IPad Kiosks by BeyondKiosks

From museum exhibits, trade shows to shopping malls and visitor centers, multimedia kiosks can be very expensive to implement and maintain. Fortunately, there is a new solution available that utilizes an iPad, a cleverly designed kiosk enclosure and accompanying software. This new solution substantially lowers the cost of the Multimedia Kiosk by reducing the number of required components to two–an iPad and an enclosure. Traditionally, a multimedia kiosk requires most of the following components: enclosure, computer, touch screen monitor, communication device and UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply). The iPad already incorporates the computer, the touch screen, three communication devices (Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G) and an internal battery that works as a UPS when a power failure occurs. Since the number of components is reduced, hardware and maintenance costs are reduced.

We had the opportunity to evaluate this new kiosk solution in the form of a countertop iPad Kiosk enclosure and the KioskPro application offered by beyondKiosks.com. The enclosure’s front bezel is made from a heavy-duty Kydex body; however, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G radio frequencies are capable of traveling through this material. The body and base of the kiosk enclosure are made from heavy-duty, powder-coated steel. The front bezel restricts the use of the iPad’s home button, volume control and power button. The kiosk technician can access the volume control and power button by using hidden holes located on the frame of the front bezel.

The kiosk feels sturdy, very well made, and solid. It is an elegant and professional looking enclosure. It invites the user to approach the unit and interact with the software loaded on the iPad. The iPad kiosk is available in countertop, wall mount, and freestanding versions. They all look stunning.

The software “KioskPro” that came pre-installed with the demo unit and available through the App Store offers a set of tools that turns an iPad into a kiosk capable of being maintained remotely. The KioskPro app is a Safari browser-based program that can access web pages and media remotely or from local files stored on the iPad. Web sites can run full screen with no navigation, no status bars, and without Google search fields. An idle timer can be set to allow the kiosk to return to the start page if it detects no user activity. KioskPro allows the deployment of global settings among multiple kiosks in different locations by using an external settings file. KioskPro can also notify you immediately of a power loss by sending an email specifying which kiosk is in trouble. KioskPro is available in Pro and Lite versions.

The following is a summary of some of the features of the Pro version: The kiosk software supports landscape and portrait modes and allows you to enable or disable the following features: Google search field, sleep mode, address bar, navigation buttons and the standard iPad zoom and pinch modes. Additionally, it can be configured to limit the amount of time a user can spend using the kiosk. There is an option to enter a white list for allowable domains. The software can be configured to send an email on power supply loss and recovery. KioskPro uses an external XML file to change global settings, allowing for great flexibility and ease of maintenance by allowing settings to be changed remotely. The program is able to store and view web pages and media files directly from the iPad.

I recommend this bright and professionally executed kiosk solution for your next kiosk project. For more information access the links below:

KioskPro for the iPad: www.kioskproapp.com
Beyond Kiosks: www.beyondkiosks.com

Meeting The Test

As an instructional designer, I find that one of the most challenging parts of my job is not conducting research, finding resources, or developing a structured curriculum, but rather writing effective questions that truly measure knowledge, assess skills, and reinforce the learning experience.

Creating test questions takes time and practice, whether you are writing for the classroom or an e-learning environment, or you are composing a pre-test, quiz, test or other type of assessment. Here is a list of basic Do’s and Don’ts for writing questions:

  1. Write uestions that are derived directly from the course objectives. After all, the objectives drive the course content. Objectives state not only what the course must cover, but also what the learners will be able to accomplish after course completion.
  2. Write questions that test knowledge comprehension and behaviors, not just recall. When answering questions, learners should be asked to interpret facts and evaluate situations, not just to remember facts and figures.
  3. When writing multiple choice questions, make all the distracters plausible. While this can be difficult, avoid easy, “give-away” distracters. They take away from the test’s purpose, which is to ensure the learners actually comprehended the content from the course. Choices that are true, but not necessarily plausible for the question, are good distracters.
  4. On the same note, never use “All of the above” or “None of the above,” either. Neither of these types of answers tests if the learners really know the correct answer.
  5. Do not use double negatives in questions. Avoid using combinations of the following words in a question: not, no, nor, etc. For example, a question like, “Which of the following tools are NOT uncommon on a construction site?” could confuse learners. Instead, write questions in a positive form, such as “Which of the following tools are common on a construction site?”
  6. When writing fill-in-the-blank or completion questions, ask for answers that can be scored definitively and objectively. It is better to ask for answers that are single words or short phrases to eliminate confusion or wordy answers, especially when using online test software that is automatically scored.
  7. Don’t forget about feedback! Whether the learner answers questions correctly or incorrectly, always provides constructive feedback to reinforce the answers, and ultimately, the course content.

