The History 2.0 Classroom: Back to School App-pack

The summer is quickly winding down & a number of teachers will be returning to their classroom with new mobile devices (iPads). Throughout the summer I have been conducting workshops on iPad integration with EdTechTeacher and I thought it might be helpful to pull together a back to school list of apps structured around specific classroom goals. While many schools may already have an Apple VPP program already in place, I know a number of teachers will also be purchasing the apps themselves. Therefore, I will do my best to include both a pay & free app for each objective.

I want my students to create & publish video:
iMovie (4.99) – record, edit and publish movies directly to the web from iMovie. Web publishing choices include YouTube and Vimeo. The most helpful feature is the “voice-over” option which allows students to narrate footage or images included in their films.
Avid Studio (4.99)
Vimeo (free) – a helpful free alternative to iMovie. The vimeo app allows you to record, edit and publish video to a vimeo account. There are not as many editing options, but this is a helpful free alternative.
Reel Director (1.99)

I want my students to demonstrate their understanding by screencasting:
ExplainEverything (2.99) – The best screen app available that includes the ability to import content from multiple cloud storage accounts including Dropbox. Also, the ability to start, save and return to a project makes this app perfect for extended projects. Once complete, a screencast can be published directly to YouTube or uploaded to a number of cloud services.
EduCreations (free) – a flexible option that allows screencasts to be created from either an iPad or from a web based account on a computer. A helpful option includes the ability to create classes, enroll students and publish screencasts to a “class” within the Educreations website.
ScreenChomp (free) – with a stripped down interface, this platform is ideal for younger students as there is no account required to created screencasts.
ShowMe (free) – another great alternative for younger students that also provides the ability to publish directly to YouTube.

I want my students to respond to polls / take quizzes:
Socrative (teacher & student app – free) – This free platform allows for teachers to create and begin quizzes directly from an iPad. Using the teacher app, teachers can initiate a quiz and students can enter the teacher’s “room” in the student app. It may be easier to create quizzes from a computer by going to
Polleverywhere (free – web based) – While not specifically an iPad app, this polling platform formats perfectly for web based voting on an iPad. A helpful tip, create a customized Polleverywhere URL that your students can visit through a browser on the iPad to receive the poll question that is being “pushed out” from the teacher account.

I want my students to edit images:
Skitch (free) – An extremely easy and intuitive image editing app allows you to insert shapes, arrows and text on any image that is saved to the iPad camera roll. Once edited, images can be exported to the camera roll or sent directly to an Evernote account.
Visualize (.99) – An more advanced option, Visualize allows Photoshop like features without the Photoshop price. Layer images, cutout portions of images and create customized, layered content on an iPad. Images can then be exported to the camera roll for use in other apps.
Photoshop Touch (9.99) – A bit pricey for occasional classroom use, but allows for extremely advanced editing. Layar, cutout and add a number of effects to any image. The learning curve is a bit steep, but the finished product can’t be beat. (The image of the app-pack was created using Photoshop Touch on an iPad)

I want my students to tell digital stories:
VoiceThread (free) – The most well known, collaborative digital storytelling app is now available on the iPad. Create, comment, publish and share presentations directly from an iPad. The one limitation is that commenting features and publishing options can’t be adjusted from the iPad app, that can only be done from a computer.
Animoto (free) – While a bit more restrictive in terms of the finished product, Animoto offers a quick alternative as an entry level digital storytelling platform.
Video Scribe HD (4.99) – A relatively new app that allows you to create RSA Animate style digital stories with both background music and voice-over narration.

I want my students to create a digital notebook:
Evernote (free) – Hands down this is the best digital note-taking platform on the ipad. Create typed, image or audio notes directly within the app and organize the content into shareable notebooks. Tie in Skitch to include edited images and Penultimate for hand written notes. Notes can also be search later by notebook, date, or tag words.

