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!