Friday, December 21, 2012

App Review: Camera Awesome

This app comes as advertised: awesome. For years, one of the best features of the iPad was the camera. And with good reason. There are endless instructional possibilities for the front and rear camera. But there have always been limitations. Easy to use, yes. But limited. Until now...

You need to download Camera Awesome right now. I wouldn't be surprised if they start charging for it. There are a lot of features with this app. But the best features are the different camera modes. There are four different options that I'll mention here.

  1. Timer: So simple, but where has it been? Set the timer from 3 seconds to 59 seconds. Just in time for special family pictures during the holidays.
  2. Interval: I love this feature. Set the camera to shoot at a regular interval. So if you want to document a scientific process, set and record. It will keep taking shots at that interval until you manually stop it. 
  3. Slow burst: Hold down the button to record images at a rate of 3 frames a second. The key is you have to hold it down.
  4. Fast burst: Same as above, but faster: 5 frames a second. 
Now there are some other features that are worth mentioning. Pinch to zoom is built in. And zoom works on the front camera, unlike the native camera app. There is a level you can add to the screen to make sure your images are level. There are also effects, similar to Instagram, that you can add to your pictures. 

I know you have already come up with ideas about how this could be used in your classroom. I bet all you science teachers out there are going to love it. What a great way to pull images from a quick process so students can analyze what happened. Or set up the interval feature to record images on a regular basis. You can now do time lapse photography on your iPad to analyze situations. So many possibilities...

That's likely going to be it for 2012. Hope everyone has a great holiday season. See you in 2013.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Finally, YouTube for iPad again

One of the biggest complaints of people who upgraded to the new iOS6 was the missing YouTube app. The ongoing competition between Google and Apple left a lot of people out in the cold with the lack of YouTube app and Google Maps. Well, Google has finally addressed that issue with the release of a new YouTube app.

It's not tough to find right now. Check out the number 1 spot in the Top Charts. Happy viewing. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

App Review: AppsFire

There are a lot of apps out there that are designed to help you get more apps. One that I really find to be useful is Appsfire. It keeps you up to date on deals for popular apps. Navigation is pretty easy. The apps are sorted out by category. Examples of some of the categories include music, navigation, social networking, photo and video, news, staff highlights, best deals of the day, and more. So many more. Searching through the categories is very user-friendly. You can swipe left and right to see more apps in each category. It shows you the regular price and sale price. If you want to purchase the app, simply select it and you'll be sent to the app store to complete the transaction. 

But here's the best part about Appsfire. Is there an app that you really want to try out but don't want to spend the money on? Let Appsfire keep an eye on it and let you know when the price drops. Here's how easy it is. Search for the desired app inside Appsfire. When you find it, save the app to your wish list. Appsfire will send you a notification when the price of your apps is reduced. 

The best example of how I've used Appsfire is with the app Splashtop2. It's a popular app that teachers want, but the price is all over the place. It's typically $6.99, but drops to $.99 every now and then. And when it does, you get 24 to 48 hours to get it purchased. So it's great to have Appsfire keep an eye on the price and let me know when it drops. 

This type of app is a dime a dozen. So give Appsfire a chance and you won't be disappointed. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Create a digital course in iTunesU

I created my first iTunesU course this week. It's a course about how to use iTunesU Course Manager. I was amazed at how easy it was. If you are looking for a way to upload your digital content to a course that students can access on an iOS device, then you need to try out iTunesU. 

If you have an Apple ID, then you can get started immediately. On a personal level, anyone can create courses and enroll up to 50 students in each course. Your institution does not need to be enrolled for you to create your course. Just use your personal Apple ID or another one that you created just for this purpose. It might be helpful to create an Apple ID without using a credit card.

Now the first step for most teachers new to iTunesU is to download the Safari web browser. Yes, it can run on a PC. Once it's downloaded, open up Safari and visit the iTunesU Course Manager site. Log in with your Apple ID and you are ready to go. 

Setting up your site is a step-by-step process that I won't go into here. Instead, I'll pass along a helpful link to walk you through the process. This is Apple's iTunesU Support page for creating courses. Instead, I'll talk you through some of the features that I think are really simple and powerful for delivering your content. Here are my top-5 features in iTunesU.

  1. Linking to podcasts from iTunes - Course Manager makes it simple. Find the content in iTunes and right-click on the name. Copy the link and paste it to your materials page in your course. Done. One thing I learned in creating my course is that you can only link to specific podcasts, not the full subscription. But as a teacher, this is what I would want anyway. 
  2. Linking to other iTunes content - Teachers can send students to audio books, movies, shows, or apps. And the content can be free or paid. So you'll have to figure out a process for having students download paid materials. But it's so simple to point students to different resources to support learning. 
  3. Posts - The posts are the meat of the course. Teachers can create posts for any part of their course outline that contain text to inform or describe the next step. Along with the posts, you can add assignments. Link the assignments to materials that you've added like podcasts or eBooks. Students can check off their progress as they finish each assignment
  4. Adding your own content - Upload your already-made PDFs, Word Documents, videos, web links, Google Docs, or anything else. So you don't have to recreate what you already have. 
  5. Dynamic updating - I found this feature to be pretty handy. If you forget to add an assignment or post, just add it in. It will update automatically on everyone's device. But don't expect it to happen instantaneously. Mine took several minutes for the changes to appear. 
When you are ready to invite students to your course, iTunesU gives you an enrollment link. Simply email the link to your students or include it as a link on your class webpage. When students open the link, it sends the teacher a request to enroll. In your course manager page, you'll see the students who have requested enrollment and can approve admission from there. 

That's iTunesU in a nutshell. For students with iOS devices, it's great. I wish that you could access courses through any device using Safari. Hopefully that's coming up soon. But for me, it was easy to see how powerful iTunesU could be to organize a course and push your content to students. 

Good luck. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What is Guided Access?

Do you only have one iPad to use in your classroom? Is it your personal device? Do you have students that you want to use an iPad, but are too concerned that their attention will wander to other areas of the device? Surely not. But if you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to know about guided access. 

Guided access lets you control where a student can go on an iPad. You can lock the student into using only the app that you want him or her to use. Essentially, you choose the app, turn on guided access, and then hand it off to a student. The student will only be able to use that app until a passcode is entered. Here's how you set it up.

