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Posts Tagged ‘ios

Turnitin’s Feedback Studio needs some serious feedback.

Yesterday I shared how its web application, integrated into an institutional LMS, kept logging me out and had UI controls reminiscent of the 80s.

If its web application was unstable and finicky, then its iOS app was bare-bones and underwhelming.

Turnitin’s Feedback Studio

I was hoping that I could do on the iOS app much of what I could already do with the web application. I was disappointed early on.

As I accessed Turnitin from an institutional LMS (BlackBoard), I had to log in with an “activation code”.

According to the instructions (as of 10 September 2017), I had to first log in to the institutional LMS on my iPad, pick any assignment, and click on an information (i) icon to reveal a “Generate Code” button.

When I tapped on the button, nothing happened. I could not get a code with the iOS app.

Hoping that the code was not tied to a device, I decided to try this on my laptop. Clicking on the button using my laptop gave me the code I needed. I had to use this workaround because Turnitin’s instructions did not work.

The UI of the app is simple. At first I was disappointed that what I did not use was plain to see and what I really needed to use did not seem available.

UI of Turnitin’s Feedback Studio

What was clearly visible were tappable areas for a rubric, summary comment, voice comment, and similarity (matching scores to other artefacts in the database) at the top of the page. I did not rely on any of these.

I do not even use the scoring element because 1) I keep the marks elsewhere, and 2) the point of this assignment is for students to respond to feedback via a reflection and to incorporate changes in the next assignment. Provide a score and the learning stops (and the badgering for marks begins)!

The actual tools for providing specific formative feedback, i.e., highlighting, commenting, selecting canned responses, etc., were not obvious. There was no initial-use help on screen. Such a job aid is practically a standard feature from app creators who practice user-centric design.

Thankfully tapping on the screen a few times revealed the highlighting, commenting, and type-over functions. I managed to markup and comment on a student’s work. In the screen capture above, I pixellated the work (grey) as well as my comments, canned comments, and highlights (all in blue).

Highlighting was somewhat laborious as the app selected an entire line when I wanted to focus on one word. It was also not easy to select several sentences in a paragraph, but I suspect that this problem is common to apps that display PDFs.

As I was trying this at home where the wifi was fast and stable, the markups in the app synchronised with the web version almost immediately. A better test might be at a public hotspot or transport where the signal is less reliable. This would test Turnitin’s claim that any app edits would update the web versions when a reliable connection was established.

I am not sure I would recommend the app for processing class upon class of scripts. The typing of comments alone would be a pain. An external keyboard might alleviate this issue, but not everyone has one. There is also the option of audio feedback, but this does not highlight specific parts of an assignment.

I would not recommend this app to the paper and pencil generation. I would hesitate to do the same even to those who consider themselves mobile savvy. I would not want my recommendations to be soured by association with an app that feels like it is in perpetual beta.

One thing I do at the beginning of each year is change the passwords of my most frequently used online services.

The good thing about changing an Apple password is the security. Two-factor authentication is the default and Apple’s online systems will “harass” you with logins and authentication.

However, changing your Apple password could result in services like iCloud and apps like Messages to not work in both iOS and OSX.

Reconnecting to iCloud services is easy enough. Sign in again on iOS and on OSX when prompted. You might be prompted to sign in twice in OSX.

Messages works if you stay strictly in the Apple ecosystem. But if you forward text SMS from your iPhone to your iPad and computers, this service may stop working. These SMS could be from non-iOS users or are text verifications from banks or online services, so they could be vital.

Text Message Forwarding

The forwarding service was re-enabled on my iPad after I logged into iCloud. However, I could not receive SMS on my MacBook and iMac.

I found out that I had to:

  1. Log out of Messages in OSX.
  2. Relogin to Messages with the new password.
  3. OSX will indicate that there is something wrong with iCloud settings. Sign in to iCloud again on OSX.
  4. Re-enable text forwarding in iOS for each iCloud-linked device.

