iPurpose before iPad

The two above images are good examples of purposeful thinking about iPad usage in schools.

One, a screenshot of an oft-used tool known as iPad As.. by edtechteacher.org, focuses on what the iPad can be used for and provides links to various apps that can be utilised for those functions. It goes without saying that it is a very useful website for schools thinking about iPads. It provides nutshell explanations of a number of apps that relate to each iPad as… category as well as pricing. It’s a good introduction into the functionality of the iPad that counteracts the misconception of iPad as consumption NOt creation tool.

The other, The Padagogy Wheel, is one of many variations on applying Bloom’s Taxonomy of skills to iPad apps. It develops from the general learning action verbs/skills we want our students to acquire to technology based activities that relate to these skills and finally to a selection of apps that can support this development.

Both tools have supported my reflection on iPad use in school and are worth checking out in detail. Having said that, though, I feel they both fall short in what is needed as a resource for implementing iPads in education. iPad as… does a good job at presenting uses for iPads in school – what they can be used for – but doesn’t really provide depth about the skill development that can arise from their use. It’s still action/activity emphasis rather than pedagogical/learning emphasis. It’s great to know that you can create videos, and it describes what the app can do,  but how will this improve learning and what learning will it improve is also a priority iPad schools need to address. I think it also pigeon-holes apps as one trick ponies – I’d like to emphasise the apps that can be used to develop many skills.

The Padagogy Wheel provides many links between skills and tech activities but doesn’t really address what iPad apps address which skills and activities specifically other than lumping them into a particular category. It too, tends to classify the apps as one trick pony options rather than seeing them as multiple category options.

Don’t get me wrong, I think both are great tools but there is room for improvement in creating a tool for supporting time poor iPads in Schools implementers in planning, selecting, justifying and integrating iPad apps in education.

Which leads me to attempt a herculean task… I’m going to try to blend the best of both of these resources and address the short falls I have mentioned by creating my own resource. But it’s going to be a work in progress for a while and I hope to get support from Mr G Online followers, subscribers, users and casual visitors.

I’ve started creating a table of important skills, some derived from the Padagogy Wheel, and actions, some derived from iPad As… What I am planning to highlight is that there are many apps that can be use for many purposes and for developing many skills. For example, I have already added “Explain Everything” to 9 categories as I see it as a multifunctional app and one worth its price because of the educational benefits it provides. Over the coming months I plan to add text descriptions to each category to explain how the apps listed address the skill or action they have been linked to and may also link them to other online sources that show them in action. I’ll also provide direct links to the App Store, as I always do on this blog when I mention apps so you can check them out yourself if you want.

Now this sounds like a big task and it is. So I do need some help. What do I want from you? Anything you can give. Just add them to the comments of this post.

  • Examples of apps that help to develop specific skills
  • Additional skills I haven’t listed here
  • Examples of apps that are multifunctional.
  • Explanations of good pedagogical practice with apps. Don’t worry, all credit will go to you when I include your suggestions.
  • Links to blog posts, websites, Youtube tutorials, open wikis, nings etc that promote good practice that I can link to from here.
  • Examples on add ons like bookmarklets for curation sites, websites that work well with iPads ( Flash-free) that can still be categorised under these headings for iPad use.
  • Spread the word regularly through Twitter, Facebook, Curation sites like Pinterest and Scoop-It to keep educators coming back.
This post will look messy for a while as new ideas get added. A blog may not be the best storage place for it in the long run. If I actually get the support – and it’s likely I won’t – and it grows I will probably move it to a separate website for better functionality. It may well be better as a wiki but  I didn’t want to move away from Mr G Online unless I needed. For easy access in the meantime, I will add this post to my main menu at the top of the blog so you can come back to check revisions. I will be planning weekly updates at least, more if I get regular contributions I can just copy and paste in from the comments.
I really hope I can get this off the ground. From reading so many blog articles, I can see there is a huge need for clarity in using tech like iPads. If you have been a regular reader of Mr G Online, you would know I am a big proponent of Pedagogy before Technology. That’s why I want iPurpose before iPad. Hope to hear from some of you soon.



iMovie Pinnacle Studio VideoScribe HD iStopMotion GarageBand  TagPad  Evernote  Notability

Explain Everything Art Maker Animation Desk iMotion HD AudioBoo
 Whether creating live action videos with iMovie and Pinnacle Studio, animated stories with iStopMotion, Animation Desk and iMotion HD or how to tutorials with Explain Everything, the iPad is a great tool for video creation. Creating videos with these apps develops organisation and planning skills, supports story telling skills in non writers and enhances creativity and problem solving in many ways.
Book Creator Creative Book Builder StoryWheel    Sonic Pics Explain Everything Toontastic Storify
Video Scribe HD
Providing opportunities for authentic writing with a real audience outside the classroom, publishing real books using the iPad can improve motivation and actual writing skills. With sufficient access, tech based writing can employ the editing capabilities to encourage children to write without worrying about rewriting from scratch. With the real possibility of publishing books online or in the iBookstore for others to read, children will be encouraged to put more effort into editing and improving their written work. The possibilities for multimedia additions allows for more creativit There are more ways of telling stories these days than text and pictures. Some students have stories inside them that don’t get shared because of a lack of writing ability. Let’s give them opportunities to tell stories orally until they are ready to write so that they can develop their imaginations and story telling for when they are ready to write. These apps all allow for alternatives to traditional writing texts, either through combining audio and images seamlessly in a variety of formats
 Strip Designer Comic Life     Book Creator iPrompter Creative Book Builder iBooks
Explain Everything
Creating stories with audio, highlighted annotations, vocabulary support through linked dictionaries, scrolling screens provides support for students who lack reading skills. Getting children to record themselves reading gives them feedback on their progress as well as support for independent practice.
Edmodo VoiceThread Skype Evernote Keynote  VideoScribe  Haiku Deck   VoiceThread
Instapaper Whiteboard Popplet Comic Life  Explain Everything  Skitch   iPrompter
Comic Life  Writing Prompts SpellBoard Tap Dictionary iMind Map 3D  Popplet  Skitch Inspiration Maps Lite
Notability Whiteboard
 Evernote Edmodo   PollDaddy Socrative   EverNote  Edmodo Pinterest  Instapaper
Notability  Notability
 Notability Hopscotch
 Skitch  Evernote  Notability    Wolfram Alpha Numbers  Hopscotch
Wikinodes Notability
 Numbers  Wolfram Alpha  Doodle Buddy    Wolfram Alpha PollDaddy  WikiNodes Notability
Edmodo  PollDaddy   Socrative Numbers  Edmodo   Puppet Pals    
TagPad Evernote EasyTag
ClassDojo  Notability
Edmodo  Socrative   ClassDojo   Explain Everything   Edmodo Socrative  Notability 
Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 8.32.29 PM   
Routes Explain Everything Skitch Geocaching Numbers Wolfram Alpha MyScript Calculator
My Maps Editor
Skitch Explain Everything  Skype    Edmodo  Skype
ArtRage Garageband Snapseed RoomPlanner
ArtRage GarageBand  Snapseed iStopMotion Skitch  Explain Everything   RoomPlanner iDraw
Phoster ScrapPad
Explain Everything   Numbers Hopscotch     Edmodo  VoiceThread Skype  iPrompter 




