Top 5 Apps You Want On Your iPad (including ‘how to’ video links)

Following a request for my favourite iPad apps, I have included those central to my workflow as an educator. I offer my top 5, with a few suggestions for application of each in the classroom. (Please click on each title for link to video)

DROPBOX

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A cloud based memory store that is available on every internet device. The ability to access information anytime, anywhere is truly powerful in the learning environment. Dropbox can also act as a workflow solution with shared folders between educator and students. A must have app for anyone with an iPad and the first 2GB is free.

EXPLAIN EVERYTHING

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This interactive whiteboard app is a must for learning with an iPad. At its basic level it allows students to record their voice over annotated slides or insert images to collaborate or demonstrate learning. However, Explain Everything can offer many more options for the educator.

Screencasts can be created that are exported to YouTube and shared with students. These can be used to support learning outside the classroom or personalise it for those moving at a different pace. A presentation can be created by a student/group of students to act as a plenary. This can then be shared with the class via email or a shared Dropbox folder.

The latest version of Explain Everything (due at the end of January) includes the ability to import new or existing video. The ability to commentate on video and annotate slides will have implications for many subject areas.

EDMODO

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Edmodo is superb as a tool for peers to interact in a safe secure manner. The ability to question staff and students, when faced with an academic problem, has proved supportive to learning particularly during homework time. This feature is enhanced by the storage of resources in the Edmodo library and interaction with assignments set by the educator.

Then Edmodo added the ability to upload from iPad using the iOS6 function ‘open in app’. This allows you to upload a document to your Edmodo library on an iPad. You can then link the document to a direct post, note or assignment within the Edmodo app. Suddenly Edmodo has become a simple solution to iPad workflow from student to educator. If you add the annotation tool and immediate feedback then Edmodo is a must have app for iPad.

FLIPBOARD

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‘Flipboard turns your Facebook and Twitter account into something that looks like a magazine. It also lets you build a custom magazine, either by choosing from Flipboard’s pre-built curated “boards” or by importing Twitter lists.’

For the educator, Flipboard is a way of keeping abreast of current topics and up-to-date with social media contacts. The ability to export from Flipboard to a Dropbox acoount or email means it can serve as a suitable filter for information. I have begun to use Flipboard more and more as the stream of information increases from many sources.

As a way of collating information, Flipboard has become particularly useful for students. The ease with which they can browse articles and look for balance of opinion on a subject, makes it a useful tool. It can also act as a useful starter and/or plenary for a lesson with the most up-to-date information being displayed. If you have a class twitter account you can also use it to display information from the group and act as a prompt for collaboration.

SOCRATIVE

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‘Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.’

Socrative is an excellent ‘assessment for learning’ tool. An educator set a quiz and have the answers from students graphically represented for feedback and to display if required. This can be done on the spot or educators can pre-load a quiz that can be assessed straight-away. The real power of this app is that it is cross platform which means that students can be on existing desktops or laptops whilst the educator has the iPad at the front of the class displaying results.

This app has become so easy to use that most of my students expect a Socrative quiz at some point in a module. The exit ticket has proved particularly important as the data is immediately available to download and can inform future lesson planning.

I appreciate there are many apps that could be on this list. Please add any app suggestions in the comment section below. Always happy to give them a try 🙂

Why Restrict Who You Follow? The iPad and Twitter Revisited

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It’s a question that I have pondered over recent weeks. There is a growing trend for people to ‘cull’ the amount of people they follow on twitter. Why do they do it?

Context is required here. During my early twitter use, I was the first person to become frustrated by a timeline filled too quickly. The need to see every tweet, in case it was the most important thing in the world, led to me unfollowing anyone who tweeted more than once every couple of hours! Admittedly, I didn’t really understand the social media at the time, but I didn’t want to see so many offerings from one person. How wrong was I?

