Tuesday, November 29, 2011

iPad instructional design apps and workflow

I've had an Apple iPad for the last 18 months or so. It mostly replaces my laptop (Mac Book Pro) when I'm away from home. I currently use a 32 GB 3G (Verizon) & WiFi model. Though the iPad has the ability to access the Verizon 3G network I tend not to enable it. I actually use a Verizon 3G MiFi device for my on-the-road internet access; it's sort of odd but MiFi 3G is way faster and more reliable than when I have my iPad's Verizon 3G turned on. 

Since I work a couple of states away from home I depend on it a lot for personal and professional use. This post describes how I use iPad in my instructional design work; today I'll talk about my preferred instructional design models and how I use iPad to facilitate note-taking when meeting with customers and subject matter experts. I had thought at first that I'd be able to hammer this out quickly in one post. As it happens something like three weeks have gone by since someone asked me to talk about my iPad and instructional design experiences. I ended up reflecting on it quite a bit longer than I thought.

I hear a lot on twitter and other places that some of my peers, other instructional designers, don't much care for the ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) instructional design model. I sort of like it. I use ADDIE and ARCS (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction) on every instructional design project I do, and have for the last three years. iPad and ARCS, in particular, work quite well with the storytelling approach I favor. I think you'll see the apps I use reflect this.

I hadn't really thought much about how I use iPad in instructional design until Allen Communications came out with their DesignJot app. It does an excellent job of walking someone through a full-on instructional analysis. It's all in there, including the kitchen sink. I've used it a couple of times but I've found that it's overkill for the kind of work I do. Most of my projects are for a federal law enforcement agency. I ran through DesignJot once and then the second time I used it I realized I didn't need to; I mean my customer and target population weren't likely to change. If I were a contractor again, servicing many and varied customers, then yes, DesignJot would probably be a more active tool in my kit.

ADDIE starts with the analysis phase: meeting with the customer and getting a feel for the sort of project it's going to be: topic, target population of learners, identifying roles and responsibilities and so on. Part of this process involves helping the customer understand and appreciate what instructional design can and can't do. This is especially important when the desired method of course delivery is elearning. The apps I use for analysis and customer interaction deal mostly with recording meeting notes, record keeping and project management. It's vital that I come away from customer and subject matter expert (SME) meetings with a thorough understanding of the project.

Note-taking apps: Noteshelf makes note-taking a breeze. You basically write (freehand) your notes. You want to use a stylus with this app. The first step in note-taking involves creating a notebook. You can customize the notebook cover and pages. There are a number of default covers and paper styles; my favorite paper mimics my trusty yellow legal pad. You can also buy more using in-app purchases; I haven't done this. After you've finished taking notes it's simple to export (I routinely use email, print and dropbox) your notes. The thing you want to remember about Noteshelf: it takes freehand (hand written) notes. It does not let you type text into your notes. Notability is my other note-taking app. Like Noteshelf you can record your notes freehand. Notability also supports audio recording, typed-text and PDF annotations. It really pushes the note-taking envelope by letting you mix audio, text and drawings on the same page. I mostly use the app for freehand note-taking as the soft-keyboard (or using a Bluetooth keyboard) tends to distract the people I'm meeting with. In the design phase (ideation) it's a killer app.

For record keeping I depend on emailing my notes to my computer for storage. If I'm working on a rapid design project I'll sometimes forward the notes to the customer or SMEs; the notes can be a little on the messy side; when they are I like to clean them up in a word processing app like Pages, QuickOffice or Office2; the latter two office apps I use when I expect to receive Microsoft Office formatted documents from the customer when I'm in the field; both are excellent when it comes to compatibility. I also use Dropbox for archiving. I can create folders to organize my notes. The people I work with say I use Dropbox like they use Sharepoint. I think Dropbox is much cooler and faster.

For the last several months SG Project has been my project management app. It works a little like Microsoft Project; I like it for that and because I can import/export XML Project files back and forth.

About the stylus: I've used two. My first stylus was the Pogo Sketch. Lately I've been using Just Mobiel's Alupen. Both work quite well as a stylus for note-taking and sketching. I switched because the Pogo Sketch doesn't feel quite natural in my hand; it's on the skinny side. The Alupen is much fatter and fits quite well when I hold it. If the Alupen has a down-side it's that it lacks the pocket-clip on the Pogo Sketch.

One more word about record-keeping on my iPad: Blogsy. Blogsy is the app I use for blogging. I haven't tried any other apps for this purpose; what I had seen available in the app store tended to be unappealing given their UI or customer feedback. Blogsy's really easy to use; it can be a little quirky though. For example, tagging a blog post by adding labels causes the app to freeze. Weird things happen when I use Blogsy's undo-redo: chunks of my text disappear and don't come back. Even so, it replaces what I had been using before: either the blog's default web-based text editor or Adobe Dreamweaver. That's not a typo: Blogsy, for how I do blogging, is as effective as Dreamweaver.

In this post I talked about my favored instructional design models: ADDIE and ARCS. I outlined the apps I use for what I consider to be the main component of ADDIE's first (analysis) phase: note-taking, record keeping and project management. My favored note-taking app is Noteshelf. It is flawless when it comes to writing freehand notes. Notability is another note-taking app I regularly use. It has richer features including audio recording, text support and annotation. I use it a lot in ADDIE's design phase. If you're going to do serious note-taking on the iPad (of the freehand variety) then you need to get a stylus.

In my next post (tomorrow hopefully) I'll describe how I use iPad apps in ADDIE's design phase. I'll also start in on how the iPad shines when it comes to ARCS.

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