xiPad + yApps + zAirServer = Engaging Algebra

Algebra gets a ‘bum rap’. Then again, it has a lousy public relations manager. Whoever came up with the whole ‘letters and symbols’ campaign should be sacked. Yes, opening up to Exercise 7D and solving 50 variations of 2x + y = -7 is n0t anyone’s idea of fun. But as I said, Algebra needs a new PR campaign.

DISCLAIMER: I’m just a Primary/Elementary teacher without any official qualifications in High Level Mathematics – No Masters, no Ph.D, just an A+ Average in High School/College Maths and 25+ years teaching kids to enjoy,not stress about, Maths. I may be completely off base with the great mathematical minds out there in what I’m about to describe regarding Algebra but I make no apologies. my students get it this way – including the Year 7-11 students I’ve tutored at home to relieve the confusion caused at their schools. (WARNING: Bear with me, I’ll take a while to get to the point of this post’s title – skip ahead if you want to ignore my Algebra rant!)

Now we have that out of the way, back to my message for today. I have a certain belief about Algebra. I define it as a systematic way of organising, recording and explaining your mathematical thinking using numbers and symbols/letters instead of words and pictures. Where we seem to get lost is that we go straight to the symbol without developing the thinking through the words and pictures/objects. We provide no context or purpose; just a meaningless string of equations with Xs and Ys that need to be solved. I see Algebra as problem solving support, not equation solving.

Last week, I was called in to take a Grade 6 class to release a teacher for planning ( the usual release teachers were unavailable). Maths was on the agenda for the day and I had worked with some of the other Grade 6 students on a similar lesson earlier in the week as a support for some of the high achievers. This time, though, I was on my own and in control so I applied my full tech+Maths kit to the group of students I had for that session.

The lesson/task that preceded this actually had fractions as its focus. One of the teachers had introduced a task involving a a building pattern for shading in grids to make fractions.

The lesson was differentiated to allow for a range of responses. Some needed to build the patterns with counters to discover anything. And then there was “Sheldon” ( not the boy’s real name) whom I walked in on to find him showing his mate the formula for the relationship between square and triangular numbers! When I confronted “Sheldon” to explain his formula and why it worked, he didn’t know how. So began my challenge and the rationale behind the lesson I’m about to recount. In the end, Sheldon actually discovered the key to this lesson I led in the class I took later in the week.

SO…this fraction lesson turned into a pattern and algebra exploration. All the children were able to discover the growing patterns in both number sequences and could describe the change. Square number differences increased by +2, the triangular number differences increased by +1. But that additive thinking was as far as they got. They needed more support to think multiplicatively, to think ‘Algebra’.

Enter (finally we get to the title of this blogpost!) the iPad and AirServer. Yes, I could have done all of this without the technology. I had done so earlier in the week with my small group of advanced students. But the engagement and ease of use was no comparison between the ‘sheets of paper and coloured marker’ group and the iPad and AirServer. If you are unaware of AirServer, I explained its significance in a recent post. Basically it projects multiple iPad screens onto a computer connected to a projector/iWB.

We started with creating the fraction grids using the iPad App Hands On Maths Color  Tiles ( I reviewed this and others in the Hands On Maths collection last year ). Again, we could have hand drawn grids or made them with counters but I had the students more engaged by getting them to make 1 grid each using Color Tiles and getting multiple students to project their grid onto the whiteboard using AirServer. This took 1 minute instead of 10 and allowed us to move straight into discussion with all the visuals needed on the screen – created by students, not me.

We then discussed the three properties visible in these tiles – side length, square size and the shaded (red here) area ( they hadn’t recognised them as triangles yet). I introduced the problem solving strategy of ‘Make a table’ – a strategy that should be embedded in their thinking by now, but it wasn’t. I created the table on my iPad and projected it on the screen. The students then created their own tables, using Numbers, on their iPads and filled in the side lengths, square sizes and shaded areas. Once they had the numbers in tables, they could start looking for relationships in numbers across the properties, rather than just look at the isolated number sequences. It was at this point that some students were able to recgognise that the shaded area numbers increased by adding on the next side length.

From that discovery, some children then saw that by adding the side length e.g. 4 to the square number 16 ( by this time we had recognised these as square numbers, not just square size), 20 the shaded area was half the size – 10. Here we talked about the importance of proving our theory by testing with other numbers. EVERY child in the class then tested this out with the other numbers, using Explain Everything as a whiteboard to quickly write out equations and project them on the screen to show their proof. Again, this could have been done on paper but by spotlighting everyone through the AirServer iPad mirroring it engaged those children who more often than not pretend to do the work and then let the teacher pleasers to put their hands up and call out the answers. This process really had everyone involved at all times. Some of the less than stellar mathematicians were excited about this discovery. But we were not finished.

I wanted them to see what type of numbers they were creating with the shaded areas – most still didn’t realise. This time I went back to old school methods -

counters. AirServer and my iPad still played a role. I asked the group to use the counters to create the sequence of numbers in the shaded area column in rows. As they began, some weren’t sure what to do. Instead of telling them what to do, I used my iPad’s camera to spotlight pairs who were building triangles onto the screen, thus giving support to others who needed a hint. Every group then wanted their triangles on the screen as well! This idea of spotlighting using iPad and AirServer can work in many ways to maintain engagement – kids like to be on show and recognised .

