Thursday, December 19, 2013

Try Tellagami for a new approach to sharing

Looking for a new and fun way for students to share their ideas? Then look no farther. It's Tellagami, and it's been awarded the prize of "most fun app" from Mill Creek teachers. What's more? It's free. Check out the example below to see how you might use Tellagami with your students. Or just for you. Whatever works. 

Create Collages with PicStitch

I wrote a post a while ago about a great app called Pic Collage. It's been very well received by teachers and students because of its ease of use. Well, here's another app that I think will become popular. It's called Pic Stitch and it's available for free in the App Store.

Different layout options
Like Pic Collage, this app lets you import pictures to create a colorful collage. The difference is that Pic Stitch has a variety of templates you can use to arrange your photos. There are over 70 layouts to choose from in the free app. Of course, you could go ahead and purchase additional layouts for $.99. But I think most people will be alright with the free ones.

Once you pick your layout, you can add your pictures. The app pulls from your camera roll and photostreams. You can also add pictures directly from the camera or from a Dropbox account. It doesn't allow you to browse the web for pictures inside the app. That is a favorite feature in Pic Collage and would be a nice addition to Pic Stitch. For now, you'll have to settle for saving images from the web to the camera roll.

Add pictures from camera roll or photostreams
There are a number of different features for adapting your collage. Once you put a picture in the layout, you can easily move the image or pinch/zoom to fit the cell. If you double tap on a picture, you can edit it from inside the app. There are different options such as image enhancements, orientation, cropping, contrast, and sharpness. You can also add text or draw/write on the image freehand.  

When you have your collage perfected, you have several options for exporting your work. Press the "export" button in the lower right corner and you'll see your options. The most popular option, at least for elementary students, is probably to export the work to the camera roll (photo album). You'll also have account options like email, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. With Pic Stitch, you'll also see the ability to open the collage directly in another app that's already installed on the iPad or to AirDrop it. Which is always fun. 

Overall, I think Pic Stitch is an easy to use, fun app that students will really like. When your students are thinking about publishing their next projects, show them Pic Stitch. Might be just the tool they're looking for. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Time management with 30/30

Do you have any students that have difficulty staying on task or managing time? If your answer is no, then you are probably in denial and should seek professional help. If you said yes, then check out the app 30/30. It's a free app that students (and teachers) can use to manage tasks in a user-friendly way.

First, the app lets you create multiple task lists. Each list can consist of several individual tasks, each one assigned a certain time allotment. These lists can be saved for future use. I really like this piece because it allows you to develop a set routine that can be used over and over.

You have complete control over the individual tasks. Use unique names, icons, and time amounts for each one. Then add them to the list. You can easily add new tasks, delete completed ones, or rearrange the order. 

Once you are ready to start your tasks, simply press the play button. The display changes color to match the color of the task. Then the timer counts down as the dial slowly turns. I like having both features because it gives a great visual reminder for students who aren't able to read or understand the time countdown. 

While you are completing the task, you have several options to use. You can quickly add or subtract minutes, move the task to the bottom of the list, or trash it. This is so easy, it could cause a distraction for students. You'll need to consider if the student who is using the timer (or class) should have access to manipulate the app. I can definitely see teachers projecting the app so all the students can see what tasks are ahead and how much time there is to complete them. 

All in all, I think it's a productive app that you should try out. Like anything, you'll need to figure out the best use with your students. Or perhaps it's better off as a teacher tool. We all could use a little more help with time management. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ubersense: A must have app

I was pretty pumped when I saw that iMovie added slow motion to their already great app. However, I wasn't as excited as the few PE coaches I talked to who love the ability to apply slow motion to analyze technique. Well here's an even better option for you. It's called Ubersense. Believe me, the app is far better than the name. 

Essentially, Ubersense lets you take video and analyze it using slow motion, add overlays, side by side comparison, and even comparison with a library of professionals and other uploaded examples. It's great. Here's a closer look at some of its features.