Go to your "settings" app. Go to the "general" tab and then scroll down to "accessibility". You'll find guided access under the learning category. Press it. This takes you to the guided access control area. Turn the switch to "on". This enables guided access for you. Next, press "set passcode". Enter a four-digit passcode (I would suggest the same one you use for the lock screen. No need to remember more combinations). Now you are ready to go. 

Launch an app you want your student to work with. Once it's open, triple-click the Home button to enable guided access. The screen will now show several options. You can disable all interactivity and lock rotation. You can also turn off access to particular regions of the screen. That way students can only interact with your predetermined areas. Then press "start". 

Now, no matter how hard he or she tries, the iPad won't let the student leave that app. If the home button is pressed, it lets the student know that guided access is on. Even pressing the power button does nothing. When the home button is triple-clicked, it prompts for the passcode. That's the only way out. 

Guided access is a great tool for teachers who want students to use the teacher iPad but don't want to give access to personal accounts such as email or social media. Its limitation to one app is good and bad. I would love to be able to limit to more than one app so some students could use multiple apps at the same time like iMovie and Safari to complete projects. Maybe that upgrade will come soon.

Friday, November 9, 2012

App Review: Educreations

Looking for a way to create mini-lessons? Want students to demonstrate their knowledge in a fun and interactive way? Then Educreations might be the app for you. Essentially, Educreations is an app for creating and sharing video lessons. 

At first glance, Educreations looks like any other whiteboard that you can find in the App Store. But upon further study, you'll see there is so much more to it. Admittedly, I had this app on my iPad for over a year before I started to dive in. For me, I was a bit turned off initially because you need an account to export your work. But what I originally thought was an obstacle is really the most powerful piece of the app. 

I would start on your computer to access the Educreations website to make a free account. Sign up as a teacher. Once you get your teacher account created, you have access to your dashboard. From here, you can create courses to house your content. Now's the time to get out the iPad. Open the Educreations app and get signed in. Choose "new lesson" and get ready to start.

Creating lessons is really easy. On your blank screen, you can choose from 10 colors to use with the pen tool. Pick a color and start writing. Or you can add a picture to the whiteboard so you can annotate, diagram, demonstrate a process, whatever you want. You can also add content from Dropbox, the web, or take a picture with the embedded camera. And there's more: you can add additional pages to your lesson. So walk students through step-by-step processes, tell a story, or compare/contrast topics. 

But wait. There's more. This is where the fun starts. You can record narration in real time. So have students solve a math problem while they are explaining their thinking. Highlight components of a cell as you explain their function. Or map the route of explorers as you talk about hardships they faced along the way. You have complete control over the slides so you can go back and forth as you narrate. When you are finished, save your lesson and choose your level of sharing. You can save it as a private lesson, with your students, your school, or public on the web. 

So you are probably wondering how students can access your lessons. Get back on the computer and your Educreations account. From your dashboard, visit the course you created. You should see an option to add an existing lesson. Choose that option and you will see the lessons you've created. Select the lesson and then add it. Now you have your first lesson in your course. Next step: add students.

Once you select your course, you should see a box marked "students". When you select it, you'll see options for adding students. You can choose either the URL that is supplied or the course code. If you send students the URL, they visit the site and then can enroll in your course. Once enrolled, they have access to all the lessons that you've uploaded. 

Educreations is easy to use, but a bit complicated to explain in writing. Hopefully, this post will spark some interest in seeing what this app can do for your instruction. As an elementary teacher, I would have loved the ability to have students use this app to demonstrate their learning. Like anything, play around a bit and you'll see how you can use. Start small and best of luck. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Students and In-App Purchases

Don't make this mistake unless you want to run up your credit card bill. We had students in an elementary classroom rack up over $150 in In-App purchases on their teacher's iPad. After some playing around, we think we know what was happening.

By default, once you enter your Apple ID for a purchase you have 15 minutes to download as much content as you want without being prompted for your password again. Apparently the same things holds true for In-App purchases. I downloaded a free app from the App Store and then went to add some bux to support my Pocket Planes obsession. Sure enough, I was able to spend $.99 without entering my password a second time. The App Store assumes it's still you. 

So how do you stop this from occurring? Easy. You need to enable your restrictions through the Settings App. In "General", choose "Restrictions". Select "Enable Restrictions" on the top, then enter a four-digit password. Make sure you remember the number or write it down somewhere: Apple can't reset it for you. Then there are two things you can do. Both are under the "Allowed Content" section. 

  1. Turn off the "In-App Purchases". This would keep anyone, including you, from purchasing add-ons. Which is good if you are obsessed with Pocket Planes.
  2. Change the iTunes password requirement to "Immediately". This setting means that you can no longer enter your password one time and then download addition apps without it. Every time you download, even consecutively, it will ask for your password.
Doing one of the above will stop the problem. You'll need to figure out which, or both, would best best for you and your credit card. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

6.0.1 Update

There's already a new update for iPad. It's aptly called 6.0.1. It doesn't really do anything major and it took about 5 minutes to complete. Check in your Settings app to update. 

Mirroring your iPad with AirServer

Mirroring (displaying) your iPad through your projector is huge. If you are in the classroom, you want to be to have this seemingly simple tool for instruction. Surprisingly enough, it's taken such a long time to get viable solutions for this indispensable teacher tool. Software that I wrote about last spring called Reflection was a nice solution. Unfortunately, it worked really well on Macs but not so great on PCs. Now we have another nice option.

AirServer is our recommendation for mirroring with a PC. You can download a free 7-day trial through their site at If you are interested in purchasing, there is a very reasonable $15 charge for 5 licenses. Now while the price is right, the installation is a bit of a pain. I wrote up some directions for installing and running AirServer on your PC. Essentially, there are three things you need to install to get it to work (at least in our district): AirServer, DirectX, and Bonjour. Follow the link below for instructions.