I want my students to keep hand written notebooks / sketchbooks:
Paper by 53 (free & in-app upgrades 6.99) – The most life like simulation of writing in a paper notebook on an iPad. The app itself is free, but to have access to all of the writing tools (water color & various pen options, an in-app upgrade is required…but well worth it!)
Penultimate (.99) – A less expensive alternative that ties directly into Evernote. Very accurate feel when create hand written digital notes.

I want to use my iPad as a document camera:
Board Cam (free / Pro – 4.99) – Shoot a live image of anything in the classroom and create annotations directly on the image. Connect the iPad directly to a projector or use in conjunction with Reflection to create a wireless setup.
CamDraw (.99)
Document Camera Stand – Justand

I want to use my iPad as a tablet / wirelessly project:
Reflection (Mac / PC download – $15) – Wirelessly mirror an iPad to a MacBook or PC. Reflection is downloaded to a laptop computer and when an iPad is on the same wireless network, the Airplay option on an iPad allows for the iPad to be sent to the screen of the laptop.
Apple TV ($99) – A pricier alternative to Reflection with the same outcome. When both devices are on the same wireless network, an iPad can be mirrored to the Apple TV with Airplay. One limitation is that the Apple TV only uses HDMI connections and most school projectors are VGA input, thus requiring an HDMI to VGA adaptor.
Air Sketch (free / 9.99) – Unlike the two above options that use Airplay to mirror out an iPad screen, Air Sketch create a unique URL for each iPad. Enter that URL into a browser on a classroom laptop that is connected to a projector and the iPad is now wirelessly projected. The free app allows for a blank screen and black pen, while the full version allows for presentations to be mirrored out.

I want my students to create Podcasts & publish audio online:
Garage Band (4.99) – Record, edit and publish audio content from the iPad. This app is great for student interview and podcasting projects. Publishing options include both YouTube and SoundCloud.
Sound Cloud (free) – Publish audio directly to the web from the SoundCloud app. Audio is immediately available online at the SoundCloud website. There is no editing option available from the app.

I want my students to write papers / word process:
Pages (9.99) – Apple’s word processing app that allows for creating of typed content that can be exported as a Pages, Word or PDF file from the iPad via email. Also, Word documents can be opened and edited within Pages. Exporting options are limited.
CloudOn (free) – This free alternative allows users to create both Word and PowerPoint files on the iPad that can then be sent directly to a Dropbox account.
Google Docs (free) – While Google Docs isn’t the easiest writing platform to work with on the iPad, it is a bit better within the Google Chrome app. When used in conjunction with the Google Drive app, documents can quickly be shared with other Google Drive users.
iA Writer (1.99)

I want my students to annotate course readings (PDFs):
Notability (.99) – Full PDF annotation, include images and insert text into notes.
GoodNotes (free)
GoodReader (4.99)

I want my students to create digital books:
Book Creator (4.99) – This digital book creation platform allows a creator to easily create a digital book with text, images, audio and video from the iPad camera roll. There are a number of cloud based exporting functions and both an ePub and PDF version of the book can be exported from the app.
Creative Book Builder (3.99) – Quite similar to Book Creator, however this app allows for Google Docs to be imported into a book and chapters and sections can be created within the final product.

The History 2.0 Classroom: Back to School App-pack.


Valley schools rank high in STEM Latino grads

12:05 PM CDT on 8.7.2012

Rio Grande Valley higher education institutions ranked among the top 25 schools in the nation producing Latino graduates with STEM degrees, according to a report released by a Washington-based nonprofit.

However, the report on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees for Latinos shows that the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College is outranked by the University of Texas—Pan American and South Texas College.

The report from Excelencia in Education listed STC as first in the nation in graduating Latinos with associate degrees in biological and biomedical sciences as well as engineering. Texas State Technical College in Harlingen ranked ninth in science technology/technician associate degrees.
“Considering that Latinos will account for three quarters of our workforce growth by 2020, it’s critical that we zero in on ways to increase Latino student success in STEM,” Aneesh Chopra, who served as the first chief technology officer of the United States, said in a press release about the report.

