Using mobile devices to enhance fieldwork

Prof. Derek France from the University of Chester will be visiting the Geography Department on Wednesday 21st January to share his considerable experience of using technology to enhance student learning.

Derek will be leading a hands-on seminar: ‘Enhancing fieldwork learning with Mobile devices’. This will take place from 14:00-16:00 on Wednesday 21st Jan, location TBC. Although the event is focused on geography teaching, it is open to all staff with an interest in fieldwork or the use of mobile devices.

Derek is a National Teaching Fellow and Professor of Pedagogy in Geographical Sciences. He is the director of the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning project The seminar will be of value for anyone who is or is considering undertaking student fieldwork. Even if you don’t yet use mobile technology in your teaching the case for doing so is growing rapidly. This seminar should help to give you a route into starting to understand how you might integrate such an approach into your teaching. It will cover both human and physical geography uses. The seminar will also be of use to those who might consider using such approaches in classroom teaching.

Please contact Dr Jon Millett to book your place. Numbers will be limited.

Potential problem using TurnItIn's iPad App

Rob Howe from Northampton University reports a problem with the TurnItIn iPad app which results in loss of data.  The full description is in this blog posting

Essentially, if the iPad user changes their iPad profile during a marking session, they will lose the data already marked, because the iPad thinks it belongs to somebody else.  The data cannot be recovered.

Rob’s advice – to make sure you sync the data often, particularly at the start of a session – seems sound.


Free Apps for New iDevices

Did you know that if you activated your iDevice on or after 1 September 2013 then you can download six key Apple applications (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand) for free? These apps would normally set you back just over £25.
All you need to do is register the serial number of your device within your Apple profile and then search for the apps via the App Store on your device and it should become available to you to download for free. I (well my husband) was lucky enough to benefit from this offer on his recent iPad Air purchase. These apps are equivalent to the Microsoft Office suite of products such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Note that GarageBand is free on the App Store for all iOS 7–compatible devices, not just those registered on or after 1 September 2013.



Bringing Poetry to Life

Clare Hutton demonstrating The Waste Land app

Before the holidays, I attended part of a lecture by Clare Hutton from the English and Drama department who showcased The Waste Land app to her students. Clare is one of the recipients of a loan iPad and has been trialling it in a Teaching and Learning environment.

For students studying TS Elliott’s notable poem, the app is well worth the cost of £9.99. With the inclusion of recorded readings, performance of the text and line-by-line notes this app truly brings the poem to life and adds an extra dimension which will help students and anyone who wants to understand the work in more depth.

Miracasting from Android devices

Miracasting from Android devices

In parallel with the Tablets in Teaching project, we have also been evaluating various Android devices as alternatives to Apple iPads.

With the advent of Android 4.2, it has been possible to wirelessly project an Android screen onto an HDMI display.  By this we mean that anything on the mobile device’s display is replicated on the remote display.

Whereas the Apple AirPlay solution requires access to an established network to function – with all the procedural problems that can entail – Miracasting sets up its own mini-network between the mobile device and the receiving dongle plugged into the remote display.  This is more hassle-free than AirPlay and is independent of the podium PC in a lecture theatre – modern podiums have an HDMI input socket which can be used if you don’t have direct access to the display’s connections.

We tested two source devices and two receivers.  Both sources worked well with both displays and were able to display wirelessly whilst running live BBC iPlayer over WiFi.  However, the phone’s SIMs had to be turned off to force it to use WiFi, otherwise iPlayer slowed down to a crawl.

We used the second source device to attempt to hi-jack the remote display.  In no case did this succeed, so even if students have Miracast-equipped devices in the lecture, they may be able to see the receiver but not connect to it.

We used a tablet and a smartphone, with each of the two receivers.

