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Posts tagged ‘ipads in education’

iPads are the problem, not the solution

At the recent EdTechTeacher iPad Summit held in Atlanta, Greg Kulowiec asked a simple question:

Is the iPad a solution or problem?

It’s a great question. There are tons of people jumping on the iPad bandwagon and I’ve suggested before that many of them are hopping on with their eyes closed. It’s a shiny tool that attracts a lot of attention. But is all of the attention a good thing? Greg says maybe not: Read more

Latest iPad app favs

Love the people. Dislike the travel.

It’s the short version of my summer. Working with teachers and educators around the country, talking about iPads and social studies and Common Core and . . . well, lots of different stuff. And I always enjoy meeting and have conversations with some incredible folks. Just not a big fan of airport security and delayed flights and rental car companies and . . . well, lots of stuff.

But it just hit me that I haven’t shared any of my latest iPad app favorites that I’ve discovered this summer. Today, five apps that I’ve been playing with lately that I really like.

Okay, six. Sort of. Because AirServer isn’t an iPad app, it’s a piece of software that you install on your wireless computer. Using the iPad’s AirPlay feature, you can then mirror your iPad to your computer – which, of course, you hook to a projector and now you’ve got yourself a very inexpensive version of Apple TV. (Apple TV is the best way to go but many schools haven’t made the financial decision to have these in classrooms so . . . )

I use AirServer all the time. Very handy for demos, for student work, and for using apps that everyone needs to see.

National Parks by National Geographic
A beautiful, and interactive guide to twenty of the most-visited U.S. national parks. Each park guide has all the information you’ll need to know before you go: local time, weather, how to get there, when to go, where to camp or stay, what to do, what to see, and so much more. You can use the app to study regions, geographic features, map skills, impact of humans on the environment, environmental history, really just about anything in a geography class. You find:

  • Global and interactive map views with filtering by activity and seasonality
  • Personalized user space to track your favorite parks, activities, itineraries, photos, and more
  • Thousands of points of interest, all tagged with GPS coordinates for easy planning and locating
  • The top must-sees and must-dos for each park

The app itself is free as is your first detailed park guide. (Even without the detailed guides, the app has tons of stuff.) After that, it’s $1.99 per guide.

Based on the HistoryPin online tool, their mobile app is a way for people to come together, from across different generations, cultures and places, to share small glimpses of the past and to build up the huge story of human history. It llets you discover windows into the past by seeing and interacting with the history all around you.

The app reveals photos near your current location and allows you to view them layered over the modern scene in front of you. You can also explore Collections of some of the best old photos from around the world, wherever you are.

You can add your own piece of history and pin it to the map, too, by using your phone to digitise an old photo, capture a modern moment of historic importance, or take a modern replica of a photo on the app.

Maplets is the perfect compliment to Google Maps: You can download and store maps of national parks, state parks, metro, subway, bike maps, ski resorts, college campuses, zoos, theme parks and more! Works on both iPad, iPhone, and iPod. Perfect for field trips, perfecting map skills, learning more about regions, human geography, etc.


  • Every map download is free, with a continually updated source of maps.
  • High Resolution – Maps can be as high resolution as 10000×10000
  • Once maps are downloaded, they are stored on the device for quick access even if you have slow or no internet connection at the location.
  • GPS location for supported maps
  • Organize your maps into folders
  • Hotlinks to get up-to-date information such as weather, snow report

iCardSort is an excellent brainstorming tool that helps you to visually organize ideas quickly and easily.  Perfect for the Word Sorts vocabulary strategy, iCardSort allows you to group, order, and explore your possibilities.  Can be used as a presentation tool, by groups of students, or individually. Kids can create their own Word Sorts

This handy app features 25 graphic organizers for students to use to organize their thinking while reading or preparing to write. Covers all common comprehension skills: cause /effect, main idea/detail, sequence events, pro/con, story elements, characterization, word meaning, plot, KWL and much more. Kids can save to their finished work to the iPad or email them to you.  Have kids use it to organize notes while reading or as a pre-write activity. Basically, anything you use graphic organizers for now can be done on Tools4Students with the added advantage of anywhere/anytime access.

Reflection gets even sweeter & now has competition

Several months back I wrote about a sweet little piece of software that let you mirror / airplay your iPad (or iPhone) to your computer. Called Reflection, the software let you mirror your iPad screen via an HDMI or VGA projector.

Rather than spending $100 on an Apple TV that many district tech admins hate because it doesn’t play nice with their servers, you could spend $20 and get basically the same mirroring effect.

Well, it just got sweeter.

One of the problems with earlier versions of Reflection was that it was Mac friendly only. In fact, it only worked on Lion. But . . . wait for it.