Connecting with the Learner

Back in graduate school (when thunder lizards roamed the earth and training videos were delivered on U-matic tape cassettes) we were taught that an instructional designer employs video in training only when the task being trained involves observing a modeled human behavior or some complex procedure.  That’s still true—sort of.  And while I’m not one to use the medium as a training panacea by any stretch, I do feel that there is a certain “lift” that a video can lend to a module or a class discussion to help the learner connect and be more attentive.

We develop a lot of training at MetaMedia, and a good portion of it does not involve video.  But a number of our clients are convinced of its value.  I’ll also be the first to concede that video is not the least expensive approach for conveying a skill from the expert to the novice.  But you don’t have to produce many minutes of video before you can begin to see its impact.  I’ve seen the payback in terms of learner interest and positive feedback from peers and management that I think often more than justifies that initial investment.

So, when have I developed training with videos that have been particularly well-received?

For an educational book publisher, we developed a set of four safety videos aimed at high school learners and young adults who are just entering careers in the construction industry.  These are two-minute vignettes that feature young people as workers on large construction sites—job venues that are replete with safety hazards.  The point of the videos is to inform new workers about the OSHA four most common hazards and to convey that it is entirely possible the trainee could fall victim to one of them if he or she doesn’t follow best practices for construction safety.  In each there is a safety-related near miss, after which an older, wiser supervisor enters the scene, has a word with the young workers, and then speaks to the camera about the hazard just avoided.  According to reports from the client, these videos were a big hit, especially in the hard-to-impress high school shop class. If the storyline sounds a touch formulaic, what was it that made the videos so successful, aside from our high production standards?

First, they were realistic.  The construction hazards depicted were common mistakes, portrayed in such a way that the learner sees as entirely plausible.  The actors were not bumbling clowns, but workers looking like workers doing what workers do.  Secondly, the actors were peers of the intended audience, all in their early twenties.  They interacted like young adults, spoke like young adults, and made plans for getting to the pre-game party after work.  Thirdly the older supervisor figure was stern and matter of fact, but never “preachy” or condescending.  And finally, just a sprinkling of humor was thrown in—but nothing corny—to lighten things up; enough to relieve the tension, but not so much that you forgot things got serious for a moment.  The result was that the videos—which are intended as an adjunct to classroom instruction—sparked lively class discussions, engaging the learners in a trainable moment.

I’m convinced that these qualities—depictions of real world job situations, the use on-screen talent who are peers of the target audience, and respect for the learner’s intelligence—are what connect the learner to the training video and optimize its training impact.

Boris Red and Adobe After Effects

As a video editor I am commonly asked to create motion graphics for projects that I am working on. There are several tools out there that I rely on including Boris Red and Adobe After Effects. Although the programs are similar with their advanced key framing, effect plugins, camera, lights, layering and masking; I find that there is value in using both programs.

It is easier to get multiple layers of video from my Avid timeline into the Red program. Because Red has a plugin for Avid it is easily applied to your video clips within it. All you have to do is layer your video in the timeline and apply the Red filter to the top layer of video and all your footage below the top layer is imported into Red. With After Effects you would have to render out each clip as a separate file or make proxies and then import them into an After Effects sequence. This not only takes longer, but can eat up more hard drive space. So, when I have to create motion graphics using multiple layers of video I choose Boris Red.

I like using After Effects when there is minimal video evolved and mostly graphics. As an editor, it is very frustrating to work with video in After Effects because of its slow response time. For example, you can’t just hit the spacebar to preview a clip you must first RAM preview it. However, it previews graphical elements, effects, and multiple layers very quickly. I also think After Effects cameras, lights and 3D layers are much more user friendly. When I have a project with mostly graphical elements, I prefer After Effects.

After Effects Sample Video:

Boris Red Sample Video:

Secret Handshake

Anyone in production will understand when I say (camera) model numbers are the secret handshake of our industry. When I entered the workforce, a conversation between professionals consisted of PD170, DVX100 and, unfortunately, Beta cam. Those were simpler times. Since the advent of high definition and tapeless recording, we have gone through model numbers like water. In the Panasonic realm you have HVX200′s, SDX900, HPX2000 (or 3000 or 3700 or 2700), to name a few. Sony has its own groups like the EX1, EX2, EX3, the HVR series and the ever-changing f-series. Then there are outliers like the RED One, or the Canon 7D, 5D MKII, or 1D. That is a lot to remember and the functionality of all of these cameras is different.

But do not fret; one thing has remained consistent—the creative talent and the expertise behind the camera. As professionals, we choose the best tool for the job. On every project, we weigh the strengths of each camera by taking into consideration different codecs (recording formats), transcription time in post-production and most importantly, the final delivery medium. If we really want to use the latest and greatest technology, we hypothesize about any hiccups we may encounter and how to solve foreseeable problems. The best part is we find this stuff fun and we make the process invisible. In the end we deliver a shiny, well-assembled program, shot and edited using the latest technology to ensure that the end product will last for several years (aside from the ever changing fashion trends).