would be nice if it didn’t word it that way!
  3. Can’t code on it
  4. Blackboard app is not reliable. It’s easier and quicker to use Safari to access Blackboard!

Irfan

Tip: Reading List

Imagine if you could continue reading that article you were looking at during breakfast, or do some quick revision on Java – on the tube, without Internet. 

With the reading list feature you can do just that. It’s a really clever option that I found to be useful on a somewhat boring journey to uni. Best of all – there is nothing to set up, not even an iCloud password to enter. 

To get started, open up Safari and begin by opening the site that you want to be able to view offline. Make sure it’s fully loaded. You’ll know it’s fully loaded by the fact the blue bar at the top reaches the end of the URL bar and disappears. 


Tap the share icon, and choose Reading List (it’s the icon with the Steve Jobs glasses). Then wait a few moments for the page to save in the background. You won’t get any visual cues that it’s done, but if you no longer see the spinning wheel at the top of the screen (next to the iPad text), you can assume it’s been saved/added to reading list. 

And that’s it!

To get back to that site, when you’re offline, open Safari and tap the book icon. Choose the glasses icon and you will see all the sites available to you. 


It’s not really going to work for videos and it’s best for sites that have a lot of text rather than images (though it will save images).  Also, the more content on the page, the longer it will take to save. You can check if the page got saved by closing the tab, turning on airplane mode and trying to access the site from your reading list before you make your actual offline journey. 

Give it a try and tell me what you think in the comments!

Irfan

How ‘Duet’ is doubling my performance

I introduced a new app in my workflow called ‘Duet’ – also recently talked about it on this blog.

I have been using it with my Macbook in the past weeks and can safely say that it has succeeded in speeding up my workflow.

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Its been very useful for the Mobile Application Development module (the irony!) where I can have Android Studio open on the Macbook, and the emulator open on the iPad. No need to switch windows anymore, or swipe desktops. Its simply a quick glance at the iPad, see the bugs, and correct the code – brilliant!

One of my friends saw this unique way of working and said “Wow” as soon as he saw it. He was quite confused as to how it was working and I explained all about the Duet app to him and he promptly downloaded it (mainly because it would become a paid app the next day!) and started using it. He has a 12″ Macbook and since his screen was smaller than mine, he noticed the biggest difference to his workflow for Android programming. I even showed him the different options you get in the menubar on the Mac.

It’s not perfect though. For example, sometimes it lags and doesn’t keep up with my cursor very well.

If you haven’t tried out Duet, I recommend that you do!

Irfan

The State of iPad Use

As we reach the peak point of the semester, its time to once again look at how well iPads are performing in the classroom.

Honestly, its remained pretty much the same since my last post about it. I have noticed however that less and less students are bringing in the iPads to lectures/tutorials and bringing in their laptops instead.

I think this is due to the modules we are taking which includes making an Android app and another which asks for a series of complex diagrams. These are simply not possible on an iPad so many students prefer to bring in a laptop to take notes AND work on said course works. I have to admit, I have also been doing this. I haven’t brought in the iPad for the past couple of weeks, simply because I found no need for it when I need to work on my app anyway. I found it to be more convenient and lightweight to bring in a laptop instead (not that the iPad is heavy – just carrying both can be tiring!).

There are still many students who elect to bring in both, and thats great. I’ve seen a couple of students who have the iPad open displaying lecture slides, and they’re typing notes or working on their laptops.

Its difficult to say whether or not students will bring in the iPads after the deadlines for these CW’s pass because there will be a second app to create, and a C# implementation of the diagrams. Theres also a group project that requires a lot of Java programming right now.

Overall, iPad use has slowly reached a point where students would rather get productive on a laptop, than a tablet – because the iPad simply does not let you program, which is a big requirement in our faculty. But students are still embracing iPads wherever they can.

Irfan

Writing Coursework on iPad: Can you do it?

When I received the iPad, one of the questions that popped up in my head was “Can I do coursework on this?”

By coursework, I mean write ups, not programming or anything extreme.

Word for iPad is preinstalled on the FST iPads

Towards the end of the first semester, we were given a coursework which involved filling out a template (Professional Practice, CW2) and I thought I would try to do it on the iPad. It sounded easier than it was. I was able to open the doc right from the iPad on Safari, and then ‘copy’ it to Word.

