iBook Author – is it OER incompatible?

Important update (20 February 2012): Apple acted to change the End User License Agreement on 3 February 2012 with release 1.0.1 of iBook Author. This modified the restriction on commercial use to say “and includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author” so it only applies to the iBook version of the text. As long as iBooks is the only platform to support that format this is no problem. So I hope it fixes most of the issues I mention. Though I must admit it still leaves me a little uncomfortable and probably still needs checking out a bit further.

Original post (20 January 2012): Following today’s Apple Education announcement I was intrigued by the CNET live blog having the comment that it was HyperCard reborn so I thought it might be worth a download. (Though still not an iPad owner.) The interface looks fine and my first thoughts were positive – this could be a way to finally knock Word off its undeserved position as the default way to pass documents around. But then just before I got going to have a play with actually doing something I noticed this:

The iBooks Author export dialog explaining that Books can only be sold through the iBookstore

The iBooks Author Export Dialogue

So this says that I can only sell by Book through the iBookstore. Fine I have no intention of selling anything… BUT I think this is the first time I have come across an application that says that I can only use the output – the thing I make – in a particular way. I then went investigating into the licence that I would be signing up for if I used the software.

This shows the link to the licence conditions.

Pressing on the License Agreement button gave me this:

This text warns about the restrictions on selling iBooks

Then reading down to the small print I find this explanation of what I can do:

This shows the option to distribute for free or if a fee is charged it must be through iBookstore

So condition (ii) clearly says that if you are making any money from the iBook then it must be distributed through Apple. But what about condition (i)  – that sounds ok but I feel there could be a couple of catches.

Catch 1: the file format is .iba (not sure you can do much with that other than put it it iBooks I guess) but you can also get a PDF so maybe that is not so bad.

Catch 2: if I produce something I want to but a Creative Commons licence on it. In fact if I am producing something for a couple of projects that I work on I am contractually required to produce it using CC-BY. But then CC-BY allows anyone else to republish AND they may do so for commercial gain.

So either I have found a loophole – release with CC-BY then anyone else (which typically include you) can reuse your work in anyway they wish provided they attribute it to you. OR I have found a barrier – you cannot stick a CC-BY licence on anything made with iBook Author. The terms imply this is true even if you export it as PDF (or strictly probably even if you export as text).

The CC-BY license showing attribution

This needs the usual health warning – I am not a legal expert, what is more I can just be plain wrong :-). Anyway I don’t like this condition and I have written this blog instead of playing with the software.

How to (do) AVOID planning

AIM, VISION, OPTIONS, ITINERARY, DO

AIM, VISION, OPTIONS, ITINERARY, DO

I have long been a fan of the GTD approach and have recently been rereading David Allen’s book on Getting Things Done. Indeed I bought 10 copies and passed them out to colleagues working on the OLnet project as I believe his ideas and methods can only help people. BUT in reading his book I have had some difficulty in getting the match between PROJECTS and ACTIONS. The focus is on action but unless these make sense in terms of projects then it is hard to get going and decide what to do. GTD offers good advice compressed into about a few pages (p62-p81 in my UK edition) yet somehow I could not make that advice stick or pass on the ideas to other people. Until the beginning of the summer when I came up with a variant: AVOID planning!

In AVOID planning you focus on five elements:

  • AIMS: What you need to achieve
  • VISION: The impact and hopes you have for what you will achieve
  • OPTIONS: The ideas and choices you have for things you might do
  • ITINERARY: The outputs you are after and the deadlines to do them by
  • DO: The next actions that need to happen to move forward (and then the next and so on ….)

Notice the split between aims and vision. I have found that people are often asking for what is the vision behind a project – but then treating the result as if it was the guide to what has to be done. Splitting this into an aim and a separate vision has solved this dilemma for me.

The AIM is then something that might be relatively straightforward such as to “write a blog post about the AVOID planning”. The aim should in general something you would be happy to be held to. In effect the promise you are making yourself that you can deliver on.

The VISION is where you let yourself imagine the other side of success. In the vision think about impact and everything working out. So the vision might be “Blogging about AVOID planning helps those I work with to be more efficient and know what each other are doing and then it gets picked up as an approach for the unit, the university, the world … leading to a new role as an efficiency guru.” Visions, including this one :-), may contain aspects that you might not expect to achieve but if you miss spotting them may rein in what you do and the connections that can be made.

