Keep it moving.

Do you like things that animate within an app? During a few of the online seminars I’ve delivered, I posed that question. It seems a vast majority of people do like some simple and quick animations. However, there are hold outs who just want the content loaded fast and have a plain look.

Personally, I like to have some subtle effects within the app. The key word is subtle. I don’t want you to notice the effect. For example, a number of years ago, a certain university that is adjacent to Canadore produced a CD. It looked nice. When the main menu came in, there was this three second pixel dissolve. It looked kind of neat as something like that only showed up in Powerpoint presentations. However, when you selected a menu item, there was a three second effect. You also got the same three second effect when you finished a section and came back. After four clicks, I was done.

If that same app had a half second cross dissolve (or segue) that wouldn’t bother me. It’s a nice effect and I don’t feel like it’s wasting my time. The reason I like to put animations and fades into my app is:

  • Reduces eye fatigue by not having things always pop in
  • Add juice to the app
  • Shows there was extra effort put into building the app
  • Entertains the eye during the transition

So based on experience, a majority of people do like subtle effects and transitions. Do you? I think it would also be good to talk about what NOT to do with effects (3 second dissolves).  I’d love to hear your thoughts on effects in your app and your reasons for your thoughts.

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Looking into the Future – Something Will Be Missing

I’ve had the privilege to work in education/training and the technology field for over 31 years. I’ve seen a lot. I remember my very first digital camera – it could save 10 JPG images on a 3.5 floppy drive. The batteries wouldn’t last very long because you had to read and write information on the floppy drive. That’s a lot of moving parts.

Over the years I’ve learned to evaluate new technology coming onto the scene. While I’m not always right, I do get pretty good at looking at what is hype and what has staying power. So rather than writing what I think is coming, I’m going to write on hype that I think is going to shrink in importance. The thing that I think that will lose importance over time is GESTURES. I’m not talking too much about gestures on your phone – but more about the computer interface.

MinorityReportTomCruise-1

There is a lot of hype around making technology where you have gestures to control the interface. There are a number of videos showing video walls or interactive glass where you can drag and move things around. While this is really neat and looks cool, it’s not practical. About two years ago, there was a TV crew taping one of my classes to make a promotional video. During the recording, I was teaching a 3D Drawing class. I spent a fair bit of time at the Smart Board moving things around with the touch screen. So I was teaching using gestures. At the end of the three hour class, I was exhausted. All that gesturing wore me out.

Have you heard people complain about carpal tunnel from typing? Can you imagine the complaints you would hear about back, shoulders, neck and arms if you spend days making gestures?

The first mouse was invented somewhere around in 1964 but wasn’t revealed to the public until 1968. Shortly after that, the technology world is attempting to replace the mouse with a better technology. Almost 50 years later, there is nothing that has knocked off the mouse. I don’t see the mouse leaving any time soon.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you think gestures with computers will replace the mouse? Let’s start a discussion.

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New Projects

I’m a full-time professor. I make my living teaching and training (there’s a difference) people. I’ve jokingly said under my breath:

One of the best things about being a professor is helping students for a great sum of money.

In case you missed the prelude – I’M JOKING. I don’t make a “great” sum of money.

In the field on eLearning, mLearning, media and development, things tend to change very quickly. If all I did was teach, then I would be doing my students a disservice. I need to get out in the real world and develop my own apps. I need to build web sites for clients. I need to feel the pressure of building something with a looming deadline hanging over my head. I need to push myself to learn new and better ways of building things. I need to not only learn new development skills with current market tools but also learn how to cope when feeling tired and demotivated. I need to find ways to work through technical and mental problems. Basically, I put myself in the seat of my students so I can empathize with them. Not only do I bring in some real world skills and scenarios into the classroom, I can also help them get through the difficult times – especially when motivation is low.

In saying all that, I’m working on an app that should be done by the end of April. Nothing too glamours about this app. It’s pretty straight forward but motivation will be an issue. Looking forward to seeing what I learn. On the horizon, I do have another project that I’m really looking forward to. This is a personal project so there’s no client. I’m very excited about this project but I have to put first-things-first. So, let me wrap up the school year and then early May, I get to start on my new project. I’m so looking forward to this project.

As I approach the time to start this project, I’m going to want to get your thoughts and input on the project. I’m hoping that you will be available for me to bounce a few ideas off you. So, are you in?

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Back At It

Well it’s been a while since I posted a blog. Those that know me, know that I would not ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.  Because we’ve given our Mobile Application Development the task of writing up to five blogs, I’ve decided to join in the writing as well.  So here we go.

So, why do we have students blogging? Why is it important to blog? The blogging is part of the marketing course we have in the Mobile Application Development program. This course focuses on marketing your apps as well as yourself as a developer. We talked a bit last week about effectively using social media to promote your app without getting flamed. We are also hoping to get students to blog about their apps and get other people to read about it. We want to use the blog post as a method of connecting with people who may download and use their apps. A blog can also be effectively to help users get excited about an app or product. The reader will be able to get some inside information  on an app from the author. I find it interesting when I get some inside information on the future version of an application from a large company whose software I use daily.

One of the students submitted their blog early and it was very well written. It’s so good to see passion from the students.

So, what are your thoughts on blogging? Do you see advantages to blogging about apps? Do you read blogs? If you do, do you take time to comment on these blogs? It would be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on blogging.

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When mLearning Isn’t mLearning

While sitting at the airport in San Jose waiting for my flight to leave, I started reflecting over the past week at the #mLearnCon. If you are interested in mobile or education and training, this conference is well worth the investment. I said a statement while sitting on a panel of experts that I think needs to expanded upon. One of the times the mic was passed to me I told the packed audience that most of the mLearning that I had seen was not mLearning. It was more like J.I.I (Just In-time Information).

