Tag Archives: Educational Technology

Field Note Taking with the iPad



Field note taking can involve documenting observations or research with video, photographs, audio, and writing down observations on a type of device or on a good old pencil and paper. The iPad has all these features built into it and there are apps out there that can access these features and keep all your notes in one place. The advantage of the iPad is that it’s portable and fairly easy to use. We decided to take a look at apps that will help with field note taking. Continue reading

Lunch & Learn: William Howarth on Chrome and Chromebooks for Research and Writing.

William Howarth uses Chrome to write, research, and work.

William Howarth

William Howarth

On February 13th, 2013, William Howarth, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University was joined by John LeMasney and Janet Temos of Princeton’s Educational Technologies Center (ETC) to talk about the use of Google’s Chrome browser and the Chromebook in writing and research. Chrome is a web browser created by Google and allows you to visit and interact with web sites and services on the Internet. The Chromebook is a laptop from Google (collaborating with manufacturers) that runs only Chrome and nothing else.

Howarth began by showing the way that he uses Chrome as a browser on Mac OS. He discussed how he uses Chrome’s New Tab Page to store shortcuts to key applications that he uses every day. Previously, he has used an iPad, a Kindle Fire, and is now focusing on using Chrome as his main place of doing work digitally.  He said that part of the reason that he has settled on Chrome is that he feels like Google is the contemporary technology thought leader, set to dominate in business, mobile, and shopping. “Google runs the Web”, says Howarth, citing that in January 2013, they were the most used search engine, far ahead of others, and that in December of 2012, they had the leading browser, 47% of users, far ahead of Firefox or Internet Explorer. He suggested that their leadership and success is due to their emphasis on both speed and universal, cross-platform access.


As a browser, Chrome is fast (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57547157-93/google-chrome-has-gotten-26-percent-faster-this-year/), and it runs on all major platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Linux (http://support.google.com/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=95411). It works on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. But it is more than a browser, according to Howarth, because it strongly supports and integrates web services and can function as an operating system, especially in the case of the Chromebook, where the browser has settings for the display, sound, and hardware (http://support.google.com/chromeos/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1047362). When Chrome is an operating system, it is referred to as ChromeOS, to signify the extra abilities of hardware management, etc. You do not need to have a Chromebook to use ChromeOS, because you can boot ChromeOS from a USB key using the Vanilla Bootable USB Key Chrome OS project (http://chromeos.hexxeh.net/) managed by a Googler named Liam McLoughlin.

Chrome is self-upgrading: just restart it, about an eight-second reboot on the Chromebook, to upgrade to the latest version. Customize Chrome via themes (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/themes?hl=en), extensions (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions?hl=en), and apps (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/popular?hl=en). Chrome comes with basic cloud storage of 5 Gigabytes via Google Drive (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2736257), though you may use other cloud storage as well. Extensions add functionality to the browser itself, such as the ability to select text, and upon copy, automatically add surrounding quotes, URLs and other citation material to the buffered text (Copy URL Plus). When you sign into Chrome with a Google account, you track all the changes you make to the settings, history, extensions, and web apps, which are the synchronized and made available to all of your other Chrome installs. In Chrome, if you install a web app on one running instance, the web app becomes available to your other instances of Chrome.

Researchers and writers can use Chrome for notes, files, and storage. Some notable apps in this regard are Evernote, Dropbox, Box.net, and Google Drive, all available for install at the Chrome Web Store. Google Drive‘s docs features allow you to share, edit, distribute, and collaborate on files with others in real-time for free. If you decide to adopt Google’s cloud based lifestyle provided by Chrome, Howarth suggested getting familiar with Google’s Drive, in which you can create documents, spreadsheets, drawings, forms, and presentations. It has an integrated PDF viewer and the ability to create PDFs, Word documents, and other Office documents. It also has a print preview and print features. You can upload, share and store any kind of file you wish in Drive (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2424368).


The Chromebook is a simple idea, executed simply: A laptop form factor that does only one thing: run ChromeOS. Howarth explained that the Chromebook solves some mobile computing issues for him. He can’t type easily on an iPhone or iPad screen keyboard, and prefers a physical keyboard. The iPad bluetooth keyboards work for many, but not for him. “This machine is low-cost, lightweight, easily portable, and is more durable than a netbook” says Howarth.