The “Finding Your Workforce” report, the third in a series this year, does not purport to study the quality of higher education but instead the number of Latinos graduating with STEM degrees.
Valley institutions also ranked in the first report from the series this spring that looked at the overall number of Latinos graduating. At that time, UTB-TSC issued a press release with President Juliet V. Garcia saying in a message to the faculty that the rankings were the result of a focused effort.
In all, UTB-TSC’s four-year graduation rate is 15 percent, Associate Provost Ruth Ann Ragland said.

The report, which makes no mention of TSC, ranked UTB among the top 25 in four categories. UTB and TSC continue to end the process to end their partnership, with separation to be complete by August 2015.

UTB-TSC ranked in the following:
– 15th in math and statistics bachelor’s degrees;
– 19th in biological and biomedical sciences bachelor’s degrees;
– 22nd in computer and information sciences bachelor’s degrees;
– 24th in math and statistics certificates.

Recently, the importance of STEM education in Cameron County has been underlined as space transport company SpaceX considers building a launch pad here.

The University of Texas at Brownsville released a statement in response to questions from The Herald about the new report from Excelencia in Education. The university noted that UTB-TSC was ranked on lists among larger universities, some of them sister UT campuses.

“UT Brownsville is proud to be among the top 25 universities in the nation in graduating Latinos with bachelor’s degrees in three STEM categories, as recognized by Excelencia in Education,” the statement said. “The rankings by Excelencia, Hispanic Outlook and others are impressive, but there is tremendous work yet to be done by all higher education institutions throughout the nation.”
There was no direct response to a question about UTB-TSC being outranked by other Valley institutions.

“UT Pan American, South Texas College and Texas State Technical College, with whom UTB is a partner in multiple programs, also were recognized by Excelencia for their number of degrees awarded to Latinos, and we congratulate them,” the statement said.

As examples of the university bolstering STEM education, the statement pointed to the new College of Biomedical Sciences and Health Professions, the recently opened Biomedical Research Building, and the research laboratory building currently under construction.

“UT Brownsville recognizes the critical demand for graduates in STEM fields and will continue to build its programs and work with business and industry to meet needs of the community and the region,” the statement said.

This fall, UTB said, will mark the first class of UTeach students, who will graduate from the program as STEM teachers with credentials. It will also be the first time a new bachelor’s in biomedical sciences will be offered to help students prepare for admission to medical schools more quickly under a UT System pilot program.

The University of Texas—Pan American ranked in more than one area in regard to master’s degrees and higher when it comes to bachelor degrees:
– second in biological and biomedical sciences bachelor’s degrees;
– third in math and statistics bachelor’s degrees;
– eighth in physical sciences bachelor’s degrees;
– 10th in engineering bachelor’s degrees;
– 21st in biological and biomedical sciences master’s degrees;
– 21st in physical sciences master’s degrees.

According to the report, Latinos earned just a small portion – 8 percent – of STEM certificates and degrees. However, 40 percent of them graduated from the top 25 institutions, making for a concentration within just a few colleges and universities located in Puerto Rico and only six states — Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, Illinois and New Mexico, according to a press release.
Additionally, Latino STEM workers are more likely to be employed in lower paying service occupations such as telecommunications line installers rather than, for example, computer and information systems managers, the press release said.

South Texas College, based in McAllen with other satellite campuses in the Upper Valley, ranked in the most categories out of any Valley institution:
– first in engineering associate degrees;
– third in computer and information sciences certificates;
– third in math and statistics associate degrees;
– sixth in physical sciences associate degrees;
– seventh in engineering technology certificates;
– 10th in computer and information sciences associate degrees;
– 17th computer and information sciences bachelor’s degrees.

