No major revolution this week in my French culture and civilization class, but I am happy to see a growing number of students taking notes on their iPads in class and some who are turning in homework using Pages. Many of the email messages are sent from the iPads as well. Time for another quick survey to check the comfort levels. I gave the students pointers on how to film interviews on Tuesday, such as what to do with the cover flap (thanks for the tip, Matt!), how to frame the interviewee and make him/her feel at ease so they forget there is camera filming them, and most of all find a good spot to put the iPad down rather than hold it.
As I was struggling to figure out the bells and whistles of Pages (Word app for iPads), I stumbled upon accent marks by accident, and I must say I am hooked. For those who don’t know, by just keeping your finger for a split second on the letter where you would like a diacritical mark to land, a small menu pops up just above the iPad keyboard with – in some cases – a single pick as if for a bud vase (ÿ), for others, a rich bouquet of choices. How transparent and magic! Amazingly, the “e” has fewer options (7) than the “a” and “o” (8). Sliding your index finger delicately toward the adorned letter feels so elegant and smooth compared to the multiple keystrokes often requiring two hands on a regular keyboard! Not to mention remembering if the circumflex is obtained with the letter “i” or with the “u” and the fact that I cannot count the number of times when I ended up with two lonely accents ( ´´ ) instead of an “é”. PCs have their idiosyncrasies too, but I have not dealt with them much lately.
Seduced by this discovery, I started exploring the possibilities and noticed that there are conceptual differences between the regular keyboard and the iPad screen keyboard. On a regular keyboard, symbols are mixed with diacritical marks. alt + p = π. Not on the iPad. No character will pop up when you touch the “p”.
Except for the vowels, the only characters with diacritical marks are the s (three options including the German ß), the z, c, n and l. If you have time to waste, just keep you finger on each of the symbols in the “123” selection. And then, go to your Mac keyboard and hit all the keys while pressing the alt key, then do it again while pressing the shift key at the same time. Come on! It’s fun. And don’t tell me you never did this with wingdings…! Well, frankly, there is nothing transparent about the regular keyboard special characters. Who thought that it made sense to hide the ™ under the 2, or the ‡ (which looks like a Cross of Lorraine) under the &? The “œ” always puzzled me. I found it during a random but methodical search… under the q!
However, there are times when a keyboard is more accurate and faster, and that is why I was really happy to discover that my wireless keyboard synched with the iPad. Wow!
I created a page to explain how to make diacritical marks under various circumstances. If this may be of help, here is the link.
If you came upon this page by accident and do not teach a foreign language, this must sound cabalistic and opaque. The world of keyboards is quite fascinating and ever changing. Exploring it is like plunging into the zoomquilt.org web site, an endless vacuum ride on a loop.