Archive for September, 2010

Presenting on the iPad with KeyNote

September 29, 2010

If I am going to use my iPad as a presentation tool I am going to need an application to drive the external monitor/projector – at least until Apple come up with generic mirroring capabilities in a new iOS update. There are lots of apps out there to help you use your iPad for using external displays but I am going to go with Apple’s KeyNote for the iPad app. As the official Apple product  I am hoping that it will provide better integration for downloading off the web and more support for complex slides.

There is lots of stuff out there which talks about this, so I am just going to record my experience with KeyNote, the standard VGA output cable and StudyNet.  By the way, Keynote can be used for creating presentations as well as showing them, which may account for the higher price. The install goes fine, and going back to my previous test set of slides when I click on the link to PowerPoint (ppt) slide I now get a button in Safari giving me the option to “Open in KeyNote”.  But be quick, this will disappear if you don’t take the chance.

So far so good then – except I am now looking at a long list of “presentation import warnings” most of which related to the fonts used and the “build order” of those custom animations. A tap or swipe takes me through the presentation, including the step by step animations. I have to say that the text generally looks fine, and I can in the first instance notice the changes in build order so things are still looking good.

The final test is hooking up the external display.  Hitting the play button puts the presentation slides up on my external test monitor and starts the presenter view which was exactly what I was expecting have read the discussion here and seen the screen shots. Not being able to see the slides on the iPad or add annotations on the fly are limitations. The first is minor and can be over come by getting a remote to control the slide – this would be also be my preference anyway as I like to walk about in talks. However, from the discussion on Apple’s forum, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen any time soon.

The inability to add annotations to slide is more major and is something I need to find a work around for. One of the key benefits of using PowerPoint is the ability to use it as a whiteboard to capture audience ideas both there and then, and for later.

So all in all – it works as well as expected.  Here’s hoping for updates to fix those extra niggles.


Presenting on the iPad without KeyNote

September 29, 2010

Okay – I have scrounged a VGA connector (thanks Simon) and am contemplating my induction talk tomorrow for “Web App Dev” and web services modules. Plugging the iPad in to monitor does nothing, as expected, but playing Fat Boy Slim via YouTube shows everything is working okay. This list of apps may tell you if what you are trying to use will output to an external device without having to jailbreak your iPad.

Next questions is, “what format should I get my slides in?”. The demo iPad in the Apple store had no real problem showing a presentation I downloaded off our University portal but I am guessing it already had KeyNote for iPad installed. So I have uploaded my induction slides in a variety of formats to see what happens using my basic, “vanilla” iPad.

So the results of viewing the different versions of the PowerPoint file on the iPad with iOS 3 with nothing extra installed are:

  • PowerPoint 2007 (pptx/ppsx):Poor – Safari displays the presentation as a scrollable document with individual slides but there is no clear division between slides.  Imported images are fine but custom animations don’t work, some PowerPoint drawing objects are mangled, e.g. arrows at wrong end, with some borders and “call out objects” (e.g. clouds, icons etc) missing.
  • PowerPoint 2003 (ppt/pps): Poor – this version does slightly better with less missing drawing elements, but is still not good.
  • PDF: Acceptable – produces an accurate copy of the slides, as might be expected, with each slide on a separate page but there are no transitions or animations.  By default there is no option to open the file in the iBooks application, unlike with the latest iPhone iOS 4 (which then lets you flick through each slide quickly).
  • Open Presentation format (OPD) and Microsoft’s single file web page (MHT): Doesn’t work – won’t download or open in Safari as the iPad clearly doesn’t understand these file formats.
  • QuickTime movie (MOV): Doesn’t work – this is only available as a “save as” file format in the Macintosh version of PowerPoint so will not be available to most people.  And as it stands, at least the way the movie is downloaded from StudyNet, this file will not play either in the iPad or iPhone default QuickTime players.

The most important thing to note is that NONE of the applications used will actually show anything on an external display via the VGA connector as things currently stand.  As for quick saving of PowerPoint slides for download and review on the go, it looks like Adobe pdf files are the best. there are other ways to get your presentation out there (e.g. saving each slide as an image, producing a movie in a different format, or using a slidecasting website) but they are not going to be as quick and easy to save and upload.

I am off to get a copy of KeyNote to see how well that works.  Given reports elsewhere, I am expecting it to be usable, but that my slides with their custom animations and builds may get a bit mangled.

iPad – initial thoughts from ALT-C 2010

September 14, 2010

So having spent three days at the ALT-C learning technology conference my first considered thought is that the iPad is a nice device, but it’s not a useful, must have tool … at least not yet.

My main reasons for getting one to trial, based on product features and ignoring the hype, include:

  • the screen size: would it be a practical way of reading ebooks
  • speed and battery life: would it make it a better web browsing tool than a smart phone
  • touch capabilities: could it replace my tablet PC as a presentation/annotation device.

Taking these points in reverse order, I downloaded some whiteboard apps and bought a stylus and video adapter to enable me to present and annotate slides on the fly, only to find the apps wouldn’t drive an external display. And while I had the opportunity to use the iPad in my presentation, in the end the use of a USB remote control/clicker for those custom animations meant I stuck to the default presenter PC.   As an aside, I was interested to hear another presenter had to “jail break” their iPad in order to mirror the iPad screen to show it’s ebook capabilities. So while iPad appears to support vanilla Keynote presentations well, if you want something different such as annotate slides on the fly, then your options are limited. You could try an online presentation option such as slideshare or other slidecating sites but Apples lack of support for Flash on it’s mobile (iOS) platform means that route is blocked at the moment too.