Once this was done, the students realised they were creating square and triangular numbers and that there was a relationship between them. Children started to recall the rule we had discovered – square the side plus the side then half it gave us the triangular number. But I posed one final challenge – why does this work and how can we show it with our tiles to explain the relationship? Back to Color Tiles we went. We recreated our two coloured square tile pattern. Then we added an extra column/side length. Bingo! The students recognised that this created two equal halfs, a red and yellow half- two triangular numbers!

4×4 Square with extra column of 4 results in two equal shaded areas- triangular numbers!

The final step in the process now was to put all of these theories into one explanation and come up with a formula – finally Algebra was coming into play. The important thing here is that they were thinking algebraically all along – I just didn’t tell them because Algebra is such a dirty word. Now they were quite excited that they were doing algebra.

I asked them to take screenshots of the tiles and the table and import them into Explain Everything. Then we looked at the table again. I explained that the only difference between what we had been doing and algebra was that we needed to replace our words and ideas with letters and symbols. What was the starting point? The side lengths. What will we call them – we decided on s ( could have been x,y, l etc). What is the square number? s x s or s^2. What did we do next? +s. Finally we halved the total ÷2 . With all these symbolic represenations students were able to create a formula for finding a triangular number: (s^2 +s)/2

Now thinking they were expert mathematicians, the students were able to record their understandings in Explain Everything AND find any square and triangular number without creating a long sequence. And they got it because we started with the thinking and investigating, not the formula that “Sheldon’ told us about. By the way, he worked this out independently and actually helped out my thinking with the idea of adding the extra side to the square grid – that’s the first time I had visualised the two triangular halves. This shows that our high achieving students can support the learning in the class – they just need a biy of guidance in their thinking, He was happy with knowing the formula. Now he UNDERSTANDS the formula and why it works. His discovery helped the less able students to also understand the thinking behind it all. And the iPad, the apps  and AirServer kept them engaged long enough to get there.

Oh, one more thing. I mentioned earlier context and purpose. I put this whole task in the context of a tile designing company. I talked about how the construction of Federation Square ( a modern structure in the City of Melbourne laden with geometric designs ) was not a random design. It was very mathematical. I put to them the scenario of customers wanting a design like the one we investigated created at a size of their own choosing. As employees of the company, we needed a method for quickly calculating how many of each tile we would need – the formula we discovered would get the job done.

Algebra need not be hard. It’s just logical thinking written down in an organised, symbolic way. Taking students through the right process can demystify it all. And it doesn’t hurt to use a bit of tech like my good friends the iPad and AirServer to help them along the way.

AirServer – 30 Apple TVs for the price of One (and instant sharing and engagement in the Classroom)

This is not a Plug. I actually happily used AirServer’s competitor, Reflector, before I discovered AirServer, and it has some features AirServer lacks ( namely the ability to record the iPad screen in action on your computer). I also am a happy owner of an AppleTV at home.

What is your tech of choice for getting groups of children interacting with technology? Interactive Whiteboards? I was a big fan early on. I used to prepare my whole day on my computer at home with all my lessons set up on the software available and come to school all ready to go, After a while I saw a teacher ( or an individual student – maybe two) standing in front of an expensive whizzbang electronic version of a blackboard, doing the same chalk and talk method we’d been doing for decades. A lot of money invested, not sure if it was value for money. What about Apple TV? Much cheaper than iWBs, able to mirror iPads on screen, pass the iPad around to engage children in the learning, but still only one at a time. You still need a screen, TV or iWB, and it’s still a fair investment at $99-$129 ( depending on country) per Apple TV.

Last year, I discovered a better AND cheaper alternative. First it was Reflector, then AirServer. Both were originally Mac OS X only apps, then limited PC versions without audio, but now regardless of operating system you get the full feature set. So what is AirServer? ( I often assume everyone in Tech and using iPads has heard of everything I use but I always discover it’s not the case.)

AirServer is basically a MAC/PC app that turns your computer into a mirroring device for iPads, iPhones and iPods ( depending on the version you have) as well as Mac Laptops running Mountain Lion . Your entire iDevice screen appears on the computer screen and whatever you do on the iPad et al, is seen AND heard on the computer screen. Connected to a iWB, data projector (and speakers) or LCD TV, an AirServer enabled computer becomes an Apple TV. The creators were, and probably still are, more interested in marketing it as a way for iPads to replace Wii/Xbox/Playstations as a game console on a big screen, but I see it as a far greater tool for education, IF you are serious about iPad implementation at your school.

 Compared to Apple TV, or a iWB with software included,AirServer + iPad has several advantages.

First the price. Check the screenshot above. $3.99 per computer! For that price, we are virtually fitting out our whole school with Apple TV functionality for the price of one Apple TV.

Portability and ease of connectivity. Last year, when we first started using iPads in the classrooms, if we wanted to show what was on the screen, we had to attach an iPad VGA connector to the VGA cable and remain tethered to the iWB. With AirServer, you just swipe up ( or double click Home Button)swipe across on the iPad App switcher bar at the bottom, hit the AirPlay Button and the iPad is on the screen. You can even do it from another room.

Multi-view. This is the ‘game changer’ ( ugh! I swore I’d never use that cliched buzzword but…). The biggest difference between Apple TV (0nly one screen at a time) and AirServer is the fact that you can mirror multiple iDevice screens on the computer/iWB/TV screen at the same time. Instead of waiting for control of the whiteboard pen, students and teachers can just project their iPad screen straight onto the larger screen. No longer do we have to wait for the teacher of student to finish writing on the board and then getting out of the way so we can actually see it. The work that is done on the iPad screen can be instantly shared without wasting time reproducing it on the iWB. Time saved, time used more productively. This has so many possibilities in the classroom.

  • A Maths classroom where multiple strategies created by the students are shared simultaneously and discussed.
  • A Literacy classroom where students can share their notes, collaboratively write paragraphs, edit shared texts and compare choices, or share drafts for others to read to feedback on, with the writer making real time changes as the feedback comes.
  • Multiple videos showing different views of the same event or object.
  • A music classroom using Garageband with children combining different instruments at the same time to create a digital orchestra,combine parts of the same song for harmonies or multitrack experimentation or simply share their individual creations wirelessly.
  • A Science classroom where different observations, diagrams, videos of experiments are shared and compared.
  • A video and text can be played simultaneously to compare and contrast how a particular part of the story is portrayed in different media.
  • Ideas can be shared concurrently instead of waiting for turns, allowing students and teachers to focus on a specific point of their choice rather than waiting for turns.
  • Collaborative teams presenting the work without having to spend time cobbling all their individual efforts together into a single PowerPoint/Prezi etc. Each student can just mirror their iPad on the screen at the same time and control a video, audio clip, slideshow, comic strip, ebook, themselves.

