Downcast – best podcatcher app for iOS

I have been a connoisseur of podcasts for years and up to this point, still subscribe to podcasts via iTunes on my computer and then sync my mobile device to my computer to get the content onto my computer. While this workflow has continued to suit me just fine, I have increasingly been wanting to “cut the cord” and not have to daily plug my iPhone or iPad into my computer to sync new podcasts.

When Apple announced the development of a stand-alone podcatcher app for iOS 6, I had high hopes for using this app in place of my iTunes downloading/syncing workflow. However, after trying the first iteration of this app, I was really disappointed with the unrefined and clunky UI, sluggish performance and numerous errors when attempting to download new episodes, along with many missing features that I had hoped for.

I had heard many positive reviews of Downcast and decided with an upcoming trip to BbWorld where I won’t have my laptop with me, it was time for me to spend the $1.99 and give Downcast a try. I am SOOOO glad I did! Downcast is a universal app (purchase once, download for both iPhone and iPad) and does an AMAZING job at allowing me to easily subscribe to, listen to, and organize my podcast subscriptions. Also included is iCloud syncing, so all the settings and content from one device are automatically synced to the other…stop listening to an episode on one device and pick up where you left off on another! It handles both audio and video episodes, and allows for speeding up playback up to 3X. Most importantly…it just works! I unfortunately can’t say the same for Apple’s podcasts app.

download Downcast

After just 1 day, I HIGHLY recommend Downcast and if you are an iOS user podcast junkie like me, you definitely won’t be disappointed. Here’s a quick tour of Downcast that I recorded on iPad giving a few more of my first impressions.

This screencast was recorded using Display Recorder on iPad, then shared to Dropbox and finally uploaded to YouTube. While Display Recorder does have built in direct upload to YouTube, I wasn’t able to get it to work.

Have you used Downcast? What is your favorite feature? Leave me a comment and share any tips you may have for other newbie Downcast users like me.

Technology in Education: How Will it Change the Game?

In March 2012, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed his conviction that “technology is a game-changer in the field of education.” One year ago President Obama put out a call for “investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game.”

What are the sorts of promising innovations living up to this challenge? How are they accelerating the quality of and access to education? Is gaming an effective tool? What are the challenges in adapting these technologies in everyday practice? And how can we trust that they will deliver on the promises? Are there compelling opportunities for entrepreneurs? The Churchill Club assembled a diverse set of thought leaders to offer unique perspectives on these questions and explore big changes looming over the horizon.

Speakers:
Linda Burch, Chief Education & Strategy Officer, Common Sense Media
Ben Chun, Educator, Galileo Academy of Science & Technology
Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education, Microsoft
Lucien Vattel, Owner, Chizuru Games & Executive Director, GameDesk
Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Associate Professor of Computer Science, UC Santa Cruz & Co-director, Expressive Intelligence Studio
Moderator: Tony Wan, Associate Editor, EdSurge

Infographic: Online Education in the USA Report 2011

Report can be found at: http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011

Going the Distance: Online Education in the US, 2011

Thanks to David Wicks for originally sharing.

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet

Thanks to a post by Laura Pasquini, I came across this clever video by Marc-André Lalande sharing the benefits for educators to utilize Twitter professionally. I myself have long been a proponent of the use of Twitter by educators and this is yet another great explanation of the benefits. Check it out!

Students and Technology in 2011

Each year, Educause completes a study of technology use in higher education. The 2011 ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology…

…sheds lights on how information technology affects the college experience. ECAR has conducted this annual study since 2004, and though students’ ownership and utilization of technology changes from year to year, students consistently rely upon their instructors and institutions to meet their technology expectations and needs. The 2011 study differs from past studies in that the questionnaire was reengineered and responses were gathered from a nationally representative sample of 3,000 students in 1,179 colleges and universities.

While complete details about the study are available, here is a nice infographic that summarizes the key findings:

Infographic

Here is a listing of the key findings displayed in the infographic above:

Institutions

  • 43% of students agree their institution needs more technology
  • Only 1 in 4 (22%) of students strongly agree their institution uses the technology it has effectively
  • Only 1 in 5 (19%) strongly agree technology is integrated seamlessly into their courses
  • More than 1 in 7 (15%) of students think technology breaks or is broken more often than it is used in the classroom.
  • Students like basic online services at their institutions, with the following percentage of students saying their institution does an excellent of good job at these online services:
    • Course registration: 86%
    • Making grades available: 81%
    • Offering library resources: 75%
    • Making transcripts available: 70%
    • Making financial aid information available: 70%
    • Offering textbooks for sale: 53%
  • Students say they learn more in blended learning environments:
    • No online components: 20%
    • Some online components: 58%
    • Completely online: 9%

Instructors

  • Sudents value the technologies instructors use, and use effectively! Percentage of students responding “extremely effectively” among instructors who use:
    • Projector: 65%
    • Wi-Fi: 59%
    • Laptop computer: 58%
    • Desktop computer: 57%
    • Document camera: 56%
    • Gaming device: 55%
    • Printer: 54%
    • HDTV: 53%
    • Thumb drive: 52%
    • Digital SLR camera: 50%
  • About 1 in 3 students (31%)think the instructor often requires the help of others to get technology up and running successfully
  • More than 1 in 2 students (51%) think they know more about how to use technology than their professors
  • 39% of students wish their instructors used e-mail more often
  • About 1 in 3 students (31%) wish their instructors used e-books or e-textbooks more often
  • 32% of students wish their instructors used a course or learning management system more often

Software

  • Applications most frequently used by students:
    • Word processors: 96%
    • Institution library website: 88%
    • Presentation software: 85%
    • Spreadsheets: 83%
    • Course or learning management system: 73%
    • E-books or e-textbooks: 57%
    • Programming languages: 33%
    • E-portfolios: 21%
  • Almost all students use e-mail (99%), text messaging (93%) and Facebook (90%)
  • Communication tools most frequently used (several times a day):
    • E-mail: 75%
    • Texting: 74%
    • Facebook: 58%

Hardware

  • Technology ownership: A majority of undergraduates own about a dozen devices:
    • iPad: 8%
    • Netbook: 11%
    • eReader: 12%
    • Handheld games: 38%
    • Desktop computer: 53%
    • Webcam: 55%
    • Smart phone: 55%
    • HDTV: 56%
    • iPod: 62%
    • Stationary games: 66%
    • Thumb drive: 70%
    • DVD player: 75%
    • Printer: 81%
    • Laptop computer: 87%
  • Essential technology: Percentage of students who said these technologies are “extremely valuable” for academic success:
    • Desktop computer: 57%
    • Thumb drive: 64%
    • Printer: 73%
    • Wi-Fi: 78%
    • Laptop computer: 81%
  • 37% of students have used smartphones for academics in the past year
  • How smartphone owners use their devices for academics:
    • E-mailing professors: 66%
    • Checking grades: 62%
    • Texting other students about coursework: 61%
    • Looking up information on the Internet in class: 45%
    • Texting professors: 19%