About Jim Julius

I am MiraCosta College's Faculty Director for Online Education as of August, 2011. Professional past: Associate Director of Instructional Technology Services, San Diego State University; instructor of educational technology courses, SDSU and University of San Diego; 4th/5th grade teacher, Wilsonville, OR; software engineer, Salem, OR. Non-work: Hanging out with my homies: three girls, a librarian, four chickens, a dog, a cat, two guinea pigs On the soccer field as player or coach Working on the house and yard Prepping or enjoying great food and drink Hiking/camping/roadtripping with friends and family

Free iPad apps useful in education

English: iPads offer a variety of software

Image via Wikipedia

I have a couple years’ experience messing with iPads, including leading an exploratory group of faculty and staff using iPads at SDSU. While iPads are an exceptional device for entertainment and content consumption, they also can be a very useful tool for curation, creation, and productivity. Having now acquired a couple iPads for faculty to experiment with here at MiraCosta, I decided to create a list of the free apps that we should include on the iPads we make available to our faculty.

My hope is that exploring these apps will help faculty form their own judgements about how iPads may help (or not) in the teaching and learning process, helping them to not only decide whether an iPad might have utility to them personally, but also to consider how students might effectively use iPads in the learning process.

Please share in the comments if you have thoughts about any of these apps, or which additional free apps you’d include in this list. Note: while I think many entertainment apps are also worth exploring to consider the educational possibilities (or hindrances), I have decided not to include any in this “starter” list. Note 2: This list is of course time-bound; while many of these apps will remain relevant for some time, many will fade as new apps and new built-in iPad capabilities emerge.


  • Evernote – My favorite cross-platform, cloud-based, all-around awesome note -taking/-making/-keeping/-finding tool.
  • Other free note apps that some faculty have liked include: uPad Lite,
  • Use Your Handwriting, Simplenote, and Paperdesk LITE
  • Dragon is not magical, but with some time can be useful for those who want to use a speech-to-text capture tool.
  • Mendeley – a citation manager, PDF organizer, literature research tool, and social network for researchers


  • Dropbox – My favorite cross-platform, cloud-based way to store/share/access files. Integrates well with a number of paid apps for working with PDFs, Office documents, etc.
  • Teamviewer – Access/control a desktop computer from the iPad
  • VMWare View – MiraCosta has a virtual desktop available via VMWare – access all your MiraCosta apps and PC-based programs on the iPad
  • Airsketch Free – While the “official” ways of connecting iPads to computers/projectors for greater visibility continue to grow, this app continues to offer a way that may be simplest for some.
  • ScanLife – If you want to use your iPad’s camera to scan QR or bar codes, this app will help.
  • Unstuck – Honestly haven’t tried yet but it has many enthusiastic reviews as a tool for nudging you in the right direction when you are feeling stuck.
  • Tools for language translation include iTranslate and Google Translate – Google allows voice input; both provide both text and spoken output.


Each of these have slightly different features and approaches to creating screencasts (narrated videos of content displayed/marked up/created on the iPad):


  • Free photo editing tools include PhotoPad and Photoshop Express
  • Flixlab – video editing and creation of slideshows from images
  • Skitch – image markup and sharing; integrates with Evernote


  • Popplet Lite – arrange images on a bulletin board-like canvas
  • Idea Sketch – simple mind mapping
  • Whiteboard Lite – doodle on the iPad, and if you like, collaboratively create with someone nearby who is on another iOS device with the app

Communication tools

  • Facebook & Twitter are of course, the dominant social media channels.
  • Storify – combine images, videos, & social media conversations into a cohesive narrative for reference and sharing
  • Skype – Make voice or video calls
  • Blackboard – access MiraCosta’s Bb course management system

Feed Readers

  • Flipboard – contains many feed sources to select from; can add other RSS feeds and personal accounts from Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, and other sources; all in an amazing interface for browsing
  • FeeddlerRSS – The most popular free, simple RSS reader iPad app

News sources

Many of these offer not only news browsing but also local information through location awareness, and push updates of “breaking news” if you are interested.