Multiple iOS devices on the one screen

I could list many more possible uses but I’ll let you brainstorm for yourself. Feel free to share here. Remember, all the screens are fully operational at the same time. That includes App switching, multiple audio,video and game playback at the same time, file editing, and with very little lag time ( depending on your wi-fi quality, of course.) I have mirrored seven iPad screens on the iWB at the same time but there comes a time when they get too small to view. Of course, you can select a single screen to enlarge to full screen, while the others remain connected in the background, waiting their turn to take centre stage. (UPDATE:apologies for being slightly misleading here: while this is certainly a very useful feature on Mac computers, this enlarging function doesn’t seem to be available on PCs. Hopefully, this will be added in a Future update. I spend most of my time on Macs with AirServer and I will update if other features aren’t available on PCs at our schools. Sorry for the misinformation. Should have checked)
It’s easy to set up, a couple of swipes and clicks to activate and cheap compared to the alternatives. Reflector, which I discovered before AirServer has similar functionality plus the ability to record what is mirrored. The big difference, and its not a plug but reality, is the price difference.Individually, there is little difference but when it comes to bulk purchasing, $3.99 per computer versus $55 for 5 computer licences made AirServer my only choice in the end. Both are great, though, and have the potential ( I hate using that word but….) to make a big difference to educational technology and education in general if done properly.

Download AirServer and give it a go. You can download a 7 day trial for free to see if it works in your school environment before you spend the money.

And again, please add your suggestions to my list of uses by posting a comment.

Another plea for help with Apple Configurator – from a reader.


Got an email from someone trying to use Configurator at another school today looking for help.

Had another failure today with configurator due to the macbook not having the right apple id for some of the apps – leftover from a previous user and I was not sufficiently aware….

So… i need to have apps in my itunes that have been bought/ downloaded by the apple id i will use for configurator…. right?

If the app is free, do I have to re-download it?

If I bought the app previously, do I need to apply one of my vpp codes to it? If so, do I delete it and then download again and ‘pay’ by redemption? Or will configurator just be happy it’s paid for?

If I bought licenses and codes with vpp, but have not yet got the app actually in my itunes, do I have to redeem a code, or buy it to get it into itunes?

I hope if I have already paid it counts as one license… else that money is wasted, now I move to configurator….

In the failed process, one app each time has ‘used up’ all the codes, shows 0 and all codes ticked in the spreadsheet, even though there were failures… any clues?

Hope you can assist when you get a chance, I know you must be busy as a one armed fan dancer….


My Response

This has been my experience with what you describe.

The Volume Purchasing Program ID is supposed to be different from your iTunes ID. This shouldn’t make a difference with Configurator as it only communicates with the VPP app codes.
As long as you have any FREE app, regardless of which account downloaded it, Configurator will install it on iPads.

All you have to do is click on the + icon under Apps in Prepare or Supervise Mode, navigate to the iTunes Library on your Mac, find the Mobile Applications folder in the Music Folder (iTunes folder hierarchy is complicated!) and add the free apps to Configurator’s App list. In terms of adding Paid apps that are already in iTunes, for me it has worked the same way. The only difference is that, despite being listed in Configurator, paid apps can’t be installed until VPP codes have been applied to them.

There is one annoyance with this setup. I’ve ended up with apps in iTunes under two accounts – the old school iTunes account, which we bought all our apps with pre-Configurator and the newer account I set up when I thought I had to for Configurator. What this means is that when I update apps in iTunes ( you have to update in ITunes – Configurator doesn’t update itself) I have to login in under the two separate accounts to complete the updates. It is a pain of my own doing but it saved me from downloading the same apps I already had.

When I have had to buy a new app to use VPP codes with, I have actually bought it through an iPad’s App Store using the Redeem Code option and used one VPP code to download to one iPad. Then on iTunes on my Mac I have downloaded it through the Purchased section and then added it to Configurator as explained above. That way the code has been used to install an app on one iPad already. When I update the others with VPP codes, it doesn’t rewrite over the app that is already installed.

This sounds complicated and if I was starting from scratch knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have to go through most of these hassles. But it has all worked for me this year. With a plan and prior knowledge, I actually think Configurator would be quite easy for me to manage without the need for most of these messy workarounds.

As far as your failure and lost codes, did you do it under Supervised or Unsupervised iPads? If the iPads are supervised, you should be able to connect them to Configurator, unselect the apps and update, thus uninstalling them and returning the codes to Configurator again. I have done this several times successfully as I have reconfigured older iPads for different grades who didn’t need apps I had installed with VPP and Configurator.

If you used the VPP codes on Unsupervised iPads, as far as I can work out you cannot return the codes back to Configurator. I’ve made this mistake once and lost a code when I uninstalled an app. If that is not the case, I don’t know what has happened. You might want to post this on some Apple forums to get others to suggest solutions. That’s helped me a few times.

I think I’ve addressed all your questions but I don’t know if that has helped. Let me know if you have more questions or want clarifications. I can still type with one hand while dancing on fans!

If anyone reading this has any better solutions, I would love to hear from you so I can pass on the advice to my beleaguered new ‘friend’.

School Shared iPad User Policies – a Necessity or Overkill?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonunbound/6811217950/ (used and adapted under CC licence)

In 2011, our iPad program began with 15 trial iPads given out to willing teachers and school leaders prepared to test out their usefulness.

In 2012, 35 iPads were divided up into five sets of 7 and shared between the 27 classes at our school.

Now, in 2013, Phase 3 begins with further purchases enabling us to put together sets of 14 iPads for EACH Grade Level ( 4 classes in each). With greater and more regular ( and unregulated) use across the school, I’ve begun to consider what policies/procedures/practices to put in place to enable a successful implementation of iPads across the school.