Directions for Installing AirServer 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Best new iMovie feature

iMovie has always been a fabulous app. When people ask what apps they need to buy, iMovie is always the first one I mention. Last year, movie trailers were added to iMovie to make it so much better. For those of you who are new to iMovie, trailers are a fast and easy way to create professional-looking trailers. But there was one issue that was a pain to deal with: you couldn't import still images to the trailer. In order to use stills, you had to create a regular iMovie project using the stills and then export it to your camera roll. Then you could use them from the movie. Inconvenient. 

Now it's all changed with the newest version available with iOS6. In the iMovie template, you can now choose to import stills right alongside the video. Once you drop the image into the desired spot, you can pinch to zoom the image. There's also an easy way to change the "Ken Burns" effect (the dramatic slow-motion panning) to find the perfect start and end position.

So if you haven't played with the newest version yet, give it a shot. And if you have an iPad but don't have iMovie, you need to go to the App Store now and download it. It's a steal at $4.99

Yes, there is a right way

One question that continually pops up: how do I hold my iPad when I'm taking pictures or video? Well there is a correct way. 

Always hold the iPad horizontally with the home button on the right side. That puts your rear-facing camera on the upper-right as it's facing the subject. If you do it this way, your images won't be upside-down when you view, export, or use them in another app. 

Evernote at TAWL

I'm looking forward to presenting tomorrow at the Mid-Missouri TAWL conference. Our group will be looking at how Evernote can be a powerful tool for reading conferences. If you are new to Evernote or haven't used Evernote for anecdotal records, you can access my presentation below. It's not a step-by-step guide because I'll be presenting from it, but maybe it will spark some ideas about how you could use Evernote to support your teaching. 

Mid-Missouri TAWL Conference Presentation

Friday, October 12, 2012

App Review: 270 to Win

In the midst of feeling American after the recent debates, I went to the app store to purchase an app I'd see a year ago. At the time, it didn't seem worth it to purchase "270 to Win" because the election was so far away and I'm not a political person. However, I realized after purchasing it that I was wrong about the timeliness of the app. It's actually an app that could be used at any time by teachers who cover government. 

Let's start with data. And there's lots of it. This app has a great resource they call "the history". There you can find the election results of every presidential contest since...well, every single one. This feature shows a map of the US with a slide bar on the right to toggle between elections. States are shown with color to distinguish how they voted and includes the number of electoral votes at that time. They also include some basic information about the election that includes issues of the day, major events, and specific voting information (like in 1868, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia did not participate. I wonder why?). This would be a great resource for students to study history and voting trends. 

Another section shows detailed voting information for each state. Number of electoral votes per year, voting history, and state history are included. It also shows whether or not the state voted for the eventual winner. Again, very easy to navigate and obtain information quickly.

This last section is the best feature of the app. "The Library" offers templates for the current election. You can choose a template based on 2012 projections from NBC, University of Virginia, swing states, and Cook Political. There are templates for "same since" (states that haven't swayed since a certain time), "Other" (final results from each election), "all or none" (all democrat, all republican, or blank), or "2008 or 2004" (detailed maps from each election). Once you choose a template, you can rename it and then start making your own predictions for the election. Click on a color and then touch a state to mark it on a scale from "safe" to "undecided". As you mark the states, you can see the electoral votes added to that party's total. You can create multiple maps and share your predictions via email, facebook, or twitter.

I really like this app. Again, I think it's one that should be advertised better because it could be used in non-election years. Obviously, it's very relevant now because of the upcoming election. But the historical information is an awesome resource to discuss voting trends and how historical events and elections are intertwined. If you have $.99 cents sitting around, go ahead and take the plunge for "270 to Win". 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

App Review: Zite

I attended a Digital Writing Conference last week and walked off with a few good app ideas. The one I've use the most so far is Zite. If you are a fan of web-based readers, you need to check it out. It's free and really easy to use.

When you open Zite, it starts by asking you to check different categories that you enjoy. It also allows you to integrate with your Twitter or Facebook accounts. Once you make all your selections, it sends you to your personalized magazine. There's a handy section guide on the sidebar to quickly navigate to your favorites. Or you can simple swipe left to reveal stories. Find one you like? Press on it and it takes you to the article for more information.

Zite gives you some great personalization options. Inside articles, you can choose whether or not you liked reading the story. You can find more information about the topic or the publication. And you can share the article via Twitter, Facebook, Pocket, Instapaper, Delicious, Evernote, Google Plus, or email. Lots of options.

If you are fan of Flipboard, you might be turned off by the simple interface. But I like the ability to easily see articles and navigate to ones I want to read. It's a neat app, so check it out.

iOS 6 - To update or not?

Most people were pretty excited to learn about the new update to iOS 6 that came out last week. I admit that I would have been much more excited if I owned an iPhone 4s/5 or the new iPad. Sure, there are some cool things in the new software. The offline reader in Safari is neat. The "do not disturb" function could be useful from time to time. The system app and iTunes looks different. I guess if I bought tickets to events, then the Passbook app would be useful. The shared Photo Stream capability is pretty cool, especially for busy parents. And there's a new clock.

But the biggest change when you move to iOS 6 is what's missing. Because of the well-publicized feud between Apple and Google, you will no longer find the handy YouTube app or Google Maps on your iPad: if you update. Instead, Apple replaced those popular features with its own maps and no YouTube app.

For me, having the YouTube app missing is no big deal. I'm not a big YouTuber. You can easily access YouTube through Safari or Chrome or any other web browser. After doing a bit of research, I was pointed to an app called Jasmine. It's a nice app that connects you to YouTube content. And it's free, so that's nice.

Losing Google Maps will be the bigger blow. I don't do much traveling, so for me, it's not going to be that huge. But I've already heard from people who have been left without direction because of Apple's primitive maps. One media specialist said her husband was lost in Canada for two hours. Canada? OK, primitive might be a strong word, but Google has been doing its map-thing for a decade.

So should you upgrade? If you are worried about losing those two big things, then maybe not. If you are a user of iWorks (Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie), then you probably will have to upgrade to use those apps eventually. But I foresee a large number of Apple users who are going to be pretty upset by this change and wait until Google releases a new Maps and YouTube app.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Some cool NASA Apps

Science teachers everywhere! NASA has some great free apps out there to help your students learn about space exploration and NASA. I'm going to fill you in on three of those apps today. 

