EDTECH 597: Mobile App Dilemma Du Jour — The Problem with the Comma

Here’s my version of “Android, Where’s My Car?” It includes the addition of nearby restaurants and eateries that you can go to after the game is over.

It turns out that commas are important in more than just language. They are apparently important in building mobile apps as well as I discovered while building this week’s app for EDTECH 597, “Android, Where’s my Car?”. While there were a few things that I misread on the blocks, causing my app to sort of function, but not the way it was supposed to, the final thing came down to making the maps work. The offending issue was a comma between the two coordinates.

The Power of a Comma: Not Just for English Anymore

I bought the class book on Kindle for the desktop, thinking that it would be more convenient since I’m already on the computer anyway, and since one of my fascinations with the mobile apps class in the first place is how books are changing and how mobile apps will affect that. It turns out that the writing is very small, so what I mistook for two text block placeholders were in fact, commas. Being a very visual person, the written instructions don’t often make sense to me until I’ve walked through the steps a couple of times using the blocks. It took me hours to finally put two and two together. In hindsight, an app that should have maybe taken five hours tops, took me between 10 and 12 hours. Ugh!

The section of the App Inventor blocks giving me trouble. The tiny commas are circled. Oops!

But some good things happened as well. I got to explore a theme that I learned about a long time ago when the web and websites were really starting to come on with a vengeance. I met this woman who wanted to create a Boise-themed website. One of the ideas she had was a theme page that would make recommendations for where people could eat after the BSU game. I thought that this was a clever idea, and for about the last 15 years, that idea has come back to me off and on.

Working with Themed Mobile Apps

Now that I’m in this class, it occurs to me that this theme in many ways is better suited for mobile apps because of the, well, mobile aspect of the device. My thinking is that if you’re already at the game and you decide to wait things out until the traffic dies down before you even think about moving your car, then having the information at home on your computer won’t do you much good. True enough, it’s information that people can write down, but having an app for this purpose makes a lot of sense. You just click on the app and a list of restaurants and coffee shops near BSU along with maps and some information about them are at your fingertips. This type of app goes hand-in-hand thematically with the GPS aspect of this week’s app as well, because if you do walk to say The Ram in Boise from the BSU parking lot, you can set the GPS for your car, walk to the restaurant, and then find your car on your return.

As I’ve mentioned many times in these blog entries, I want to know the most logical way to develop an app guided by the question, “What is the most logical end to the development of this app?” In other words, where are the circumstances surrounding its creation taking me. I really saw this for the first time last week, and now this week’s app is pointing me in that direction as well. The addition of the restaurants and eateries around BSU logically extended the app’s reach well beyond—but not illogically—past the original parameters of the assignment. Besides the visual design aspect of the class, this has to be my favorite part of being in EDTECH 597.

Mobile Apps: Keeping People Out of the Way of Hurricanes

On a related note, it looks like mobile apps are helping people on the East Coast deal with the incoming storms. There was an article in CNN this week about tracking Hurricane Isaac. If anyone needed up-to-date information and GPS capabilities, the folks in the paths of these storms would certainly be candidates. While it’s not certain yet how the storms will affect satellites having mobile capabilities to reach the web at least for a while must be very helpful. These are quite logically storm-tracking devices.

Finally, because of the difficulties that I had in developing the app this week, I didn’t have as much time to work on the visual design aspect. I did some. I included the blue and orange for BSU and created a clean interface, but it’s still rather dull-looking. I would change that aspect in the future.

Horizon Report Tech Trend

A screenshot from the hotel portion of the “Who is Oscar Lake” game by Topics Entertainment.

This week’s assignment in EDTECH 501 was the Tech Trends assignment. Dr. Kemp introduced it to our class in part by asking us to read the NMC Horizon Report. Fortunately, it was something that I’d already had a chance to look at, because it was also required reading in my mobile app development class (EDTECH 597) several weeks ago. Because of my earlier exposure to the report, my thinking had already been directed somewhat toward how to use some of these emerging technologies in my lesson plans in the classroom. Two in particular—mobile apps and video games—were already on my mind, because I’m in the mobile app development class, and there’s a particular video game I’ve wanted to use for a long time in a German class. It’s called “Who is Oscar Lake?” by Topics Entertainment and it’s a game that I have used to learn German and to teach my private tutoring students some German. It’s the focus of my lesson plan for the tech trends assignment as are mobile apps.