“This analysis is straightforward: we know where Latinos are earning their degrees in STEM and we know what some of these institutions are doing, with intentionality, to improve Latino success in STEM fields,” said report author and Excelencia in Education co-founder Deborah Santiago said in a press release. “What we need to determine now is whether more institutions and more employers will seize the opportunity to educate and employ more Latinos in professional STEM fields.”

12:05 PM CDT on 8.7.2012


UCLA researchers discover that fluoxetine (a.k.a. Prozac) is effective as an anti-viral / UCLA Newsroom

UCLA researchers discover that fluoxetine (a.k.a. Prozac) is effective as an anti-viral

By Jennifer Marcus July 27, 2012

UCLA researchers have come across an unexpected potential use for fluoxetine – commonly known as Prozac – which shows promise as an antiviral agent. The discovery could provide another tool in treating human enteroviruses that sicken and kill people in the U.S. and around the world.


Human enteroviruses are members of a genus containing more than 100 distinct RNA viruses responsible for various life threatening infections, such as poliomyelitis and encephalitis. While immunization has all but eliminated the poliovirus, the archetype for the genus, no antiviral drugs currently exist for the treatment of enterovirus infections, which are often severe and potentially fatal. In view of its favorable pharmacokinetics and safety profile of fluoxetine — which is in a class of compounds typically used in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and some personality disorders — the research team found that it warrants additional study as a potential antiviral agent for enterovirus infections.


Using molecular screening, the UCLA research team from the Department of Pediatrics, the California NanoSystems Institute and the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology found that fluoxetine was a potent inhibitor of coxsackievirus replication. This is one of the viruses that include polio and echovirus that is found in the gastrointestinal tract. Exposure to the virus causes other opportunistic infections and diseases.


“The discovery of unexpected antiviral activity of fluoxetine is scientifically very significant and draws our attention to previously overlooked potential targets of fluoxetine and other psychogenic drugs,” said Robert Damoiseaux, scientific director of the Molecular Screening Shared Resource at the California NanoSystems Institute. “Part of our follow-up work will be the discovery of these unconventional targets for fluoxetine and other drugs of the same class and how these targets intersect with the known targets of this drug class.”


Paul Krogstad, professor of pediatrics and molecular and medical pharmacology, added that understanding the mechanisms of action of fluoxetine and norfloxetine against coxsackieviruses “will add to our understanding of enterovirus replication and lead to assessment of their potential clinical utility for the future treatment of serious enterovirus infections.”


The research team found that fluoxetine did not interfere with either viral entry or translation of the viral genome. Instead, fluoxetine and norfluoxetine markedly reduced the production of viral RNA and protein.


The study was published on July 2 in the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Study authors also include Jun Zuo, Kevin K. Quinn, Steve Kye, and Paige Cooper from the Department of Pediatrics. The study was supported by grants from the Today’s and Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund and the UCLA Department of Pediatrics Nanopediatrics Program.


The California NanoSystems Institute is an integrated research facility located at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Its mission is to foster interdisciplinary collaborations in nanoscience and nanotechnology; to train a new generation of scientists, educators and technology leaders; to generate partnerships with industry; and to contribute to the economic development and the social well-being of California, the United States and the world. The CNSI was established in 2000 with $100 million from the state of California. The total amount of research funding in nanoscience and nanotechnology awarded to CNSI members has risen to over $900 million. UCLA CNSI members are drawn from UCLA’s College of Letters and Science, the David Geffen School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, the School of Public Health and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. They are engaged in measuring, modifying and manipulating atoms and molecules — the building blocks of our world. Their work is carried out in an integrated laboratory environment. This dynamic research setting has enhanced understanding of phenomena at the nanoscale and promises to produce important discoveries in health, energy, the environment and information technology. 



For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

via UCLA researchers discover that fluoxetine (a.k.a. Prozac) is effective as an anti-viral / UCLA Newsroom.

