Archive for August, 2010

10 Useful iPhone Keyboard Shortcuts, Tips and Tricks

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2010 by richardmg2711

Whether you’ve taken to the iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard like a duck to water, or are more of a one-finger-at-a-time typist, there are plenty of shortcuts, tips and tricks that can improve your iTyping experience.

Here, we’ve rounded up ten useful ways to be faster and more productive with your iPhone’s keyboard. We hope these tricks are handy for anyone new to the platform, or those who have not had the time to really experiment.

Ranging from basic how-tos to more advanced trickery, have a read of our ten tips below, and do share any keyboard-, language- or other text entry-related hints you’ve discovered on your iDevice in the comments.


1. HOW TO: Add an International Keyboard


iOS4 has more language options than ever before. If you’re bi-lingual, there’s an easy way to add an international keyboard to your iPhone’s set-up so you can switch between English and Chinese — for example — on the fly.

From the home screen, go to “Settings,” then “General,” then scroll down to see “Keyboard” and tap this option. You can then select “International Keyboards” and scroll through the list to add the language you need.

Now, for all iPhone OS versions, when you have the keyboard on the screen, if you hit the little globe icon next to the space bar, you can switch between languages at the press of a button.


2. HOW TO: Quickly Add a Special Symbol


If you don’t quite see the need to add an international keyboard, but will occasionally need to use special symbols, then there’s a quick way to do it.

Simply tap and hold the relevant letter and the special symbols associated with that letter will appear on the screen. This also works for common symbols too, and is particularly useful for changing a currency sign, using alternative quotation marks, longer hyphens, etc.


3. HOW TO: Use a Sentence-Stopping Shortcut


If you’re not already using this trick, you most certainly should, as it can seriously speed up your typing. It is enabled by default, but to confirm it’s active, go to “Settings,” then “General,” then “Keyboard,” then make sure the toggles next to the “Auto-Capitalization” option and the fourth option down — “.” Shortcut — are set to the “On” position.

Now when you’re typing away, a double tap of the space-bar will add a period (or a “full stop” if you’re British!) and automatically capitalize the very next letter you type.


4. HOW TO: Add Proper Names to the Dictionary


New to iOS4 is the ability to customize the iPhone’s dictionary and add words to it that you use often, such as proper names, brands or lesser-known places.

Although previous versions of the iPhone OS’s dictionary did offer the ability to “learn” the word preferences of the user, this new feature gives the user complete control.

To add a word, go to “Settings,” then “General,” then “Keyboard,” then tap “Edit User Dictionary” and hit the plus icon in the top right to enter your word. It will then be listed alphabetically and can be edited or deleted as necessary.


5. HOW TO: Insert Punctuation More Quickly


To add punctuation to text, most iPhone users will pause typing, press the “123″ key to see the numerical and symbolic options, tap the symbol (or number) they want, and then hit the “ABC” menu to return to the alpha keyboard.

If you’re still adding in symbols and numbers this way, then boy, do we have a treat for you. This will take a teeny bit of getting used to, but from now on, the next time you want to add punctuation, pause typing, press and hold the “123″ key, then without removing your finger (or thumb!) from the screen, slide it over to land on what you want to insert.

As you release your digit from the display, the symbol will have been entered into your text and you’ll be back on the alpha keyboard.


6. HOW TO: Quickly Change .com to Other Domains


If you’re typing in the browser bar in Safari, the iPhone adds a handy “.com” button to the keyboard. However, there are a ton of other domain extensions that you’ll likely need to type out on a regular basis. There is a shortcut that can help you out with this — simply press and hold the .com button and other common options will come up.

Similarly, when composing an e-mail, pressing and holding the period will offer a list of domain endings to make entering e-mail addresses super quick.


7. HOW TO: Display Character Counts in Messages


It’s often useful to know how long your SMS messages are, either for Twitter purposes, or to be sure that you’ll only be charged for the cost of one text. The iPhone does not show character counts by default, but it’s not hard to set-up.

Just go to the “Settings” menu, select “Messages,” then slide the “Character Count” toggle to “On.” Now when you are composing a text message — after you get to the end of the first line — you’ll see a running count of how many characters you’re sending on the right of the display, above the send button.


8. HOW TO: Delete Text Using Gesture Controls


We’ve all done it — while pecking away at the iPhone keyboard with our mind on other things, we realize that last sentence was utter nonsense. Instead of holding down the delete key while you curse your uselessness, there’s actually a more fun, and somewhat therapeutic way of deleting the text you’ve just typed.

Simply shake the handset and you’ll get a pop-up asking you if you want to “Undo Typing” or “Cancel.” Hit undo, and the latest lot of gibberish will be gone forever.


9. HOW TO: Reset the Dictionary


Although the iPhone’s dictionary will notice spelling errors and suggest corrections, it does “learn” your preferences. This means if you repeatedly spell a word wrong, and don’t take the phone up on the option to change it, it will eventually stop suggesting the easy correction.

There is a way to fix this by resetting the dictionary, although this will also delete any words you’ve added via the “Edit User Dictionary” option we highlighted above.

