Thursday 24 November 2011

Review of using the iPad to annotate student work for feedback

As discussed in earlier posts. I have been piloting the iAnnotate iPad app to enable me to provide annotated feedback to students who submitted via the VLE. The following discussed a piece of work students submitted to me after I gave a lecture on a Foundation Degree Course in the Division of Science and Technology, for a communication and technology module.

The students were required to submit a short piece as a formative feedback exercise around the effective using a web 2.0 technology to enhance their learning. As an aside, the majority chose YouTube and Facebook. So we need to include these technologies more within our student induction, support material and staff development programme.

Overall, I got 60 submissions of around 500 words each. They submitted them via Wolsey (Blackboard Assignment Manager). After which I downloaded them, uploaded to Dropbox, accessed dropbox on my iPad, opened in iAnnotate, marked, saved back to Dropbox and then uploaded to Blackboard.

Some key observations of the process

Marking in the iPad:

  1. My annotations where typed text, therefore, the software enabled me to very easily achieve the task. Given the nature of the question, there was soe generic feedback around referencing. Therefore, I simply copy and paste this feedback it all assignments which required it.

  2. I found I could mark the assignments where I liked, and it was easier as I didn't have the bundle of paper to manage

  3. Reading on screen was fine. As the file is automatically converted from doc(x) to pdf, some of the re-formatting was poor

  4. The typing was fine, in terms of speed, accuracy and comfort. However, it was short paragraphs.

Overall, having marked lots of assignments by hand, I found this to be more satisfying. That said, I was only providing a simple feedback. For instance, no diagrams or images.

Managing files and the process:

  1. This is were I made my main mistakes. The process is very easy, however, a limitation of the iAnnotate software is how it manages and displays files. So, not realising this I simply uploaded all the work into one folder and opened in iAnnotate. However, i then got into all sorts of problems finding where I'd got up to. Especially as I marked a few at a time. Consequently, I'd suggest in dropbox you create a number of sub folders and allocate 10 scripts to be marked in each folder. This extra step at the start will save lots of work later :-)

  2. Another tip is to include a sub folder in Dropbox called Annotated scripts, and upload the annotated (completed) scripts to this folder. This separates the student work from those you have marked, which again makes it easier to manage the return to student process.

  3. It does help to mark the scripts in a wi-fi area. This means you can complete the whole process (dropbox >>> iAnnotate >>> dropbox) in one step. You can mark off-line, however, you will later need to sync the annotated scripts to dropbox. I tried this and missed a few, therefore, causing me more admin problems later as I had to check against the gradebook.

  4. The upload from Dropox to the Assignment Manager was straight forward, as each submission adds the students username to the file name. A potential issue I can see , with no simple solution, is the need to keep the a list of the grades by student for each submission. The problem being if you use the grade area in the gradebook, it can be very labour intensive to open the annotated script to get the grade to input. Therefore, I'd suggest given the results are unratified, to only include the grade on the annotated script and not re-key into the grade space within the gradebook.

Where next:

I've been working with course admins and lecturers in the Division of Science ad Technology to widen the pilot. Therefore, we will get more input on the effectiveness of providing feedback for disciplines and submission types where text box feedback is not appropriate.

The evolving work flow is available below via the link. However, if you'd like to discuss how you might get involved in the pilot at UCS, then email us at

Emerging workflow >>>




Friday 18 November 2011

Remote Docs

Up to recently, I have been relying on dropbox or emailing files to myself as means of getting files from my UCS account onto my iPad.  This has often required advance planning to ensure I have the documents I need at a particular time.

A couple of days ago I thought I would try the RemoteDocs facility available from the useful links section of the Wolsey home page.  On PCs this allows me to download and upload documents from my UCS home directory - a very useful facility when I am working from home.  Accessing this on the iPad through safari has a reduced functionality compared to on a PC - it only allows the downloading of files onto the iPad.  However, this could be very useful when quick unexpected access to a specific file is required.

The interface is simple to use.  However, for some reason only the first 21 characters of filenames are displayed and there is no indication of file types other than the file names (given my habit of naming files fully, this is quite a big issue for me!).

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Mindmapping on the iPad

In the past I have found mind mapping software an effective tool both personally and with students.  For example, a couple of years ago I completed a sequence of lectures that would feed into an exam with a 30 minute exercise where I encouraged each student to form their own mind map of the content that had been covered.  Not only did this enable them to identify and revise the module contents but it also provided a tool they could use in their revision planning.

I looked for an app to allow me to generate mindmaps on the iPad. and found 'Simplemind' to do what I was looking for.  It has a simple functionality - easy to use.  The free version allows the generation and storage of mind maps - fine for use in the classroom.  Buying the full version (£2.49) allows the maps to be disseminated through email or pictures.


Capturing lectures, student presentations etc.,

There is a growing interest from staff at UCS around recording their lectures or student presentations. For instance, a recent request is to record student presentations which are to be assessed (by two internal assessors, and an external examiner). This would mean the external examiner would get the opportunity to view it, while student would be enhanced feedback as they can view the comments with their actual presentation. Alternatively, you might want to record a guest lecture and make this available via your Blackboard course.

In practice this is very straight forward, the important part is to manage the files to ensure copies are archived etc., The solution is simple, and based around using equipment available at UCS. Including;

  • Debut Video Capture Software

  • Wireless Lapel Mics

  • YouTube Unlisted Staff Channel

A thing to remember is, ensure you have permission, you have a clear process you are going to follow, file archive in place and have noted down what could go wrong and how you are going to reduce the likelihood of it going wrong.

If you'd like to discuss how we (Elevate) might help you in terms of recording lectures, or student presentations, please contact us, at


Tuesday 15 November 2011

How might use technology to enhance your learning and teaching?

The Elevate Team will be running a number of 30 minute taster sessions (introductions) to a number of technologies you might be interested in using in your learning and teaching. These are open sessions, so anyone can attend, both staff and students. They will start promptly at the time stated, and all sessions will leave plenty of opportunity for you to ask us questions, and share ideas.

The aim is to focus on the task we are trying to achieve and work through a technology which will let you easily complete the task. So the session will cover certain defined tasks, illustrating how the technology can be effectively used, and raising some of the issues around their use.

The sessions are;

  • Working effectively in groups using Google Docs (Monday 5th Dec in W116 at 12.00 to 12.30 & Thursday 8th Dec in WLT1 at 12.15 to 12.45)

  • Developing your subject knowledge through creating a private learning network through Twitter (Tuesday 6th Dec in WLT2 at 13.00 to 13.30)

If you’d like more information please email

Monday 14 November 2011

mobile podcasting from an iPod Touch

The Elevate Blog has recently been exploring many aspects of using the iPad (media tablet) in learning and teaching. One of the requested uses was to capture videos of lab work and discussions for later analysis. This discussion made me think, perhaps people should re-visit the use of an iPod Touch. The advantages being, it is much smaller (so always in your pocket), is much easier to handle as a video recorder than an iPad, links up to YouTube for uploading and offers excellent wi-fi connectivity.

This tool is not only in your back pocket, but it is so easy to use. Interestingly, the management of the files on youtube is the most interesting in terms of developing scaleable solutions. For instance, as a member of staff, or a researcher you might want to create an account a new account on YouTube just for this activity. You can then upload all your work related videos to this area (channel). This will allow you to share you videos (assuming you want to) much easier with people.

So, I'd suggest if capturing video is one of your requirements, you might want to look at the iPod touch, as opposed to an iPad.