This is what the main video screen looks like. The app enables you to either take a video with the app or import an existing video from your camera roll. Once it's in, there are a lot of great features to play around with. Just above the play triangle, you can lift to reveal different playback speeds. Speeds range from real-time down to 1/8. You can also manually move the frames by swiping left and right on the timeline. It allows for very fine adjustments. 

On the right side, you can see the overlay options. You can add circles, straight or curved lines, or angles. When you use angles, it shows the degrees on the screen. Here's a look at my son's arm angle on his downswing. Not bad for the second time at the range. 

Videos can also be narrated. And you can tag your videos by sport or even by the athlete you're working with. 

On to comparison mode. This is when it gets really cool. You can choose to compare two videos, either ones you shot or you can search a library of existing ones. There are lots of videos of professionals and others that have been uploaded by other users. The library is broken down by sport. You'll find weightlifting, golf, gymnastics, hitting, throwing, and even rowing. When you find one that you like, you download it to your device and add it to the project. 

So now I can really get picky with my poor little six-year-old. As you can plainly see from this picture, Reed's arm angle on his takeaway is clearly too great. Look how 2001 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley's arm angle is at 128 degrees. We have a lot of work to do if we're going to get Reed on the President's Cup team in 2028. 

One last thing. Videos can be exported by email, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. However, it took me ten minutes to find those options. So here's your cheat sheet. On your main video page, you'll see a list of your videos. You need to press on the video you want to export and slide your finger to the left. This will reveal the sharing options. Not sure why it's so hidden. Check it out below. 

That's about it for the general overview. Basically, it's a great app. I can see coaches and teachers everywhere getting a lot of use from Ubersense. It just makes sense. Yeah, sorry about that. 

CPS staff: Be prepared for wireless to stop working

If you have been reading your emails recently, you may have noticed a few saying that on December 4 you're going to have to change your Active Directory password. Well, that hasn't changed. But what seems like an innocent little password change can actually have quite a few ripple affects on your accounts and wireless connections. We just went through this in our department as a test. Here's a simple checklist for you:

Basic password change:
  1. You'll be prompted for a new password when you log in to a district PC on December 4th. Actually, I noticed mine wasn't working the night before, so don't be surprised if you can't access your email at home on December 3rd.
  2. It might be a good idea to write your new password down in a safe location until you have trained your muscle memory enough to make it stick. 
iPad wireless password change:
  1. Now you'll need to use your new password to login to the district wireless network. When I opened up my iPad for the first time, this is what I saw.
  2. Enter your new Active Directory password. When I did, the iPad still didn't connect. So I had to go back and perform some basic troubleshooting.
  3. Go to your Settings app and choose Wireless. When I did this, it still wouldn't connect automatically. What I like to try first is to connect to the open CPS-Wireless. Once connected, go back and choose the CPS-Priv. That's when mine hooked up.
  4. If it still doesn't connect, shut down your iPad completely and restart it. That usually does the job. 
  5. Concerning email on the iPad, I didn't need to change anything. Somehow, it must have updated on its own. Like magic. 
Extra points:
  1. If you are also operating a Macbook on the district wireless, you'll need to reattach to the network with your new password as well. My Macbook Pro prompted me for the change. My Macbook Air didn't. So I had to go to my wireless preferences and reinstall the network. 
  2. Also with Macs, or any other device, you may have to change your password on your Mail or Calendar clients in order to get them connected again. 
As always, if you get stuck with anything, ask your friendly media specialist, building technician, partner teacher, or Ken. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

District iPad Managers: Beware!

We've stumbled upon a potentially huge issue with the new iOS7 and iPad ownership. Apparently the days of being able to restore an iPad to factory settings and reassign to a new user are over. There are additional security measures that have been put in place by Apple to help deter theft. Which makes it tougher for us.