The first is just called "NASA". It's a great place to start. The home screen is a shot of our solar system. Click on any object and you get detailed information about that planet, star, or moon. Along the top of the screen are some great options: launch services, maps of NASA centers, NASA's launch schedule, and details about satellites. The bottom has several options for news, NASA TV, videos, tweets, and my favorite, NASA's radio station (Third Rock).

Another app to try is NASA Viz (Vizualization Explorer). This apps offers the stories behind NASA's exploration. It highlights new discoveries through the satellites and far-reaching exploring vehicles. Each slide offers details about the mission, images, and videos. I especially enjoyed the story called "Cruising with Curiosity", the story behind the Mars explorer.

Finally, check out NASA TV. It is an app that offers real-time viewing of NASA TV (which can be pretty boring sometimes because you watch a lot of control centers). The best part is the on-demand viewing. Choose to watch short clips of testing videos, interviews, and updates on projects in development. A nice way to keep up-to-date with NASA.

I hope you get a chance to try these out. Did I mention they are all free? Happy exploring! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting a new wireless certificate

As we start our new school year, certain issues usually surface because teachers are back and the system gets fully tested. Well, this fact is especially true for our wireless network that hasn't been hit with much traffic since May. And with more schools fully wireless now, the load is much greater. 

One problem that we learned about is that the original wireless certificate that was installed on iPads last year could have expired. Some teachers saw their certificates expired on August 3. So that might be the problem is you were able to get wireless easily last year, but are having issues now. Here's what you should do:

1. Try to simply install the network again. Your media specialist has detailed instructions on how to install the private network. This installation could give you a new certificate to install. If not....

2. Reset your network settings. Go to the Settings app, choose "General", and scroll to the bottom of the page. Choose "Reset" and then "Reset Network Settings". This will wipe all your networks, so you'll have to install your home networks again as well. Then re-install the private network and you should be good to go. Unless...

You used a profile to install the wireless. If so, you should see a button called "Profiles" in your Settings app under "General". You can delete the profile and start fresh. 

I hope that gets you connected again! If not, talk to your media specialist or shoot one of us an email. We'd be happy to come out and take a look. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Welcome, Chrome!

Look out, Safari!! Google Chrome has finally made it's way to iPad. I installed it as soon as I heard the news and have enjoyed every minute of it. It combines all the great features of Chrome into a friendly iPad app. Here are some of the highlights for you:

Searching: the handy Chrome web address/search bar is great. Know the URL? Type it in. Just want to search? Type it in. 

Voice searching: Too lazy to type? Just speak your search. Press the little microphone and say what you want to find. 

Multiple tabs: yeah, Safari does it too. But Chrome seems easier for me to view and reorder. And you can open a ridiculous number of tabs in the browser. I stopped at twenty. You just slide them back and forth to see hidden tabs. It's crazy.

Quick navigation: Chrome remembers your searching for you. You can easily find recently visited pages, bookmarks, and sites from other devices synced with Chrome. So sign in on your desktop, and the same sites will be visible on your mobile devices. Pretty handy. 

Incognito tabs: search privately with incognito tabs. Pages you view in these tabs won't show up in your search history and they won't leave cookies behind. Most importantly, however, take Chrome's advice very seriously: be wary of surveillance by secret agents or people standing behind you!

With the release, there was one thing I really wanted to see. Would Chrome let you easily edit your Google Docs. Unfortunately, the answer is no. It's the same interface you would see through Safari. So Google has left us hanging once again. First with Drive for iPad and now Chrome. But don't let that slow down your download of Chrome. I'm starting the process of transferring my bookmarks to Chrome so I can say goodbye to Safari.

Happy surfing!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Apps for Destiny and Gale Resources

In case you haven't heard, there are iPad apps available for Follet's Destiny library management software and for Gale's electronic databases. These are two resources that CPS has purchased for teacher and student use. Here's a bit about each one that you can download through the App Store.

Destiny Quest let's you login and access all your Destiny information. Users need to know what organization they are a part of and then login with those correct credentials. The menus you can access are Top Ten, New Arrivals, Resource Lists, My Bookshelf, and Account Information. You can find resources you would like and place holds. You can also see everything checked out to you, and in my case, all the overdues attached to you! I got to see some books that were checked out to me six or seven years ago! In my defense, the books were classroom resources that I passed on to the next teacher.

The Gale Resources app is called "My School". Once logged in, you can access all the databases that your district has subscribed to. Examples that we have available to us included Biography in Context, Business Insights, and Opposing Viewpoints. Choosing a database gives you full access through a mobile-friendly app.

Remember, all Columbia Public Schools teachers will have access to all or some of these resources. I hope you get a chance to check it out!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Update

Hello out there! It's been awhile since I've posted, but the new year is right around the corner so I wanted to get going again. Summer was so busy! Here's a look at what happened in our iPad world:

"Getting Started with iPad" was the theme of June. We took up our temporary residence at Smithton Middle School and began the 9-12 grade deployment. We designed a rolling training that started every 30 minutes and covered three rooms and a total of an hour and a half. Buttons, settings, Safari, camera, and App Store were all covered. The feedback was great! 95% of teachers said they felt comfortable with their iPad after the training. I'm not sure the final number, but the last I heard, we had moved over 300 teachers through the basic training! I really enjoyed getting to meet so many secondary teachers.

In addition to "Getting Started" training, we also put on inservices that covered some great integration ideas for iPad. Kerry rocked Evernote and file mobility. Ken tackled using QR codes and YouTube. I took on creating with apps, iWorks (iMovie, Keynote), and my personal favorite, "iPad Teacher Testimonials". I invited some master teachers from our district to share how they've used iPads over the last year. Heather Lang (Benton), Tyler Simmons (Cedar Ridge), Jill Kiley and Anna Osborn (JJHS) were awesome! They shared great ideas for using the iPad to increase engagement,  monitor progress, and develop higher-order thinking skills. The participants were flooded with great, real-world applications for their iPad.