  • TED – videos of ~15 minute talks from leading thinkers and innovators on subjects usually related to technology and design
  • iTunesU – audio/video shared by educational institutions around the world
  • Exemplary free science apps with amazing, interactive imagery include: 3D Brain3D Medical ImagesMolecules
  • Google Earth – explore geography in amazing detail
  • Wikibot – a simple interface directly to Wikipedia


  • Inkling is worth a look to see one take on the future of interactive “textbooks” – you can download some free chapters.
  • Other eReaders worth exploring (in addition to the native iBooks) include Blio, Kobo, Google Play BooksNook, and Kindle
I look forward to hearing about more free apps that you think are worth including with these!

Presentation at DET/CHE 2011 on social media for professional growth

Quick links: DET/CHE 2011 prezi and associated resources

Last year, Kevin Kelly (SFSU), Otto Khera (USC), Derek Bruff (Vanderbilt), and I presented at DET/CHE 2010 on the big picture gap related to rapid cultural change, especially exemplified by social media, vs. slow educational change.

At DET/CHE 2011 I’m doing a brief session (prezi here) in which I hope to focus more on DET/CHE members as individuals and what we can do with social media to help close some of the gaps in our own minds/practices.

Much as I would like this to be an exhortation to learn to use the tools/ride the torrent sip from the firehose, rather I hope it is more an enticing invitation to join a party.

“connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.” – Stephen Downes

The work of constructing and traversing learning networks is not incidental to DET/CHE members’ professional lives. Our understanding of how and why to cultivate learning networks is critical to our position at the juncture of technology, learning, people development, and strategic leadership. Learning how to (a) build and use such networks for our own growth will help us in turn to (b) thoughtfully approach the development of learning networks for staff and faculty locally, which will help us to (c) provide leadership in working with faculty, staff, and students in networked learning environments.

Which comes first, constructing or traversing? You can traverse without constructing, but lurking/legitimate peripheral participation will only take you so far. Jump in and push past the “I don’t get it, this just seems lame” phase. Use established tools at first – don’t make your first forays into building personal learning networks be in an environment that people are still figuring out (beware Google social networking attempts, snazzy SecondLife-type things, walled garden nings and so on …).

See this google doc for a number of great resources on how-to and why-to for educators using Twitter and, to a much lesser extent, Facebook.

Admirable WordPress sites

I am looking forward to working with WordPress to build a new website for MiraCosta’s online education/ Teaching-Technology Innovation Center. Here are a few websites of instructional technology / teaching enhancement centers that are inspirational in what they’re doing with WordPress.

http://cit.duke.edu  http://cft.vanderbilt.edu  http://www.txwescetl.com

Do you have any others you’d recommend as exemplary?

How tasty is diigo?

About 9 months ago, when it was looking like delicious was just going to vaporize, I was quite panicked – I had been using it since the early days (I still type del.icio.us much more readily than delicious.com) and had several thousand bookmarks. But as it became clear that it was going to hang around, I put off switching over to diigo. Now that #potcert11 has a diigo group, though, it’s time for me to finally take the plunge.

Exporting my old bookmarks out of delicious and importing them to diigo was easy and quick. So far, things appear to be mostly intact at diigo. Some people do complain about diigo truncating long descriptions, but I don’t think that affected me much, since I’m kind of a minimalist when it comes to saving bookmarks (though maybe my 700+ different tags say different).

I am having a bit of a problem, though. I use Chrome on the Mac as my primary browser. I installed the diigo extension but when I try to bookmark, I get an endless attempt at “loading recommended tags“. I’d like to have the recommended tags available, but also this seems to block the area where normally I’d be able to share with a group (i.e. mccpot). Usually a little googling of this kind of problem gives me an answer, but in this case no luck. Anyone else encounter this issue? Any solutions/suggestions?

On teaching/learning in the network age

Alec Couros’ talk on teaching & learning in the network age (http://lisahistory.net/mccpot/newpages/courosvideoannotated.html) covers a lot of ground regarding tools and concepts underlying the cultural impact of the emergence of social media. I don’t think I have a problem with any of his major points. My sense of his audience at the conference is that they were very receptive – educators who are interested in technology and innovation. Unfortunately, I think many typical educators would be a bit lost in this talk.