It now also works on Windows XP or better and any Apple system 10.6.8 or better.


You can download a free trial and check it out. But I’m pretty sure you’ll like it. It’s drop dead simple to use. Make sure that your computer and iPad are on the same wireless network. Slide your iPad’s multi-task bar all the way to the left and tap the Airplay button. Select your computer from the list and turn on the Mirroring button.

You can password protect access in the software’s preferences to keep the kid in the back of the class from hijacking your presentation.

There is a “full screen” option that will simply put the frame on a grey background instead of your desktop. This allows Reflection to function as a full-screen app in OS X rather than having the iPad’s screen fill the Mac’s entire display. You can also select different resolutions and frames.

But wait! There’s more.

There is another option. AirServer, a very similar type of software, recently came out and offers exactly the same sort of service. Airplay via a wireless network directly to your computer, allowing you to mirror your mobile device over a projector.

So. Comparisons.

AirServer is cheaper by a dollar – 14.99 to 15.99. But if you’re downloading to a PC, AirServer drops to $7.99. Plus AirServer offers a better selection of educational prices. AirServer seems a bit more stable and seems to play nicer with a wider range of apps. But Reflection seems to do better at not falling behind when trying to mirror graphic intense apps. Both tools give you the freedom to roam around the classroom untethered and to let your kids connect to the projector quickly and easily. (I especially like how you can now use your iPad or iPhone as a very powerful document camera!)

But I’m going with AirServer because it fills my screen completely. It just looks better. But you’ll want to test drive each of them yourself. At $15 bucks, you really can’t go wrong either way.

The How of iPads: Lessons and implementation

Earlier this week, I posted a few thoughts about the Why of iPads and a few thoughts about How to screw up iPads. I think a lot of schools are jumping on the iPad wagon, not because they believe that iPads will improve learning but simply because other schools are doing it.

There’s no real thought to their purpose. And sometimes, even if the Why has been thought through, there’s not much discussion about the How of effective deployment and use.

So today a few thoughts and resources to help understand the How.

1. Start by asking some good questions:

  • Are there times to share best-practices?
  • How will you measure whether iPads are successful?
  • What is the curriculum vision for the  iPads? Does it align with the school’s mission?
  • How can you involve parents?
  • Do you have enough wireless bandwidth?
  • Do you have enough access points?
  • Will students be allowed to take the iPads home?
  • What AUP will you use?

2. Give teachers an iPad to play around with long before kids get them. Playing is good, it’s how the brain learns. Don’t think that because your teachers have used computers before, that this is the same thing. It’s not.

3. Teachers need the iPad accessories. A good case is essential – and let the teacher pick the case. A VGA dongle is a no-brainer. Many teachers prefer using a stylus.

4. Even better than a VGA dongle is a HDMI projector and Apple TV combo, providing a truly mobile experience for teacher and student. If the HDMI projector is too expensive, go with the VGA projector / Apple TV / converter box option. If that doesn’t work for you, and you have Mac computers running Lion, go with the inexpensive Reflection app that does pretty much the same thing for 20 bucks.

5. Make sure teachers have some training and guided practice time. Nothing’s gonna kill an iPad rollout quicker than teachers who don’t feel comfortable with the device.

6. I was wrong. Nothing kills an iPad rollout faster than forcing teachers to wait two weeks until the building app committee meets to approve teacher app requests. If I was in charge, each teacher would have just one personal iTunes account. The school would provide iTunes cards or redeem codes and, yes, teachers would then “own” the apps. Let ’em have them, it’s gonna be okay. You can get more.

There are other ways of making it easy for teachers to have instant access to the App Store but this puts decisions in the hands of the people at the point of the spear – teachers.

7. Kids are a different story and it really depends on how your iPads are deployed. Single user vs. cart makes a difference. But the best thing for learning is still to put as much app installation power in the hands of the end user as possible.

8. Discuss the issue of workflow between teacher and students. School eLockers and eBackPack are some of the first to start looking for ways to control iPad workflow. They are also the most expensive. A few other ideas can be found here and here. Also be aware that printing can be an issue. Also understand that part of the point is to get away from using paper.

9. Think about app selection in a way that makes sense. Use a rubric.

10. For teachers, the biggest question of all – how can I actually use iPads in class?

You can start by looking at apps aligned to Bloom’s Taxonomy here and here. A Google search will find more. Brad Wilson from 21innovate has put together an extensive Google Doc that lists apps with suggested activities by content area and Bloom’s thinking verbs.

Then look at ways that others are using iPad apps that are aligned to McREL strategies.

Head over to Apptivities, a great name for a handy website that has activities and lesson plans tied to specific apps.

