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Using The iPad as a Recordable, Wireless Whiteboard

Using The iPad as a Recordable, Wireless Whiteboard

One of Apple’s great improvements of the iPad2 was the ability to project almost everything done on it, including browsing. This went a long way to making the iPad2 more of an instructional tool. If only there was a way to make annotations during instruction and then maybe record that so students could review later…

Well, I’m glad you asked. You can do this now in a relatively inexpensive way.

AirSketchThere are a few approaches to getting this done, but for this posting, I’ll go over the easiest and least expensive way. An iPad app called Air Sketch allows you create a wireless whiteboard using your iPad, computer, and projection system. And, if you combine this with the latest (free) QuickTime player’s ability to record the Mac screen and audio, then you can record a movie of your demonstration for playback at another time.

Air Sketch comes in a free version (black and white annotation only), and a $9 version which adds multiple colors, pens, access to photo library for overlays, and zoom/pan capability. The setup couldn’t be easier.

The Wireless Whiteboard

Once you’ve installed Air Sketch, open it, and click on the icon in the lower left of the screen to see the IP address it has created on your network for connection. By default, it uses the 8080 port (so not to interfere with any existing web server that may be running on port 80). This port can be changed if necessary.

Air Sketch Setup

Air Sketch assigns an IP for connection.

Next, open a browser on your computer and enter the IP address with port number assigned by Air Sketch. (In the example below: http://192.168.1.67:8081) This will produce a blank webpage with the Air Sketch logo in the lower right. (I’ve already written “Hello!” in the example below.)

Air Sketch on browser

This is what you’ll see on your connected browser.

Now, as you write on your iPad, your sketching will be duplicated in realtime on the browser of your computer. If your computer is connected to a projector, then you may roam the classroom freely with iPad in hand and adding annotations to your instruction.

New Screen Recording in QuickTime

New Screen Recording in QuickTime

Recording The Session

Should you want to record the session for playback in the future, QuickTime (OS X 10.6 or later) has you covered. Open QuickTime and select New Screen Recording under the File menu.

This brings up a window that allows you to make microphone input and quality settings.

Recording Settings

Recording Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 
Once these settings are made, you’re ready to click on the red record button and begin your session.

The following video is a quick session I made using this same setup:

 

While you can use your finger to make these annotations, I recommend purchasing a stylus (about $10) to give you finer control.

How To Produce An eBook With Pages – Part 1

How To Produce An eBook With Pages – Part 1

Note: Part 2 of this series covers adding sound and video files to your ebook.

Ebooks are now a common part of our digital landscape. This year promises to bring a significant increase in the number of choices of tablet-like mobile devices. This is likely to only add to the astonishing growth in ebook consumption. But ebook consumption isn’t the only area that is likely to experience tremendous growth this year. It appears that ebook production has arrived for the common man/woman.

There are many advantages of this type of self-publishing for both business and educational folk alike:


  • relatively low barrier to entry
  • establish expertise in subject area
  • increasing number of distribution channels
  • multimedia potential of the ebook (epub) format
  • low overhead
  • great marketing/promotional medium
  • great educational medium

 

When you see just how easy it is to create an ebook with Apple’s Pages software, you may decide to become an author yourself.

Pages has had the ability to export to the ePub format since the release of iWork 9.0.4 in August of 2010. At that time, Pages had some rough edges when it came producing a well formatted ebook. When Apple released Pages 4.0.5 in January, 2011, it greatly improved the semantics of their ePub export. Today, with some careful attention to a few details and methods, you can create an ePub-formatted ebook.

It’s important to point out that while the ePub format works on most ebook readers (including Apple’s iBook reader) and is opensource, it is not the format used by Amazon’s Kindle reader (which uses the MOBI format). There are software tools, like Calibre, available to convert from ePub to MOBI. (I may do a post in the future going over these conversion tools and options.)

Getting Started
The best way to get started with creating an ebook in Pages is to download a template that Apple has created for making ebooks. Download it here: eBook Template

When you open this file in Pages, you’ll notice styles in the Styles Drawer that are specific to tagging an ebook. These styles are applied to the elements of your book to properly format the document for the ePub export. The pages in this document have examples of these styles applied to text and a brief description of how they should be used.

Styles in Pages

(Click on illustrations to enlarge.)