If you want a clean slate for your phone’s vocab, simply open “Settings,” select “General,” scroll right down to the bottom to “Reset,” select that and then hit the red “Reset Dictionary” button which will erase any settings that have been overly forgiving of bad spelling or grammar.


10. HOW TO: Change the Font in Notes


For some bizarre reason, the default font for the iPhone’s “Notes” app is Marker Felt — one that’s only a few design steps removed from the typographical outcast Comic Sans.

However, there is a workaround that will enable you to scribe your notes in the arguably more classy Helvetica. Simply add a special symbol-based international keyboard (Korean, Japanese and Chinese all worked for us) and then when you’re next in “Notes,” change the language (via the globe button), type something, and then change it back to English.

Everything you type after that will be in Helvetica, rather than Marker Felt — thanks and praise be to the font gods!

Why Online Education Needs to Get Social

Posted in Uncategorized on August 6, 2010 by richardmg2711

Marco Masoni is a lawyer turned educator who co-founded Einztein.com to address the related problems of searching for good online courses and real-time coursework interaction.

Marshall McLuhan’s classic expression “ the medium is the message” hasn’t lost its luster yet, as entrepreneurs and designers re-invent products and services for the web, unleashing thousands of new applications and sites every single day.

The news industry is also in the throes of adjusting to the digital age, with countless print publications failing and folding after many years in the business while online news outlets and other platforms for news sharing, proliferate.

Education is the second largest industry in America behind health care, and it too is experiencing a similar shift as it struggles to adapt traditional design and delivery models to the demands of modern audiences who are accustomed to digital interactivity.

The challenge to transition successfully is especially pressing for online higher education. The Sloan Consortium reports that two-thirds of post-secondary educational institutions are seeing an increase in online courses and programs, so it’s a market that education providers simply cannot afford to ignore.


It’s About Course Quality, not Quantity


All too frequently, providers meet the challenge of satisfying the rising demand for online education by simply throwing courses up on the web and seeing what sticks, without catering to student needs. This amounts to a loser’s gamble since it risks pushing away students looking for schools that boast high online student retention rates. After all, why would you want to spend valuable tuition dollars on a school that isn’t likely to hold your interest long enough to earn a degree?

What’s required are innovative approaches to course design that set aside old models of instruction where theory often trumps actuality. Online course providers must embrace the web’s potential to match students with the kinds of timely knowledge and skills that address current issues head-on, and enable them to thrive in the global marketplace.

It’s not enough for a course to be accessible online, it must also be designed in a way that keys into the digital pulse of current events, trending topics and insider knowledge endemic to the web. The three-quarters of 18 to 29 year-olds who have profiles on social networks are likely wondering why online course offerings aren’t nearly as enticing as the content that they find on their favorite social websites.

To attract and retain the typical college-age demographic, as well as the larger population of adult learners in search of relevant and engaging educational content, the next generation of online education must be characterized by courses that build in the social, real-time information capturing components that have made the web such a dynamic medium for sharing information and knowledge.


Learning From Events in Real-Time


Consider what’s happened recently in the Gulf of Mexico. BP’s major oil spill is perhaps even “the” news story of the year. By now facts, opinions, and graphic images of the damage and underwater video of the spewing oil have been circulated on countless websites, informing our shock and outrage. The wonders of the digital age have successfully kept us current on the disaster in real-time, but how can they help us repair the mess and learn about our mistakes? How can we enlist the social media zeitgeist in order to build a better online learning paradigm?

Unfortunately, higher education providers are not racing to develop online courses that can seize on important events events like these, as they happen. Beyond the immediate victims, there are millions of people around the world who would certainly be inclined to learn about the incident so that they can apply the lessons to their own lives and communities. In mid July, another major oil spill occurred in the Yellow Sea, after the explosion of an oil terminal in the port city of Dalian, China. And recently, in Michigan, nearly a million gallons of oil leaked out of a forty year-old pipeline and into the Kalamazoo River.


Innovation Pays


The web, as a real-time medium, is begging us to build innovative courses that can be used for the rapid delivery of education designed in a way that integrates current news, information, insights and research about topics like the oil spill and thousands of other current issues.

After exploring some of the leading interactive educational sites that have been created by public institutions and non-profit entities, including Webby nominee Your Life, Your Money and Webby winner The Ocean Portal, it’s hard not to come away wondering why online courses rarely rise to the same level of quality and relevance. The most obvious explanation for this is the relatively high cost of producing an online course with similar design and functionality, plus, the added back-end resources involved in administering such a course. But is the cost really so prohibitive?

One can’t help but wonder what would happen if an education provider came along that offered, for starters, 20 or 30 online courses that were of “Webby” caliber. Even if the courses cost more to initially produce than your standard offering, the high market demand for online education might show that innovation pays when you begin creating online courses that look, teach and engage like they were purposed for the online medium.

For the time being it’s up to innovators like the folks over at TED to remind us how to use the web for exchanging knowledge in the search for solutions to global problems like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Online education providers everywhere could learn a thing or two from this approach and take a chance by creating real-time courses.