Tag Archives: iPad

3 Google App Hacks for the not so 1:1 iPad Classroom

I love the collaborative aspect of Google Drive, but with a classroom of varying numbers and age levels of students and 10 iPads I’ve had to learn to be a bit creative when it comes to using Google activities with my students.  The release of specific apps for iOS such as Slides and Sheets is still problematic when you are not in a 1:1 environment since a login is required to access the files.  And some of the features that look great on other devices won’t work on iPads in a browser – even in Chrome.  Here are a few “workarounds” I’ve developed that some of you might also find useful:

  • Docs are an easy way to share website links with classes. For example, I created a Google Doc called, “Websites for Class.”  I made it public, opened it on each iPad, and sent the shortcut to the iPad home screen.  Now I can change the links any time, and the students can click on them without needing to type in URL’s.  (Sure, you can use a bookmarking site, Google Classroom, or even apps like Chirp to share links, but this simple solution has streamlined the process immensely.)  If you think you are going to want to keep those links for future use, make a copy before you change to new links and save the copy with the title of whatever theme the old links shared (“Optical Illusion Sites,” for example).
  • Create a “generic” G-mail account to use Sheets.  The new Sheets are currently not editable on an iPad browser.  I learned this the hard way.  My students use Sheets for checking in at centers (using the above method, but with a spreadsheet) but that suddenly stopped working.  The files work great in the Sheets app, but I didn’t want to have each student log in since multiple students share iPads – or have my own account permanently on the iPads. So, I made a “generic” account. This G-mail account is used for the sole purpose of sharing documents on my iPads.  All of the iPads are already logged into that account, so the students do not have to do anything but open the app and find the appropriate Sheet.
  • Make a Google Site to share Forms that you change frequently.  This is a bit more advanced.  You can also use a Google Site to share links that you change frequently (but the Doc method described above takes a lot less steps!).  Once you make a free Google Site, you can just click on the html button and embed the code for your form.  Be sure to click inside the Google Gadget area to get the settings button at the bottom and add a scroll bar.  Otherwise, your students may only be able to see part of the form on the iPad.  Add your Google Site to the Home Screen of every iPad and you can then share whatever you want the students to access with a tap on the icon.

Do any of you have Google App iPad hacks?  Please share!

image from speedofcreativity.org
image from speedofcreativity.org

 

More Ideas for Pic Collage

I had a great time at the end of last school year allowing the students to use the Pic Collage app on the iPads to create mini-yearbooks using pictures from our class blog.  There are many uses for the app, and I’m pretty sure that I have yet to use it to its full potential.

Using Pic Collage to summarize your favorite moments from the school year
Using Pic Collage to summarize your favorite moments from the school year

At a recent PD about using apps for creating, one of my colleagues, Camala Rose-Turnage, suggested using the app for a fraction study. Students could take a group of pictures, of which only some have a certain thing in common (such as the color red), and then other students could figure out the fraction.  Awesome!  Besides the fact that I had never heard an idea like this before, I could see a lot of potential for differentiation.  Some students might choose obvious traits for their groups, such as color or shape; others might select something more abstract, such as objects that are used for particular activities (recess toys) or ones that all start with a certain letter.  The fractions might vary in complexity, too.  You could have some students portray fractions that could be reduced, or even – depending on the Pic Collage layout – mixed numbers.

Speaking of math, here is a post showing how students can use Pic Collage to create their own math reviews.  And here are some other ideas that could be used in a primary classroom.

Pic Collage is also great for app-smashing.  Use it with Thinglink and Aurasma for an awesome interactive poster.  You can find a ton of Pic Collage app-smashes on this Pinterest board by Holly Inniger.

What’s your favorite way to use this versatile app?

DragonBox Elements

I don’t often recommend paid apps on this blog.  One reason is that they are difficult for many educators to obtain for their classroom, as I outlined in yesterday’s post.  Another reason is that I feel that many of the paid apps have features that can be found in other free apps. However, every once in awhile, I run across a paid app that I think is unique and worth sharing.