Examples of styles
Examples of styles

 

Dealing With Images
There are a few things to keep in mind as you create your book. If you will be inserting images into your book, you must make sure that you set them to be “inline” images. That is, the images flow with the text rather than independent of the text. To do that, click on the image, and in the Inspector click on the Wrap Inspector tab, then click on the Inline (moves with text) radio button. This assures that the images in your ebook stay with the appropriate text even when the ebook reader adjusts the font sizes.

Inspector

Inspector

Images can wrap in 6 different ways. You’ll need to check the Object causes wrap checkbox on the Inspector pane. Then click on one of the six illustrations below this checkbox to indicate how the image will behave in the text. The illustrations provide an efficient way of explaining how each work.

image wrap

 

Dealing With Font Sizes
I found the font sizes in this template to be too large (especially if your Titles or Heads are lengthy). This caused many of my titles in the ebook to overwhelm the page. You can test this with your own ebook, but generally I found that bumping the Title, Head, and SubHead font sizes down 10-15 pts worked well.

Testing Your eBook Along The Way
The best way to perfect the look and feel of your ebook is to export your Pages document to the ePub format and test on an ebook reader. This process is simple. I find myself going through this process several times in the creation of an ebook.

First, save your Pages document. Then, under the Share menu choose Export… This brings up a window indicating the export options.

export options

Export options

 

Click on the ePub tab at the top and then click on the Next… button. Save the epub to your computer’s desktop.

Getting The Ebook to Your Reader
There are several ways to get the ePub file to your ebook reader, but I will go over the two easiest ways.

The first is simply to email the ePub file to yourself as an attachment. Then open the email on your ebook reader device and send it to your eReader. On an iPad or iPhone, clicking on the ePub file attachment brings up a dialogue box asking if you’d like to send it to iBooks. It then sends it to iBook and opens your book for you to begin reading.

The second way is open iTunes on your computer and then drag the ePub file into iTunes. This places the file into the Books area in iTunes. Then you simply sync your iPad/iPhone to your computer and the book appears in your iBooks library.

In part 2 of this series, I will go over the specific methods for adding sound files and video files to your ebook. Stay tuned!

What’s Your Frequency? The Power of Binaural Beats

This post is a deviation from my usual blather. But I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Some Background

I have long suffered from depression. I have been prescribed a broad range of pharmaceutical “solutions” that ultimately proved to be ineffective or so fraught with nasty side-effects that I’ve abandoned them. I’ve also fallen into some of the more self-destructive forms of self-medication. I can sometimes battle this ailment with a regular dose of sunshine and exercise, but this isn’t a reliable solution.

In the past several months, I have been researching and exploring an approach that is a little like putting my head between a humming tuning fork. Let me try to explain.

Brainwave Entrainment

The approach I’m exploring is generally referred to as brainwave entrainment or brainwave synchronization. The idea is that the brain tends to change its dominant frequency towards the frequency of a powerful external stimulus. (In this case its aural, but it can also be visual or electromagnetic or any form of vibration, making the potential source rather broad.)

The other important fact is that certain vibrations of the brain are associated with particular states of mind, like thinking or sleeping or creativity or dreaming. These type of vibrations are called resonant frequencies, and they can be quite powerful.

Some History

The power of resonant frequencies has been known for a long time. Nikola Tesla experimented with electromechanical oscillators in the late 1800s. In one notable experiment, he attached an oscillator to an iron pillar that ran down the center of his lab and into the foundation of his building. His goal was to let the oscillator run until he detected a significant vibration in the pillar. However, he was unaware that the vibrations were being conducted through the iron pillar and down into the substructure of the city. In much the same way that earthquakes are typically strongest a short distance from their epicenter, the nearby buildings began to shake and their windows shattered, while Tesla’s lab remained unaffected. Luckily, police intervention brought the experiment to an end before the nearby buildings were completely destroyed.