I'm really excited about getting going again this year! There are so many schools doing different things with iPads, not to mention the 400 secondary teachers. My goal is to post at least once a week to our two blogs to keep you up-to-date with what's going on in our district. Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

App Review: iPinPoint

Pretty good for an old building!
Alright all you math teachers and enthusiasts out there. Here is an app for you! Looking for a free and easy app for students to find angles and distances? iPinPoint could be the one for you.

iPinPoint is an iPhone app that will work on your iPad as well. This is how it works. Take a picture with your iPad camera or from inside the app. Then choose which function you would like to use: angle or distance. If you choose "angle", then place three points on the picture to determine the angle. If you choose "distance", you mark a known distance on your picture first, then choose another distance to measure. I find this function to be a bit more difficult to manage, so it will take some practice for students to use well.

I came across iPinPoint after a junior high math teacher invited me over to observe. The students marched out into the school armed only with iPhones or iPads and a clipboard for data collection. Their task was to  find specific angles around the school in a scavenger hunt. Once they thought they found one, they would take a picture and record the angle.

Like a lot of apps, iPinPoint teases you with its features and then wants more. Unfortunately, you have to upgrade to the pro version to save your marked images. The pro version also allows you to measure circles and triangles. I would argue that $.99 is a good price for those extra features.

I hope you find iPinPoint useful! Let me know if you've used it or know of any other apps that are better!

Get "whitelisted" for large iPad deployments

So here's an issue that almost completely threw off our ability to deploy our district's iPads to all high school teachers. We were blacklisted! Twice!! Basically, there were two issues that were causing issues creating Apple IDs for our teachers. 

First off, when you create a new Apple ID, you have to verify the account through an email. No big deal, right. Well it was for us. Apparently, after working flawlessly all year long, the email system decided that emails from Apple should be considered spam. So instead of popping straight into the teacher's inbox, it was being sent to quarantine. That fix was easy. We just had to give the email address to our network administrators to add to the email whitelist. Voila! Works great.

The second issue was bigger and a bit frightening. Our teachers were going to create large numbers of Apple IDs. The training format we were using was sound....until now. During our "getting started" training, we were helping teachers create their own Apple IDs. Again, no big deal. Until about two weeks ago when we were helping a group of elementary teachers. The first ten teachers had no problem getting the Apple IDs created (except at that time, they couldn't get the verification email). But everyone after that point kept getting the message "see iTunes support to complete setup". That's something we've never seen before. After a bit of thinking, we thought we knew the issue.

If you have been on the internet recently, then you'll probably recognize the really annoying "enter the text you see below" feature that most sites use when you create an account. It's usually the hardest part of creating accounts. This feature is designed to make sure that humans are creating the account and not some automated computer program designed for fraudulent purposes. Well, it seems that Apple was stopping us from creating multiple Apple IDs from our district's IP address. It thought we were being bad. So we had to do something to get this fixed because we had 500 iPads on the way for 500 teachers.

There's nothing worse than trying to call iTunes for support. I know. It was not something I was looking forward to. If you've never called before, make sure you use the restroom first and put the Route 44 drink out of reach. Now here's another great benefit from reading this far down. Here is Apple's secret phone number for education support. There are real people there!!!

1 (800) 800-2775

After minimal run-around, I was able to explain the predicament and was forwarded up the food chain. Eventually, I was routed to an engineer who helped me start out the whitelisting process. First they wanted to make sure that we were legit. Then they wanted some specifics about the quantity of iPads, Apple IDs, and timeframe. Once approved, Apple usually allows a 30 day window to let you create a large number of Apple IDs from either one email domain or public IP address. After just a few emails, we were approved!

Hopefully, we are good to go with our mass deployment starting next week. If you are planning a similar deployment, then plan ahead! We ended up getting lucky because we had some smaller trainings scheduled first. As the saying goes, I'd rather be lucky than good!

Friday, June 1, 2012

App Review: OverDrive Media Console

Summer is upon us, and after a long year of educating the youth of America, there's nothing teachers want more than a good book and some peace and quiet. I've already helped a half dozen teachers get started with their iPads this week, and they've all been so excited when I tell them about OverDrive. If you don't know about OverDrive, I bet you'll like what it has to offer.
OverDrive is essentially a link to your local public library. It creates a portal for you to search for books and download them to your iPad for reading. Once you download the app, you'll need to add your local library through OverDrive's search feature. Press "Get Books" in the upper right corner. Then search for your favorite library. Be careful here. Once you find your library, press the star button so it will be added to your favorites. Now you're ready to find books.

When you visit your library, OverDrive will connect you to the library's website. From there, you can log in with your library card number and password. What I've found about my library's catalog is that it's a bit limited. I compare it to NetFlix's streaming content: there's a lot of content, but not a lot of current, must-have books. After you've found the book you want to read, then you choose your delivery method and the checkout period. This is where you need a secondary account link Amazon or Adobe. You can choose what format you would like to read. I prefer Kindle only because I already have an Amazon account. The format you choose will determine where the book is delivered upon download: choose Kindle and it will be in your Kindle app.

I find this next piece pretty cool, and I'm not sure why. When you have reached the end of the lending period, the book simply goes away. Not entirely, but you can't read it anymore. It's still there if you want to purchase it, of course. You can also place holds for books that are checked out. You'll receive an email when it's available and you'll have three days to download it.

Well, that's the basics of OverDrive. Happy Summer Reading!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Have you ever wondered what a delivery of 430 iPad would look like? If so, then feast your eyes on this shot.

Our district is pushing out these iPads as part of a pilot program for teachers in grades 9-12. All high school teachers will be receiving their iPads starting a few hours ago. The goal is to determine the possibilites of the device in teaching and learning.

Our department is gearing up for pushing out all these devices to teachers. We've scheduled 1,674 training sessions starting tomorrow. Actually, it's more like a few dozen, but both numbers seem equally daunting. I'm really looking forward to seeing all the excited faces of the teachers as they begin to learn about the possibilities that iPad has to offer. For the next few weeks though, I'll probably talking iPad in my sleep!

We hope you follow us on this journey. We've helped deploy a lot of iPads this past school year, but nothing like this. To help keep you up to date, I've created a new hashtag: #CoMoiPad. Look for it on Twitter to find out what's going on in CPS iPads.