I was recently given a promotional code for DragonBox Elements, and decided to test it out.  Previously, I had reviewed another app by the same company, DragonBox Algebra 5+, for AppoLearning.  (DragonBox 12+ is also available for older students, but I have not tried that one.) I was very impressed by the app, and have recommended it to parents who have young students with a high interest in math.

DragonBox Elements, like the Algebra apps, is designed to teach math “secretly.”  The Elements version teaches Geometry (I think they should change the name, as “Elements” made me think that it was a science app), and is aimed at students from 9-11.

DragonBox Elements - a Geometry app for ages 9-11 available here
DragonBox Elements – a Geometry app for ages 9-11 available here

The app accommodates up to 4 different players (individually, not at the same time), and has three levels of difficulty.  As advertised, it slowly guides you through basic geometric concepts by playing a game.  After learning to identify different types of triangles and quadrilaterals, the player begins to “prove” geometric characters into existence. For example, if one is given a triangle that shows two congruent angles, then there must be two congruent sides – making it an isosceles triangle.

None of the concepts are explicitly taught.  My daughter, who is 11, had the main complaint that she didn’t feel that she was learning anything.  However, when I asked her to explain her actions on a level, she basically gave me the steps of a geometric proof.

Like DragonBox Algebra, DragonBox Elements is a good app to recommend to parents who want to give their children an entertaining, educational app.  I think it definitely helps if there is an adult who can ask some guiding questions to aid the child in verbalizing what he or she has learned.

All of the DragonBox games are available on all mobile platforms here.  You can also find teaching resources on the site.

Why I’m Upset with Tellagami

I’m afraid that this is going to be a venting post.  I try to use this blog to share resources and to, hopefully, inspire.  But one of the resources that I’ve shared quite a bit on this blog has sorely disappointed me, and I feel that I need to express this.

Some people may have the idea that educators are cheap and that we do not like to pay for apps.  The first part is not true, at least in the case of most teachers that I know.  We spend a lot of our own money on resources for our classrooms every year.  However, it is correct that we do not like to pay for apps.  This is not because we balk at spending a dollar or two here and there.  If I could, I would probably spend at least $100 a year on apps for my classroom.  And that doesn’t even include the iTunes gift cards that I receive from parents. But I can’t.  This is mostly because of the following reasons:

  • Many of us do not control what we can purchase for our tablets. In some districts, teachers must propose an app to a committee and wait for approval.  In many, apps are only purchased if they serve the need of many classrooms – so an individual teacher request is usually not honored.
  • The Volume Purchasing Program is not very user-friendly and, as I mentioned in my first bullet, most of us don’t have access to it.
  • We cannot buy in-app purchases on campus.
  • It is very frustrating to spend money on purchasing an app in bulk, and then find out that it either doesn’t work because of school district filtering or it does not serve the needs of our students.
  • I can only use gift cards on my personal iPad  – which I do.  I let my students use it quite a bit because of this, keeping my fingers crossed each time that it doesn’t get dropped or broken since it has my entire life on it.

That being said, I understand that app developers need to make money.  To be honest, I’m not sure how that works.  There are some free apps that I have been using for years, and I picture their developers eating Ramen noodles every night.  However, there are other apps that started out free and then they weren’t.  And then there are the ones that stay free, but force you to update to a version that is missing most of the features you had before – like Tellagami.

I don’t mind that Tellagami decided to add a paid version to its offerings.  They have even been kind enough to provide an Edu version so that we do not have to worry about in-app purchases.  The Edu version looks pretty great – with a couple of features that Tellagami did not have before.

What I mind is that the free version to which I was forced to update because my old free version no longer worked suddenly has 0 of the features that my students loved about it and made it unique.  They enjoyed customizing the character and background, and they really loved the text-to-speech.  You can no longer do this with the free version.

In addition, the change was made over the summer.  Many teachers will return to school with the intention of using Tellagami the way they did last year and may not even discover the changes until they have an entire class of students trying to use the app.