Last year’s setup had its limitations. All of the iPads were centrally stored in my office in a secure, locked cupboard. This was great for the 5/6 classes who lived with me but a pain for some grades who have to travel 100 metres to find them and carry the tray(s) across, sometimes with weather as an issue. It was an unfortunate necessity as we wanted everyone to have equitable access to the number they wanted rather than spreading them thinly across all classrooms.

This year, with the Grade levels having their own sets of iPads, they are now to be stored locally in their area. Great for them, but security, level of care and monitoring become an issue. I don’t want to be concerned, but at times last year iPads were returned with cables and covers in a sorry state – and that was with me seeing them at the end of each day. Out of sight but not out of mind, I want procedures in place to ensure staff and students look after them responsibly.

I also want to monitor their use. I know this is probably seen as overkill by some but it has its reasons. The introduction of the iPad across the school is different to how we have accessed desktop and laptop computers in the past. Because of this, I want to be able to assess the implementation and use of the iPad for future planning and use. Like everything in schools today, data is required. Therefore, the monitoring system comes in to play.

So this is how I plan to implement the program this year. I would really appreciate feedback from other co-ordinators of iPad programs at their schools or districts. Is it overkill or a necessity? Let me know what you think.


Similar to last year, class teachers or teams will need to record when they are going to use the iPads and for what purpose ( or what apps were used). This should be a simpler task this year as teachers will only be negotiating with their own team rather than all 28 classroom teachers. This means it can all be sorted out at team planning rather than worrying about clashing or double booking with other year levels.

The booking will be done on a shared Google Spreadsheet. If the team decides they want to have a chart on the wall to make bookings more visible and easily accessed that will be their call but at the end of the day, I still expect a team member, possibly the ICT team member of the year level to record all details on the Google Spreadsheet. What I need all to understand is that I want to be able to evaluate the level of use the iPads are getting at each Grade level and what apps are being used regularly so that future decisions can be made about further app or iPad purchases. It’s not a matter of ‘checking up’ on individuals or teams. It’s a way of collecting data that can inform me on who may need more PD in using the iPads or which apps I have spent money on have been worth the cost based on use. Now that the iPads are linked to Grades rather than the whole school, I can focus on purchasing apps specifically targetted at Grade level needs rather than installing a large number of a particular app on all iPads and then not being used. This should save money in the long run.

The Spreadsheet will also include a list of the Apps installed at the level as well as sheet for recording a Wish List of apps or purposes. Teachers and students will be able to browse the App Store on the iPads ( but not purchase ).Grades may be able to apportion a small percentage of their Year Level budget on apps specifically for them. This sheet will be an efficient way of informing me of what the grade wants.

If teachers want to borrow overnight, they can just write their name instead of Class name. An unforeseen problem caused by Configurator’s Supervise mode means that teachers will need to bring the iPad to me before they take it home if they want internet access at home. I have to disable the installed profile to allow the iPad to connect to a wifi network other than school’s and reinstall it the next day so that it will work at school.


A: I think it would be generally accepted that the use of Desktops and to a lesser extent Laptops at our school hasn’t changed too much over the years. Internet use (free but monitored for acceptable use), desktop publishing ( = Microsoft Office, included in our computer licensing agreements) some dabbling in programs like Pivot, Google SketchUp, Scratch and Inspiration and, more recently, free access to some web 2.o tools like blogging, Prezi and Glogster. Mostly free or established as part of the standard school computer set up, monitoring is not required.

The iPad changed the game ( sorry for the cliche!) It doesn’t sit on a desk with its limited use cases. It is isn’t restricted by the limited number of programs installed on them. It’s a camera, a movie maker, an audio recording device, a book, a mobile device of many uses. It offers new opportunities for teaching and learning that staff may or may not be aware of. Its going to be used in ways the desktop/laptop haven’t been and above all, it’s being shared. For these reasons, I want the system in place so teachers can plan for their new uses, so I can monitor how they’re being used and plan for support and PD to improve usage, and yes, so we know who is responsible for the iPads at a given time ( they’re more fragile, more difficult to pack up, so I want to monitor who has them if they are damaged. One iPad was broken last year ; I was able to trace the source immediately because I knew who had just used them. Full disclosure – it was actual my group!) We have a system for borrowing books, a system for borrowing Maths resources, a system for borrowing digital cameras, all items that are shared and limited…..so we can have a system for borrowing iPads.


My other big issue ( and maybe its because I’m a closet ‘control freak’) is insuring that the iPads are secure and stay in one piece. Laptop screens can break, keyboards and monitors can get knocked on the floor. iPads are just looking for trouble in their design. Entire faces made of glass, connections with fiddly pins ( we still have 35 iPad 2 connectors to contend with), ultra-portability that can sometimes mean users forget where it’s placed. On top of that is my cost cutting measuring to save money to get more iPads. No fancy charge and sync trolleys costing thousands at our school. Dish rack + powerboard + extension cord = iPad storage system Mr G style. Cheap, effective, easy to store – but easy to mess up, too. Tangled cords, shifting iPads, heavy to carry for some -there have been issues. My neighbouring Grade 6 Teachers and I spent more than a few days tidying up after iPad trays returned from some grades. So we need to be on top of all of this with some clear procedures and protocols. Check the cords are tied up, the iPads are placed correctly and in the right position, the cords aren’t bent or stuck under the iPad, apps are shut down, covers closed properly.

Security wise, teachers can’t afford to leave them laying in the open exposed to the view of others walking past their windows or open entrances. Each Grade level will be getting a lockable cupboard to store them when not in use. Not jsut at the end of the day but at recess and lunch time as well.

Last year was a starting point. This year is the beginning of the real thing. No more Mr G watching over the whole thing. The staff have what they asked for – more access, more responsibility, more iPads. Now its time to use them well.


Edmodo vs Blogging (updated and reposted from a post originally published in September 2012)


I originally wrote this post in September 2012. With a new school year beginning in Australia and plans to ramp up blogging and Edmodo at our school this year, I have updated this post to use with my staff with more screenshots, new ideas and some additional references to the iPad use of these tools with dedicated apps. For those who have seen it before, you may like to revisit.