Enabling SMS Forwarding

I have also discovered that changing passwords for Twitter and the Google universe (Maps, apps) can have unintended consequences. I will share what I did to solve these problems in another blog entry.

Video source

In the second short video of my CeL-Ed Monday series, I show you how to enable a second layer of security in your iOS device.

I read this article recently, School Districts Force Students to Downgrade iPads to iOS 6.

One reason for the backward move was to get control back of what should be individualized tools. The other was for remote management. I see the importance of the latter but am not sympathetic of the former.

The technological solution to ban or filter rarely works. The only things you teach kids with that approach is that they cannot be trusted and they do not know how to think critically.

If Ethiopian kids can hack OLPCs within five months with no instruction, overcoming firewalls and bypassing restrictions is nothing to kids on the other side of the divide.

I am not saying we should remove filters totally. I am saying that a socio-technical system is better, emphasis on the social component. This could include a crowdsourced acceptable use policy and documentation of consequences of breaking the rules.

We should teach kids to be their own filters.


Ever since I started facilitated MLS118/125 (Managing ICT-Mediated Change), I have been collecting data from my participants to get insights on how best to design lessons around them.

One thing I collect from participants is their preferred mobile operating system.

Participants in my elective are typically more tech-savvy as they are more likely to be heads of ICT in their schools.

In Jan 2011, I was merely interested in how many of them had smartphones. Thereafter, I wanted to know what proportion were on what operating system.

The change is obvious and I make instructional decisions based on the data. For example, I used to be able to rely mostly on iOS-only apps for the mobile learning components of my course. Now I have to make sure there are options on both major platforms.

I can also make inferences based on their choice of platform. For example, recent market buzz or device cost might be foremost factors and this in turn could reflect mindset of use.

All these add up to the principle of making data-informed decisions instead of ones that merely feel good or ones based on bias.

There is practically no debate on whether it is better to be fluent in just one language or in more than one. In a more connected world, it is a competitive advantage to be conversant in more than one language.

But there seems to be less of a debate about being fluent over different operating systems, e.g., Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS. If there is any debate, it tends to be about which OS you prefer.

I think the mindset of favouring one OS over another is just as bad as being only able to understand just one language.

Can you function with being OS monolingual? Yes, you can. If you like the bubble you live in. Bubbles tend to burst.

Why do folks tend to be, say, pro Mac or pro Windows?

There is the cost of time to learn a new OS and the cost of buying a new device, of course. Then again there are similar costs associated with learning a new language.

But learning another language might be necessary for work, school, or socializing. Picking up another OS might only be driven by interest.

I think that being multiOSlingual helps you gain perspectives you would otherwise be ignorant of if you were monoOSlingual.

You compare and contrast the OSs, transfer common strategies between them, and learn from the unique affordances each offers.

That is why I use Macs and PCs in equal measure. That is why I own both iOS and Android devices.

It certainly costs more time, effort, and money initially to own these devices. But what and how I learn from them is a worthwhile return of my investment.

Thanks to @NikoChenzh, I learnt about the iOS game Clash of Clans. Now my son and I are hooked on it.

What is the game like?

You have to maintain a village of warriors by starting from scratch. You clear the land, build infrastructure, train troops, go on raids, harvest resources, defend your land, etc. You know, stuff that could happen in life but in a more engaging way. It is not easy, but it is heaps of fun simply because it is difficult.

Like most games of this ilk, there is just-in-time instruction at the beginning, progressively difficult but motivating tasks, and opportunities to compete and collaborate. It has all the ingredients of what makes games good and all the hallmarks of good game-based learning.

Anybody can play the game. Anybody can teach it too. This is a kid offering some advice on YouTube about the game.

Video source

Did he have to share? No.

Did he want to share? I am quite certain he did and mostly on his own. If those tips do not suffice, there is this forum and a wiki.

Those resources are not perfect, but that is perfectly fine because they are part of the process of learning, not just the end product. Both will only get better with time.

This sort of self-directed and loose collaborative learning are the main reasons why I believe in off-the-shelf video game-based learning.

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