UK medical school teaching on physical activity virtually ‘non-existent’ | Science Codex

UK medical school teaching on physical activity virtually ‘non-existent’

posted on: july 27, 2012 – 11:00pm

[Physical activity education in the undergraduate curricula of all UK medical schools. Are tomorrow’s doctors equipped to follow clinical guidelines? Online First doi 10.1136/bjsports-2012-091380]

UK medical school teaching on physical activity is “sparse or non-existent,” finds research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine today.

This knowledge gap will leave tomorrow’s doctors ill equipped to promote physical activity effectively to their patients and stem the rising tide of serious disease associated with lack of exercise, say the authors.

They base their findings on the results of a survey sent to the curriculum lead or director for medical studies for each of the UK’s 31 medical schools.

This asked about the form and content of key aspects of education on the promotion of physical activity, in accordance with national guidelines, and the total amount of time given over to teaching the basic science and health benefits of physical activity across the undergraduate course.

The education leads were asked to name the specific teaching modules in which physical activity education appeared. And they were asked if the Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO’s) guidance on physical activity―which spans all age groups, and which was published last July―appeared anywhere in the curriculum.

The responses uncovered “some alarming findings, showing that there is widespread omission of basic teaching elements,” say the authors.

All the medical schools responded. Only four (15.5%) included physical activity in each year of the undergraduate course. Five (16%) did not include any specific teaching on it in their undergraduate courses.

Only half (15) schools included the current CMO guidance on physical activity in their course, despite it being endorsed by all four UK departments of health.

Its absence points to a major disconnect between undergraduate medical education, evidence based clinical guidelines for the treatment and management of many long term conditions, and national policy, with its emphasis on good health and disease prevention, say the authors.

The total amount of time spent on teaching physical activity was “minimal”, the responses showed, averaging just 4 hours compared with an average of 109 hours for pharmacology, say the authors.

The specific modules in which physical activity featured varied widely, but it was most often included in public health, cardiology, respiratory medicine and endocrinology.

Only two schools said it was included in health promotion and in community and general practice.

The authors point to 39 different clinical guidelines for specific diseases and conditions in which physical activity features as a method of treatment, and highlight the fact that most of the population lives largely sedentary lives.

“A basic understanding of the benefits of physical activity, how to effectively promote it (with behaviour change techniques), and combat sedentary behaviour for different age groups underpin the ability of future doctors to manage modern non-communicable chronic diseases and follow clinical guidelines,” conclude the authors.

They call for dedicated teaching time on physical activity for all medical students, as a matter of urgency.

Source: BMJ-British Medical Journal

via UK medical school teaching on physical activity virtually 'non-existent' | Science Codex.

Se nos ha muerto Esther Tusquets | El blog de Santiago González | Blogs |

Siempre me ha parecido que la mujer de la foto tenía rasgos nobles, mirada inteligente y gesto afable. Habría cumplido los 76 a finales del mes que viene, se llamaba Esther Tusquets y se nos murió ayer en el hospital Clínic de Barcelona. Fue la gran editora de nuestra vida para mucha gente de mi generación. Gracias a ella descubrimos a Umberto Eco y a Mafalda, a Virginia Woolf y hasta al hijo de puta de Louis Ferdinand Céline. No quiero decir que si ella no hubiera existido o se hubiese dedicado a otros menesteres, no habríamos conocido a Quino, ni habríamos leído ‘El nombre de la rosa’ o ‘Viaje al fin de la noche’, pero fue ella quien nos los acercó y esas cosas unen mucho.

No tanto, sin embargo, en lo que a mí respecta como su acividad de escritora y, más concretamente, de memorialista. Su enfermedad de Párkinson era necesariamente el final para una mujer cuyos libros más personales, los que conforman sus memorias, son de una radical sinceridad, infrecuente de manera especial en los autores de memorias. “Cuando escribo no pienso en los lectores ni en las feministas”, dice en su último libro, ‘Tiempos que fueron’, escrito a cuatro manos con su hermano, Oscar, y publicado hace seis meses. Me habían impresionado ‘Habíamos ganado la guerra’ y ‘Confesiones de una vieja dama indigna’ y destaqué en ‘Lágrimas socialdemócratas’ su rareza en la Cataluña y la España de la memoria histórica:

