Monday, 5 August 2013

Using Driving Instructor Software

As a Driving Instructor I'm always looking for ways to improve training methods and introduce new ideas. Having been a fan of the Android operating system I was looking for ways to introduce using an Android tablet into driving lessons. Looking on the Android market there was only a few driving instructor apps that I could utilise with any effect, so I looked at the apps on iTunes to find quite a few apps that I thought could be used to good effect. So i decided to take the plunge and paid my near £500 for an iPad 4th generation.

As a tablet the iPad is very restrictive, loading Mp3 and movie files is laborious and time consuming. Where on an Android device it's as easy as easy as moving a file from one folder to the next. It also came as a massive shock that the iPad does not come with a basic office suite or even a calculator, when both were present straight out of the box on my cheap Chinese Android tablet (£129). But Google came to the rescue with Google Docs so i now have a spreadsheet and word processor (free) and it is syncing nice with my Android phone and Windows 7 PC. Office suites are available on the app store but at around £14 can be expensive if it ends up not being as good as the company selling it states. On the Android market you usually get a free alternative or a few hours to try the app if its paid. So for a near £500 tablet I do have a few moans and groans about it. On the positive side the iPad looks the part, it's as smooth as silk to use, boots up in around 19 seconds and the battery lasts an age. The iPad 4th generation that i bought developed a fault in the first few days, which the Apple store resolved by giving me a totally new tablet. So no complaints about after sales whatsoever.

So with iPad in hand I started to look on the App Store for Driving Instructor apps. The stand out app was called RoadBoard. This app allows instructors to quickly draw a road situation or use templates to draw just about any scenario which could appear in real life driving. You can drag and drop just about any object, cars, traffic signs, traffic lights or any other every day obstacle on to a pre drawn road. These maps can then be saved for quick retrieval within the program and all this is done with a similar speed as using the old style lesson plans with laminated sheets and felt tip pens that Driving Schools use and you can draw freehand on the maps as well. You can also use the screenshot feature on the iPad to save a .png file which when manipulated in a graphics editor can make some good diagrams for website use. Other apps that that were available were Hazard Perception, Theory Test and other general learning to drive apps, most of which are not available for Android devices.

So if you're Driving School and are considering utilising a tablet computer in lessons and want to look cool in a posh coffee shop, iPad is the only choice because there is a great deal of driving instructor software available. If you want a tablet computer that does a lot more straight from the box and isn't restrictive, then I'd go for an Android.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Intensive Driving Lessons, Are They For Me?

People are always going to want to and need to learn to drive. Modern life makes it hard to find time for a weekly two hour driving lesson, which the D.S.A recommend to give you the best chance of passing your test. A one hour lesson seems to be over just as its starting to get going and you don't have time to do two hours. So you see advertised intensive courses offering "learn in a week" that sound good, but are they really that good?

Most of these intensive course schools advertise their "pass rates" and "guaranteed pass" and such, but let me explain some of the flaws. Taking an intensive course you will most likely be on a schedule over five days with 6-8 hours per day of driving. As an experienced driving instructor I can assure you your brain will not be working for the latter half of these sessions, therefore the productivity and safety of these types of courses are questionable at best (ask yourself why wagon drivers have to take mandatory breaks every few hours). Most intensive lesson courses operate in seaside towns where at certain times of the year there is no one on the roads, this along with these towns already having high test pass averages, (Bridlington 51.6% vs Heckmondwike 30.4%) your chances seem pretty good? The big problem here is what happens when you drive to Leeds, Wakefield or any other major city? A lady who took driving lessons in Dewsbury with me a few years ago got injured in a car when a friend, who had passed first time through an intensive course of lessons, came home and picked her friends up to take them for lunch in Leeds and wrote the car off on the way. This driver obviously wasn't experienced enough to cope with a major city centre and paid what could have been a high price. Another fact that seems to get overlooked is that some people will need more lesson time than others, so when these companies state you can pass in a week is misleading, considering they haven't even met or instructed you yet.

The best way to do your lessons is to find a reputable driving school and do one or two hours at a time. This way you can go away, without your head spinning and reflect on the lesson time. If you don't know of any good driving instructors in your area post a message to your friends on Facebook or other social media. Ask the instructor when making your enquiry if they can do quite a few sessions per week, this way you could get the best of both worlds and have intensive driving course, gain experience and learn to drive in the area you're going to drive in.