Friday, May 25, 2012

App Review: Day One

I downloaded a new app this week called Day One. It's essentially a journal. But it has a lot of great features that I think sets it apart from other journal apps. I really love how it displays a calendar to search your posts by date. Every day that has a post is highlighted so they are easy to find. You can export your entries by email or by Twitter. It also syncs with iCloud so you can access your journal on any iCloud device. Currently, it cost $1.99
Day One would be a great app to try out in the classroom. You could easily have students create posts about their day. Then you would have a running record of the year's learning, special events, reminders, funny happenings, whatever! Easily Tweet the posts you feel should be communicated. Day One allows another way to open up your doors to the world. 
Check out Day One in the App Store.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Don't forget your software update

Another update is ready for iOS devices! Version 5.1.1 does some random things that I'm not sure I really care about. But the important thing is that many apps require you to have the latest software in order to work properly. It's a good idea to go to your settings tab, general, and software update to check for updates. Sometimes, you'll get a little red badge on your settings icon to let you know there is an update available. My badge doesn't show up and  I'm not sure why. If you know the answer, please let me know! So check out  your settings to make sure you are up to date!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

iPad Covers: There are just too many of them!

CaseCrown Bold Trifold Case (Black) for the new iPad / iPad 2 (Built-in magnet for sleep / wake feature)We are getting a huge amount of iPads rolling on to the delivery dock every day. And with a new iPad comes a need for a case. So instead of answering questions individually, we decided to make a reference page to help out our new users. The ones I included on the page have been used by teachers or students in our district. Cases are very personal, but when it comes to student use, I would never recommend Apple's Smart Cover. It looks cool and it's an Apple product, but it offers zero protection from drops. And if you work with students (or teachers), you know they will be dropped. Check out the guide and let me know if you have other suggestions that have worked well for you. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

App Review: Songify

Alright, this one is a bit different. But after you play a bit, I think you'll find some sort of use. I came across Songify quite by accident. I took an Apple TV home one weekend to play around. I stumbled my way onto YouTube and was looking through the most popular videos of all time. And that's when I found Songify.

This will be tough to write about, but bear with me. Are you familiar with auto-tuned songs? If not, it's when artists use a computer to make their voices sound almost digital. It's popular with the young crowd, which I'm no longer a part of. Anyway, these kids find rather unusual news stories or strange events, then dub the video and auto-tune the audio to make it sound well....hilarious.

So Songify lets you auto-tune your voice, puts it to music, and enjoy. Now, I'm not sure how many academic uses there are for this app, but it's fun. My wife loved it and used it in her class. She complains of having to tell her 9th grade students to get out the same supplies every day. So after downloading this app, she recorded the supplies on Songify. Then when students entered the room, she played the Songify version. Apparently some students thought it was funny, and some thought she was crazy. But it got their attention!

So have fun with it and let us know if you find a great use!

App Review: Paper

Looking for an easy to use, beautiful app to record notes in a journal? Look no further than Paper, a free app by I was told about this app by a junior high reading specialist who also works with English Language Learners. After looking at it, I can tell how right she was!

You can create journals for different students, subjects, or ideas. For example, the ELL teacher I work with had each of her students create a journal to record the vocabulary they are working on each day. Students can date each entry and record their learning. The pen strokes are beautiful! It has a calligraphy feel to it. It makes my sloppy handwriting look somewhat artistic! 

The free app comes with a single pen with a variety of colors to choose from. There are in-app purchases available for other writing tools. Several exporting options are available. You can go with the popular iPad options: Twitter, Facebook, or Tumbler. Or you can export one page at a time to the Camera Roll. 

So give Paper a try! There aren't too many apps that give you functionality that is paired with aesthetics. But I don't think you'll be disappointed when you see what Paper has to offer. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

iPad as a personal reader

I got turned on to this really cool tip a few weeks ago. iPad has a setting with its newest updates that allows you to highlight text that you want read to you. It doesn't work in all apps, like Kindle, but it works well through Safari and a ton of third-party apps. And the voice is really engaging. I think it's probably the sister of the guy who does the automated storm warnings. Here's how you set it up:

Go to the "Settings" app and choose "General". Scroll down to "Accessibility". You'll need to turn on two things: First, turn on "Speak Auto-text". Then turn on "Speak Selection".

Inside "Speak Selection", you can change the rate of speech. It uses the classic "tortoise and the hare" rating system similar to lawn mowers. 

Now you're set up. Within your app, highlight the text you would like read. When you lift, you should see options. If this feature is enabled in your app, "speak" will be one of your choices. Choose it, and you will hear your text. Of course, you can change the volume to suit your needs. 

I've suggested this to many teachers who have students who can't read well enough to access necessary information. What a great way to support students through a research process. 

You might be an Apple enthusiast if...

So I turned 33 last week. Nothing too unusual there. One perk for being a four-year old is that you get to choose the type of cake that your daddy might want. In years past, I have received a red bird on a branch (not sure where that came from) and an Atlanta Braves logo (that made more sense). I wasn't sure what to expect this year, and I was right. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Running Records with Evernote

Check out this great use for Evernote: creating, saving, and "notebooking" student running records!

When I was in the classroom, I always wanted an easy way to record students while reading to use for conferences and to show growth throughout the year. I never could find a way. But now, Evernote can do it for you! This is the process that I would use in my virtual classroom:

  1. Create a free Evernote account. Download the client to your laptop or desktop computer.
  2. On the client, create a notebook for each student in your class. These will become your storage location for the year.
  3. Find or write a section of text you would like your students to read. Depending on your purpose, you could choose a 100 word segment to record fluency over time. Or you could have a longer text to see how far they get over a set time period. 
  4. Create a note and copy/paste the text into the note. Then name the file and send to the appropriate student's notebook.
  5. You can then copy the note into each folder that you want and rename it
  6. Log in to Evernote on the iPad. You should be able to see the notebooks you created and the notes.
  7. Open the note you want to use. Then begin recording as the student reads. Evernote saves the recording as an attachment to the note. Save the note
Voila! You have just created an audio recording of student reading. Keep adding notes throughout the year. Students would love being able to go back to hear their reading to see what kind of progress they are making. And it's all online, so you can share the note URL to parents whenever you want. Think about the power of that function: Jimmie's parent could be sitting at work when an email pops up from his teacher. She opens the email to find a link to Jimmie's last reading entry. What a great way to instantly share progress and build community with parents. 