You need to revise your procedures for getting iPads back from teachers and staff. As a part of your turn-in process that includes removing the passcode, you have to require the user to go back into their settings and do the following:

  1. Sign out of their Apple ID
  2. Delete their iCloud account in order to remove "Find my iPad". It will prompt you for an Apple ID password to remove it
Doing this will remove the "Find my iPad" feature (and the rest of their account) from the iPad. Then you can do an "erase all content and settings" restore. When you turn it back on, a new user can take over. Otherwise, you'll see a prompt for an Apple ID and then this page:

Monday, November 18, 2013

App Review: Flashcards [+]

There are a ton of flashcard apps out there in the App Store. Finding a good one can be tricky and time-consuming. So to help you out in that process, here's a look at one that I think could be pretty useful in your classroom. It has a flashy name, Flashcard [+], and it's a free download. A shout out to Michael Collins at Battle High School for showing it to me.

First off, don't let the woodgrain throw you off. It's quite a contemporary app. Flashcards lets you easily create multiple decks of cards. All of your decks are easily accessible from their main screen. Simply press once on a deck to open it up and start practicing. Or you can press and hold on the deck in order to access additional features or add cards to your deck.

Creating Cards
One of the best features of this app is the ability to create cards with lots of different components. You can choose to create cards with simple text by either typing it or copy/paste. Or you can insert images along with your text. Or you can draw your own images. With all these options, you can see how it can fit with any age or content area. Students can study based on images they've taken with the camera or found online. They could draw their own images for math or science content. Lots of possibilities. What's more, you can choose to include the picture on the back, front, or both sides of the card.

Enter text alongside your image.
Study Options
Once you have your cards created, then it's time to study. Open up your deck and begin. Your cards will show up. Press the card to flip it over to reveal the answer. Then you can mark the card with "I know". Marking it as "I know" tells the app to show it to you less often. There are options for sorting your cards or filtering them so you can focus on a particular set. One setting lets you view the cards in a movie mode that flips the cards automatically at an interval that you set. Change the size of the card for easier viewing. 

Create Shared Decks
Draw your own shapes for math.
Now all of this is available without an account, which makes me a fan. But teachers (or those impersonating teachers) have access to additional sharing features if you sign in with an account. One of the best pieces for teachers is the ability to create classes to share your decks. When you create a shared deck, you get a link and passcode to email to students. Then they'll have access to the decks you've created for them. It's easy to duplicate decks that you've already created and move those into class folders. You can also share content through Facebook, but that's not something I explored.

That's about it. Overall, I think Flashcards [+] is a great app that I would use with my students. Although study skills are important, I think students creating their own study materials is even more important. This app gives teachers the ability to do both. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

My day as a Battle student

I got the pleasure to spend yesterday with Taylor, one of my former all-star students. She agreed to let me follow her through a full day of classes at Battle High School. Although it certainly knocked her down a rung on the social ladder, Taylor stuck it out and gave me some great insight into what a high school day looks like. Here are some highlights.

Honors Geometry
We started the day with Michael Collins and Honors Geometry. The class had recently started their work on geometric proofs. Mr. Collins had all the technology resources clearly listed on the whiteboard along with directions for the day on the Smartboard. He started the lesson using the Smartboard, but the orientation was way off and we couldn't get the orientation menu to come up. So like all good teachers, he moved to plan B and fired up Doceri to teach the lesson from his iPad. 

My geometry notes
The students knew exactly where to go to get their materials. They were using Notability to quickly and efficiently take notes. The students already had access to class documents through their Google Drive or it was bookmarked on their home screen. I used the posted link to get there. It was impressive to see how they adapted to the speed of the lesson by using copy, paste, and modify to avoid rewriting longer equations. I say it was quick, but I clearly was the only one having issues keeping up. But I was able to cheat a bit by taking pictures of the Smartboard and inserting them into my notes when I fell behind.

Mr. Collins also showed them a nifty app called Flashcards+. I plan to write up a longer review on this app because it has great potential as well. One really cool feature is the ability to insert pictures, either from the camera or drawn by hand, into your flashcards. The students are going to use this app to become more proficient with the tools they need for their proofs.

