Lately, I have tasked myself with finding more than one iPad application in which to judge upon. I might add, that there are a lot of bad, really bad writing applications out there. Some of which, aren't cheap, and they do absolutely nothing... squat... nada... except allow you to script, erase, and save your file.
For the last couple of years, I have been using the Noteshelf application, which provides me with pretty much everything I need to judge, except one little teensy, itty bitty thing that has been irritating the heck out of me. No easy way to backup files and/or download notebooks onto another iPad. Being such an extensive writing application, you would have thought that the developers, Fluid Touch Pte, Inc., would have thought of this. It is almost as if they think that people only have one iPad. Sheesh. Okay, okay, maybe I am the only person who actually owns two iPads, oh wait, make that three... (okay, feeling a little embarrassed). Why three, you ask? That is a blog in, and of, itself.
So back to the task at hand. Finding another writing application that could do the same thing, but that actually had backup capabilities. So I wrote a list of minimal requirements for a judging application, but not just simple judging, like compulsories where you could just write on a simple blank page and every thing would be easy, but optional judging which requires a form (background), scrolling, landscape writing, etc.
1.) Must be able to import a .jpg file as a "background" image so that you can write on it and if you use the eraser, it doesn't erase the image. This is important since 99% of judges use either the USAG optional forms to judge on, or have created their own judging forms. If it can only be imported and inserted as an image and not as a background, if you write on the image (in most writing apps), and then have to erase what you wrote, it erases that part of the image as well. This is unacceptable in judging.
Also, if I am so busy writing, filling up the page with little symbols, at some point I am going to have to add a page. If the image is not set as a background, and you insert a page, the image does not follow you to that additional page. If it is set as a background, each page looks the same.
Many, many, many of the apps I trialed, did not accept backgrounds. I even paid $5.99 for one app, downloaded it, started working on it, and then realized it didn't do backgrounds. I emailed the developer and they said, "Oh yeah, no. Our app doesn't do that." I asked them if it would ever do that, and their response was basically, "Not in the near future." Bust. $5.99 wasted.
2.) Different pen styles and colors. To those of you who are purists, I know that basically you need three pen colors. Black, blue, and red. However, there are some, and I know a few of you (myself included), who just love to judge with one color, and then do the scoring with another. And not just the pen color is important, but also the pen thickness. I am a "fine" person myself. However, I am sure there are a few "medium" and "extra fine" individuals out there.
3.) Be able to export the page or the notebook with either email, text, Evernote, Dropbox or some other form of exporting capabilities. This is important for those judges who like to share their judging sheets, especially around testing time with either coaches or other judges. It is a very good educational tool. This also allows judges to judge on their iPad and then store their virtual notebooks on their laptops for far-into-the-future reference.
4.) Back up notebooks into a cloud system (whichever kind) and then be able to download/restore/edit on another system. This is such a pet-peeve for me. As a "used to be" technical engineer, the #1 important thing in the computer world is backing up. Back up, back up, back up. Now, for some, that may not be important for judging, especially compulsories, but many judges use their sheets as study material. To be able to back up, and then download notebooks onto another iPad (if I was silly enough to go out and buy #4 ...) without having to rebuild all my notebooks, is important to me. Not just on a new iPad, but some people have lost data on their tablets when they have installed updates, had their tablet stolen, or in some cases have basically had to rebuild from the ground up.
5.) Allow landscape mode. I know there are a couple of you out there, you know who you are, are saying, "What is landscape mode?" There are two page views in the word processing world: landscape and portrait. Portrait is making the page narrower from left to right, and longer from top to bottom. Landscape is making the page wider from left to right, and shorter from top to bottom.
This too, is important in gymnastics judging. It give is more room to write the routines, without adding more and more lines to a single routine. Of course, sometimes that happens anyway while judging a gymnasts who has 20+ skills in her routine.
6.) Wrist guard protection. Basically, I find those writing apps that don't have automatic wrist guard protection enabled to be quite irritating. Auto wrist guard is when the application allows you to rest your wrist on the iPad, without it sensing that the wrist is actually "writing" something, hence, the app will now not write what your pen is scripting. I want my iPad writing to be almost as realistic as writing on paper. If it doesn't feel this way, then I won't buy. Worse case scenario is that you are judging a routine, look down, and there is nothing on the page because there was no wrist guard protection. The things judge's nightmares are made of.
So, I have run out of space, and run out of time. Next blog will be on my application trials! Don't forget to check it out!
By the way, here is a quick video on Noteshelf. You decide.