Language-Acquisition in the College Classroom

In language learning classes demand that foreign-language students develop competencies in all four language areas—speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension. A good lesson in a foreign language  exposes students to all aspects of foreign-language competencies each time they come to a language class. These are part of the standards set forth in foreign-language education. With that in mind, I wrote a language plan for a college-level German class that lasts 50 minutes since that’s what I’ve taught. These are at the 200-level, and the lesson plan would work for a German conversation and composition class.

The other guiding principle of my selection was that I wanted to introduce vocabulary to students that is immediately useful if they travel to and in a German-speaking country. When I was an undergraduate German student, I did not fully appreciate this aspect of the Oscar Lake game until I lived in Germany and traveled around. Then I was very glad I had been taught vocabulary related to activities like buying train tickets, checking into hotels, going to restaurants, etc. The lessons the game taught me were used over and over again during my travels, so I knew that the game worked. They also helped a student of mine pass a difficult exam that she needed to complete successfully so that she could work in Germany, so I knew it would be a good option.

Additionally, certain aspects of language learning are harder to facilitate in the classroom. Listening to the language spoken by native speakers and within the context that it is to be used can be challenging. Although most college-level language classes are taught in the target language, they are often taught by non-native speakers. Both the German mobile app and the game allow the student to hear German spoken by a native speaker in addition to providing for the other aspects of language learning.

Finally, despite trying to incorporate new technology as much as I possibly could, I have opted to use “old” technology when it comes to the German/ English dictionaries. I made this decision, because individual words have nuances that online dictionaries don’t cover in depth–at least the ones that exist now like Beolingus or Leo German Dictionary. Often to understand the real meaning of the word, you have to read through several entries in the dictionary and see how the dictionary uses them in context before you know which word to use. While I’m confident that this will eventually change, the electronic dictionaries are not where they need to be yet to give students full comprehension of a word’s subtly, so I’m asking students to have a traditional dictionary.

My assignment is below.

AECT Standards

I was able to touch on quite a few of the AECT standards. Here are the technologies involved in the lesson plan with the corresponding AECT Standard/s below each example:

Systems design was one of the main focuses of the assignment and fits the the following standard.

  • 1.1 Instructional Systems Design: Instructional Systems Design (ISD) is an organized procedure that includes the steps of analyzing, designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating instruction.

“Who is Oscar Lake” is a computer-based video game and the following standard.

  • 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies: Computer-based technologies are ways to produce or deliver materials using microprocessor-based resources.

The use of the smart phones plus the audio elements and video game fit the following standards.

  • 2.4 Integrated Technologies: Integrated technologies are ways to produce and deliver materials which encompass several forms of media under the control of a computer.
  • 3.1 Media Utilization: Media utilization is the systematic use of resources for learning.

The creation of the assignment and the suggestions for its use touch on the following standards.

  • 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations: Diffusion of innovations is the process of communicating through planned strategies for the purpose of gaining adoption.
  • 3.3 Implementation and Institutionalization: Implementation is using instructional materials or strategies in real (not simulated) settings. Institutionalization is the continuing, routine use of the instructional innovation in the structure and culture of an organization.

This list does not include the foreign language education standards. However, they are included in the lesson plan.

Reflections on HelloPurr, App Development and DC Comics, EDTECH 597 Week 3

I have found throughout the last several weeks of being in this EDTECH 597/ mobile app design class that I have a discrepancy in my skill sets. On the one hand, because of my background in traditional design—newspapers, magazines, etc—I can see the great potential in mobile apps and how they could help revitalize and change the design industry. On the other hand, since I haven’t owned an actual phone in several years, opting to use Skype on my computer instead, I’m finding that there’s a learning curve for the new technology. My computer can’t find the drivers to recognize my computer, I don’t always know how to retrieve my messages from my phone, apps that I really love take up a lot of my phone’s resources, etc.

