Apps for the Commuter

a snapshot of traffic in Austin on a typical morning
A Typical Morning of Traffic in Austin

Last week, Profhacker’s Open Thread Wednesday asked about our favorite mobile apps.  The text of my response is below, with the addition of links:

I have to give a shout out not to an app but to some built in functionality in iPads and iPhones. My commute can be up to an hour, and since public transportation is not an option that means all driving and no reading.

I find VoiceOver–one of the accessibility features on the iPad and iPhone–to be invaluable. Here’s how I include it in my workflow. During breakfast, I read RSS feeds using Mr. Reader on my iPad. (I love this app because I can send articles to InstapaperDiigotwitter, etc.). I send the articles I want to read later to Instapaper and make sure they download before I leave the house. (I only have wireless on my iPad, so no downloads on the road.) In the garage, I open Instapaper and ask Siri to turn on VoiceOver. Then I start my iPad reading and listen to the morning’s news while I drive. When I arrive on campus, Siri is once again working on the campus wireless network, so I have her turn off VoiceOver.

Turning on VoiceOver
How To Turn On VoiceOver

Turning on VoiceOver

You can also turn VoiceOver on and off using the menu, but when it is on it takes more clicks. You can find the feature under Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver. You can also set the speed of the voice here.  I find I have to keep mine closer to the tortoise and the hare so I can follow the text while I am driving.  Be aware that touch gestures may be different in this mode.  For example, you must click to select, then double click to open items.  Scrolling is also different.

Alternatively, I have used Voiceover to read books in the kindle app. I found that I could do one chapter of Hirsch’s Digital Humanities Pedagogy per drive, and I could almost hear Lisa Spiro or Tanya Clement talking as their works were read to me. I also used VoiceOver when riding in an airport shuttle when reading made me queasy.

Using my iPad for this reading means that my iPhone is still free for other uses, like checking traffic on the maps app during traffic jams.  I find this type of reading useful for texts I want to familiarize myself with but which I don’t need to go in depth. Since I’ve also saved them to diigo, I can always go back to them when I need to read deeper.  VoiceOver works better on connected prose because if you miss a word, you can usually get the meaning by context.  Finally, I had to slow the pace of the voice down to make sure I caught everything.

About Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Frost Davis Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology Rebecca Frost Davis joined St. Edward’s in July 2013 as Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology, where she provides leadership in the development of institutional vision with respect to the use of technology in pursuit of the university’s educational mission and collaborates with offices across campus to create and execute strategies to realize that vision. Instructional Technology helps faculty transform and adapt new digital methods in teaching and research to advance the essential learning outcomes of liberal education. Previously, Dr. Davis served as program officer for the humanities at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), where she also served as associate director of programs. Prior to her tenure at NITLE, she was the assistant director for instructional technology at the Associated Colleges of the South Technology Center and an assistant professor of classical studies at Rhodes College, Denison University, and Sewanee: The University of the South. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. (summa cum laude) in classical studies and Russian from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Davis is also a fellow with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). As a NITLE Fellow, Dr. Davis will develop a literature review relevant to intercampus teaching, which will cover contextual issues such as team-teaching, teaching through videoconferencing, and collaboration; a survey of intercampus teaching at NITLE member institutions; and several case studies of intercampus teaching at liberal arts colleges, including interviews with faculty, students, support staff, and administrators. This work will be summarized in a final report or white paper to be published by NITLE. At Rebecca Frost Davis: Liberal Education in a Networked World, (http://rebeccafrostdavis.wordpress.com/) Dr. Davis blogs about the changes wrought by new digital methods on scholarship, networking, and communication and how they are impacting the classroom. In her research, she explores the motivations and mechanisms for creating, integrating, and sustaining digital humanities within and across the undergraduate curriculum.
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