After realising I didn’t need to see every tweet, I wrote a piece about how a learning network could be developed with the use of an iPad and twitter:

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‘We are all learning together. If you have a problem, your PLN (Personal Learning Network) may be able to solve it. If you are struggling for ideas, there are people to ask. The iPad and twitter make the process easier.

Learning has always been based on exposure to new stimuli, research and communication. Ideas are formulated through external opinion, reflection and conclusion. The availability of these components lead to increased productivity and informed decisions. The iPad and twitter make the process easier.

I, like many others, signed up to twitter as it seemed the pertinent thing to do. I followed a few people, read some tweets and decided it didn’t hold much for me.
Problem number one, I was following the wrong people.
I posted a couple of tweets and had no response.
Problem number two, I had no followers. So I left it.

If I’m honest, I didn’t understand and didn’t make the effort to try. Twitter was for celebrity and of no use. Then, last Christmas with iPad in hand, I decided to tweet to a fellow PE teacher (@MrWickensPE) to ask if there was something I was missing. He suggested I followed the hashtag #ukedchat and see what people were tweeting about. Epiphany time!

For twitter to work you need to follow the right people. As an educator I needed to follow those who contributed to #ukedchat and there I found items of interest (@ICTEvangelist). Not only was it interesting to read the 140 character snippets but also the links that were posted. I was introduced to a range of teaching discussion that stimulated thought. There were blogposts that led to conversations in the staff room and links that could be passed on to colleagues.

As I became more comfortable with the etiquette of twitter I became more involved. Replying to the occasional tweet and posting a link prompted communication and the decision to blog. This is where the iPad came into its own. A mobile interface that allowed access to my resources, with an excellent view of posted links and interactions, meant twitter became part of the daily routine. It happened to coincide with the start of an iPad trial in school and increased confidence that the device should be introduced into the classroom. Sure the research could have been conducted on my desktop, the iPad and twitter simply made it easier and more productive.

Only yesterday a twitter conversation between myself and David Didau, about his superb blog, led to Andy Knill suggesting some tips to help me coupled with a link to his blog. This led to a conversation this morning with a colleague that led to us both feeling much more comfortable with an iPad idea we have been mulling over.

There is no doubt that twitter has changed my approach to learning and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for new ideas and conversation. The iPad has simply made the use of twitter and subsequent workflow manageable.’

On reflection I was just beginning to understand how twitter could help my professional development and that access to educators tweets and links could really help decision making. What I didn’t realise was just how powerful it could become over such a short space of time. Interactions can occur as often as desired on twitter and the ability to ask a question of followers shouldn’t be underestimated. Similarly, following many people allows you to interact with many more individuals who might tweet something you didn’t even know you needed to know!

The success of apps like Stumbleupon, Showyou and indeed YouTube, is predicated on the user finding items of interest they didn’t necessarily know about. Our inquisitive nature leads us to discover new things so why restrict twitter by limiting the amount of people to follow?

I know twitter limits the amount of people an individual can follow, dependent on the followers they have, and there are ratio limitations to consider (thanks to @mikemcsharry for help here). However, these limitations don’t  occur until 2000 ‘follows’. If you aren’t making use of those ‘follows’ surely you are restricting the information you could see? Much like twitter has expanded my professional development, beyond the staffroom and external courses, surely I have learnt more by following larger numbers of tweeters?

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Of course I don’t read my timeline in it’s entirety so I do follow a few rules to help manage the people I follow:

  • I follow educators and other individuals who have a biography of interest.
  • Twitter lists are a must. They group people into areas of interest and allow me to selectively view their tweets. I refresh these lists to stay up to date with regular interactions. (You can link twitter lists with Flipboard to manage your interactions further)
  • I don’t follow too many companies/businesses unless I use their product. This helps reduce the spamming element of a timeline.
  • I don’t tend to follow people with an egg for an avatar or no biography in case they are spam.
  • I unfollow anyone who hasn’t tweeted in over a month to make sure I stay within the ratio limit.