OPTIONS is where ideas should flow. Gathering all the things that you might do. In this section remain in brainstorm mode without being too critical about the ideas generated. Options are optional so record each idea without thinking of them as commitments. So can have options such as “Make a Powerpoint presentation about AVOID/Put an animated podcast together with voiceover on YouTube/Blog onto my personal openpad site/Link the method to olnet.org/Run a session at the next team meeting/Write an AVOID planning book/….”.

In ITINERARY is the chance to pause and put in a reality check. What actually has to be done and when by. If there are hard deadlines then they go here. This would be a good place to link up with any more traditional planning that is going on. E.g. if you want to make a Gantt chart or spreadsheet then put it here. This can also be where to describe deliverables if that is what the driver is for the outputs. For the blogging example the hard deadlines were initially missing but having now said that I will run a mini session at a meeting I have an Itinerary of “Blog post/Put slides together/Team meeting (October 12)”. [Of the letters in AVOID the I is the one I am least sure about – for a while it was Inventory but I found Itinerary fits better but is a bit tricky to spell. I would consider other options.]

Finally DO. At the planning level too much effort can go on trying to get the list of things to do right and to be sure about the options that have been selected. Rather the DO section is really a hand over to however you track your actions. What does need to be identified is the Next Action level. A project without any Next Action is one that is not going anywhere. So again in my self-referencing example the Next Action was “Set a date to talk about AVOID” and now is “Draft a blog post about AVOID”.

How to AVOID plan

I have now been running AVOID planning myself for about 3 months and shared the method with 5 or 6 other people. I have found two key ways to apply it. First as a solo activity, second as small group planning/brainstorming. The process is similar in each case but in the solo version it can be carried out fairly quickly with worthwhile results in 15-30minutes while as a group activity it will take a bit longer but combine very well with other techniques to draw out the options (for example with think-pair-share). I will describe what I do when working this through with myself of perhaps one other person:

Think about something you are working on that is perhaps just getting going or a bit stuck. E.g. writing a report. This should be viewed as a project with steps along the way. Create a document call it e.g. [project]-AVOID-[date] with headings:

AIM:

VISION:

OPTIONS:

ITINERARY

DO:

Now work your way down the list as quickly as is feasible. Write the commitment under AIM (you might find at first you need to list some alternatives and refine) then let your ambitions loose and write out all that might happen when you succeed under VISION.

In independent brainstorming mode then fill in the OPTIONS. I find this can be quite liberating and make you realise that you have ideas that you need to get down before you let them go – even if you cannot see them as feasible or even necessarily good ideas. In this category for me are the ones that would be good if they happened but might cause everyone far too much work! But record it without being too critical.

Then the ITINERARY pause – what is really pressing and has to be done soon. What is the eventual target. It is often the case that there is no real end date imposed in which case put in best guesses. This can also provide the section that is a checklist of progress. If there need to be visible outputs such as progress reports, final reports etc. then note here. Treat this section as grounding after the options section but do not over plan.

Under DO it might be that there is not very much to record at this stage but there should be for yourself at least a clear Next thing to do.

Working with Toodledo

I find Toodledo a great help in running a GTD style ToDo list. Now that they have added notes it is also a good platform for organising projects and a home for AVOID plans. I won’t go into the details here but do advise signing up for a free account (following this link with note that I recommended you or just go direct).

Credits

I think most of what I have written here can be found in David Allen’s GTD book. What I have done is pick out the section that matters when planning and also come up with the AVOID acronym. Whether this makes a difference for others I don’t know; it has helped me remember and adopt this five stage approach to planning and to bring a few others on board without just saying “read the book”!

No thank you for iPad

iPad showing Gizmodo site - 8-things-that-suck-about-the-ipad

iPad

Recently at work we bought a couple of iPads. These are in the hands of Martin Weller and Karen Cropper both of whom are now keen users. Last week Karen let me have her iPad to use for a week and I expected it to hook me as well. There certainly are some nice things about the iPad – it feels good to browse with it, Flipboard is a great way to follow streams, reading books in iBooks feels slick, and playing iBubble on its large touch screen is addictive. BUT in the end it was not for me and I was able to give it back into Karen’s eager hands without any great wrench.

The reasons for this I feel fall into two parts. First there was just too much that did not feel as if it worked as well as it could. This is exactly where the strengths of Apple normally lie, but on the iPad the wi-fi was too flaky and the missing camera limits possibilities. For me the disappointing capabilities of two add-ons flag up that this machine is not as good as it could be: the VGA adapter only works for some programs, and the SD card reader only allows thumbnail views.