As frustrating as this has been for me, it also occurs to me that the experience is useful. It will help me be more compassionate with clients as I work through the design process. Technology can be scary to people. Hopefully, the experience of doing this will enable me to better help them through the process of design.

It has also allowed me to look at the design principles that I do find valuable (from other media) and carry them over to app development. One stands out in particular, and that is the ability to click on an icon and be taken back to the main page of the app. Many of my apps don’t have this feature, and it frustrates me, because at this juncture I usually just have to go back to my phone’s homepage and try again. So far the one that frustrates me the most is the DC Comics app. It usually takes me down a maze with no ability to back track if I accidentally hit a wrong button. Since I love graphic novels and love DC in particular this frustrates me to no end. It also makes me wonder how it can be that organizations/ businesses like this that are design-oriented by the nature of what they do struggle so much when it comes to usability design. I guess it just goes to show that we all have blind spots in this age of ever-changing technology.

I was speaking to a friend of mine about this issue. He happens to work in instructional design, and he assured me that  I would learn this part of the design process in the course of my studies. He spoke about it in terms of user-interface design/ user-experience (UX UI). I have been exposed to this concept of design before in another class at the undergraduate level. It was the first time that I was introduced to the idea that design should be both pretty and functional, and I’m hoping to train myself to look for that element in design. While I learned in my newspaper days that design should actually look pretty, because it makes people stop and pick up newspapers (or read websites or try mobile apps in this day and age), it also should do something more. I will be mindful of that as I move forward.

Just for a visual record, the screenshot of my HelloPurr app is below.

HelloPurr app, assignment one in EDTECH 597, mobile app development class

Ed Tech 501 Introduction Video for Buffy Naillon

This is my Ed Tech introduction video for Ed Tech 501. It aligns with the AECT Standard 2.4 Integrated Technologies, which states,

“Integrated technologies are ways to produce and deliver materials which encompass several forms of media under the control of a computer” (Seels & Richey, 1994, p. 40). Integrated technologies are typically hypermedia environments which allow for: (a) various levels of learner control, (b) high levels of interactivity, and (c) the creation of integrated audio, video, and graphic environments. Examples include hypermedia authoring and telecommunications tools such as electronic mail and the World Wide Web.”

The video fits these standards because of its interactivity, which includes elements of audio, video, and graphic environments. Making the video required me to use all of these elements in order to make the video entertaining to watch and informative.

Additionally, I had to follow the guidelines for creating the video as set down by the class’s professor, Dr. Kemp. Here were the criteria from the assignment’s rubric, and the video meets each of these criteria as well.

  • Video is no more than 5 minutes. (5 points)
  • Video is titled “EDTECH 501 Introduction Video” on YouTube video page. (5 points)
  • Video includes discussion of why student is pursuing a degree in educational technology. (20 points)
  • Video includes discussion of what student hopes to achieve. (20 points)
  • Video is engaging and interesting to watch. (10 points)
  • Video includes excellent audio and video quality. (10 points)
  • Student effort is clearly apparent in video. (10 points)

Finally, I opted to use GoAnimate.com to create the video instead of using a traditional video format for the following reasons:

  1. I wanted to challenge myself to try something new. I’d seen videos made by Go Animate before, but never tried the site out, and I figured that—for me—the purpose of this degree is to introduce to as many kinds of new technology as possible, so this was a way for me to do that.
  2. I wanted to do something that I thought would be fun and a little different. On a personal level, I love cartoons and illustration and this was my way of allowing myself to work with these elements a bit.
  3. I wanted to explore some different options on the chance that I wind up doing some teaching; I can pass this technology on to any prospective students, because I’ll know how to use it.
  4. I wanted to have something in my portfolio that was related to animation. I love animation, illustration, art, etc., so if possible I’d like to try to make those the focus of my work as much as possible (within the framework of the MET).

It took me about 12 hours to finish the video all told, because I had to learn how to use the program, see what kinds of backgrounds that the site offered and I also had to pay attention to each facial and physical gesture and program each of them in and some scenes had several. I created the video on Windows XP, using the GoAnimate.com interface, which did not require me to download software onto my computer.