Getting the most out of PDFs

I wanted to pass along two great resources for helping you get the most out of PDFs. (This is a topic near and dear to my heart: I’m a bit of a PDF hoarder. Between work-related items, research articles, and knitting patterns, my computer desktop always has a healthy number of PDFs on it!)

1) Twelve Powerful PDF Tools. This article lists some helpful PDF resources.

I’m especially intrigued by PageFlipFlap, which turns PDFs into flippable book pages. You simply upload your PDF and then wait for an email with a link to your content. You can view the flip book on your computer, share the output to social media, or embed it on your website using the code provided. The service is free – and seemingly without limit to the number of documents or pages in your document (as long as you are wiling to tolerate some advertising). One other thing to note: PageFlipFlap uses flash. Sorry, iDevice users.

I’ve used BlogBooker in the past, and can attest to the fidelity of the PDF provided. This is a great way to archive a class blog. I love that it captures images and comments. Best, the PDFs it generates are purely your blog’s content without advertising or information about BlogBooker itself. To use this, you need to be the administrator of the blog in question, since BlogBooker generates the PDF file from the export file provided to blog admins by most blogging platforms.

Check out the rest of the PDF options!

2.  Annotating PDFs. It’s really helpful to be able to highlight or add commentary and notes to PDFs (see our earlier review of Highlighter for a social / course-based component to PDF annotations).

Looking through my own notes, I ran across a Profhacker article recommending the app PDFpen. It might be as amazing as the author contends – in particular, the OCR feature to convert items into searchable text does seem really useful for some researchers – but I’m cheap. Thus, unless I’m really going to use all the features, the $14.99 iPad / $60.00 Mac price tag is a bit steep.

My old standby, iAnnotate, is only $2.99 and works well with the iPad. For those looking to economize even more, Skim is free PDF annotation software for Mac computers.

I’m always on the hunt for new tools – what do you use to annotate PDFs? Moreover, what neat and new things are you doing with PDFs? Share away in the comments!

Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Smartphone and Tablet Era

Bloom’s Taxonomy, the prism through which many of us have been taught to evaluate learning outcomes, is changing. The general trend is to focus more applications of knowledge, rather than knowledge for its own sake. In the updated version, the act of remembering replaces “knowledge” at the base of the triangle. Progressively more intense higher-order thinking skills are enumerated moving upward toward the peak of the triangle, culminating with learners creating knowledge. The act of synthesis, absent in the revised taxonomy, likely has always found its way into the work of analysis, evaluation, and creation.

Of course, Bloom’s taxonomy is not the only way to graphically represent the cognitive processes associated with learning. Other revisions have represented the taxonomy as a series of interlocking gears, a blooming rose (hah!), and a feathered bird – just to name a few. Notably, Rex Heer at Iowa State’s Center for Excellence in Teaching has created a nice flash model of the way that the cognitive processes mesh with different levels of knowledge that learners will need to complete the task. It’s definitely worth clicking on the link in the previous sentence and then playing a little with the interactive graphic.

Recently, I’ve run across a few revisions of Bloom’s taxonomy focusing just on the apps available for tablets and smartphones. Check out the Padogogy Wheel:

I love the multitude of apps identified above – what better way to find something new that just might work for you? However, if you’re looking for something a little cleaner, here’s a nice distillation:

Of course, not all the apps are appropriate for your content, level, or course goals. You might use the above information to guide students when helping them select research, presentation, or study tools. If you’re currently using – or contemplating using – one of the apps identified above, this should give you a sense of the cognitive range of the app. Last, if you’re not yet sure how smartphones and tablets fit into the classroom and individual learning processes, hopefully these graphics have provided some food for thought.

If you’re looking for still more apps, the Koehler Center has a list of both discipline-specific and general study, writing, and document management apps. In addition, some of the web 2.0 tools identified on our website also have their own apps.

Apps on tablets and smartphones are more than just cool tools. In particular, some apps make it very easy for students to transition from sophisticated curators of knowledge of innovative creators of knowledge – that is, to ascend to the highest level in the revised Bloom’s taxonomy.

Do you have an app you love to use with your students? What impact does this app have on student learning? Alternately, is there an app that would benefit your students’ learning that you’d love to create?

Educational Android Apps

We’ve shared a fair amount of iPhone and iPad apps with you recently. While most of the apps we’ve reviewed also work on other devices, this Android-focused list of educational apps is a nice, specific collection. I especially like that the list is broken down by age level and app function. Gamma rays, guitar chords, and graphing calculators – bring it on!

If you’re interested in more apps, you might review the list of mobile and tablet apps collected by the Koehler Center team. We’ve highlighted both discipline-specific apps and apps for note-taking, reading, writing, organization, studying, and collaboration.

Student Technology Use in the Classroom

This is a great article about the promise, pitfalls, and power of laptops, tablets, and smartphones in the college classroom.

The article also links to some great resources concerning digital etiquette in the classroom. Do you have an in-class laptop or technology policy? If so, is it an announcement on your syllabus – or a contract you make students sign? What do you think of a laptop-free zone (of some seats in class)?

Last, I like that the article concludes with a stress on meaningful learning experiences and the ways in which student devices can contribute to a dynamic, engaged class.

What’s your experience with students bringing laptops, tablets, and smartphones to class?

Back in the swing of things

I’m hoping you had a restful break.

We’re gearing up for the start of the semester, with great plans to bring you lots of new and relevant content (including a substantive post this weekend!). In the meantime, enjoy this infographic about technology on campus (note that you may need to click on the graphic a few times in order to see it large enough to read the text).