As I see it, these simple steps offer me the best of two worlds. Twitter lists filter the people I interact with on a regular basis so I can see anything they have tweeted at my leisure. My timeline can then be perused at any time as a wealth of information and interactions I might want to look into. If I only followed a hundred or so tweeters then I believe I would restrict a learning network for no real reason.

I realise that this post is more relevant for those people who have used twitter for a period of time and are comfortable with the etiquette and ‘unwritten rules’. In fact, I advocate starting small when anyone asks about twitter use, as it can be overwhelming. The use of twitter clients, such as Tweetbot, has made the twitter experience more manageable and I can recommend finding a client that suits your use.

I would be very interested to read any views on ‘twitter culling’ and if restricting ‘follows’ has helped your social media experience.

Edmodo is THE iPad Workflow Solution

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The world of iPad workflow just got a whole lot easier. After months of ‘work arounds’ involving screenshots, Dropbox and pre-tablet technology, the latest Edmodo update has changed the game.

Put simply, you can now use the iOS6 function ‘open in app’, to open a document in Edmodo. This allows you to upload a document to your Edmodo library on an iPad. You can then link the document to a direct post, note or assignment within the Edmodo app.

Lets look at an example to illustrate how easy this has made the sharing of assignments for a student and an educator. I’ll use Pages as an illustration as that is the most common word processing package on the iPad.

Once the student has completed their document they should tap on the share and print option in Pages and then tap on ‘open in app’.

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They should then select open in Edmodo and choose a file type to share – I can recommend the ‘Word’ option as this works well with the Edmodo annotation tool.

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This will upload the document to the student’s library (Backpack). They then have the option to attach it to the appropriate assignment or post as directed by the educator.

The rest of the process is then the same as the educator can annotate and grade the assignment on any web based device including the iPad. As soon as the document is closed, all annotations are available to view by the student.

This process really is a game changer for any institution using iPads as an educational tool. The 1:1 environment is now supported by a simple workflow solution and the class set of iPads has an easy means of sharing competed classwork. Having spent many hours with fellow educators trying to decide on the most effective workflow solution I am very glad this update is available. The added bonus lies in the Edmodo interface and the ease with which students and educators alike can interact in a social learning environment.

The beauty of Edmodo is that it is a free platform and it now stands as the class leader ahead of some paid options that had the potential to fulfill the workflow solution (plus this is a free workflow VLE).

These apps are currently supported by the ‘Open in Edmodo’ option and are in common use in iPad environments. Please let me know if you discover any more useful examples and I will add them to the list.

Dropbox, Pages, Notability, Keynote, Numbers, Comic Life, Writing Kit, CoachesEye, Ubersense, Book Creator, iFiles

Paddling the Learning Pool – 8 Tools That Changed My Teaching

There’s a lot going on.

Educators seem overloaded with initiatives and expectations. Students appear weighed down by assessment and intervention. The profession is under attack by a swathe of politicians and their ‘bright’ ideas. Bad press outweighs good. It can feel like there is too much to do and not enough time to do it in, so I asked myself: how can I improve?

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is indeed ‘madness’ but rarely, in education, is there an opportunity to make sweeping changes. However, a device has transformed the way I work and made possible a number of things I wish I had the courage to alter years ago.

Now, before you think this is just an advert for an iPad, I must add that I am merely writing about my experience to illustrate how I have been able to change the way I do things. This post is not intended to preach or convert. Rather it is an opportunity to reflect on an a year of radical adjustments to my working practice.

Assessment

Three tools have made a huge difference to the feedback my students receive.

Socrative – A free e-clicker that is regularly used to assess student progress. This simple AfL tool can be pre-loaded with questions or used as a spot check for groups or individuals. An exit ticket can be set as a plenary option with student answers immediately emailed to a linked account.

Dropbox – The cloud based memory store, enables students to hand-in work through a shared folder option. These shared folders receive the work that can then be opened in another app, suitable to annotate the work, by the educator. When the assessment has been completed, the document is simply saved back to the shared Dropbox folder where the student can view the annotations.

