On Learning Technology

Personal journal and portfolio of Harry Kalantzis.

Why I Cancelled My Setapp Subscription

Setapp is a subscription-based online service, which gives people access to a list of paid apps for a small fee per month. Now, that fee is around £8 ($9.99), while the apps (69 at the moment of writing) cost over £2000 in total if you buy them separately.

It did seem like a good deal at a first glance. But, how many apps do I use from the list?

I caught myself using only six, of which only three I have been using at work on a daily basis:

  • Sip (daily)
  • Hype (daily)
  • Capto (daily)
  • Ulysses
  • Squash
  • Gemini

If I buy the first three separately (and I probably will), they will cost me £84. One-time fee.

Setapp costs me £98 per year. Every year.

It does not sound like a very good deal now, does it?

(it did not sound right when I realised this.)

I am not saying you should not subscribe to Setapp. But before you do, look at the apps you are intending to use and consider how much you will be paying if you buy them separately.

Depending on the value you get, Setapp might or might not be the right service for you.

The New iPad ↬

The new iPad Image: Apple

Apple introduced a new iPad (called just ‘iPad’) today and people started moaning again about how big is the mistake that Apple is making with all these different iPad versions. This particular iPad replaces the outdated iPad Air 2 (which no longer appears in the product line) and it is Apple’s most affordable 9.7-inch tablet to date (in comparison to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro).

Personally, I understand Apple’s move (and this new iPad is probably the device I will be buying in the near future), which is targeting a wider audience and competing with the market.

Take the average iPad user for example. They like some iPad Mini features and some iPad Pro features. If Apple does not do anything about it, that average user will get a cheaper Chromebook or an Android tablet.

So, Apple introduces a cheaper iPad somewhere in the middle (spec-wise) and gives an alternative to that user.

Now, why they are giving choice to some, but taking choice away from others is an entirely different discussion.

Update 20:40. Two similar but better articulated opinions on that new iPad by Stephen Hackett and Joe Cieplinski.

On Apps

I am a smartphone user since 2010. I went from a Sony Ericsson K800i to an iPhone 3G and the world of apps. I then jumped to a Nexus 4, which served me well for 3 years and now to the excellent Google Pixel. Apps were not as popular back in 2010 as they are now and app stores were not as messy as they are now.

I currently have more than 150 apps (stock apps included) installed on my 128GB Google Pixel.

I use quite a lot on a regular basis:

  • Android Messages
  • Camera
  • Google Photos
  • Google Keep
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Analytics
  • Inbox for Gmail
  • Feedly
  • Dropbox
  • Shazam
  • Pocketcasts
  • Spotify
  • 1Password
  • VSCO
  • Google Maps
  • Authy
  • Instagram
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Private Internet Access (VPN)
  • Weather Timeline
  • S Health

Available only in the UK:

  • Monzo
  • YoYo Wallet
  • Three UK
  • Oxford Bus Company
  • Lloyds Bank
  • Trainline
  • CityMapper

Let me know what apps you are currently using on twitter: @hkalant.

Adjectives in Order ↬

Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.

I am not a native of speaker of English — I have been studying English, though, since I was in Year 2 and I learnt about this while I was still in primary school. The order is debatable, but it turns out that native speakers have no idea why they are using it.

Practical Typography ↬

This book is partly an ex­per­i­ment in tak­ing the web se­ri­ously as a book-pub­lish­ing medium. I have a role to play in mak­ing the ex­per­i­ment work. And so do you.

A complete guide to typographical rules, a style guide for web columnists. By Matthew Butterick, a writer, ty­pog­ra­pher, law­yer.

An interesting resource that can positively influence my custom manual of style.

System Fonts That Do Not Suck

Fonts are an essential part of the web. They are responsible for making websites beautiful and accessible. Whether you are using your CMS’s default theme or a custom design, fonts will make your web presence unique.

Which font should you use though? There are thousands out there, both free and premium. From the brilliant Google Fonts to the elegant Typekit. There should be a font that suits your taste and needs.

But even if you find one, nobody can guarantee that your readers will like it as well. It may be the perfect font for you, but people are different with different taste. And even if your taste matches, why would you make the choice for your readers? It is your website we are talking about, of course, but you really do not want to upset them. Trust me.

Kyle Dreger, from Audacious Fox, has a simple solution: use native system fonts. It makes absolute sense. Let your audience’s computer decide which font they will see when they read your text.