Honors English/Social Studies Block
Julius Caesar iBook
On to second block. I'll admit that I was a bit apprehensive because Amanda Reddish dropped a bomb on me earlier in the day with the news that I'd be reading lines from Shakespeare in front of the class. She's got the wrong Villasana, that's for sure. But I had the Shakespeare app downloaded and I was able to quickly add a Julius Caesar iBook to my iPad in an attempt to prepare. Just like the old days, but more accessible. So with minutes of Shakespeare prep under my belt, I moved to the front of the room to assume my role as Julius Caesar. It turned out to be a lot of fun. Until I was killed. I should have seen it coming. The iBook was really easy to use. My only complaint was that the text and the play directions weren't clearly differentiated, so that's why I wasn't able to fully deliver my dying words. That's my excuse. But the students were really engaged and were all following along on their devices. Ms. Reddish did a fantastic job of stopping to discuss key moments during the reading. I know this because it helped my understanding a lot. 

For social studies, Michael Fernandez was leading the students through a government simulation. Each student was writing a bill that would be presented to committees next week. He gave them a template earlier in the week and they were using Notability to fill out the bill requirements. I asked Taylor to AirDrop her bill to me so I could see what she was working on. For some reason, we couldn't get my iPad to show up. So we used old-fashioned email instead. 

A look at Taylor's bill
It was authentic use of technology at its best. I asked Taylor some questions about the content of the bill. When she didn't know the answers, it worked so fluently to switch to an internet search, find a relevant site, AirDrop it to her, and discuss what it said. Just so easy, but completely dependent on whether or not a student has access to the information. We would have been stumped were it not for our iPads. Mr. Fernandez made his way around the room to conference with students about their bills and help them determine the next steps to take. No small feat considering there were sixty kids in the room.

I suggested she dump me for lunch and attempt to gain some credibility back with her friends. We met up afterwards.

We headed across the school to Sheri Parker's art classroom. The students have been working on drawing and shading techniques while working on a still life drawing. Most were in various stages of a practice sketch. Ms. Parker took the first part of the class to demonstrate the next step of the process. She expertly connected her iPad to Airserver and then mounted the iPad on a MaxCase Stand. Then she was able to use her iPad as a document camera to show how to create the border for the graded drawing of the still life. It seemed like such a simple task, but it was so powerful to watch in real-time. 

If you'd like an autographed print, let me know.
The rest of the period was time to draw. I got to use some supplies to make my own still life. I was tempted to walk up and take a picture of the model so I could get a closer look. It was quite relaxing to sit in a dimly lit room, listen to music, and sketch. Here's a look at my masterpiece. While I was working, I could envision students taking pictures of their work and organizing their year into a digital portfolio using Evernote or some other app. 

QR code links to videos
Taylor and I headed off to fourth block and physics with Ben Fortel. I learned that we'd be learning about and using GPS. The block started with students passing out papers from earlier in the week. I was impressed to see the sheets were covered with QR codes. I hijacked a paper from a girl sitting nearby and took a look. She explained to me how to use the QR codes (it was sweet, so I pretended to not know anything about QR code). They were links to physics videos that the students watched in order to answer the questions on the sheet. Pretty cool.

GPS Coordinates
We watched a short video about GPS from DNews. It gave a nice overview of how GPS works and the government's plans to upgrade the system. Mr. Fortel then let us know that we'd be going on a scavenger hunt with GPS devices. At this time, I quickly scrambled to try to find a GPS app for my phone. I had no luck, so if you know of a good one, let me know. He listed a series of eight coordinates on the board. The student groups wrote down the numbers and then we proceeded outside. 

We worked our way around the building to find the coordinates. On each coordinate, there was a flag with the answer to a question written on it. The students took turns using the GPS devices. They even found two hidden flags and recorded the coordinates for each. 

And that was the end of the day. It was well worth it and definitely tiring. Gave me flashbacks to the days when I had to stay after school for practices. I guess I was a lot younger then. 

Battle teachers are clearly integrating their resources to support the curriculum. But the best thing about it was that it was completely natural. The students were well taught and had very few questions about how to use the tools. I know that takes a lot of work, but the results are clearly worth it. I learned quite a bit from my time with Taylor. Mostly that Taylor and her classmates are fully capable of learning with the assistance of an iPad, well-trained teachers, and a little good old-fashioned trial and error. And this is after about a month and a half of implementation. I think the Battle iPad pilot is off to a terrific start. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Using Picture in Picture in iMovie

Press the 3 dots to see the overlay options
Oh, yes they did. Amongst a lot of great upgrades to the already awesome app, including slow motion and shared theaters, there is also the addition of an overlay feature. You have several options for overlays: cut-aways, picture in picture, and split screen. Here's the play by play to include them in your next movie.