More recent research into the mind-altering possibilities of this entrainment principle have been undertaken by several people, many claiming to be the first. One of the early experimenters, Robert Monroe, a student of engineering and human physiology, set up a small research program in the 1950s to explore the effects of sonic frequencies on the brain. The sonic principle he was using was already known to electronic engineers as binaural beat frequency modulation (a primary concept of radio receivers today). Monroe recorded two channels of audio data using a stereo tape recorder. One channel was recorded with a sine wave tone frequency of 200cps (cycles per second, also known as Hertz), and the other channel at 208cps. When this recording was played through stereo headphones, Monroe discovered that although one ear heard a 200cps frequency and the other a 208cps frequency, the brain interpreted the tones as an 8cps frequency and began to entrain itself to that frequency.

What It Means

What makes this interesting is that normally the two hemispheres of the brain vibrate at different frequencies, but Monroe’s experiment demonstrated that both hemispheres could be synchronized. He also found that when the brain was entrained to vibrate near 8cps, there was a tendency towards a dramatic increase in creativity and intuition.

According to research, the human brain operates within a wide range of frequencies, but generally stays within 4 levels of awareness: beta (13 to 30 cps), alpha (8 to 12 cps), theta (5 to 7 cps), and delta (1 to 4 cps).  (Different researchers may put these ranges slightly higher or lower.)

The highest level, beta, is generally associated with an active and very awake brain. This state is usually associated with intellectual thought and verbal expression.

The alpha level is usually associated with a relaxed, calm and creative waking state. Alpha is often achieved by simple meditation and the slowing of one’s breath.

Theta is perhaps the most interesting level. (It’s the most interesting to me.) In this frequency range, dreams, deep hypnosis, out-of-body projections, and other odd and less-understood phenomena begin to appear. This is the state of consciousness that you’ve probably experienced on that border between being awake and being asleep. This is that “twilight-zone” where the conscious and subconscious mind begins to overlap. I have found this state to be one in which the mind is most receptive to deep suggestion.

The delta range is most often associated with deep, dreamless sleep. I’ve used these frequencies often when I am having a bout with insomnia.

There is another frequency range that I feel obligated to point out only because of my philosophical background and the potential implications. This is the gamma range (25 to 100 cps). This is a more controversial brain frequency, sometimes associated with the transcendental states of Tibetan monks, REM sleep, and particular brain states induced by anesthesia. The philosophical implications have to do with what is called the “binding problem”.  This is essentially about the meaning of “consciousness” and how this relates to the neurological activity of the brain. It is both a philosophical and neurobiological problem that often gets obscured by the language of the two disciplines. Suffice it to say that if you crank up your headphones into the 25 to 100cps realm, all bets are off the table!

What I’ve Found

So I’ve been experimenting with binaural recordings in various combinations of the beta, alpha, theta, and delta frequency ranges. At first, I found a number of freely available recordings done by many people on the web. Some of these recordings were simple sine wave tones recorded at various offset frequencies to achieve the binaural beats associated with the various brain states. Then I found recordings that mixed in the sounds of ocean waves, forest sounds, rain-fall, white noise and pink noise. (Presumably, these added tracks were to make the listening experience more enjoyable.) There are many, many sources of free high-quality binaural beat recordings on the web that I’ve found to be quite effective. (It turns out that producing, packaging, and selling these recordings has now become another frenzied business trend, so beware.)

My needs were simple. I wanted to somehow fight my depression and the associated insomnia. For this, I have found several 10-30 minute recordings, at various frequencies (some sliding frequencies) that have been very effective.

I’m always fine-tuning with duration, amplitude, time of day, and synchronous activities. My experience is that it’s much like meditation, each person must find their “sweet spot” with these variables.

I’ve spent considerable time researching this subject. Although this is some pretty powerful stuff, I’ve found no significant areas of concern in terms of potential damaging effects of exploration into this realm, WITH ONE NOTABLE EXCEPTION:

FOLKS WITH A TENDENCY TOWARDS EPILEPSY SHOULD CONSULT WITH THEIR DOCTORS FIRST.

This warning is especially true when experimenting with visual frequency stimulus, but may also be relevant to sonic entrainment.

Epilogue

Most recently, I’ve been creating my own binaural beat recordings and layering additional tracks to my taste. I’ve also been experimenting with various software to create “sliding frequency” recordings. These are recordings that start with a particular frequency and slowly slide into another frequency, guiding the brain entrainment into a particular direction. I’m still tinkering with this method, but I’m finding some interesting results.

It’s fun to mess with your brain, so I encourage all you explorers to check out brainwave entrainment methods and approaches!