So if I can’t annotate slides on the fly, what about using the touch capability to sketch notes from presentations (such as Ronna Sharpe’s digital literacy framework). The DAGI stylus (which seems more precise and fits my hand better than the Pogo one) is fine, but the multi-touch capability means resting a hand on the screen causes problems. The result is that I will need to change my writing style so as not lean on the screen, or invest in a glove! I have yet to acquire a PDF annotation app (though there are plenty in the app store, such as iAnnotate) but I imagine the same issues will arise.

So having mentioned ebooks and PDFs in passing, what about the iPad as an ebook reader? I have yet to try all the functionality of the different apps available but on face value they all seem to be much of a muchness offering different font sizes, searchability, page turning, bookmarks etc. The key issues lie outside any differences in software. At one end is the comfort factor in holding the iPad and reading the screen and from my short experience this seems fine, although I have only got through the first 10 of the 3030 screens in my free copy of Dorian Grey.  Instead, more work related content has dominated (e.g. Best practices in virtual worlds teaching, or other JISC reports) and these are easy to read on screen. At the other end of the spectrum, the issue is about access to and management of content. And here, as an academic at an institution where content is provided through publisher portals in the form of PDFs or webpages, the advantage of specific content provided by Amazon or Apple or Google is a moot point. So does the iPad offer a new, compelling electronic reading experience? Not £400 worth in my experience.

So what about the iPad as a web browsing device? Yes, the big screen makes browsing much easier than on a small screen smart phone. Yes, the high quality screen and audio makes watching video a pleasure. And yes, the battery is good enough for a whole days activity. But with all this, there are still minor niggles. So many providers, from JISC to mass media such as the BBC to the Guardian, provide video but it’s often Flash video which is inaccessible on the iPad. And as for being part of the web2.0 user generated content revolution, too many sites (with or without dedicated “app” support) have features that just don’t work on the iPad, whether it’s file uploads to get a profile picture on to Crowdvine (the social platform for the altc conference), Javascript bookmarklets to share resources via Delicious, or even trying to add tags to WordPress blog posts.

So all in all across three key tasks of presenting, reading and consuming web content the iPad fails to shine.  While glossy purpose produced content designed for iPad can be great (as Wired and Vanity Fair have shown) the rest of the web has yet to catch up.  The big caveat to all these criticisms is the depth of personal knowledge, or the lack of it. But for a company with Apple’s reputation for usable design, and to this reasonably tech savvy user, the steepness of the learning curve and limitations on use seem too great. Maybe I should have bought that netbook instead.

Another reason for hating Apple’s walled garden

September 7, 2010

Trying to get to grips with tweet deck and bookmarking on the iPad and really struggling. Someone posts a great link on Twitter, follow the link, it opens in a browser window INSIDE tweet deck and if I want to save the link, I need to go out of tweet deck to save the link with another app – and repaste the URL and make up or copy a page title. In my fully functional browser (with javascript tools/extensions) I could bookmark or tweet with no extra effort.

Is it me or am I wrong for trying to manage content in one place?

Decisions, decisions

September 7, 2010

Okay, day one of ALTc conference in Nottingham. First task is to work out what I want to see/do. Shortly followed by – what do I use to schedule my time? Paper program, online? iPhone vs iPad vs laptop. Paper is easy to share / scribble on but the online program on cloudvine has “a schedule tool to create a personalized, exportable schedule. Guess I better check that out first, in the privacy of my room, with everything to hand before I decide.

Any advice?

Delicious tagging bookmarklet

September 6, 2010

Current version of a bookmarklet I am using in Firefox (sourced from is …


This code is same for Safari and Firefox – need to work out why the timeout is set for Firefox, but in the meantime it works for me.

Note: there is a marginal difference between the firefox (above) and safari (below) versions – can you spot it and does it matter?


And this doesn’t work on iPhone safari. Need to go back to my simpler version.

Getting hired as a designer

September 6, 2010

Top three tests (from Mike Davidson via Andy Clarke at MMU web teaching day) for hiring designers:

  • does the design look and feel of what you have done or can show fit in with what the we/our clients want
  • are you a cool person to work with, e.g. interests, values, personality etc
  • can anyone vouch for you

Original (fresh!) post at

Digital Industries – employer needs + graduate skills

September 6, 2010

Presentation at Web Teaching Day, 6 September 2010

Nicola Critchlow, MMU Careers

Reports on work funded by HECSU.  Key points:

  • Creative digital industries definition confused but cross sector (impacts 10-13 traditional sectors depending on your defintion)
  • Comms skills is valued highly by both employers and academics, but while academics thought students were prepared, employers did not
  • Tech skills valued highly by both academics and (even more highly) by employers, again with employers thinking grads were less prepared
  • work experience valued by both academics and (again, even more highly) by employers, but two thirds of employers thought grads not prepared.

Summary of employer views:

  • grads bring fresh talen and ideas, and assessed by their (untaught!) enthusiam and experience
  • pace of change much higher in industry compared with academics

Tech skills wanted include XHMLT, motion graphics, soft skills etc

Follow-up research focussed on different competencies and identified:

  • cognitive (understanding), behavioural (skills) & affective (attitudes and values)
  • employers are looking for all three, while academics tend (unsurprisingly) to focus more on cognitive competencies.
  • employability initiatives (e.g. e-portfolios) do not necessarily meet employer requirements (if they are looking for enthusiam and innovation outside of prescriptive university led approaches)