When introducing transformative teaching practices involving technology, you have to be careful not to overload the senses of the tech novices on your staff. What took über geeks like me a couple of hours to master can take a life time for others. This year at my school we’ve begun to dip our toes into the waters of online communication (some staff are already swimming while others are still sitting on the edge thinking they’ll drown without support). We’ve introduced both Edmodo and blogging to varying degrees this year. Grade 6 embraced Edmodo from the start and used it in many ways, following in the footsteps of a trial program I began with some of the current teachers last year. Grade 5 came to the party a bit later and are working towards good practices with support from current teachers who were part of the trial last year. Grade 3 and 4 have recently jumped on board and are currently in the experimental stage, with some of the more tech savvy trying out more advanced features.

The Grade 6s have taken to blogging this term, although more as private digital portfolios rather than true blogging with a global audience. However, class blogs have started to surface ( still limited to class member only access) and this has started to blur the lines between Edmodo and the class blogs. Our ICT Leader recently attended a network meeting and other leaders there questioned the purpose of Edmodo if they were already blogging ( until they actually investigated Edmodo – few actually knew of its existence). The point for me though is how to make a convincing argument for both Edmodo and blogging being transformative teaching and learning tools that we should be embracing. The purpose of this post then is as a reflection tool for me to consider the purposes of both platforms before selling them to the staff. It’s also a cry out for you, the reader, to share your experiences of both Edmodo and blogging. Do you use both or tend to focus on one?

In a nutshell, I see Edmodo as an all encompassing classroom management/teaching and learning/collaboration system. Blogging, on the other hand, while it can be used for all the purposes just mentioned, is a tool for writing, publishing and sharing your body of work, be it major writing tasks or quick reflections on life or school work. While it aims to share and craves feedback, blogging is a personal tool. Edmodo, however, it more group oriented. Because of the differentiation between the two, I think they should both be part of classroom practice.

Groups – My favorite feature of Edmodo and a big difference between itself and blogging. I’ve written a few posts on how I’ve used groups to organize my lessons with different small groups. In a contemporary open learning environment in which children are grouped by needs and interests, I appreciate the convenience and ease of creating groups for different subjects or smaller groups within that group so that specific groups of children can collaborate and discuss.It takes no time to set the groups up and they can be altered at any time. These groups are then linked to other features listed later. It’s simply a feature blogging doesn’t offer (as far as I can tell – correct me if I’m wrong)

Collaborative Discussion – the simplicity of the Edmodo discussion wins me over compared to blogging. Simply add a note explaining the topic of the discussion, which can include images, videos, embedded links to other web tools, links to other sites, click Add and the discussion begins. All it takes is to hit the Reply button and the discussion is in full swing. The one feature I would like Edmodo to add is the ability to reply to a specific comment like you can in blogs. It can be a bit cumbersome having to write a reply to someone who wrote something 10 comments back.

Assignments and Gradebook – I love this feature because it becomes a class management system. While I appreciate the ability to comment on a student’s blog, for assessment purposes you would prefer to communicate directly and privately with the student. Using the assignment feature, children can send their work directly to you for feedback and assessment. The feedback is only seen by you and the student and the child can resubmit their work as a response to your feedback. Each assignment is linked to a student’s Gradebook where a teach can store grades ( of your choosing) and comments.

File Sharing – as I mentioned in the Collaborative Discussion section, sharing files is very easy with Edmodo. While you can do this effectively in blogs through widgets and links, the Facebook like nature of Edmodo makes sharing a link to another site quickly more timely than blogs.

Of course, it can get a little messy when the posts come in thick and fast and they get lost at the bottom of the page or move to the Previous page section, a feature shared with blogs and other social network sites……which leads us to the solution to this problem>>>>>

Folders and Tags – Tagging is an easy way to group posts around the same topic so you can access then from your tag list later on when they disappear of the front page of posts. Folders can also be set up to store specific posts on a common topic. Both tags and folders can be shared, although only the creator can add to them.

Polls and Quizzes – while more advanced polls and quizzes can be created by dedicated web tools and embedded on blogs, the polls and quizzes on Edmodo can be created much more quickly, albeit only by the teacher. Quizzes can be multiple choice, written answer or fill in the blank and can be useful in collecting data for a range of subjects. With the way testing is becoming a major focus in education, this can become a way of acclimate sing children to the testing process while making it relevant to the class day to day learning. Witt scheduled posts becoming a recent feature, teachers can create a number of quizzes in one sitting but set them to appear on Edmodo at specific times throughout the year.20130209-112757.jpg

Calendar – the Edmodo calendar is a effective way to help your students manage their time. Teachers can add daily events to the calendar and all assignments are automatically added as well. You can post events for specific groups as well so only those who need to see the event do. It adds to the class management capabilities of Edmodo that is simpler to use than blog calendars. I would like students to be able to add events, though.

Library/Backpack - for teachers it’s called Library; for students it’s the Backpack. Either way, it offers a easy to use file uploading and storing system, handy, when you do work at home or school and want to continue it at the other location. Better than emailing or USB data stick.

Extrinsic motivation through Badges - Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like to use stickers or awards, Edmodo has its own reward system called badges. You can create your own (but it’s a lot easier to just grab badges already created by other Edmodo teachers – I’ve collected 190 of them from my connections) and to encourage or acknowledge student effort or work, you can simply select their name in your class list, select a badge and award it to the students. There’s a badge made for just about anything and many come with a comment. Used wisely, it’s a good way to collate a whole bunch of comments for your student reports without doing any more work than giving that badge toa student.

I’ve written a few blogposts about the benefits of blogging that you can read here if you haven’t seen them. Here’s what I think differentiates blogging from a system like Edmodo.

Open/Closed Collaborative Discussion – Blogging can certainly allow for collaborative discussion and provides you with a level of control over who takes part on the conversation. If you have a public blog, anyone can take part in the conversation. If you have more rigid privacy settings, you can restrict who participates. For me, though, Edmodo is the better option for instant, collaborative discussion and feedback. With most school blogging wanting some level of moderation of comments, there is the time consuming and inconvenient need to approve every comment before it is seen by others. Edmodo, on the other hand, allows for instant posting and replying because of its secure, closed environment. Yes, popular blogging platforms allow for the set up of dedicated forums but to go through the process of setting up that, it makes more sense to put a link to Edmodo on your blog and use that as your forum.

