All entries for Monday 12 December 2011

December 12, 2011

Mindjet Mindmanager on the iPad for teaching, research and consultancy

I've been using iPads for around 6 months, in my teaching, consultancy work and as an essential part of my "research workflow". I have my own personal iPad, and 6 iPads that are part of the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning equipment for loan (Warwick staff can use them in teaching sessions). I'm now reporting on some of the tools that I find to be of great use (in fact I would say revolutionary).

Mindjet Mindmanager (called Mindjet on the App Store). This has always been the best mind/concept mapping tool for the dekstop (we have a site license for Windows and Mac). The iPhone version was good, but the size of the iPad screen, its convenience and its touch interface makes it the perfect platform. I have used Mindjet in all aspects of my work. Its user interface is simple, intuitive and flows perfectly with teh development of ideas.

In teaching, I have got small groups of students to create maps in response to a text or a brief, and show them through a projector (using an Apple iPad VGA convertor plugged into the projector). The students have been able to navigate around the map on screen, closing and opening nodes and talking about their ideas as presented through the map. Adding additional information is easy. And quite often they have used colour to emphasise different ideas. Here is an example from French Studies with some of the nodes opened and some closed:


Click the image to enlarge.

Personally, I will often start working on a document, project or consultancy by creating a map that delineates the important questions or key areas to investigate. I then add detail to these nodes as I discuss and think with people. It's easy to share the map visually with participants, or via email and Dropbox. I find this to be a good way to ensure that I am following a sound methodology, but with the ability to be flexible where required. Often these maps will become fully developed, for example into a text. I write the text on my iMac with the iPad sitting on a stand next to it (I have a TeckNet leather case with built in stand). Ideas seem to flow more freely and constructively.

Here is an example of a structured map used for a consultancy and design session:

consultancy map

Click to enlarge.

I've also started to use this approach with students, giving them a template map structure to develop their ideas from. This can be used to scaffold the investigative or creative process.

Mindjet Mindmanager is free from the App Store. It inter-operates with the PC and Mac versions, available to Warwick staff and students for free as part of the site license. iPads can be borrowed for use in teaching from the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning at Warwick.

iAnnotate for iPad, annotate PDFs, mark essays on screen

iAnnotate is a sophisticated iPad app for managing, reading and annotating PD aF files. As I'm an active researcher, I have to read many such files, often downloaded from journals (as text PDFs). I have also sometimes scanned chapters from books (as image PDFs) allowing me to read them on screen. I have a large collection of PDFs in Apple's own iBooks app, and am now slowly moving them into the much more sophisticated iAnnotate.

Here is a screen shot to illustrate what I am talking about. It is a page from an image based PDF of a chapter by Bruno Latour (from his web site).

Latour page

You can see the annotation tools on the right. This toolbar can be reconfigured with many more options, including different coloured highlighters, pencils, typed text (the typrewriter icon). On this page I have scribled some annotations, typed some more detailed annotations and highlighted some text. I used an AluPen stylus to write the annotations (£20 from the Apple shop in Leamington, also good for general typing and usein the iPad interface). When working with text based PDF files (of the kind usually available from journals), the text itself may be selected and annotated more precisely. It can also be copied and pasted into other programs (like Pages the word processor). In this example you can also see that I have two documents open, displayed in tabs along the top. I can switch between them easily, or tap on the currently displayed article to go full screen with no tool box or menus.

Two further tools that I haven't used: using the iPad's built in mic I can add audio comments; the PDF can be sent by email, including a summary of all of the annotations. These features suggest a particularly important use - on screen marking of essays. Most academics I have talked to about this have said that they sit in a relaxed chair when marking, not at a desk. So marking on an iPad might fit. It is also known that audio feedback can make a significant difference to some students.

More about iAnnotate and a link to the app store ($9.99).