Inserting an overlay
Go ahead and open up a new movie project. Insert the video you'd like to use as the main video by selecting it in the content area in the upper right. Hit the down arrow to drop it in your timeline. Next, move your scrubber (the white line) to the location where you'd like to insert your overlay. Again, find the clip in your video content area. Select it, but this time, choose the "more" option by pressing the three dots. 

The overlay options, described below.

You'll see four options, described from left to right:

  1. The squiggly line (that's a technical term) will move just the audio from the video to your project. Great if you want to use the audio with a different clip.
  2. The next option is the cut-away option. That means that when you insert the overlay clip, the main video will cut away to show that clip, then come back to the main video.
  3. Next up is the picture-in-picture. Using this overlay will add your clip to the main video. Then you can adjust where you'd like to have the overlay in the frame and even mask it (more to follow). 
  4. Split screen is last. This will let you view both videos at the same time. 
For any of the four options, the video clip will be inserted wherever you left the white line. If the overlay didn't end up where you want it, don't worry. Just move it by pressing and holding the overlay. You'll be able to pick it up and drop it in the correct position. 

Editing your overlay

The picture above is a look at what your timeline will show after you have inserted an overlay. You'll see the overlay sitting on top of the main video. Select it, and you'll see it highlighted in yellow. On the preview screen, you'll see some options open up for you. Press the "move arrows" and you'll be able to resize and reposition the picture-in-picture anywhere on the screen. Choose the magnifier to mask the video by a simple pinch and zoom. 
Reposition and mask options

That's all there is to it. Like anything related to iMovie, you really have to play with it to get good. But think of the possibilities that we now have to augment our students' videos. They can now add news broadcast features, easily combine a voiceover from a different video clip, or compare videos playing side by side. I'm looking forward to seeing what our teachers and students come up with. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Using Notability for Guided Reading

I posted last year about how a high school math teacher was using Notability. Now here's a look at Notability in an elementary setting. 

Midway Elementary's Allison Chostner has a 1:1 iPad fourth grade classroom. She was looking for a way for guided reading to be more efficient for her students. So she started sharing digital materials using her Dropbox account. Now the students open their documents on the iPad, complete the work, and bring the iPads to discussions to share their thinking. Here's the details on how it can work for you. 

First you need to get Notability. It's an app that allows you to import documents from multiple locations, add your own content, then move back to any location you want. It does cost $2.99 (it's available for half-off in the Volume Purchasing Program through Apple). But the benefits far outweigh the cost. Once Notability has been installed on the iPads, you can have the students organize their school lives. Allison had her students create folders for reading, science, and other subjects. Here's what a student iPad might look like.

You can easily have students just create new notes in Notability and save them locally on the iPad. But then you're missing out on the efficiency piece. In the upper right corner, you'll see the action button. Press it, and you'll be able to choose where you want to look for your files. For Allison, it was easy for her to create a Dropbox account just for this purpose. She gave the students the login information so they could access their files. It's a one time step. Enter it as a class, and you're good to go. But you can also use Google Drive, webDav, or Box. Since we have a lot of classrooms using Google Apps for Education, it makes sense for students to login to their personal accounts. Once you're logged in, you'll see all of your files and folders. Choose the one you want and it opens up in a new note.

When you log in to your Drive account in Notability, you can only see your personal folders, not ones that are shared with you. So here's the scenario you'll want to follow if your students have their own Google accounts. First, you'll share a folder with all your students. Then you can create subfolders by subject if you want more organizational control. The students will need to get into their Google Drive app, open the shared folder, and then open the document in Notability. The iPad will flip over to Notability, they create a new note, and they are ready to go. 

Press the little dots in the upper right in order to access the "Open With" option.