I also mind that I now need to go back to any of my old blog posts from the last year that referred to these free features and revise them to reflect the change.

I mind that a creation tool that had become a favorite and was used on a regular basis in my classroom last year is now suddenly useless.

If anyone would have asked me (and they obviously didn’t), I would have recommended to Tellagami to keep the free version exactly the way it was with a pop-up offering the Edu version.  The Edu version could offer more customization options and, as it does now, the new features of doodling and extra backgrounds.

Because Tellagami allowed me to use the free version for an entire school year, and then took away practically all of the reasons I had for using it, they have lost my loyalty to their product.

UPDATE: Here is a response that Tellagami has posted to address the concerns of educators.  I still maintain that, by retracting many of the features that were available on the free version, they have betrayed those of us who had become accustomed to using the app.

UPDATE #2: I just ran across another blog post by an educator (Meghan Zigmond) who is also disappointed with the changes Tellagami has made.  She pointed out another reason to find fault with the recent switch to a paid app.  It is $4.99 for educators – and there is no discount for volume purchasing.

 

ScratchJr

I have been eagerly waiting the release of the ScratchJr app for the iPad this summer.  It became available on Tuesday, and I spent part of Wednesday playing around with it.

ScratchJr is a free iPad app that is designed to introduce programming to kids ages 5-7.  It is, of course, intended to acquaint students with the Scratch programming language – a block type programming that was developed by M.I.T. and is available for free at this link. (You can use it online or download the software.)

As school hasn’t started for me yet, I haven’t been able to put this app in the hands of students to see their reaction.  I am curious to watch my younger students who have not been exposed to Scratch explore the app.  Many of them have used Hopscotch, Daisy the DinosaurKodable, and Robot Turtles, so the concept of programming won’t be completely foreign to them.  However, my plan is to give them as little information as possible to see what they discover on their own.

The interface seems fairly simple.  The question mark allows you to find sample projects and watch an introductory video.  In my opinion, the intro video should be broken into parts.  Even though it’s less than 4 minutes, I think young students will find it too overwhelming to watch the entire video in one sitting – particularly if they have never done any type of block programming.

Clicking on the house icon will take you to the project screen, where you can add new projects or edit others you have saved.  The book icon (back on the home screen) gives you information about the program, including guides to the different icons in the program.

ScratchJr screen shot

For more information, you can visit the ScratchJr website.  There are a few materials available for teachers at the moment, and I’m sure more will be added as the project gains momentum.

So far, there does not seem to be a way to share projects created in ScratchJr with an online community as there is with Scratch and Hopscotch.  However, projects can be viewed full screen, and I am sure that you can project them if you have AirPlay or other means of iPad projection in your classroom.

If you are new to programming, I highly recommend the tutorials on the Hour of Code website.  However, do not let your lack of knowledge keep you from bringing it into the classroom.  I promise you that I know very little, and that is actually a benefit.  It keeps me from helping my students too quickly, and they learn from struggling and solving problems on their own.

Also, even if programming is not in your curriculum, apps like ScratchJr are great as a creation tool.  Students can use it to tell stories, explain math problems, etc…  Not every student will embrace ScratchJr, but once you have introduced it to your class, it could be one of many choices for assessment that allows them to use their creativity.

Here are some more resources for Programming for Kids if you are interested.

 

 

pixel-press-paper

PixelPress Floors

PixelPress first came to my attention when I discovered its Kickstarter campaign last year.  Unfortunately, I came across it after it was too late for me to back it.  Then, a couple of months ago, Drew Minock (Two Guys and Some iPads) mentioned that the Floors app was available for a free download on the iPad.  I immediately went to the PixelPress site and found the free Sketch Guide and Blank Sketch Sheet.

PixelPress Floors
PixelPress Floors app (now available on iPhone, too!)

“What?” you may ask, “Why do you need a sheet of paper for an app?”

Well, my friends, that is the beauty of the PixelPress Floors app.  If you have an iPad 3 or above, then you can take advantage of the drawing option.  You can actually draw a video game on the piece of paper provided, scan it with the app, and then play the game.  No programming necessary.