The Mobile 2012 conference just ended a few weeks ago. Get all of the presenter handouts, materials, and links on their conference wiki.

Browse through an incredibly bulky but useful website listing iPad training sessions. Click any of the session dates and you’ll get workshop agenda, links, handouts, lesson plans, and instructional ideas.

And finally Lisa Johnson. Known as TechChef4U, Lisa has a wonderful assortment of iPad lessons and goodies.

Have fun!

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iPads: 10 great ways to screw it up

A couple of days ago, I shared Greg Kulowiec’s great post on the Why of iPads. Many districts are jumping on the mobile learning bandwagon without really giving it a lot of thought. Greg provides a nice foundation for anyone who’s thinking about implementing iPads as part of learning.

But even if your district has done the work to understand the Why of iPads, it’s often the How that trips people up. The How requires a shift in how we think about control and classroom management and time and content delivery and content creation and student work and . . . well, just about everything.

Today we start the How by discussing non-examples. Carl Hooker is currently the Director for Instructional Technology for a Texas school district and has a great list of what not to do when deploying iPads as learning tools. You’ll want to read the entire post but here’s the Cliff Notes version of a few of Carl’s suggestions:

  1. Do NOT wait until the last minute to give them to staff.
    In a perfect world, teachers would have them a year to a semester ahead of time.
  2. Do NOT expect it to go perfectly on the first day students get them.
    Plan the launch day as best that you can but things will go wrong. Carl experienced Casper server crashes and a lack of iPad cases, so will you.
  3. Do NOT roll out all your apps at the same time on the same day.
    If you are doing a 1:1 model, where the end-user gets the apps, you don’t want to force-feed all your apps down on the same day. This is especially true with larger apps.
  4. Do NOT try and control everything about the iPad.
    The beauty and educational relevance of these devices is the personalization of learning that can happen. That is null and void the second you turn this into just another “system” to manage through your technology department. These are NOT PC’s. Do NOT try and manage them as such.

My favorite?

Number 4. iPads are not computers. They are designed to be single use devices with control in the hands of the end-user. Trying to control them with the same mentality of laptops and other computers is a recipe for failure.

Your favorite?

Later this week, positive examples of the How.

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Why iPads? Reasons for educational use

We’ve got about 150 people in our office today for our third iPad conference of the year. Lots of buzz, lots of learning going on. It’s always fun watching people getting excited about how new tools can help their kids learn more.

Jann, Brandi, and Abe share ways of using Apple TV to integrate iPads into their high school classrooms

But there’s a problem.

I’ve seen it. Apple reps have seen it. Teachers and administrators who are currently using iPads in creative ways have seen it.

Here’s the problem.

Bandwagon jumping.

I love mobile devices. I love how mobile devices like iPads can be used for learning. I’ve seen them in classrooms and am absolutely convinced that when used appropriately, iPads make a difference.

But without a plan, without thinking about the process, spending money on iPads can be a disaster. Too many people are jumping into this without asking two very important questions – Why and How.

Schools and districts need to spend some quality time discussing whether or not iPads make sense in their situation. Who’s gonna use them? Who can download apps? What will they be used for? What professional development will happen with both admin types and teachers?

If you’ve started the process of asking these questions, Greg Kulowiec’s recent post is a must read. He’s got the Why covered. You need to head over and get the full story (he’s included some awesome student products that you really have to see) but here’s a quick synopsis:

  • Time & Space
    Greg quotes a colleague – “These things may seem trivial, but teaching is in many ways a battle against time, and tablets allow much more seamless transition between tech-on and tech-off activities.”
  • The iPad is Not a Computer
    The device shouldn’t be looked at as a computer, because it isn’t . . . it is more than that. I have read the arguments that suggest the iPad is a consumption based, single user device and I no longer find the argument valid. Take all of the above and throw it together into a device that doesn’t need a manual and can be figured out by nearly any student in a matter of minutes and it clearly becomes a viable device for 1:1 schools.
  • One User Device vs. Shared Device
    In an ideal world, iPads in schools would not be shared between students. (But) shared iPads can introduce students to the concept of cloud storage. Research can also become cloud based and collaborative. The process of group research, tagging and collaboration are all fostered because of the use of shared iPads.
  • All in One
    Is everything easy to do on an iPad? Absolutely not. The device takes getting used to and all apps are not equal in terms of functionality and ease of use. However, watching students quickly switch between research, writing, social bookmarking, listening to podcasts, watching videos, recording / editing a radio show, shooting a movie, or creating collage-like images allows one to quickly realize that all of this simply could not be done this intuitively on a computer.

We’ll cover the How later this week.

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