The recent Samsung model is 2.4 pounds, has an 11 inch screen, costs $199 or $249 depending on configuration. The Mac Air, by comparison, is about $1,000. In 2013, there are four known makers of Chromebooks: Samsung, Acer, Lenovo, and HP, though the most commonly sold devices are from Samsung and Acer (https://play.google.com/store/devices). Howarth suggests that a bluetooth mouse may be helpful, but that the screen and keyboard are very good, while the trackpad is usable. You can store and move files to and from a USB key to extend the storage of the Chromebook.

He notes that there are some differences in the user interface for Chrome on other operating systems and Chrome on the Chromebook. But essentially, the experience is the same. If you work online most of the time, as Howarth does, he suggests that you look at Chrome as a solution. “No matter what machine I’m using, I’m in the Chrome browser” he says.

Pros and Cons of Chrome:


Some fear a Google technology monopoly, privacy issues, and invasive advertising. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505124_162-57569867/google-privacy-issues-in-forefront-again/)
There is some question of the future of Google’s two operating systems, Chrome and Android, and if and how they will coexist. (http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/mobile/05/17/google.chrome.android/index.html)
Cloud: is it a fad, or is it here to stay? With cloud based storage, different problems may emerge, such as synchronization failures. (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2565956)
A Chrome user who does not use a traditional operating system is more or less dependent on online access, despite progress in offline use of Chrome applications, such as those in this app collection (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/collection/offline_enabled?utm_source=chrome-ntp-icon).


Lower costs than traditional laptops
Google constantly grows, innovates, and integrates as part of their brand (http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/quarterly/innovation/8-pillars-of-innovation.html)

Chromebooks will come in bigger, faster versions (HP has a 14″ Chromebook coming, Google HD display in the works).
Howarth believes that Chrome will have its biggest impact in education, from primary and secondary right up to Universities.

For the recorded portion of Professor Howarth’s talk, please see the video below.

The Productive Scholar: John LeMasney demonstrates PowerPoint

In the Productive Scholar on October 4th, 2012, John LeMasney talked about using Microsoft’s ubiquitous presentation software called PowerPoint. He started by discussing “Death by PowerPoint”, a phenomenon where the audience gives up on the presentation because of visual and mental fatigue due to the stereotypical PowerPoint audience experience: reading lots of text on-screen, endless slides of heavy content, and trite, well-known themes and clip art throughout the presentation. Some methods discussed for helping audiences to avoid this phenomenon included starting with a blank theme, and customizing it. The 10-20-30 method, in which presenters use no more than 10 slides, present for no longer than 20 minutes, and use text no smaller than 30 points in size, is one framework for making presentations more palatable. Many contemporary presenters avoid using text altogether in their PowerPoint presentations, choosing instead to focus on illustrative images that underline and reinforce what they are saying verbally. Pecha Kucha 20×20, a presentation framework that originated in Tokyo in 2003, is a method for event organizers to format an evening of presenters. It creates a strict structure for the timing and content of presentations, keeping talks to 20 slides presented for 20 seconds each. LeMasney offered these ideas as a way to re-think presentations as springboards for discussion.
The demonstration part of the talk looked at PowerPoint’s various features, including using or discarding themes, inserting tables, using SmartArt to create visual organizers and charts, changing backgrounds, using the Master Slide editing function, and inserting photos, videos and audio. Please watch the screencast below to see the details of this hands-on session.

See Text in Whole New Way: Text Visualization Tools

Data mining, concordances, word frequencies, all these things can be done to analyze text and to display the results (which are usually also in text form). Sometimes though, these results are hard to read, track, and to see correlation and relationships between bodies of texts and words. Text visualization adds another dimension to data mining a text. You can see in a simple and fast way how many words make up a text, what words have frequencies next to other words, and analyze the overall theme of a text and its corpus. The following tools listed below will help you get started with building a word frequency list and using your text to visualize your data, for the most part, in an easy and simple manner. Continue reading