Collaborative Assignments – This is where blogs exceed Edmodo in the collaboration area. While you can share resources, have debates, and contribute to each others work collaboratively on Edmodo, blogging allows for full scale project collaboration. Individual or class blogs can give access to other users to publish work together. Users can either create their own posts or have permission to edit other users’ posts. Images, embedded web tools , videos, comments can all contribute to a shared project between two users, a whole class or even multiple classes – in your own school or worldwide. Yes you can create groups in Edmodo for different classes to share work in but it’s not as wide ranging as blogging collaboratively.

Publishing and sharing work – it goes without saying that blogging is about sharing your ideas, interests, passions and work of any nature with others. Edmodo is great for sharing a link to your blog, but the work all takes place on your blog, in all the ways I’ve outlined in the other categories in this section of this blogpost.

Tags and Categories – Edmodo and Blogging are very similar in this area. Tags are a great way for creating access to specific posts by using keywords related to posts. Categories allow you to group posts under subject areas. Blogging categories offer more flexibility than Edmodo folders in that you can file a single post under multiple categories.

Audience – One of the benefits of Edmodo is that it is a secure, teacher controlled environment restricted to teacher control and a clearly defined set of users. This is also a drawback if you are looking for a wider, open audience. Blogging gives you both options. If you are looking for purpose for writing well, audience is important. Yes, you can keep your blog private or control who views it, but you can open it up to the whole world to share in your journey and provide you with feedback and incentive. Student bloggers get the opportunity to decide on their audience access and the level of communication they have with them. They don’t get this choice with Edmodo, which his heavy on teacher control.


As a portfolio – While Edmodo has its backpack/library for no fuss, easy to access file uploading and storing, it works more as a filing system. Blogging offers more of a publishing/presentation tool feel to storing your work. It can act as an adequate word processing/publishing option with decent formatting tools, weblinks and ability to add images. It allows you to embed web tools for instant viewing of linked work, whereas Edmodo, while offering embedding, requires you to click on the embedded link to view the file ( albeit within Edmodo). Stored files on Edmodo are private ( unless shared in folders or individually posted to specific groups) whereas on a blog you can open it up for anyone ( or a limited few ) to view and comment on.

Both Edmodo and blogs allow for parental interaction. Edmodo provides a parent code that links the parent to their child’s posts and connects them to the teachers as well. With a blog, students can add their parents as subscribers if they are running a private portfolio blog so parents can view and comment on their work.

I think the feature sets I’ve outlined for both platforms show a clear difference in usage but also shows how beneficial they can both be. Nevertheless, I’d like to hear from other users of Edmodo and blogging. Have I missed something that you think is important to either? Do you have uses of either that eliminates the need to use both. Please join the conversation.


Edmodo App vs WordPress Blogging App on iPad

The Edmodo App was given a substantial update recently, which I outlined in a post late last year.

The WordPress App is what I use for blogging on the iPad as it is compatible with Edublogs/Global2. There is a dedicated Edublogs app but it is not as advanced in features as the WordPress app.

Before you can use the WordPress app with Edublogs/Global2, you have to enable remote publishing in the settings. Go to settings in the Dashboard and select the Writing section. Under Remote publishing check both the Atom Publishing and XML – RPC options.

Then open the WordPress app and go to the Settings to add new blog. Select Self hosted blog and type in your blog address and username and password to connect to your blog.



Once logged on, you can easily view and create new posts. The editing function is something you need to get used to. It is in HTML markup language so it can look a little confusing when you format text, add links and import multimedia because you only see the code, not the actual image or formatting. Also, when you add images, they are added to the end of the text, fine if you are editing sequentially, but a pain if you want to add an image earlier in the text. If this is the case, you have to cut and paste the code and move it to the earlier section of the text.
One bonus with the app is that you can compose and edit while offline, meaning you can draft posts ” on the road” and then upload later when connected. This is useful if on school excursions or camps and you want to record reflections. The only problem is that the images can’t be added offline – you need to be connected to add images. You can also do some more detailed editing of your blog using the web based format in Safari or other iPad browser, although it can be a bit clunky compared to the normal computer experience ( it is improving )

Whether using Edmodo or blogging, the iPad is now a viable option. On the iPad Edmodo app, you can easily log in and out so a shared iPad can be used safely. Using WordPress is a bit of a security issue if sharing an iPad because you don’t need to keep logging in to the blogs.

New year, new challenges and successes with Apple Configurator

A new year begins and the order for more iPads arrives on our doorstep. All the preparation last year setting up profiles, selecting and purchasing apps, backing up optimal setups to use as base models to set up batches of iPads are now to be put to the test. 100 iPads and 14 USB ports – how will it pan out?

Plugged first 14 in, everything fine except one iPad wouldn’t start up.

It appears that Configurator doesn’t deal with recovery mode so I had to shut down Configurator once the other iPads had finished syncing ( about 45 minutes – included iOS update, installing new apps, installing from a shared back up configuration and installing the student profiles discussed in my previous post on Configurator. You can’t have iTunes and Configurator open and operating at the same time.

The rogue iPad had to be connected to iTunes to restore. That took about 30 minutes then I reconnected to Configurator to run the update again. Interestingly, even though I assumed the restore added the latest iOS to the iPad, Configurator went through the updating of iOS 6 again. What I noticed later was that I had started straight in Supervise mode rather than Prepare.

The most annoying thing this week was that in every set of our older iPads from last year ( which incidentally I had configured last year without a hitch) there was one iPad that needed restoring. Whether that was an issue with the iPad, Configurator or a dodgy USB hub, I don’t know, but it wasted a good three hours, all because Configurator doesn’t restore iPads in Recovery mode.

Having said that, the 65 NEW iPads I set up this week were prepared, supervised and assigned by Configurator with very few hiccups. Most of the issues were self inflicted, with just a couple of annoying glitches that I defeated in the end.

Last year I created a junior Grade backup and a Middle/Senior Grade backup. This backup saved settings for the FileBrowser app, Safari bookmarks and the folder structures containing the apps. I also set up a profile ( in the Settings tab of the Prepare section of Configurator)  that included settings for the wifi, mail, restrictions and  zScaler proxy settings.


In Prepare or Supervise mode ( for new iPads, you have to Prepare first), under Settings you select the restore to Backup option and select the specific back up you want to use ( you can also select don’t restore if you don’t want to make any changes). There is also the option to update to the latest version of iOS ( or the option not to update). Make sure you have selected the desired Profiles if you have more than one.