Hay, en el mundo de la izquierda, una excepción, que para mayor mérito, es catalana. La editora Esther Tusquets tituló sus memorias ‘Habíamos ganado la guerra’. El libro tuvo una extraordinaria acogida y la autora escribió una segunda parte, ‘Confesiones de una vieja dama indigna”. Comienza en este libro con la idea de contar sus recuerdos sobre la guerra civil y la inmediata postguerra durante una cena en la casa que Marta Pesarrodona tenía en Sant Cugat:

“Se habló de la guerra civil, y Marta afirmó, con la seguridad que pone siempre en cuanto dice:_ “La guerra la perdieron o la perdimos todos”. Yo protesté que no. Y enseguida pasamos a hablar de otras cuestiones. Pero luego, más tarde, estuve dándole vueltas a la idea, y recordando mi infancia, recordando como era, o como la había vivido yo, la Barcelona de los años 40 y 50, y considerando lo mucho y bien que se había novelado la posguerra desde el bando de los vencidos, y lo menos y peor desde el bando de los vencedores. Y se me ocurrió que algunas de las cosas que había vivido yo ?niña burguesa, hija de padres franquistas, sobrina de monseñor Tusquets (que había jugado un papel importante en el alzamiento y era amigo del Generalísimo), alumna del Colegio Alemán en la etapa más exacerbada del nazismo- podían tener interés para otros”.

Considerarse de izquierdas y mantener esta actitud tenía un mérito en una España en la que el mismísimo presidente del Gobierno podó simbólicamente la rama franquista de su árbol genealógico y su vicepresidenta podó la biografía de su propio padre, para limitarla a la inhabilitación que sufrió en la postguerra, al tiempo que ocultaba cargos, honores y condecoraciones que  la dictadura le concedió más tarde. Ayer tuve noticia de su fallecimiento cuando me disponía a comer con Carlos Herrera en Sanlúcar, pero de esto escribiré mañana.

Háganse el favor de comprar los libros citados de esta autora, así como la última pata de sus memorias que yo aún no he leído, pero que ya tengo encargado: ‘Confesiones de una editora poco mentirosa’.

via Se nos ha muerto Esther Tusquets | El blog de Santiago González | Blogs |

Refresh Launchpad in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Launchpad is OS X 10.7′s iOS-like app launcher, it’s a nice utility but it does have some quirky behavior in Lion. One of the major issues is that sometimes apps won’t appear in Launchpad at all, or when you delete an app it doesn’t disappear as it’s supposed to. If you run into this, try this tipleft in the comments about LaunchPad Control about refreshing Launchpad and its contents.

Relaunching Launchpad

Launchpad is attached to the Dock app, so the easiest way to relaunch LaunchPad is to kill the Dock from the command line:

killall Dock

Both the Dock and Launchpad will relaunch and that should clear up most minor issues with app persistence.

Refresh Launchpad Contents

If relaunching alone hasn’t fixed LaunchPad and apps are still not showing up, try deleting Launchpads database files located inside your home ~/Library directory, which forces them to rebuild. The directory path you are looking for is:

~/Library/Application Support/Dock/

The fastest way to get there is by using Command+Shift+G in the Finder to access the “Go To Folder” function, then just paste that directory path in. You will see a folder like this:

If you want to back these up you can, otherwise just delete them by dragging the .db files to the Trash, and then kill the Dock again from the Terminal to force the databases to regenerate.

killall Dock

Take note that you will lose any custom icon placement and folders that are setup within Launchpad, because that information is stored in the database file you are trashing.

One-Line Terminal Command to Refresh Launchpad Contents

If you are comfortable with the command line, you can also do this entire process through the Terminal with the following commands:

rm ~/Library/Application\ Support/Dock/*.db ; killall Dock

If you want control over exactly what shows up in Launchpad rather than just creating a bunch of folders, use the third party System Preference Launchpad Control, it’s free and works as a sql frontend to the Launchpad database.