A recent piece in the NYT on “What will schools look like in 10 years?” (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/03/what-will-school-look-like-in-10-years/) featured five “experts” and none of them spoke specifically about social media. Their focus was primarily on content and subject areas. As long as education is driven by outdated (IMO) paradigms based on scarcity of information resources and expertise, and assessment/accountability regimens designed for those paradigms, all the cool tools will have minimal impact on our systems. My fear is that our education systems are so completely intertwined with those non-network paradigms that evolution simply won’t happen. What would a new paradigm look like?

Differences between Instruction Paradigm and Learning ParadigmNote the citation: this is from 1995. Still waiting … and the tools perhaps provoke some to think more about this shift … but pedagogy first!

Dear reader, if you are a teacher, have you made this shift, or are you in the midst of it? What helped you? What made it difficult?

Getting started

Beginnings are awesome. Three weeks into my new role as MiraCosta College’s first Faculty Director of Online Education, I remain amazed and humbled by this opportunity. I have been given incredible latitude to define the role, to assess the possibilities, to learn about challenges, to build relationships, to engage the MiraCosta community.

MiraCosta’s Program for Online Teaching is a wonderful invitation to undertake this journey with seasoned travelers and fellow learners. The requirement to blog, along with the space I’ve been given in this position, is what I’ve needed for years. I’m a long-time microblogger, but have merely nibbled around the edge of blogging and participating in communities of bloggers. It is time to open wide.

I’m an avid user of Evernote. When I learned that MiraCosta was hiring me, I began keeping a list there of questions to pursue regarding online education at MiraCosta. I anticipate that for some time, this blog will be all about answering, refining, and struggling with these questions, while asking ever more. And I hope that this blog will extend the dialog to other MiraCostans and beyond.

Without further ado, my questions, loosely organized …

Student support issues

  • Are there info literacy/tech literacy requirements/desires for students?
  • What are student opinions about online courses, technologies, support?
  • What are the most-cited pressures/frustrations/challenges/problems/concerns of students?

Faculty support issues

  • What concerns are there re intellectual property? copyright issues? course ownership?
  • What are the hot button issues? FERPA? “curriculum” compliance?
  • Who’s responsible for FERPA issues – defining/policy-making, training, enforcing, etc?
  • What are the most-cited pressures/frustrations/challenges/problems/concerns of faculty?
  • Relationship with campus bookstore? Use of eBooks, readers, Cafe Scribe? Policy on eBook purchasing/format (Follett/Cafe Scribe)?

Pedagogical support issues

  • Are there examples of courses heavily using synchronous sessions?
  • Innovations in course materials? eBooks? OERs? etc.
  • Anyone doing/discussing portfolios/ePortfolios?

Technology support issues

  • Moodle v. Bb. – history, current state, vision for future
  • Integration of library resources into the CMSs?
  • What web 2.0 tools being used? Any problems with use of cloud storage/sharing tools such as Dropbox, google docs, etc? Social media such as twitter, facebook?
  • What tools are used for supporting non-academic group activities?
  • Is “let a thousand flowers bloom” working for faculty and students w/regard to instructional technologies? Are things moving toward consolidation/standardization, toward increasing diversity, or stasis?

Systemic/organization issues:

  • Where is there trust/confidence? Where wariness/uncertainty/lack of confidence?
  • Who are the key players (individuals & departments)?
  • Course outcome measures? (or other statistics being tracked/cited?)
  • Are there common student learning outcomes across programs? How are those implemented/taught/measured/tracked?
  • Are there different measures/tracking being used for online vs. other courses?
  • What is being done that should stop that would enable increases in quantity and/or quality of online education?
  • What needs to be started to enable increases in quantity and/or quality of online education? (eg policies, procedures, practices, people, programs, technologies, expectations, fears, misunderstandings, budget)
  • What are the bridges between in-person courses and online courses?
  • What do I need to wrap my head around about MiraCosta and CCs in general, coming from SDSU and the 4-year world?
  • Are people on the same page about MiraCosta’s mission? What is that?
  • What are the exemplars/aspirational institutions MiraCosta should look to?
  • What are the organizations MiraCosta is/should be part of to help get there?
  • Are there areas outside of strictly “online education” where this position could provide leadership/support?
  • What are the administrative procedures I should know about? Who are the key getting-things-done people?
  • What are the compliance mandates, reporting requirements, regulatory issues, etc. which I need to be aware of/publicize/enforce/compile/create/deflect?
Looking forward to thinking through these and others here, hopefully as part of a community!