Google Nexus 7

Butterfly 920

Android version




WiFi, Bluetooth

WiFi, Bluetooth, 2 SIMs

Native display

7”, 1920 x 1080 HD

5”, 1280 x 720

Remote display 1

22” Iiyama HD widescreen monitor

Remote display 2

Podium HDMI connector to HD data projector

Remote display 3

42” Brockington study pod HDTV


The two receivers were a Phone2tv dongle (eBay, £32) and a Netgear Push2tv dongle (Amazon, £60).  In both cases a USB connection is needed to provide power to the receiver and both had extension cables so that the dongle did not need to be physically attached to the display.

Of the two, the Phone2tv receiver was slightly quicker to set up but the Netgear was slightly better at buffering the incoming data stream, so played with fewer jerky interruptions.

Both devices carry audio as well as video.



In use, the HDMI and USB connections are made and the Wireless Display settings used on the source device to initiate the connection.  In the example shown, the Aux HDMI input has been selected to feed the graphics through to the data projector.  The other sources – PC, Laptop, Visualizer and Blu-Ray player are still available and can be selected as usual.

The wireless display link works up to at least 5 metres from the receiver, giving the presenter the freedom to move around and interact with the class.


8 Ways Screens Are Ruining Your Family's Life


Reused courtesy of Mark H. Anbinder Flickr photostream under a CC licence

I read an article titled “8 Ways Screens Are Ruining Your Family’s Life” based on an interview of more than a thousand children in America, in the Huffington Post. Conducted by a clinical instructor at Harvard, the study was to find out how technology was impacting the lives and relationships of children aged between 4 and 18. The results are interesting, but not very surprising.

It is quite frightening how much we are attached to our smartphones and tablets for both personal and work purposes. I was at an event about tablets in learning and teaching last week, and similar conversations about reliance on technology took place over there. There were people describing their devices as a life partner, something they couldn’t do without. You might laugh at that, like I did, but have a serious think about how much is actually on your device and what would happen if it was taken from you right now. There are many people who use their devices to coordinate every aspect of their lives, from work meetings to social interactions to their personal life and it would be a serious inconvenience for them to be without it.

Although the article raises many valid points about the negative impacts of screen time, I think it is also fair to say that no matter how we like it, this is the future. Children’s (and adults) lives revolve around this technology and as with all things finding a balance is key. As one commenter on the article put it “There’s a difference between seeing a tree on a screen versus climbing one or plucking a fruit off and eating it”.

The TurnItIn App for iPad

You may have heard that there is a new iPad app for using TurnItIn – including the GradeMark paperless marking tool – available for free from the App Store. This may be of interest to tutors who already have an iPad, and already use GradeMark. It probably isn’t a ‘killer App’ that by itself makes it worth rushing out and buying an iPad.
A key advantage of the app is that you can download the whole class’ assignments to the iPad, and mark them offline, re-syncing when you are back in WiFi range, whereas with the PC version you need to be online all the time.
Almost all of the functionality of the desktop version is available, and some iPad users may find this to be a convenient and quick way of getting marking done in circumstances where it may not otherwise be possible.
The TurnItIn app can be added to all of the Tablets in Teaching iPads, but it will need personal credentials setting up before it can be used.
There are no plans for an Android version.
Setting up such an app with the proper security is always going to be complex, but once set up, the app works very slickly.
Our early experiences indicate:

• The app is set up by default for the US version of TurnItIn, and the iPad setting for the app needs to be changed to TurnItInUK before doing anything else.
• Changes you make can be manually uploaded by re-syncing the iPad, or will automatically be sent if a WiFi connection is available.
• I preferred using the iPad to the iPad Mini because my touches were more accurate and the text was larger and easier to read at the default scaling (you wouldn’t want to have to adjust the display for each assignment you mark, so it’s important that the defaults work well)
• It took 6 ¾ minutes to download 39 essays onto the iPad, so with large cohorts, allow plenty of time for the download.
• If you select the ‘Unlink iPad from TurnItIn’ option, you not only log out of the system, but also delete all of the downloaded assignments. Useful if you are sharing an iPad (does anybody?) but a disaster otherwise.
• Screen rotation (portrait/landscape) works in the normal way. Many screens will re-size using stretch/pinch, but some don’t.

