Dave's Travel Journal

A vacation is what you take when you can't take what you've been taking. - Earl Wilson


Traveling with an iPad Keyboard

Well, I've been using the Logitech 760 with my iPad now for several weeks, including a trip to Hong Kong. It's a winning combination. My MacBook sits alone. I love the MacBook but don't like the weight. A side benefit is that the iPad never has to come out of it's sheath for the airport xray gang. They just leave it in my pack. No problem.

Even when not traveling, I carry the keyboard with me to the local Starbucks. It's light and I hardly notice that it's with me. It's so much faster to type on a standard keyboard then on the iPad's lame excuse for one.

The other feature I really like about Logitech's keyboard (and I'm not getting paid for this, really) is that it's instant on. Flip the switch and start typing. Also, the onscreen keyboard disappears when using the bluetooth keyboard. What that means is that I see more of my text on the screen as I type. A wonderful feature.

One other feature is that I only have to worry about charging the iPad, never the keyboard. Since it's solar and I generally have some sunlight or indoor lighting, it's never a problem. I've also typed via light emanating from the iPad itself and that works fine too.

What is really strange is that even when I'm at home I usually reach for my iPad and keyboard combo rather than the MacBook. Just toss the iPad on the bed and place the keyboard on my lap and start writing. Perfect combo even at home.

...dave
I wonder what life would be like without an iPad? - dave terry

Goodnotes - A Perfect iPad Sketchnote app

I've been doing sketchnotes for conventions and business meetings for sometime. I used to call it "illustrated notes" but it was essentially the same as what has become "sketchnoting."  (If you have never heard of sketchnotes, you are in for a treat. Check out Mike's sketchnotearmy.com site.)

What kind of book makes a good sketchnote book?

I prefer to use a regular unlined and stitched shirt pocket sized sketchbook. Here in China they are easy to find and very cheap. It cost me about fifty cents for a 3.5 x 5.75, 32 page booklet. So recently on a trip to Hong Kong I used it to take my hand written notes.

But . . .

Why not use the iPad as my sketchnote book?

I also carry my iPad on business trips. I'd love to capture my sketchnotes on it. I've tried many apps to capture my hand written words and sketches but so far have been unsatisfied with them. Some are too rich in function or too complex to use as a quick sketchnote jotter. For example, the pen sizes are hidden deep in multi-tap menus or the pen colors are too garish to use. Some apps crash often and others harbor hidden costs. (For example, after buying one app for a buck, I had to purchase pens for 2 bucks each.) Some apps are great at text note taking or even recording voice while typing but don't have the sketching functionality I require. I basically want a piece of paper I can capture notes on with functions that don't get in my way.

Why can't it be easier?

I think I've found my answer, Goodnotes. What an awesome app for sketchnoting. There is a single bar across the top to access the pen, highlighter, and eraser. Each has three thicknesses to chose from. That's it.  It's that simple. The stylus glides smoothly across the iPad surface and lays down a beautiful "fountain pen" line. Very cool.  I can type if I wish but that's not my style. Instead, I sketch my text and add occasional drawings. The page above is my first salvo with Goodnotes and I love it.

Here are a few of the key features I like most:

  • Zoom: This allows you to write in a box in a normal hand writing size while the app writes smaller inside the lines provided.
  • Auto-Advance Zoom: What this means is that as you write the zoom window advances. It'll even advance to the next line when you get to end of the one above it.
  • Palm Rest: This is so that our hand doesn't inadvertently make marks on your iPad "paper"
  • Shape Recognition: If you turn it on it'll recognize rectangles, triangles and circles. I don't use it much but it's sort of cool if you want it.
  • Selective Move: Sometimes I write the title of a talk or main point but later want to move an entire block of text to another area on the page (try that in your paper sketchnotes!). The selection tool allows me to circle the text and simply move it to another area on the page. Very handy.
  • Paper Selection: Paper temples come with it (you don't have to pay extra).  Lined, unlined (my favorite), and grid for both portrait and landscape.
  • Export: Email, DropBox, Box, and iTunes. Export with or without the background paper.
  • Free: One of the best aspects of this app is that you don't have to buy it. You can use if for free as long as you don't need anymore than two notebooks. I like try-before-you-buy apps.

As a practice run, I think I'll sketchnote one of the TED talks online. That'll give me a good feel of the app. It should help me see if it can keep up with the flow.

...dave
If you want something you've never had, then you have to do something you've never done. -Anon

Between the Classes

I've now been teaching English in China for several weeks. I'll have to say, it's exhausting.

On Wednesdays I start early at 8:45 and teach for about two hours. The kids are between 10 and 12 years of age and don't know much English. I find myself giving instructions slowly, first in English, and then if I get puzzled looks, again in Chinese.

Teaching dialog

I've been teaching dialog, simple dialog, dialog they'd be most likely to use in everyday life. For example, I taught them the words and sentences they'd use when ordering a BigMac at McDonalds, and words they'd use when asking their mother if they can go out to play. After speaking the entire dialog myself, I invite of the kids up in front of the class to play one of the roles. For example, I acted as the McDonald's employee who asked them what they'd like to order. They were, well, just themselves ordering a meal.

After going over the dialog several times this way, I break them into groups to practice with each other. This is one of the methods that Dr. Harry Cotton taught us in our TESOL class. (You'll notice in this post my MindMap of ALL the methods I learned in class.) It's very important to keep mixing it up, keep using different methods lasting only 10 or 20 minutes each. This is most helpful in order to keep their attention focused.

Involvement is key

I interview them, randomly ask them questions, and invite them up in front to "show off" their written sentences.  I also use a lot of body language, gestures, and facial expressions. This helps them stay engaged in the action.

The result though is, I'm exhausted after just a couple of hours.

Now, I'm on break, resting before my next class this evening at 5:30. My 5:30 session should be much easier as the kids are older and know more English. This affords me the option of giving them more opportunity to talk, so I ask lots of questions in these evening sessions.

The more they talk in the target language, the more comfortable they'll feel speaking it. This is especially important for them since they will be moving to America to attend a university for their degree.

…dave
I don't know how I got over the hill without getting to the top. -Anon

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