Don’t fear if you do not have the iPad 3 or above.  PixelPress just released an iPhone version of Floors which, along with the earlier iPads, works with a “Draw In-App” feature.

I introduced Floors to my students a few weeks before the end of school.  It became the new go-to favorite app for creating in my class.  The students loved using the Sketch Guide to create their games, and were eager to play each other’s to give constructive feedback.  As they wrote their games and edited them, I could hear a lot of mumbling and discussion about why things weren’t working and how to solve the problem.

PixelPress is very interested in coordinating with the Education community.  They have several posts on their blog that show the use of Floors in classrooms.  Teachers and parents can sign up for an education mailing list, and can also visit the Education Portal.  You can view a recent interview that Drew Minock and Brad Waid from Two Guys and Some iPads did with Katie Burke from PixelPress here. One intriguing use of the game in a classroom setting is to create a graphic novel using ComicLife and screen shots of the game, as you can see on this blog post from Porchester Junior School.  (You can see the comic here.

Download Floors while it’s still free (there are some in-app purchases, but there are plenty of things you can do in the free version).  Playing video games can be fun – but making them is even more entertaining!

Adobe Voice

Screen shot from the Adobe Voice presentation of a group in my 5th grade GT class.
Screen shot from the Adobe Voice presentation of a group in my 5th grade GT class.  Inspired by this quote.

A couple of weeks ago, Adobe released a new iPad app called, “Adobe Voice.”  It reminds me a bit of Microsoft’s Photo Story – a free piece of software that allows you to create a video out of images.  Like Photo Story, Adobe Voice allows you to add photos, text, narration, and music.  However, it does give more options for where you can find your photos.  You can do a Creative Commons search, use your own, or even choose from a library of icons that is provided. I imagine the Creative Commons search is where the 12+ rating comes from on the iTunes store.  However, my students didn’t run into any inappropriate images during their projects.

The first group to use Adobe Voice in my classroom was a pair of my 3rd grade GT students.  They were trying to synthesize one of the ideas they had brainstormed for solving the problems of noise and mess in the cafeteria.  After consulting with a couple of “expert” principals, they realized that we were lacking some student leadership in the lunch room, and created this presentation to pitch a proposal to our principal for having student monitors during meal times.

They were under a time constraint, so they did not delve into many of the creative features of the app, but they got their message through quickly and effectively.

Last Thursday, I met with my 5th grade GT students for the final time.  Because they have been with me once a week for two years, I wanted to get a sense from them of what they felt was the one “takeaway” they got from being in my classroom.  (In Kaplan language, this is called the “Big Idea.”)  I gave them full freedom to cull through my Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations. I asked them to choose one that they thought exemplified the message I wanted them to carry with them for the rest of their lives.  Then they were asked to create an Adobe Voice presentation built around that message, giving examples to support it.  Here are a couple of their videos (unfortunately, embed codes for Adobe Voice do not work on this WordPress blog):

“Make” – The students used pictures: from their Genius Hour presentations, of their Character Trait Floor Plans, of MaKeyMaKey, a project from our Global Cardboard Challenge, a drawing from our Squiggle Challenge, and of Cubelets.

Change the World” – This one came from the pair of students who created the Lego Stop Motion film and scavenger hunt/quiz for Genius Hour.

You can view all of the presentations on our class blog post.  I loved the variety, and the multitude of perspectives.

A couple of things you should note if you are using Adobe Voice:

  • You will need an Adobe (or Facebook) account to login in order to upload your videos.
  • You can share the videos through e-mail and social networks, but there does not appear to be a way to download the video to your camera roll or to export the file.
  • In order to embed the video in a blog post, you will need to access it online once it is uploaded, and then get the embed code (also, the free WordPress hosted sites will not work with the embed code).
  • Check to see if the image search is blocked by your district filter.  If so, students will need to have images ready on their camera roll or to be able to take pictures while creating.

Here are a couple of other online articles about Adobe Voice: from CNet,  from EBHS Professional Learning.