I hope you get to try this out! Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 9, 2012

App Review: Evernote

Some of the best education apps out there are ones you won't find in the category of education. When you visit the education category, you might find some good ones. But you usually encounter a lot of databases or apps to develop rote skills. Which is good for some applications. But we want students to develop higher-order thinking and improved problem solving. There is no better app for blowing up Grapplings than Evernote. And it's FREE!

Evernote was probably designed for business professionals. Basically, Evernote is a web-based note organizer. But when you look at the features and use a bit of imagination, you'll see what a huge asset it can be for teachers and students. Here's some basic information about features and usage:

1. Create notes offline - full-time wireless access is important to ipad deployment, but it's not a must. What makes Evernote so powerful is that you can create notes offline. So take the ipad to your outdoor classroom, on a field trip, or anywhere around the school. Create your notes, and when you get back to a wireless location, they'll sync.

2. Create notebooks for students, groups, classes - Evernote is a powerful tool for portfolios. From your desktop, you can create any number of notebooks for any organizational structure. So you could make one notebook for each student, reading group, class, or anything else. Then store the notes in that notebook to record documents or progress over time.

3. Share - super easy to share notebooks or individual notes. When a student does something awesome, get the URL from the note and share it with parents.

4. Embed images and audio to your notes - This is where the power of the app becomes evident. Students can take pictures with their ipad and embed straight to their note. They can then add their own written notes or (and this is the coolest part) add narration to show their thinking! Think about this: a science experiment completely documented using a series of notes with images and student narration. Powerful stuff.

5. Multiple devices on one account - teachers can create an account for their classroom. Then login to the individual devices so all students have access to class documents. This deployment is perfect for elementary folks. Or secondary students can create their own accounts and share notes with the teacher.

That's just a bit for now. But if you are a teacher (or note), you are missing out if you haven't explored the possibilities of Evernote. Go to the App store now. It's FREE!

Friday, April 6, 2012

App Review: Pic Collage

Pic Collage is a great app that can be used with very young children. It allows users to insert their own pictures or find pictures online to their collage. You can add multiple images and easily change the image size. Text can be added to write captions about the images. There are a number of backgrounds and stickers that are available as well.

Adding pictures from the web is so easy: there is an embedded browser. This feature is what makes this app so great! I was able to observe kindergartners create collages about the Statue of Liberty. It was so cool to see them press the screen, choose the browser, and search. Granted, they needed help with spelling, but once the search started, it was so simple. The search returns pages of images that match. You select all the ones you want to add, and then send them to the page. Then move the images and resize to suit your taste.

Exporting couldn't be simpler. Choose your collage and export to camera roll. You can also email, tweet, or facebook (is that a verb yet).

And that's it! An incredibly easy way for students to show their learning through an annotated picture collage. Check out my collage below!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wireless Trial and Error

iPads are great at getting connected to most wireless networks. Homes, Starbucks, McDonalds: no problem. But we've had quite a bit of difficulties getting our iPads on our district's enterprise network and staying on. Apparently this is something that Apple hasn't addressed with their devices.

In our district (like all schools) we have a variety of devices to support. This year has seen a ton of iPads join the network. I'm not sure that Apple knew or prepared for the proliferation of its devices in schools. The latest we've heard is that iPad doesn't like enterprise networks, which is what schools or large businesses would use to protect their network and data.

Our network has two wireless networks: an open one and a hidden one. We are connecting all our CPS purchased devices to the hidden network. It's been a work in progress, and our wireless specialists have done a great job troubleshooting the devices and spending lots of time on the phone with Apple. Here is our current setup:

We are installing the hidden network on the CPS devices. The profile we are using contains a certificate that is specific to our system and the iPad. Once we have it installed, we choose "forget this network" for the open wireless. We think this step will help the iPad stay less confused by only trying to connect to one. That's the device side of it.

Our current bandaid is to set up the access points to only look for the 2.4 ghz radio. Our AP's have a 2.4 and a 5. This step can be done remotely and with a reboot of the AP's, the iPads will only be using one radio. Of course, this restricts the number of devices on each AP because we've cut out one radio. But as of now, it's been a big help in getting the devices connected and staying connected.

We're thinking that over the summer, we could create a separate network only for the iPads. This step will help out the laptops in their connections. Not a great solution, but one that could work to help out all devices.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Automatic Download con't: Deployment tips

I love finding some time to add to the blog. Here are some quick tips and information about the art of mass iPad deployment:

1. Set up the ipads to download automatically
2. When apps are added automatically, they won't magically go to a folder. You will have to manually move each app on each ipad to the desired location. Unfortunately, it won't copy your movements from one to the others.
3. Deleted apps has to occur manually on every device. I wish you could delete from one ipad or from iTunes and apply to all, but that's not the case.
4. Use configuration profiles!

It sure would be nice if four steps were all it took! Feel free to email me with any questions or advice!

Automatic download for "cart iPads"

I feel like a slacker for taking so long to get a new post up. Time is flying by before spring break around here. I wanted to give some information that will really help with the installation of a few apps on a lot of iPads. We have several deployments in CPS of multiple "cart" iPads. This means that all the ipads carry the same image of apps, websites, and restrictions. To save yourself a lot of time, you should set up your iPads to install apps automatically. Here's what you need to do.

First, you have to set up your ipads to sync up with iCloud. You can access this through the settings tab under iCloud. I like to turn off all the extra syncing through iCloud, like the email, calendar, photo sync, and notes. Those will just bog down your cart. You should also think about disabling documents and data. That will share documents across all the iPads like your Keynote and Pages documents. Unfortunately, you will have to manually enter the iCloud information unless you installed the image from iCloud backup. See my earlier post about imaging.

Once you have the iCloud set up, scroll down in settings to access the "store" options. You will need to turn on the automatic download for "App". You could also turn on music and books if you'd like, but that's not something we've used yet. I've made it a habit to move out and return to the store screen to make sure the app download stays on. I've seen it turn itself off several times, so double check that one.

