Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stick Around app

Check out the app "Stick Around" from Tony Vincent and MorrisCooke. Tony's been collaborating with app developers for years, so my first thought was that this app would be beneficial for student learning, easy for teachers to learn, and create a product that's easy to share. As it turns out, I was right. It fits all those categories. If you are a fan of SMART Notebook but want a better price and functionality, then you should give Stick Around a try. 

There's a ton of features to Stick Around. To keep it simple, Stick Around lets students and teachers create projects that are similar to a SMART Notebook file. When you create a new project, you have the option to choose a blank screen or a variety of templates: Venn Diagrams, columns, timelines, sequencing, or vocabulary cards. If you choose to start with a blank project, you have complete flexibility in the background to add just a color, picture, or an image designed in another app. Stick Around also offers complete flexibility to crop, rotate, and resize your background images. And you can add multiple images or draw your own from inside the app.

Lots of templates to get your started.
Once you have designed or chosen your background, you can then add stickers to the project. The stickers serve as the main content interaction piece. Once you have chosen "Stickers" from the menu bar, you'll see a tool pane appear on the right side. Just drag and drop the appropriate sticker on the workspace. Each sticker can include text, image, hyperlink, or even a voice recording. Think of the possibilities with those options. You could include a science vocabulary word complete with a link to content websites. Or students could record pronunciations for their world languages classes.

Another powerful feature of Stick Around is the ability to turn your projects into interactive puzzles. Choose "Answer Key" from the menu bar. If you've chosen a template, the areas will automatically be highlighted as answer areas. Just move your stickers in the area to assign them to that area. If you started with a blank canvas, you can draw your own answer areas to assign the stickers. When completed, touch the export button in the upper right to save your puzzle. If you've made a mistake, you'll get a friendly reminder to help you get it straightened out. 

Easily add images to your background.
Now your puzzle is saved to your iPad. But how do you share it? Easy. There are a number of sharing options you can use: email, DropBox, Google Drive, Explain Everything, or WebDav. Simply select the projects or puzzles and link them up to your account. Then other users of Stick Around can import them and start working. A great tip that Tony offers is to share your "projects" with teachers so they can modify them before sending to students. Then share your completed "puzzles" with students to complete. 

And wait. There's more. If you've shared your projects or puzzles with DropBox or Google Drive, you can distribute them via a link. Include it in your website or create a QR code to send users to your work. Very slick. They will need the Stick Around app in order to use your projects or puzzles. 

Solar System Puzzle. I got Venus wrong.
As you can see, it's a great app. We've all enjoyed apps but still had the "I wish it had this feature" moment. I think Tony's instructional background has helped to eliminate those moments. Several times I thought I found something that I wanted the app to do. Then I found out I could. And to make things very easy for teachers, there's a "help" overlay in the app and extensive tutorials that are accessible from inside the app. 

Currently, Stick Around is $2.99 in the App Store. It's also available in the Volume Purchasing Portal for half price when you buy more than 20 licenses at a time. For those of you who are willing to give up a Starbucks coffee, I think it's worth the investment. For more information, visit the Stick Around website or Stick Around Blog.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Publish with Dragon Dictation

I had the pleasure to meet M last week when I was in her room to help publish feature articles. I sat with her to work on getting her writing formatted. But what I found was really exciting. M is a fantastic researcher and writer. The information she found to answer her student generated questions was focused and spot on. Seriously, impressive for a third grade student. 

But she really struggled with spelling. She could read her own work, and spelling didn't slow her down with her writing. But as a reader, following her thinking was challenging for me. We spent a half hour correcting her work. But what happens when there isn't an adult around to work one on one? I couldn't leave M without a tool. So I mentioned Dragon Dictation to her teacher and begged to come back to show M how to use it to publish her work. Here's what we learned. 

First, we started with her written work. As you can see, it's very organized and ready to go. With M, we learned it was a good idea to read a paragraph at a time to practice fluency. Then we were ready to start the dictation. 

Dragon Dictation is a remarkably simple app which makes it perfect for kids. And adults. The screen shows a list of your previous dictations on the left. Then your workspace is on the right. Tap the screen to start the recording. It's important to speak slowly and loudly. With M, we needed to go back and re-record at times because she was rushing or trailed off at the end. Another great feature of the app is that you can edit directly in the app. When we finished recording a section, M went back and matched up her work from Dragon to the paper and made adjustments when it wasn't correct. Like anything, it's a learning process. Dragon does not insert punctuation, so the student has to go back and add them in. Here is what we ended up with:

As you can see, it's not perfect. But for twenty minutes on an app she opened for the first time, it's pretty good. Dragon lets you export your work in a variety of ways. The route we chose was through simple copy and paste. You can email it, add to your blog, or move to a google doc. 

I learned several things from my first visit with M. First, she was ecstatic to try it out. Second, it takes practice. You can't expect for it to work perfectly the first time. Students will need time to practice their fluency and volume to maximize the effectiveness of the process. Finally, like a lot of kids, M has access to a device at home that she'll likely use tonight to download Dragon Dictation and start using it. I see a lot of possibilities here. 

Blogged from my iPad!