Edmodo – Alongside the ability to submit work, the Edmodo platform has the advantage of incorporating a secure social network and a library of resources. Consequently, students can interact with peers or the educator to ask questions of their assignments and access information that has been uploaded to support their learning. Again any uploaded assignments can be annotated within the Edmodo platform and feedback immediately received by the student.

These tools have had a profound effect on the way I assess and how the students receive it. The impact of the  change in the usual timeline of submitted work must not be underestimated. Submission, assessment and return all happens between lessons without the need for face to face contact. Consequently it informs next lesson planning and enables student correction much closer to final completion.

In the Classroom

There are a number of subject specific apps that have found their way into my classroom but there are a few generic tools that are consistently used.

Multimedia camera – From simple image capture to edited movie, the iPad camera has become integral to the learning process. Creating and sharing resources has imagery at its core and the recent improvements to the  camera specifications are a blessing. Add iMovie to this and you have a very powerful tool.

Apple TV – The ability to display the iPad screen of any student has had a significant impact on the ethos of the classroom. There is an increased pride in work, knowing that there is a chance it might be displayed to the rest of the class at any point. The wireless connection also serves to compare creativity and stimulate debate. (In a traditional PC classroom the same could be said of the Reflector or AirServer app.)

Explain Everything – Of all the interactive whiteboards that are available for the iPad, Explain Everything has the most impressive functionality and sharing options. As well as being a medium for student creation and explanation, it also serves as a tool to personalise learning. The ability to create resources, with different audio attached to slides, means students can receive different instruction/questions/prompts. For those students who are not quite grasping initial concepts, it is a simple task to send them a link to an Explain Everything creation to help them (headphones are useful here). Similarly, you can really stretch the minds of those students who are desperate to discover more.

Resources

Gone are the days of photocopying and filing cabinets. The tools below have enabled me to streamline my productivity and function in a manner more conducive to my students’ way of learning.

Evernote – I often refer to Evernote as a virtual filing cabinet or my memory digitally mapped. With the ability to Tag notes and create folders, Evernote serves as a store of everything I need as an educator and is available across platform. For more help with Evernote it is well worth looking at the work of @thenerdyteacher who has conducted a fantastic Evernote experiment.

YouTube – Having your own Youtube account enables you to store all sorts of multimedia resources for free. The creation of a link that can be passed to your students also makes it a very efficient way to share information or created screencasts/movies. On top of this, it is very important to ask students to create ‘educational’ YouTube accounts. This means that all the new ‘work’ they create has a visual medium to facilitate sharing between peers and the educator. Coupled with iMovie learning with YouTube as a creativity medium is very powerful.

Dropbox – Another mention for my cloud based memory store. The ability to upload/download to and from Dropbox is prevalent in the most popular apps. This means any resources can be accessed from any device at any time and has proved invaluable. I often find myself demonstrating the functionality of an iPad by accessing my Dropbox account to display resources via Apple TV.

The power of these tools lies in their immediacy and accessibility. The iPad is part of my working practice because it complements the way I educate and how I want my resources to be available. If we add in the ability to assess/feedback to students in a more effective manner for their learning then we have a tool that is making a significant impact.

I must reiterate that these tools work for me as an educator who has access to a strong wireless network and students who have embraced the technology alongside the learning. We have used many, many apps at different stages in our learning and feedback from students has been very important when deciding on their effectiveness. However, the ability to create, share and feedback with such ease has meant we have been able to continue happy in the understanding that learning is the most important thing.

I’m just glad I made the effort to change.

iPad v iPad Mini – I’m a Teacher and I would choose…

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There are more and more options available to educators who want to use tablet technology in the classroom. From class sets to 1:1 programmes, heavyweight companies are trying to grab their piece of the pie.

Apple have emerged as market leaders with an intuitive operating system supported by a burgeoning app store. Many people are seduced by their clever marketing and advertising campaigns. However, beyond the hype, the iPad is currently the best tablet for education (cost aside!). Or is it?