This brings me to my second point that the iPad underperforms as a work machine. I had thought it would be great to use the touch features for collaborative brainstorming; but I could not project to the large screen. And I expected to take photos and instantly put the camera card in to show them off; but to do this I had to slowly pick and transfer the files first. In particular I thought the iPad would be great for having PDF documents loaded to replace paper in meetings; but too cumbersome to switch between the documents so I was better off with my laptop (and best off with paper!). I also was in a meeting where five other people had iPads – the effect was of looking at the top of people’s heads as they found documents or made notes. I felt more part of the meeting behind my laptop screen.

Throughout my week I kept putting the iPad to one side and using my Macbook Pro instead. The one win at work was when I had to carry out workplan approvals – a job where I needed to bring up page after page and click a button, this was much more satisfying with the touch screen rather than a mouse.

The iPad does feel like a first generation – I remember feeling just the same when I got an early model iPod Touch. That has been transformed by software upgrades and hardware improvements so that I am now a constant user of the iPhone 3GS I have (though notably it is not my phone – that remains an ancient Nokia).

At the moment then  no iPad for openpad, but I suspect I will waver in the future – though whether this time Apple has gone too far with its gradual upgrading approach and will allow others too leap ahead remains to be seen. Philosophically an openish Android would better match my views than the proprietary iPad so my colleague Liam Green Hughes may yet win in this argument!

Higher Education Leadership Summit 2010

I am attending the Higher Education Leadership Summit in London tomorrow (11 February 2010) which should be an interesting experience in many ways. Not least because I have been asked to provide some “live blogging” along with 3 other people working across the different strands of the conference. Cloudworks is being used to provide a place for sharing the blogging. So hopefully there will be plenty to see at http://cloudworks.ac.uk/go/hels10

European activity – opense and oer in sweden

I attended a couple of different events in the last few days. I was at a meeting of the OpenSE project in Oxford. Blogged on olnet.org at http://olnet.org/node/252
And I attended an OER in Sweden conference. Blogged on olnet.org at http://olnet.org/node/253
One further comment – I stayed overnight when I went to Oxford (40 miles away) and did there and back to Stockholm in a day (about 900 miles). My daughter kept checking if I had got this the right way around :). She has a point.

Poor neglected blog

Nearly coming up on an anniversary of my last post to this blog has made me reflect on why I seem to have drifted away from the process of getting ideas out through my own blog. Certainly part of it is sheer lack of time (and possibly ideas!) but it also reflects the choice of channel these days. For me the diversions include:

Of these it is cloudworks that has perhaps been the site that has captured most of what would otherwise have ended up in the blog. Cloudworks owes its existence mainly to Grainne Conole at the OU and is a site where you can create various notes (clouds) and link them together. Then others can comment on them. Flexibility to link to twitter and embed other bits of online stuff meant that for me it was a better place when blogging alongside others – especially conferences. And as that was when I posted quite a few of my posts it meant that my own blog has become very neglected.

On the whole I am happier with my notes being alongside those of others but also I feel a bit sad about losing the personal angle and collection. So what I need is a place that brings my contributions back together again! Not sure at the moment what will best provide this – options include adding links into a space I own (e.g. this blog), setting up a personal cloud, tools like netvibes (seems less fasionable than it was), or ??? Any ideas?

Future of homework with Xtranormal

My colleague Martin Weller put a little movie that he made over lunch with Xtranormal on his blog. Martin always picks up on the latest tools and applies them to his work in really interesting an insightful ways. Whereas I delegate! So last night when my daughter for her Year 4 homework had to write a very short mini-play to understand scene-setting and dialogue. I remembered Martin’s demo and logged into Xtranormal on the Asus in our living room. Actually I couldn’t get it to work as it was a bit tricky using the small screen on the Asus – but while I went off to help with getting dinner on the table – my daughter worked it out.

Anyway here is the result of her (and a little bit my) work. (I will embed it when I get that to work – link for now! Proper embedding doesn’t seem to work on WordPress so picture with a link will have to do)



An incredibly easy to use tool with impressive results and ideal for this bit of homework. I am not sure whether it will be like my fling with Animoto where I only think of the occasional thing to do with it. But I have just found myself in a research group meeting proposing it as a way to present/support argumentation develop linked to work on inquiry in school age children, so maybe worth a follow up.