Annndddd We’re Live!

There we go, folks. Live and back at ’em.

1. Email is live, too. So you can stop having your emails bounce. Which is nice.

2. I’m working on a pretty involved video project right now- multiple camera shoots, 1080/24p, and the like. I should have the A-roll finished this week, and with my fingers crossed, much of the B-Roll too. Then editing. Lots of editing. I can say that it’s for the New England 1:1 Summit, and that it will debut there, but I’ll post it here as well.

That’s it, for now.

Happy to be back and in action.

 

t.

 

Bit of news…

Couple of things going on. Allow me to enumerate them.

1. Our school is in the midst of Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation/dramatic reading competition. School semi finals are today, and have just over 100 students taking part, which represents roughly the top 10% of performances. I’ll be running a livestream of the entire event today, which runs all day, from 7:35am until nearly 2:00pm (EST). Feel free to tune in over here to see what that looks like. The finals (which is much shorter & top 1% of all students) will be Feb 10th, and for that I’ll be producing the stream live- remote cameras and all. I’ll post that link then, too.

2. This blog/webpage is finally ready to move to a custom server- so expect that to be happening soon, likely over this weekend. If all goes well, it’ll look just as it does now, and you’d never be the wiser. But if things go sideways a bit… well, there you go.

3. The New England 1:1 Summit is gathering some steam- more people signing up, more sponsors getting on board… And you should, too. It’s free, it’s fun, and there will be tons of good talks about how 1:1 isn’t really about tech at all, and is about a shift in culture. The first-draft schedule just got posted too- check that out as well.

t.

SitRep

Ah yes. Time for another one of these.

1. I’m still hosting this site at wordpress.com, as my web guy hasn’t moved it over to timcalvin.com for whatever reason. As a result, my primary personal email is still busted. Sorry ’bout that. Plenty of other ways to get in touch in the meantime.

2. Just grabbed “DraftPad” (for free!) off the app store, and so far impressions are pretty good. Nice interface, excellent output options. A little less draw-y than Adobe Ideas (a prior fav), but with better output… so… get it while it’s free!

3. All the cool kids are at Educon this weekend- and I’m not. So if you ever had any doubts about me… there you go. That said, I’ll be at (and helping run… and leading sessions, no doubt…) the New England 1:1 Summit on March 10th. It’s free, and if you’re in the area you should totally come. Did I mention I’ll be there?

4. We’re booking school visits out into mid-March right now. If you’d like to get in and see how/what/why we do what we do, please get in touch soon- the year will be done before you know it.

5. My new business cards should be here early this week. Ted over at Terrapin Stationers printed them, and I can’t wait to have them in my hands. Check him out if you need quality work done.

6. I’m looking for a way to create Google Map layers on an iPad- anyone got a way to do this? I’ve tried via Safari & Google Maps, I’ve tried the Google Earth app… no luck so far.

7. I’ll be trying to drop a SitRep every Sunday- seems like the right way to wrap up/begin a week.

t.

Sanity. Sweet, sweet sanity…

So I found this floating by on twitter the other day.

It’s a nice, sane view and a careful reading of what the Apple iBooks Author EULA actually means. And -wait for it- it doesn’t mean what people are complaining about it meaning.

Apple doesn’t own your content, they retain exclusive rights to publish the outputted file. That’s it.

The difference is crucial. Nothing stops you from publishing that same content via other means in other file formats. So by all means, use iBooks Author to build a book for iPads, then turn around a push out roughly the same content via ePub and PDF and whatever other format you like. And sell those elsewhere, if that’s your thing.

Maybe people need to take a deep breath?

Have a cup of tea?

Otherwise calm down?

Missing tools…

So I’ve been thinking again.

I know, I know. It just gets me in trouble. Whatever.

 

Anyway. Apple’s been kind enough (or hateful enough, depending on your viewpoint, I suppose…) to release some eBook authoring software to us, the unwashed masses. I think it’s pretty cool; there’s already been a bunch of blowback about the EULA. I’ve already written about what I think about that mess over here.

Here’s what I think is missing: Animation software.

It’s great that I can now easily build these eBooks. Actually, I could do that already, via Pages or Sigil or InDesign (cringe) or whatever. Just this morning, in fact, I built a quick ePub for a friend- something like 70 pages long, took me, oh, maybe 30 minutes. Tops. All text, easy.

What I’m missing is the ability, with my meager skills, to build the sort of nice looking animations that seems so common in the media these days. I mean, I know I could try to learn Blender (have you tried, btw? least intuitive interface. ever.) or shell out the money for Maya or Motion or Rhino or some other overkill industrial strength tool. I don’t really want that. I loathe using InDesign, mostly because it’s so wildly overkill and complicated for my needs- Pages or GDocs tend to be a better option for me. As much as I love my Final Cut Pro rig, lots of the time the quick videos I’m making are faster to build in iMovie. I try to avoid Pro Level software unless I really need it. I find the lighter the weight of the tool, the faster and more often I use it.

So what I really want is a nice, well designed, reasonably full-featured 3d animation software that doesn’t require a huge learning curve. I’ve not found one, have you?

Once I’ve got that- whoo-boy! My presentations and eBooks and websites will never be the same.

 

t.

 

Well, I was partly right…

So Apple did their thing yesterday. In case you live under a rock or in a cave, the video is here. Btw, I’m there, in a tweed jacket at about the 4:39 mark. Just saying.