Here's an example of a response that students might use for their reading groups. It's just a Google Doc that's been opened in Notability. Students can either handwrite their responses or type. They can easily annotate paragraphs. There's even a recording option available by pressing on the microphone icon. 

My completed reading response that is ready to turn in
Once a student is finished, he or she can even submit their work to you electronically. By choosing the action button in the upper left corner of the note, you can choose a destination. Now, here's the really cool part. If your students already have a folder created that is shared with you, they can drop it straight in. Then you'll have access to their assignments in the Drive app or your Drive account on a computer. So easy. 

Of course, this work flow would work for any subject. Notability lets you add photos, take photos, add webclips or sticky notes. For science, students can find a picture of an object and diagram the parts. Then it can be turned in directly to you from the iPad. You could even complete running records on the iPad, complete with a voice recording and annotation. The possibilities are endless. I hope you try it out!

High School FACS - Amanda Klenke

Amanda Klenke's top 5 apps!
1. Houzz- content specific but allows interior design class to look through thousands of different rooms for inspiration 
2. Room Planner- interior design class specific. Allows users to create floor plans from scratch, to scale, and to decorate with furniture, paint colors, and various floors.
3. Pages- allows students to type, includes word count and spell check. Easy to submit work electronically. 
4. Keynote- perfect PowerPoint replacement. Very easy to figure out.

5. Google Docs/Drive- easy sharing to students, easily accessible, great for collaborating, group work, or brainstorming. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

App Review: MyScript Calculator

Hey, all you teachers of math out there. Here's a nice little app for you to check out. It's called MyScript Calculator and it's a free app. Basically, it lets you use handwriting to write your equations. Then the app transforms your writing and solves your problems. Not all your problems, just your mathematical ones. Here's what you'll see. 

The main screen is very basic. Just write your equation. You don't even need to include the equals sign.

Then MyScript Calculator transforms your handwriting into text and solves. 

So then I got cocky and entered a second equation under the first. As you can see, it got pretty confused. But at least it's honest.

And there are export options. You can easily share your work via Airdrop, email, or Twitter. 

So it's a simple, but effective app. Gotta give a shout to Jill Villasana for showing it to me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Use slow motion in your iMovie videos

I'm loving the new iMovie app. Not only does it have a cool new look, it has some new features that make it easier to use and more functional. My favorite addition so far is the ability to slow down your video. There are all kinds of reasons why you'd want to use this feature. Kids can slow down a video of a process to break down what's happening. They could use it to add drama to a production. Not to mention sports applications. Coaches can dissect why a batter is popping out all the time, demo proper tackling technique, or figure out why I can't hit a fairway. Such possibility. Here's a quick tutorial of how to add slow motion to your video editing arsenal. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Set iPad alarms to guide your day

The clock is probably one of the most under-utilized apps on your iPad. It's sitting there on everyone's screen. But still we ask ourselves, why would I need to use the clock? I can see the time on the top of every screen. Well, here's a reason why.

Alarms. Especially in the elementary realm, teachers want a way to get reminders during the day. There is just so much going on during the course of the day, why not get a little digital assistance? Here's some simple directions for setting your alarms.

First, dust off and open up that clock app. Choose "alarms" from the bottom of the screen. Then press the "+" in the upper right corner to set your first alarm. Set the specific time for your alarm by moving the dials. 

There are options for repeating your alarm as well. You can set them up to play on particular days of the week. You can also label your alarm to specific events like "send Matt to speech" or "time to order lunch". 

Now choose the "sound" option. There's a wide variety of default sounds to choose from. You can also pick a song from your iTunes library. 

When you get it all set, choose "save". It should send you back to a view of the entire week so you can see all the alarms. Kind of a nice reminder of everything you need to do. If you need to change or delete one, choose the "edit" button in the upper left. 

Now you're all set, so to speak. Siri will also set alarms for you if you prefer to command others to do your bidding. You might need to make some adjustments for volume. Small bluetooth speakers could be something to check out if you prefer a noisy room. Or you could try connecting to Airserver to play the sound through your computer or projector speakers.