Apps for the Commuter

January 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week, Profhacker’s Open Thread Wednesday asked about our favorite mobile apps.  The text of my response is below, with the addition of links:

I have to give a shout out not to an app but to some built in functionality in iPads and iPhones. My commute can be up to an hour, and since public transportation is not an option that means all driving and no reading.

I find VoiceOver–one of the accessibility features on the iPad and iPhone–to be invaluable. Here’s how I include it in my workflow. During breakfast, I read RSS feeds using Mr. Reader on my iPad. (I love this app because I can send articles to Instapaper, Diigo, twitter, etc.). I send the articles I want to read later to Instapaper and make sure they download before I leave the house. (I only have wireless on my iPad, so no downloads on the road.) In the garage, I open Instapaper and ask Siri to turn on VoiceOver. Then I start my iPad reading and listen to the morning’s news while I drive. When I arrive on campus, Siri is once again working on the campus wireless network, so I have her turn off VoiceOver.

Turning on VoiceOver

Turning on VoiceOver

You can also turn VoiceOver on and off using the menu, but when it is on it takes more clicks. You can find the feature under Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver. You can also set the speed of the voice here.  I find I have to keep mine closer to the tortoise and the hare so I can follow the text while I am driving.  Be aware that touch gestures may be different in this mode.  For example, you must click to select, then double click to open items.  Scrolling is also different.

Alternatively, I have used Voiceover to read books in the kindle app. I found that I could do one chapter of Hirsch’s Digital Humanities Pedagogy per drive, and I could almost hear Lisa Spiro or Tanya Clement talking as their works were read to me. I also used VoiceOver when riding in an airport shuttle when reading made me queasy.

Using my iPad for this reading means that my iPhone is still free for other uses, like checking traffic on the maps app during traffic jams.  I find this type of reading useful for texts I want to familiarize myself with but which I don’t need to go in depth. Since I’ve also saved them to diigo, I can always go back to them when I need to read deeper.  VoiceOver works better on connected prose because if you miss a word, you can usually get the meaning by context.  Finally, I had to slow the pace of the voice down to make sure I caught everything.

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