Thanks to Igo for the tip!

via Refresh Launchpad in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion 

Do E-Readers Cause Eye Strain? –

Do E-Readers Cause Eye Strain?


The admonition offered by legions of mothers — “Don’t sit so close to the TV” — isn’t really an option when it comes to e-reading devices. You have to get close to the screen to use it.

Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images‘s Kindle with a black-and-white E Ink screen.

The act of reading is going through a number of radical transitions, but perhaps none is more fundamental than the shift from reading on paper to reading on screens. As consumers decide whether to make this jump and which technology to use, one key question is how reading on a screen affects the eyes.

First of all: doctors say that reading on a screen won’t cause any harm.

“Most of what our mothers told us about our eyes was wrong,” said Dr. Travis Meredith, chair of the ophthalmology department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “Sitting close to a television, or computer screen, isn’t bad for our eyes. It’s a variety of other factors that can cause physical fatigue.”

For example, the ergonomics of reading screens and the lack of blinking when we stare at them play a big role in eye fatigue. “The current problem with reading on screens is that we need to adjust our bodies to our computer screens, rather than the screens adjusting to us,” Dr. Meredith said.

Still, as regular readers of Bits comments know, there is a lively debate among fans of e-readers and paper books about which type of reading experience is most friendly to the eyes.

It turns out the answer isn’t as black-and-white as we might assume.

Doctors and researchers note that in most instances, paper can offer more visual sophistication than a screen. But certain types of paper, including inexpensive newsprint and the paper in softcover books, can actually provide an inferior reading experience for our eyes than the electronic alternatives.

With e-readers, there are currently numerous display technologies available, from the black-and-white E Ink technology found in’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook, to the coming full-color IPS LCD display that will come built into Apple‘s iPad. And then there’s old-fashioned paper. Does one offer a better reading experience than the others?

Michael Bove, director of the Consumer Electronics Laboratory at the M.I.T. Media Lab, says different screens make sense for different purposes.

“It depends on the viewing circumstances, including the software and typography on the screen,” said Mr. Bove. “Right now E Ink is great in sunlight, but in certain situations, a piece of paper can be a better display than E Ink, and in dim light, an LCD display can be better than all of these technologies.”

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Apple’s iPad with a full-color LCD display.

E Ink has a very low contrast ratio. Although it can offer an excellent reading experience in bright sunlight, the screens can become uncomfortable to use in dark settings because of the lack of contrast and backlighting on the screen.

LCD screens, meanwhile, have long struggled to offer good viewing angles for reading. Apple’s latest IPS LCD screens include extremely wide viewing angles, but the reflective glass on the screen could be a hindrance in brightly lit situations.

Professor Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University, said that reducing eye fatigue is less a matter of choosing a specific display than of taking short breaks from looking at the screen.

When we read, Dr. Hedge explained,  a series of ocular muscles jump around and can cause strain, regardless of whether we are looking at pixels or paper. “While you’re reading, your eyes make about 10,000 movements an hour. It’s important to take a step back every 20 minutes and let your eyes rest,” he said.

Today’s screens are definitely less tiring to look at than older displays, which refreshed the image much less frequently, causing a flicker. Carl Taussig, director of Hewlett-Packard‘s Information Surfaces Lab, said the 120 Hz refresh rate typical of modern screens is much quicker than our eyes can even see.

“The new LCDs don’t affect your eyes,” Mr. Taussig said. “Today’s screens update every eight milliseconds, whereas the human eye is moving at a speed between 10 and 30 milliseconds.”

Mr. Taussig said consumers will pick the type of screen that makes sense on an individual basis. “I don’t think there is a single technology that will be optimum for all the things we want to do with our devices. For example, H.P. sells 65 million displays a year, and they are all used in a different way.”

via Do E-Readers Cause Eye Strain? –