I decided to implement Dreger’s idea into this journal. So, from now on, if you are coming from an Apple device (iOS or Mac) the fantastic San Francisco font will be used. If you are a Windows user, then you are reading this with Segoe UI. On Android you get Roboto and on Linux, well, you get whatever flavor of Linux you get.

Smashing Magazine provides a very comprehensive guide on what is shown where and which are the different approaches to do it.

Here is what code Dreger uses which I adopted as it is:

body {
font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, sans-serif;

Fonts really make a difference.

Joining University of Bristol

After 5 years of studying, I could not think of a better start than an internship.

My background is in Elementary Education. But since 2008 that I entered Higher Education to earn my Bachelor’s, I have never practically left. Apart from some internships and volunteer work I did in elementary schools, my interaction with academic institutions and projects was constant.

I always knew that I am interested in educational technology, but, during my Master’s year here in Bristol, I discovered my interests and that educational technology development is what I would like to do for a living. I am no software developer or anything, but educators are a vital part when it comes to technology in education. I want to get involved in the design and development.

Well, after 5 years of studying — yes, it took me that long to figure out what I want to do with my life — I could not think of a better start than an internship.

I work in the University of Bristol as an intern on the Technology-Enhanced Learning Team, lead by Hilary Griffiths. It is no more than 4 hours per day, but it is a huge opportunity for me.

Tools of Trade for Learning Technologists ↬

In the era of virtual education and online teaching, educators around the globe are in front of a really wide range of tools they can use in their courses. It is critical, yet too hard, to always stay up-to-date and be aware of all those resources.

Inspired by the HN Tools of Trade, 2014 Edition, I decided to create a similar repository on GitHub with a list of tools and resources for every learning technologist out there.

If you are familiar with Github, go to the repo, star it, fork it and add your own tools of trade. It is available under the CC0 license.

Revolutionising Assessment

Inspired by James Pillans’ invention of the blackboard and colored chalk in 1801, Mark Barnes, a full-time education author and consultant from Ohio, suggests a remarkably simple way to solve a major problem: assessment.

The Problem

According to Barnes, the grading system we use to assess students by placing numbers, percentages and letters on their work “has been the norm for so long that it isn’t often questioned, but it continues to leave gaping holes in achievement and independent learning”.

This is also popular among all those Learning Management Systems out there that give teachers the ability to have a gradebook and add their grades in order to evaluate their students’ work. It is ironic how all these platforms, which are espousing a breakthrough in the 21st century education, adopt this traditional method.

That leads students to be often unable to assess their own knowledge and understand what they have or have not learnt. This is a problem that we need to fix.

The Solution

Barnes, in his book Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, suggests Assessment 3.0, a replacement of traditional grades with conversation, self-evaluation and narrative feedback using SE2R.

SE2R stands for:

  • A one- or two-sentence Summary of what had been done.

  • An Explanation of what I observed that students had mastered, based on lessons and guidelines and what still needed to be accomplished.

  • When more learning needed to be demonstrated, I Redirected students to prior lessons and models.

  • I asked for reworked items to be Resubmitted for further assessment.

Here’s a sample from Barnes’ book that will make his idea clearer:

You have completed a how-to article and posted it to KidBlog. You highlighted words in the post in order to demonstrate understanding of the "Words that Pop" presentation.
The highlighted words are not words that make the writing "pop". Also, we reviewed how to use commas after introductory words and phrases, yet you haven't placed any commas by these words. For example, first, next, and then are all introductory words that should be followed by a comma.
You should review the presentation on strong adjectives and verbs, linked under RAY on www.barnesclass.com. Then return to your how-to-blog and improve it, based on the presentation. Also, add the commas where needed.
When this is done, please go to the "Write to Mr. Barnes" section on our classroom website and tell me that you have resubmitted this activity.

Table 1. Sample Student Feedback using the SE2R system (Source: Barnes, 2013).

Time For Change

The idea is simple. And as blackboard and chalk changed how teachers shared information in the classroom, SE2R gives the possibility to change how we assess what students learn. Plus, scoping SE2R to digital tools and learning platforms, we make real a powerful educational system that inspires independent learning and promotes achievement.


  1. Barnes, M. (2013). Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  2. Barnes, M. (2014). A simple idea that just might revolutionize education. Retrieved June 22, 2014 from Brilliant or Insane.

A List Of Great Free Photo Resources

It’s always tempting to find a really great photo that fits your (online) course. I merged some lists with great photo sources that I came across a while ago and I made a new one so that I can come back anytime I need it. You should bookmark it.

For more tools and photo resources, check this more comprehensive list. Feel free to suggest your own great photo resources on Twitter.