My online lesson in reading a poem is now available, check it out and leave me some feedback. Thanks.


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Get through the week with a daily dose of Galvin and Hobbes.

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October 20, 2013 · 4:23 pm

Interactive Design – how well does the Apple TV do it?


The Apple TV is a home entertainment device, similar to TV set top boxes. It basically works as a nifty media streamer. The device is typical Apple slick design, a diminutive black box, 1in high by 8in wide. There are absolutely no control features on the box itself, it operates only via the slender silver remote, so if you lose the remote you have to resort to channel hopping elsewhere.

Click any button on  remote and the device will turn on, you will know this by the tiny beacon of blue light that appears on the little black box. As I said, the remote is silver, slender and its fairly minimal, but it feels nice to hold. It has seven buttons—Left, Right, Up, Down (which are indicated by the usual little arrows) Select ( familiar circular button), Menu, and Play/Pause. The menu button is labelled menu and the Play/Pause has the standard Play/Pause icons.

The home screen is a display of icons that are familiar and consistent with other Apple devices, giving it effective visibility. Icons include Movies, Music, Computers, Settings, Netflix, YouTube, Flickr, podcasts etc.

The user can easily navigate through the selection here by pressing the select button. The major flaw in the design of its interface comes when you try to navigate through one of the content applications. So for example you select Netflix. The select button takes you the Netflix homepage, which contains a typical menu. It has Suggestions for you, recently watched, genres, TV programmes, New releases, Just for Kids, search and sign out. You can then use the select button to choose from the menu. Then the screen is packed with Movie title icons, but you can move easily with up and down buttons. This is all ok so far, predictable, visible and consistent, you are going where you expect to go.

The problem arises when I make a movie selection. I can then either select to play, by selecting the play button on the screen or I can select a different movie from the more like this underneath the current selection. If I do this I leave this current page and move to that movie’s page, with a different selection of more like this underneath the current selection. I now cannot get back to my original page of entire movie icons. I  have to either repeatedly hit the menu button, which now operates as a back button, or I have to hold down the menu button and this takes me all the way back to the Apple TV homepage and I have to begin my search again. As a user you feel a lack of control and annoyance at not being given more options.

This is a little frustrating but by far the least user friendly aspect of the interface is when you have to enter text. So for example I want to search for a specific movie title in Netflix, I have to scroll- enter-scroll, selecting from an alphabetic keypad manually letter by letter. This is slow and cumbersome, and provides too many opportunities for user error. Like, be careful not to hit clear or you will loose the word you spent five minutes entering!

Apart from the few navigation issues, this is an intuitive device to use. There is good feedback response with a subtle select tones, the error tone is slightly more jarring bit I guess that’s the point of an error tone. Some people might find the tones annoying and I didn’t see any way to switch them off.

The real benefits of its usability derives from its easy functionality with other apple devices. You can purchase direct content from iTunes. You can stream any content from an apple device to the Apple TV using Airplay, and you can synchronise all content with your iTunes account. So it does work very effectively as a media streamer.

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Top 5 Educational blogs



This is a very recent find of mine and it is proving to be essential reading. It does exactly what it says on the tin, it provides comprehensive descriptions of and links to useful free technology for teachers. Great job Richard.

This is an award winning blog created by the English Department of St Columba’s College Dublin. The blog provides a wealth of information and inspiration about teaching and studying literature within the Irish curriculum, but in particular the blog is renowned for its podcasting sessions, which I have found really useful for use in my own lessons.

This is another very useful blog for students and teachers of Leaving Certificate English. This blog is created by a teacher in Claremorris. She shares very useful resources from her own teaching and provides useful links. I also enjoy it because she keeps update with the current changes in the curriculum. She has posted some interesting responses to the Minister for Education’s plans for the revisited Junior Certificate.


Well you can tell from the title that this is a blog by one sassy lady. Don’t be fooled by its somewhat irreverent style, as this is a highly informative blog for people, like myself, who are burdened with living a gluten-free life. Thank you April for the constant feed of yummy recipes.


Ok so I’m slightly biased on this one, as I know one of its authors. That said, I have found it incredibly useful in CSPE classes, where I teach the topic of animal rights, there are fantastic educational resources provided.

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