About 30 seconds after they finished their announcements, Google+ was all blown up by people complaining about the EULA that comes with iBooks Author. Details about their complaints all over the ed blogs, if you care to look. The lynchpin of those arguments seems to be the following: Content that you create via iBooks Author and that you wish to sell becomes exclusive to the Apple Textbook store.

You’d think they’d killed the sacred cow from the outcry.

I don’t understand how people thought this was going to work- did they think that Apple would invest huge money in building an application that does all this cools stuff and there would be no strings attached? I keep having the example of GarageBand thrown in my face. They say “GarageBand doesn’t only output to iTunes format. Why should this?”

Because they want it to. So what? If that doesn’t work for you, and you’d like to output to an ePub or a PDF, there are loads of other tools you can use. Free tools. Open source tools, if that’s your thing. But if you happen to work in an Apple environment, this is a nifty bonus.

Oh no, they say. You’d have to be LOCKED into an Apple environment for that.

Yup. That’s true.

Well that’s not good, they say.

That’s probably also true.

I keep hearing people complain that Apple brought in the three largest textbook publishers in the world. Did we really expect them not to? Needless to say, the fact that those books are for sale in no way means you actually have to buy them. Build your own book. You should be doing that anyway. The technology for a motivated educator to build and distribute their own textbook to their own students has existed for a very, very long time. It’s even been cheap and doable without any crazy skills for a bunch of years now.

I’m not sure that iBooks Author will change everything for me. I’ll likely play with it and use it from time to time (since all my students have iPad2’s right now anyway…). But I still see a future for ePubs and PDF’s in my classroom. This is another tool for the toolbox, not the only tool. And if anything, Apple building this new tool (and, apparently, a new eBook standard… more on that later), it will prompt others to build competing software and standards.
It will get hacked.

It will get changed.

It will evolve.

But if the future of all of this really is the ability of an average teacher, with no prior experience in typesetting/book design/electronic publishing to be able to output high quality engaging digital publications- what’s not to like about that?

Thoughts on BYOD…

I had this revelation this morning, and thought I’d share. I was thinking about my district/school’s eventual move towards a BYOD environment. I’ve talked before about how I don’t think going from a non-1:1 environment to BYOD isn’t a functional reality, but I had always assumed that once that eventual shift was made, I’d be teaching in a school full of varied devices.

Now I’m thinking that’s not the case.

The realization I’ve come to is that a wide variety of devices being self-deployed in a High School is exceptionally unlikely because it would require the majority of my students to have an interest in discovering the device that works best for them. Given my experience this year, and with High School students on the whole I can say this with certainty: That will never happen.

Functioning in High School isn’t about standing out as an individual and making independent choices. High School, for the vast majority of students, is about blending into the crowd. It’s about having the exact same shoes/jeans/fleece that everyone else has.

Beyond that substantial hurdle to clear, there’s this fact to go along with it: people deeply interested in tech will always be a minority. While the people reading this blog might care about tech, the majority of people don’t want to think about the intricacies of that tech- they just want it to work. That that same sort of dynamic exists in high school. Most of my students don’t really care what specific cell phone they have- they just need it to do what they want. Ditto with computers- they want to be able to see the web, check email, message, skype, and the like. That’s it- they’re not really into caring about the display tech or the wireless chipset the maker is using.

I’d guess that in a true BYOD situation, you’d end up with two or maybe three major options being brought, with a small percentage of technophiles/early adopters rounding out a few, other, more obscure options.

Anyway.

 

t.

What I hope Apple’s Jan 19th Event is about…

Let me preface with this: I have no insider information about this. None. No connections with Apple (as if that would help…). No leaked material. Heck I haven’t even been keeping up with the rumor sites. This is what I hope it will be, which may be completely divorced from what it will be.

So. What I hope this is about is providing way for educators to publish their own textbooks. I assume ebooks, and further, I assume ePubs, given that Apple’s put a lot of work into that standard. And, the more I play with it as a standard and understand it’s limitations and strengths, the more I like it for what it is.

In some ways, this would be non-news. Pages already allows you to easily produce ePubs. Sure, it coughs a bit with large files, and sure, it’s an Apple only product, but still. It does a decent job. Actually, I’d pay for a simple app that only does ePubs and does it well. That’s 90% of my output these days, so something optimized for that would be pretty slick. (Know of one? Drop me a line…)

More likely, I think, is that the even is about allowing educators to collaborate on their electronic books and distribute them. A way of bypassing the entire publishing industry the way the iTunes store bypassed much of the music publishing industry. If Apple provides an elegant, easy, and low-cost forum for educators to store and share material and then gives educators a way to output what they’ve created directly as an ePub, well… That’d kill.

I don’t care if there’s a way to monetize it. I suspect there will be, because Apple is a company that needs to make money. I get that. I don’t know what I’d pay for that service as an individual, but I suspect my district would pay for access.

I’ll point out here that I’ve been a huge proponent of educators building their own textbooks. I helped make that happen at my school six years ago- long before ebooks were a reasonable reality for our students. We used (and still use) print on demand to have books that we’ve created printed in small numbers for us. Moving that to an ePub is just the next logical step- and since our student all have iPad’s now… well, it just makes sense. Imperfect, but what isn’t?

My $0.02

t.