Using Siri in the Classroom

This isn’t really a post about how to use Siri in the classroom. Well, it could be. This semester I have a deaf student in my class. He’s fluent in Russian, Uzbek, American Sign Language, and Russian Sign Language. He’s here to learn English. Communication with him involves an interpreter or a series of notes on paper.

Enter Siri. After class, his interpreter had to leave but he still needed to talk. Honestly, I got tired of writing/typing everything. It was slow and annoying. I opened up notes on my ipad mini and started using Siri. I could say whatever I wanted and it would be written in real time. He would then type his response. It sped up our communication and was fun for both of us. Siri, thanks for making my job easier and enjoyable!

Why do Interfaces always change?

It’s been a long time since I have written anything. I logged into the new blogger today with it’s new interface. I upgraded to Lion with it’s newer interface. Why do people always change the interface? Why are there so many themes, skins, or whatever you call them?

I think I might have an answer. Really I’ve boiled it down to two possibilities. First, perhaps the new interface is “better.” I’m assuming that software giants like Google and Apple do market research and usability testing. Then again, they might not. Better said, they don’t do it the way I think they should. Perhaps they get feedback via email or other communications. Maybe the designers who use the software just realize that somethings need to change.

The reason I think that they do it though, is to prevent the appearance of stagnation. If gmail still looked the same as it did when they released it, people would think that it was old and out of date. However, I don’t remember two many things about the interface that I didn’t like or that aren’t still around today. Firefox now updates every 6 weeks. OS X has had a steady two year average release time between versions. While the new features and abilities are welcome, the change in the interface seems to be the eye candy that draws you back in. Ubuntu does a good job with this. With every new release every six months I want to see what it’s like. I might even install the new version.

This post really doesn’t have a point. Well, maybe it does. I think the constant changing in interface layout, functionality, and overall look and feel is to keep people using their products. People just seem to like new things.

Video for Apple Devices

Lastly, I would like to report on some findings I made with regard to Apple Devices and their supported video playback.

I did some tests with h.264 video encoding. A lot of this won’t mean much, but it’s nice to write it down for future reference.

Ipods do not support:

  • b-frames
  • cabac
  • trellis
  • 8x8dct

Ipods Do support

  • Resolutions greater than what is listed on Apple’s website provided that the height does not exceed the listed height (i.e. 640×480 is listed as the max for the iPod touch, but it will play 855×480.) Of course, it won’t show a high resolution, it will down-convert it to what it can show.
  • 4 reference frames
  • detecelining
  • decoming

I also have to note that handbrake’s presets are pretty good for apple devices.

Magic Mouse Review

I really wanted a Magic Mouse. They are just cool! So I bought one a couple of weeks ago. I love that it uses bluetooth. I love the multi-touch features. I hated the ergonomics. It hurt my had to use, so I took it back. If you want a cool mouse, spend some time with this one at the store first. If you have small, little, hobbit hands like me, you might not want to get this mouse.

WordPress App

I just downloaded a very cool app from iTunes. It allows me to post to my wordpress blog directly from my iPod touch. You have to be connected to the Internet when you set it up. It gets all the important information including former posts, comments, and categories. Once you setup your initial account, you can set up other accounts. The blog can be hosted on your own server or the wordpress.com hosting site. Also, after you set it up, you don’t need Internet access. You can create or edit you posts. I assumed that you could set it to upload automatically when you have an Internet connection, but It looks like you have to come back and publish it when you have a connection. This is my first post using the app and so far I really like it and recommend it to ant wordpress bloggers out there.

iLife, ESL, and the Past Tense

I recently did a Poster Session at an Apple Education Conference: AcademiX. It was a lot of fun. I thought that I would share what what I did. For more information you can look at the Poster Session PDF.

Overview

For starters, this is something that I did with my intermediate ESL students.  In order to help them with them learn the past tense, I gave them an assignment.

The student videos were comprised of two parts. First, the students drew their story as if it were a comic. Second, the students narrated the story.

Preparation

1. The students were divided into groups of four or five.
2. Each group was assigned one of the four topics:
•    Frightening Experience – Fire
•    Frightening Experience – Car accident
•    Frightening Experience – Getting Lost
•    Most Embarrassing Moment
3. Each group brainstormed to find a good story to tell for their assigned topic.
4. The students then began to take turns drawing pictures to go with their stories.
5. While not drawing, the other students would review and practice their portion of the speaking part.

During this portion the students had great authentic language use.

Brainstorming – The students told personal stories about their past while thinking of good topics. The students negotiated ideas as they decided on a story whether fictional or real.
Practicing – The students were able to use more language as they practiced their presentation. They helped one another and corrected each other.

I should note that this was done over the course of a week. For each class period, they were given 30 minutes to work on the project.

Day 1 – Brainstorming
Day 2 – Creating a Story
Day 3 – Drawing the Pictures
Day 4 – Recording their stories

Putting it all together

1. The students pictures were scanned and imported into iPhoto where they were edited.
2. Students recorded their dialogs using GarageBand, Sound Studio or WireTap Studio Pro. The students used iMacs with their built in microphones.
3. The audio and pictures were imported into iMovie where it was all put together.

Conclusion

It was a fun activity for everyone. It did put a lot of the burden on me to put it all together, but it was worth it.