Accessing the submissions
There are two methods of accessing your class’ assignments:


If you are already registered as a TurnItInUK user, you can log in with your email address and TurnItIn password. (Not sure if you’ve been registered already? Use the Retrieve Password link at . If you had a password, you are registered and can use the tool to set a new password. If you are not registered, it will tell you it has failed to find your details.).
Once logged in, you will presented with a list of all your modules, from which you can pick the one with the assignment to be marked.


If you have never been registered as a TurnItInUK user (and most tutors haven’t), you need to:
1. Log into Learn
2. Go to the module
3. Enter the Assignment activity
4. View any one of the submissions by clicking on its Originality Score
5. Once in the Document Viewer, look for a rectangular icon in the bottom left corner. Click the icon to get a 16-character access code for all of the student submissions for this assignment.
6. On the iPad, use this access code to display the submissions for this particular assignment.
7. Because the access code only works once, you’ll need to Sync all the submissions i.e. download them to the iPad, otherwise you’ll need a new access code when you resume marking. If an assignment has multiple markers, each marker will need to get their own access code, and sync the assignments that they have to mark.

Bryan Dawson and Farzana Khandia

Tablets in teaching

A Very Modern Lecture

A Very Modern Lecture, reused courtesy of pjohnkeane Flickr photostream under a CC licence

Are you using a tablet in your teaching – either iPad or Android? If so, we’d like to hear from you. How are you using it? Have you found any particularly useful apps? What response have you had from students?

We’re planning a ‘tablets in teaching’ project for next academic year and any feedback would be useful in setting this up.

For more information on how IT Services supports staff / student use of mobile devices, see and .

Go Swivl!

SWIVL - automatic pocket camcorder tracking

One of the constraints with current video lecture capture solutions is that the camera is in a fixed position so that, as presenter, you have to remain in the area around the podium if you wish to stay in shot. With colleagues in Teaching Support, we’ve been investigating professional tracking systems which enable the camera to follow the presenter around but they cost many thousands of pounds so it is unlikely that they could be rolled out beyond one or two ‘showpiece’ installations.

However, in the consumer video market, things may be about to change. One of the stars of this week’s huge annual CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas is Swivl, a device designed for use with iPhones and with pocket camcorders such as our fleet of loan Kodak Zi8s. It combines a motorised pan/tilt base for the iPhone and a wearable ‘marker’ (incorporating a wireless microphone) which the camera base follows around through 360 degrees. Swivl hasn’t yet been released but the price is set at around 160 US Dollars.

We already have a number of academic colleagues using pocket camcorders for a variety of purposes, including self-recorded feedback to students, so it’s easy to see how Swivl and the derivatives that are certain to follow will have multiple applications in education.

Live mobile video streaming with Bambuser

Bambuser may sound like an instrument of magic from Harry Potter but it is in fact a Web 2.0 service (with associated smartphone apps) that makes it possible to broadcast over the Web live video from your phone, via 3G or wifi.

In order to try it out, all you need to do is set up a free account at then download the appropriate app for your smartphone (most flavours are supported). There are also paid-for premium accounts which give you various branding and privacy options, an important point about the free account to bear in mind being that anyone can access your live stream.

Bambuser came to prominence earlier this year as activists and protesters across the Middle East used it to communicate with the world during the Arab Spring. From this perspective, the major advantage over recording video then uploading files to YouTube or other video sharing sites was that even if the authorities confiscated people’s phones, the video streams were already available. (For more on this see this article at .)

Within HE, people have already discovered that Bambuser can be very useful if you need a quick and easy way of doing live conference session streaming. Live streams are archived and available afterwards, apparently indefinitely. We’ve been testing it, as you can see from the photo, and will be helping the Library to use it during their Staff Showcase on September 14th .

As with YouTube, it’s very easy to embed Bambuser video streams into blog posts, websites – or even Learn pages. But please be cautious before using this, or any other new Web 2.0 service, in anger – there may be hidden catches for unsuspecting users, which is why we’re testing it ‘in controlled conditions’.