The release of the iPad Mini has further muddied the waters when it comes to choosing appropriate technology to enhance learning. If your institution is going to buy into new technology which tablet should you choose? Here are the positives for the iPad Mini and the 4th Gen iPad and, I promise, a conclusion at the end!

iPad Mini

  1. Portability – The iPad Mini is less than half the weight of its bigger brother and ‘just about’ fits in the palm of one hand (although it isn’t comfortable for long periods of time). It makes little difference when slipped into a bag and is clearly an excellent travel device for consumption.
  2. Usability – The rise of ‘two-thumb’ typing is not lost on the iPad Mini when replying to an email or composing that blog post. When held in two hands the touchscreen keyboard lends itself to the ‘two-thumb’ technique and the screen is large enough to cope with text scroll. It should be noted that a number of users have taken to increasing the default font size of the iPad Mini, available in the accessibility option in general settings. The relatively light weight of the iPad Mini also suits presentation delivery and will be very useful for those educators who are at the front of the class for long periods of time.
  3. Desirability – Not something I would associate with a choice of device but judging by commentary on social media sites, the iPad Mini is a very desirable product. It will be interesting to see, after the Christmas boom, if the iPad Mini is quite so sought after. I’m not sure educators need to be cool!?!?
  4. Functionality – iOS6 works well with the iPad Mini and means that app developers can optimise their products for its screen. If you add the battery life and camera options then you have great functionality with a smaller device. The front-facing HD camera for Facetime video chat is a nice touch.
  5. Cost – This might be the most important factor in education. At around £270 the ipad Mini is over £100 less than its big brother and this is very significant when talking about class sets or 1:1 programmes. A saving of £4000 when purchasing 30 tablets is going to make any administration think twice and the introduction of the iPad Mini might just be for this purpose. A cheaper alternative to the iPad?

iPad (4th Gen)

  1. Retina Display – A bigger factor than you might at first think. With the iPad Mini essentially delivering the same experience as the iPad2, the lack of a Retina display is key. I appreciate we are talking ideal world here, but you do notice slightly blurry text and poor imagery on non-retina display. You can also add the enhanced display works much better outside the classroom in broad daylight.
  2. Processing Chip – It seems strange that a teacher would refer to A5 or A6 processing chips. However, you only have to compare devices with the slower and faster chips to see the difference. If you are investing money in new devices processing speed is a factor. For a demonstration compare an iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5 when web browsing.
  3. Creativity – The iPad’s major selling point in the classroom. I have discussed, at length, that the way to truly enhance learning with new technology is to engage the students with creation not consumption. Challenging individuals to collaborate and create allows for the guided discovery that embeds learning.
  4. Screen size/App Function – Whilst many applications are based on the consumption of material, the majority of educational apps are based on student interaction. The larger screen size encourages that interaction and suits the pooling of resources into one whiteboard display or mind map. The major advantage over the iPad Mini can be seen when observing students sharing the device and show each other their work.
  5. Resource Creation – I reach for the iPad when I want to create something for a class or student. When bringing together resources or annotating student work the iPad is the most suitable device. Again it comes down to screen size but I rarely find myself ‘pinch-zooming’ on the iPad to check my work. The screen is optimised for the user to create and it doesn’t disappoint.

CONCLUSIONS

  • If you already own an iPad 2, 3 or 4 I wouldn’t buy the iPad Mini until it is released with a Retina display
  • If you don’t own an iPad then the iPad Mini is very suitable for a teacher to trial its potential use in the classroom
  • If you are looking to buy a class set of tablet devices to enhance learning then the iPad is the most appropriate choice. If cost is a factor then the iPad Mini is a suitable alternative
  • If you are a teacher with a laptop then the iPad Mini may well suit your needs as it works very well as a presentation device – buy the iPad for your students!

Personally, I am going to stick with my iPad and wait for the iPad Mini to be released with a faster processing chip and Retina display. But that’s because I’m picky . .