Resources

There’s an interesting iPhone/iPad app called Brainwave ($1.99) that may be a good way to introduce you to the binaural beat world.

Binaural Beats – an explanation

Forum – interesting discussions about binaural beats

Free Binaural beats – download free recordings and try them yourself

SbaGen – binaural beat creation software (opensource)

DeltaBox – binaural beat player with free recordings

Apple’s iPhone OS: It’s No Flash in the Pan

Anyone still out there that doesn’t yet realize that Apple has become quite savvy about design, development, marketing and business strategy, is clearly brain-dead.

Apple’s new developer agreement stipulates that “applications that link to documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited.” That pretty much means that Flash is prohibited as a development tool for the iPhone/iPod/iPad. This takes much of the wind out of Adobe’s CS5 announcement and the Packager for iPhone tool.

It’s clear that Apple will no longer tether itself to any technology that may impede (or potentially impede) it’s innovation and growth. Apple may lose a few developers, but even the angriest of developers here know that this loss will be insignificant to Apple.

It’s projected that by the end of this year, there will be more than 100 million iPhone OS devices in the wild. If you are running a content site that doesn’t support this OS, there are 100 million reasons why you may be out of work.

Flash’s days are numbered… HTML5 will be the final nail in the coffin.

iPad: The Case

Industrial design can be interpreted in many ways.

Seems Apple threw a bone to itself by creating another very well designed, simple product. The iPad Case.

But let’s be honest here. The iPad needed the case from the beginning. Is Apple beginning the policy of selling components?

My gripe:
• Apple, you just missed on the design or cut of the case-top.
Another few millimeters around the edges and you would have nailed it.

Otherwise, an excellent answer to the bare iPad’s predicament.

The iPad: A 24-Hour Review

Apple's iPad

After 24 hours with Apple’s new iPad, I’m convinced of two things.

First, the iPad is a game-changer. It will change our relationship to information and education technology. It will change game playing. And, it may possibly bring gaming and educational technologies closer together.

Second, it has some significant evolution ahead.

After a relatively short period of time experimenting and playing with the iPad, it’s clear that in positioning the iPad in the seemingly narrow niche between the laptop computer and the mobile phone device, Apple may have hit the sweet spot of where most folks use personal computer technology. That is, most folks use personal computer technology to: send/receive email, browse the web, engage in social networking (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube), acquire and listen to music, share photos/videos, and manage tasks and schedules. Most people mostly do these things, and most of them want a way to do it without hassling with file structures and device drivers and compatibility issues. The iPad mostly does this.

Whereas the more versatile and powerful laptop computer allows the user to be both a consumer and producer/publisher of web content, there’s no question that the iPad returns to the more TV-like approach of the user being primarily a consumer of multimedia web content. While the iPad certainly offers the ability to produce content, it is in a decidedly limited way. In as much as creating email, commenting to blog posts, and social networking interaction can be thought of as content-producing activities, the iPad has you covered. However, if you want to create, edit, and produce video or audio content, or even produce multimedia documents (e.g., PDFs or blog posts with graphics or audio or video content), you may find the iPad (in its present incarnation) quite limiting.

The iPad is a content delivery and presentation device more than a content producing device. And as such, I think Apple has identified a huge market.

Now for my gripes:

  • The iPad cannot be charged by many slightly older computer’s USB ports
  • Most of the iPhone/iTouch apps don’t translate well to the iPad
  • The industrial design of the iPad is alarmingly poor. It doesn’t feel comfortable in your hands. (Perhaps Apple was throwing a bone to third party skin designers?)
  • Seems that there needs to be some general interface guidelines agreed upon by all of the developers in order to make apps intuitive to users
  • Camera. Hello? Third party or built in, it needs to be there.
  • Apple, please reveal just exactly what kinds of input and output are possible with the USB/Power port and the Audio/Visual output port!

Overall, I am pleased with the iPad, and will continue to explore. I am pleased with battery life, impressive screen resolution, impressive sound quality from tiny speakers, and good processing speed. The screen rotation lock toggle is a good idea. I would like to see the Dragon speech-recognition technology integrated into all apps. And, Apple, please continue to explore and develop the eBook potential!

For more info about Apple’s iPad, go here: Apple’s iPad