Did you attend the NAWGJ National Symposium? If so, did you attend the class on iPad integration with gymnastics judging? I personally did not attend the iPad session, school and family kept me away until Friday evening of the symposium. However, I heard so much great stuff about Winnie Witten and Carol Curley's class, "Judging with iPad 101".
For those who remember, I wrote a blog on the integration of the iPad, well, about going on two years now. I wrote that blog back in the day when the first generation iPad weighed, wow, a whopping 1.5 lbs. Now with the iPad Air you only have to carry around 1 lb. That is like... 0.5 lbs or 8 oz different. Like carrying two 4 oz. steaks instead of four 4 oz. steaks, or a half of a bottle of coke instead of a full bottle of coke. The weight thing was never the issue for me to upgrade, the problem is that you can't buy as many fancy accessories for the older generation versions as you can for the newer generation versions. For us older people, we know how that story goes.
One interesting tidbit that I heard about, and was awesome to hear, because I have this particular problem all the time with my stylus/iPad communication, is using Arctic Silver on the stylus tip to stop skipping. Woo hoo! I can't wait to try it!
Arctic Silver is a compound that is typically used by geeks (like me) to fix computer motherboards. Silver, as a metal, is very conductive and is the main element used in computers and electronics. So if you haven't invested in silver stock, maybe you should. Okay, never mind. I'm not a financial advisor. Just go out and buy some silver to wear around your neck or in your ears. You can't go wrong there.
So searching around on the internet, I did come by a tutorial on how to do this. If you have invested $19 - $50 in a stylus pen (yes, the best ones cost that much) you would expect to have the best. However, the failure comes in the fact that there is a little metal circle at the bottom of the pen where the disc clicks onto the pen. When tilted at the wrong angle, this "dead zone" becomes more noticeable than the surface area around it, and thus there is less connection between the pen and the iPad, and skipping happens. It just happens. It is annoying as heck, and it isn't your iPad's fault. It is a fault in the wonderful design of the stylus. I am sure here, someday soon, all of our stylus' will be outdated, just like that first generation iPad. But until then, by golly, I want to get my $25 worth out of my stylus. But as a judge, we cannot, and will not tolerate skipping. That is kind of like a ball-point pin that runs out of ink halfway through that long and intense bar routine with E+E+E bonus. We ain't got time for that!
So I ordered me some Arctic Silver. I can hardly wait till that little brown package arrives in the mail. And then, with stylus in hand, I will blog out to you, how my little experiment went (rubbing hands together).
Check out what Brad says:
Also, check out my first blog on integrating the iPad into gymnastics judging.
On July 31, we heard a great sigh settle upon the gymnastics land. Some were sighs of relief, others were sighs of needing to do “do overs”. Either way, a great lesson was learned, not only for the judges that sat (for the first time ever) for their “electronic” tests, but for the USAG test administrators who put the whole thing together.
What was my experience? Well, keeping in mind that this new testing process was a huge step in digital integration for USAG and NAWGJ, the strange thing is that I wasn’t necessarily concerned about the electronic testing portion, as I had done electronic tests before when I took my respiratory boards. What I was thinking during this process was, “why aren’t these testing centers more prepared?”
Seriously, they run a testing center that literally is in control of the end result for thousands of people who have studied days, weeks and months for not only the gymnastics exam but firefighters, nursing, civil service, police exams, etc. More exams than we are aware of. Then why did we have to deal with computers that are inadequate to handle a high definition video, needed sound (but no headphones), fast rewind, small spaces and who knows what else.
Well, I am going to play the Devil’s Advocate here and say that every new venture has a learning curve. And on July 19, many of us encountered a big hairpin curve. USAG, I believe, learned that rolling out a test this big is a huge process and sometimes four years isn’t long enough to know the problems that will arise. The lessons that they learned are invaluable to putting together the 2017 Brevet and National testing cycle, and who knows, maybe other tests as well.
Kudos to the USA Gymnastics office for making considerations of not just the exam itself, but the problems encountered by each official at the local testing facilities, and how that process caused frayed nerves, high anxiety, and unknown results, and kudos for NAWGJ for their support for their judges, including "hand holding" and electronic "hugs" during this difficult time.
Hopefully by 2017, the testing centers will have upgraded their equipment to allow for HD video, and their staff will be trained to be able to restart/rewind a video via a master control (or this may be a USAG control issue), and could we please have more space, an area to put our books and papers? We’re not asking for much, just as much thought and work by those that are testing us as the time and work that we put in to study for this exam. That’s all… pretty simple.
Congratulations to all those who survived this new process. Now on to compulsories (woo hoo!).
Kathi Blazek is a National Judge in the state of Colorado.