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 It turned out okay, but some of the formatting was lost and it was difficult to keep up with the template. I didn’t want to risk messing up the template and getting a low grade 😛

I eventually scrapped this idea, and completed the coursework on a traditional PC instead. 

For another module, we had to do a write up about a website we had created. It had to be a page long maximum and this was easy as I could simply start the writing on the iPad straight away. So I got into Word for iPad, and starting typing.

The experience of typing on iPad is strange, as you’re basically striking a flat pane of glass and it takes some time to get used to. I also noticed that I made quite a few typing errors on the iPad – more than I would make on a physical keyboard, but there was no lag in the keyboard which was good.

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My Apple Wireless Keyboard connected to the iPad over bluetooth. Virtually no lag between key strokes.

I actually hooked up my Apple Wireless Keyboard to the iPad (via bluetooth), to give that a try and it was much better to type on. You can even use normal keyboard shortcuts! If in doubt of the shortcuts, you can invoke a pop-up of available shortcuts by holding down the Command key. Using the physical keyboard made the iPad less mobile, and I can’t see myself carrying a physical keyboard around with it. To me, it defeats the purpose of becoming lightweight and I might as well carry my laptop instead. I am aware of keyboard cases, but then you sacrifice thinness and portability again!

Back to just using the onscreen keyboard:

Despite the minor drawbacks, I managed to do it! At the end of it, I simply opened OneDrive on my PC, downloaded the file and did a quick spell check, and then uploaded it to blackboard.

The advantage of this was that I could do coursework (as boring as it sounds) on the iPad from anywhere – such as the tube, where journeys can seem long. Sometimes you don’t feel like sitting at a computer or having a laptop out and this was an easy way to complete my work while doing other things. Ultimately, you can’t leave a normal computer out of the equation, because you need a way of uploading to blackboard, and that’s something only a PC lets you do.

To summarise, yes you can do some coursework on the iPad, but it will take time to get used to it. Using the physical keyboard was good for when you’re not going to move around or have a desk to sit at. The layout of Word for iPad is heavily optimised for a touch screen so you might find some power features missing too. It’s great for getting started on work, not doing it completely on iPad Air. That’s probably where iPad Pro excels.

Irfan

Tip: Get at something in your inbox before sending an email

If you’ve ever started to type an email on you iPad and then suddenly remember that there is a message in your inbox that you want to take a look at, to get some more information, you can do that using the following tip and you won’t lose sight of your email in progress.

To get started, tap and hold on the top of the new mail message (or email reply) where the email subject sits, then drag it all the way down to the bottom of the iPad screen. As you do this you’ll notice the Mail app Inbox becomes visible

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The email has been minimised to the bottom of the screen

While the message has been minimised, you can get at your other emails, copy some text and paste it in to your new email.

When you wish to open and return to the minimized email message, simply tap on the minimized email subject header at the bottom of the Mail app to maximize and re-open the email

This is very useful when you want to email a lecturer and need to quote some text from a previous email!

Irfan

Welcome

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Hi,

Welcome to my iPad diary.

My name is Irfan and I’m currently in my second year studying Computer Science BSc at the University of Westminster.

As part of a huge pilot project at the University of Westminster, we have been given iPads in an effort to transform learning. They’ve been given to us as a tool to assist lecturers and students to learn in  a more fun, different and engaging way. There has been a lot of fuss about this and why not – it’s the biggest project in any university in the UK.

Since I am always eager to get my hands on technology and talk about it, I not only volunteered to become a student digital ambassador, but I also volunteered to create this blog.

I’ve created this blog to document my use of iPad and how its helped me learn at uni even better. I will use it as a central hub to write about things I like about using it in lectures and tutorials and things I don’t like.

As a student digital ambassador (there are loads of us!) It’s my duty to make sure these iPads are being used to their full potential. Also helping them be integrated as much as possible in fellow classmmates learning environments – while at the time, encouraging everyone become more “digital”.

It’s not all work and no play! I will be documenting any interesting apps and tips that I find useful on iPad, on this blog too.

I hope you will enjoy reading these posts which will be written at least   once a week.
Irfan