Finally, on your iTunes preferences on your desktop, you need to make sure that one box is not checked. Under iTunes preferences, you will need to visit the tab for "devices". There is an option that reads "prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically". Make sure that is NOT CHECKED. It will prevent the automatic download from occurring.

Now you are ready to go. I would always perform a test download to make sure thing are working properly. If you haven't already, you'll want to develop a procedure for teachers to request apps. It's no big deal to install a few at a time, but mass installs take a lot of work. So protect your time by setting up a procedure that supports teachers and keeps you working efficiently.

Friday, March 9, 2012

AirPlay Mirroring with Reflection Part II

I got to use Reflection yesterday in a training for the first time. Wow, what a difference! In case you missed yesterday's post, this app will change how you teach with your iPad. It was so simple to download, but you have to carry a PayPal account to purchase.

Anyway, it is so much easier to walk teachers through apps. Just like teaching in a real classroom, it gives you the flexibility to be with the learners instead of tied to your cable. You can be so much more efficient when you are able to instruct while looking over shoulders to see how they are progressing. You have to check it out! Well worth the money.

And did I mention earlier that you can have multiple devices mirrored at the same time!

I showed off Reflection today when working with some junior high teachers. Just as teachers do, they immediately started thinking of classroom applications. One had a great idea to put multiple iPads on the screen in order to quickly compare work. And because all it takes is a push of a button, it would be so simple to have students quickly mirror their device, show off what they are working on, and then log off to give someone else a turn. What a powerful way to display student work!

That's it for this week. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

iPad Mirroring to your Mac

Great news!!

Just read this from Tony Vincent's blog and it's pretty exciting for mac/iPad users. There's a new program for your mac called Reflection. It sets up AirPlay for your mac. Now you don't need an Apple TV to mirror your iPad. It runs on any mac with iOS 10.6 or later.

So simple to use. Just install the Reflection on your mac. You can test it out for free for ten minutes. I know, pretty ridiculous teaser. Once installed, double tap your home button on the iPad to access the iPod controls. Press the mirroring button and you are up and running. It refreshes nearly instantaneously. I found it could get behind at first but then gets caught up and moves seamlessly. We also found that it launches QuickTime on the mac when a video is played. You can also have multiple devices showing on one screen. Kerry set hers up after mine and her iPad popped up on my macbook.

The pricing right now is $14.99 for one user and $49.99 for five licenses. Very affordable, especially for those of us who present from the iPad and macbook at the same time. No more unplugging!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Using Google Calendar for iPad Scheduling

One of the biggest issues you'll have once you get your iPad cart set up is that everyone is going to want to use it. And that's a great problem to have! An easy way to communicate when the iPads are available is to share a calendar. So it's time to ditch that clipboard you have sitting on your desk!!

Setting up a Google Calendar is quick and easy. Once you are signed in to Google, you can access the calendar from the menu bar on the top of your search page. On the left toolbar under "My Calendars", choose the drop down arrow and select "Create new calendar". Once you name it, you need to make it public in the shared settings. Google Calendar has very straight forward sharing options. Unless you have specifically shared it with another user, other viewers can only view. So you can share the link or embed the calendar in your website.

Finally it's time for scheduling. I would suggest having faculty send you an email so you can add their names to the schedule. I'm sure it wouldn't happen in your school, but I've heard of times where teachers erase their colleagues' names from the schedule to "free up" time for themselves. With this method, everyone can view when the iPads are available, but only the iPad admin can schedule times.

Check out our own iPad Google Calendar to see how busy it is.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Configuration Profiles

Configuration profiles are a must-have for anyone deploying district iPads to students. Profiles let you control what the end user can and cannot do. It also is used for assigning wireless configurations. Setting up the profiles are relatively easy and free.

The first you will want to do is download the iPhone Configuration Utility. This is a free download that works for iPads as well. There are specific versions for PC and Mac. Once loaded on your computer, you can then set your profile up. It's fairly self-explanatory except for one issue that caused me issues the first time around.

When you get started, the first piece you need to fill out is the profile name and identifier. Use a specific name because you might choose to make multiple profiles. The identifier was what through me off the first time. You have to name it in a specific manner. Here is the right way. In the identifier option, you need to add a ".profile" to the end. Notice there is a period before the word profile. For example, say you want to create a profile for a school named Wayside Elementary. Your identifier would be "wayside.profile". You can then add a passcode to it so only authorized users can mess with the restrictions.

From there, you just go through the different categories and turn off what you don't want students to have access to. For some of our schools, we turned off FaceTime, in-app purchases, game center, iTunes store, and adjusted the content ratings. If you are going to sync your devices through iCloud and want apps to install remotely, you'll need to allow the App Store.

I know that's a lot of information, so feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Good luck, and happy profiling!

Friday, February 24, 2012

iPad - Five tips for making an image

I want to talk images today. Using an image is a great way to mirror all the iPads in a traveling pack or cart. It's pretty simple to do, you just have to make sure you allot time to tweek the image to make sure it includes everything you want. There are several tools you can use to make sure your image is perfect. Here are some tips for you.

1. You can put six apps in the dock (the bottom of the screen that stays the same on every page). This is a great place to keep readily used apps.
2. You can create folders. Press and hold an app until they all start wiggling. Then pick up and drag one app on top of another. You have just created a folder! 20 apps fit in a folder
3. Create web shortcuts for easy navigation. In Safari, choose the action arrow button and select "add to home screen". This creates a shortcut that looks like an app. Name it whatever you want and move it in folders or on the dock. Great for finding popular sites quickly.
4. Organize apps on the pages. You can create new pages and sort in whatever fashion you want. For our elementary carts, we chose to sort by content. We didn't go by grade because many apps fit for multiple age groups.
5. Add a background image. Import an image file to serve as your background. You can use different images to number the iPads so it's easy to see which device you are using. Add your school logo or student picture if you want to personalize.

That's a few tips for getting a good image started. Once you have it chosen, then you'll need to deploy the image to the other iPads. Essentially, all you will do is back up that master iPad to your iTunes or iCloud account. Then for each new iPad, you will "restore to backup". That will put the exact same image on every iPad in your cart.

Hope that helps you get started. Next time, I'll talk about configuration profiles. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know @mattvillasana