What is JII (gee)

Many people that develop training material are familiar with JIT which stands for Just In-time Training. Simply, it means that when you need some training or need to learn how to do something, you get the appropriate training to complete that task. For the most part, what organizations have called mLearning is actually more like passing along information that will help you perform a task better. The question is, is it training?

The Difference between JII and JIT

As a professor at a college, I’m constantly making handouts on specific topics. We use these handouts as a reference or a resource. If I gave a class of students a hand out and left it at that, how many people would say that these students have been trained? Yes they have some vital information that will make their work easier but are they trained? We don’t know so I would say no they are not trained because there is no way of seeing if they read, comprehended and can apply the information they received on a handout. A lot of mLearning is like this. It provides information about a subject. It may be a follow up to some in class training and the message is reinforcing what was taught. This is good but again, is this training.

If you ever walk the halls of an eLearning conference, developers and instructional designers will scold anyone who makes a “page turner” and call that training. So, why is it OK to make a page turner for mobile devices.

What is mLearning?

To call something learning, there has to be a way to observe and measure the mastery of an objective. Working with a tablet is fairly straight forward as most eLearning apps with interactions can be ported over. However, on a phone this is different. To ensure the understanding of the content, you still need a method of engaging the participant. On a phone, it may be limited to some randomized questions or to fill in a web form that has check boxes and radio buttons as opposed to typing in a lot of text. You can also do some simple drag and drop exercises (put the following list in the appropriate order based on the importance). At that point, you can call it training because you have an activity or activities that measure if the person understood what they read. You can also start with a quiz and then provide answers for questions they answered wrong.

Conclusion

Anyway you look at it, the old adage “the dissemination of information does not equal training”. Just because you give a person a handout doesn’t mean they are trained. We engage participants when they take courses on a desktop. Let’s make sure we do the same thing when we use mobile technology.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen some good/bad mLearning?

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A few weeks ago I tweeted “Experience has taught me that students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” While in short term situations, this isn’t necessarily always true but it is for mid to long term teaching. Basically, when you teach you are performing and attempting to change individuals thoughts, perceptions and actions. While I can approach the class with the “Sage on the Stage” attitude and if they don’t understand what’s being taught, it’s their problem. However, to effectively change lives and improve retention, there has to be a personal connection. Don’t underestimate how the connection between a caring teacher and a student can literally change lives. One of my biggest thrills is when graduates contact me years after they graduated and catch me up on what they’ve been doing.

So, how do you make the connection. Here are a few tips:

  • First, be yourself. Don’t pretend to be out going and jolly if that’s who you are not. While I like to think I’ve mastered the art of faking sincerity, the truth is, students can see through the facade.
  • Second, invest in your students. Relationships come at a price and it’s usually “time”. I’ve attended a few extra hockey, volleyball, basketball games not to mention a few musical recitals to support students. One of the students ran up to me after their game and hugged me to thank me for coming.
  • Third, work the aisles. Teach in a way that will allow you to sit with students in class and allow them some one-on-one time. This will help build the relationship as well as that time could be something that won’t be forgotten.

I remember I went to a conference many years ago and in one of the sessions, I was blown away by a speaker and what he was doing. I met with him afterwards and told him how much I appreciated what he was doing. He asked, do you want get together over lunch to go over some of my experiments. That one hour I spent with him over lunch was worth the admission for the entire conference. It drastically reduced my learning curve and I was so grateful for what he shared with me.

While showing you care can come at a cost and appropriate distance is also very important, the rewards are well worth it. As another school year comes to a close, I’m again hit with the bitter sweet emotions. While I’m looking forward to the rest, I am really going to miss my students. This year was the inaugural launch of Canada’s first Mobile Application Development program and we have a very small class. I’ve grown very close to each student and will truly miss them when they venture off to launch their careers.

I would be curious to know what you think about how a teacher’s caring effects student’s learning. Are you a student who has be taught by a caring or a non-caring instructor? What was your experience. What about instructors and facilitators. What are some of your tips on connecting with your students?

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Is iOS the new VHS in VHS & Beta War?

I’ve been working with media since the early 80’s. Those of us who have been around that long will remember the debate of Beta vs. VHS tapes. They were two video tape formats that were incompatible. Although Beta, backed by Sony, was technically superior to VHS, VHS tapes won. I recall seeing the death of Beta come when Sony started selling VHS video tape. So, why did VHS win when it wasn’t as good as Beta? One word: VOLUME.  Consumers had embraced the VHS tape, cameras and recorders/players. Eventually the market for Beta tape technology dried up.

 

Can the same thing be said about the iPad? Would you consider, previous to iPad3, to be the VHS of the mobile market?  Some of the knocks against iOS devices is that:

  • iOS system is locked down pretty tight compared to Android or RIM
  • You need to plug the iOS device into a computer to start it up.
  • You need to install iTunes to get the full benefit of the device.
  • To upgrade the iOS, you have to plug it into a computer.
  • You “have to” go through their app store to sell apps.
  • There are a lot more hoops you have to jump through to get your your developers certificate, your provision file and your signing certificate
  • You also have to submit your app to be approved before it goes onto the iTunes store.
  • Then there’s the fact that Apple takes 30% of the selling price for themselves while the other markets tend to be free.

 

Yet, with so many restrictions, the iOS devices are the single most popular tablet/phone and music player in the world. Apple has also become one of the most profitable companies in United States. Although there are restrictions for developers, the quality of the apps, in most cases, tends to be better.

 

So it looks like the “VHS” system (of the mobile world) is winning again. I don’t see Android going the way of Beta, but they have their work cut out to catch up. I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the giants respond to the new iPad standards. We’re living in technologically good times.

 

So, what are your thoughts? Which system works best for you?

You can follow Phil on Twitter at @CanadianPacMan

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