Then switch to Apps and select the apps you want installed on the set of iPads you are preparing. Make sure you have enough copies of Paid apps added to Configurator to cover the full set of iPads you have connected or preparing or you will get errors. Also, if you have paid apps selected that haven’t been paid for that will cause errors as well. You need to be around when Configurator is adding Paid apps because it will want to log in to your VPP account and you need to insert the password to complete the action. Because I was adding different sets of apps to each Grade level’s iPads, I had to keep checking which apps were checked. If you make a mistake, you can always uncheck paid apps and reapply the preparation, returning the VPP codes to Configurator to be used later.

Once I had the settings and apps in place, I just had to hit Prepare and leave Configurator to set up the 14 iPads I had connected at once. ( I could have got a bigger hub but since I was setting up 14 iPads per Grade Level, the two 7 USB hubs I had were sufficient.) With about 50 apps added to the iPads, it took about 45-50 minutes to update to iOS 6.1, install free and paid apps, restore to the backup and configure profiles on the 14 iPads at once. This save A LOT of time compared to last year’s setup using iTunes.

Once the Prepare sequence was completed, I just switched to Supervise, checked the settings and Apps were still intact, hit Apply and the supervising phase started and finished in just a few minutes. You could stop here if you like but I chose to Assign the iPads to specific users in specific grade groups. As I explained in my previous post, because Configurator tethered the iPads to my Mac, resulting in the inability to download photos and movies to other computers  (which we overcome using wifi based FileBrowser solution) I assign the iPads to users so they can sync to Configurator and save files from apps that have a send   to iTunes option.

This should be simple. Once you have created groups and users, you select the group/users and click Check Out. You get a list of Users aligned to a set of iPads. You can select all iPads or USB connected Ipads to just see the ones you have connected. Click on Check out and it links user to iPad.

It was here I discovered a glitch that was partly caused by my workflow and partly by a flaw in the program.

I had already labelled my iPads and recorded the serial numbers in my spreadsheet before preparing in Configurator. As you can see in the annotated image above, there is an option to number the iPads sequentially. This saves a lot of time naming the iPads if preparing a lot for classrooms. What I didn’t realise is that the order I plugged them in didn’t match the sequencing of the iPad numbering so I ended up with a mismatch between the labels and the names in the iPad General Settings. I had to manually rename them  as a result, defeating the purpose. They also didn’t match up in the Assign mode and I had to drag and drop them to match USER/IPAD numbers. I eventually worked out that if I plugged the iPads into the USB hub in REVERSE order, the sequential numbering worked.

Example image – not from my setup

One final little set up I did was making a generic Lock Screen that identified the iPad to the school and the user. Annoyingly difficult to find since it is not part of the Prepare/Supervise/Assign screens, you have to go to Preferences in the File menu, drag and drop an image and select the option to include user/iPad number. If you don’t assign iPads to users, the Device Number appears on the screen. If you Assign Users, the User name appears instead.

While there were a couple of little issues this time around, each time I use Configurator, I improve my understanding of the workflow I need to use. It is infinitely better than iTunes as an option and I was happy with the speed of the setup of the iPad sets. I probably took almost as much time unpacking, cleaning up, labelling, setting up in trays and plugging in as it took to prepare each set. For a free app, I’m happy to keep using it. Future changes and updates won’t take long at all and I think I have finally got it under control.

Is it the iPad, the apps or the user?

Technology has been trying to ‘revolutionize’ education for a long time now. The mistake we’ve been making all along is placing all of the focus on the least important component of the revolution – the tech itself. It’s where all the money goes and then what? Nothing left to actually ensure it’s going to make the difference we want, with the the people we want to impact – the teacher and the student. It’s happened all throughout education tech history in recent times. The film projector, the photocopier, the typewriter, the desktop and laptop computer, data projectors, interactive whiteboards, digital cameras were all heavily invested in ( and many still are today ) to bring engagement and improved teaching and learning to the educational world….But talk of the revolution is still going on.

And now we have the tablet. The iPad has begun a new “education revolution” and now the obligatory opposition tech companies have joined the battle. The question has to be asked – are we again starting from the wrong end of the battle lines? Is the iPad (inserted alternative tablet if so desired) the real catalyst or is there so much more to this than money spending school systems can see beyond the new and shiny?

It’s why I ask the question: Is it the iPad, the App or the User?

The iPad

What is it about the iPad that has enamoured so many in the Education World? Spare me the trollish jibes about Apple’s Reality Distortion Field and slavish fanboys. Educators aren’t that shallow. There is something about this tablet, originally aimed squarely at the consumer, that lends itself beautifully to educational pursuits. The desktop computer, for all its power and potential, leaves the learner anchored to a desk and reliant on other tech tools to increase its functionality. The laptop improved on this with its portability but it still lacked flexibility and true mobility as well as clunky touchpads that lacked precision.

Then came the tablet. Yes, Microsoft predated Apple with a tablet but the iPad brought its use into the mainstream. In a school setting, it brings big changes to the learning experience. It takes mobile learning to a level far beyond the laptop. Its tactile interface brings the learner in direct contact with the screen with positives and negatives. The touch screen allows for direct drawing, handwriting and screen navigation beyond the capabilities of a mouse of trackpad. The built in A/V capabilities, in particular the front and back facing cameras for photo and video, adds one stop access to multimedia use that adds engagement and creativity that other computers can’t match. Its ‘always on, instant save’ nature means instant interaction, replacing the wait time that can slow down learning in class. And its unique lack of filing system, while a fault for many computing traditionalists, makes accessing work for younger children in particular far easier than combinations of menus, commands and hierarchical folders. The touch interface makes it a familiar experience and easier for children to pick up experiment and learn to use ( although this is not always the case for adults with computer behaviour engrained in their physical memory.)

That in itself, though, falls far short of what is necessary for an “Education Revolution”. Beyond a web browser with its well documented Flash deficiencies ( whether we like it or not, educational web 2.0 tools are dominated by Flash ), basic A/V viewing and editing tools, an e-book/PDF reader, a text messaging system, a VERY basic text editor in Notes and some time management tools, what you get out of the box has serious limitations. So obviously, to get closer to revolutionizing education, we need to tap into the vast system of the App Store.

The Apps
“There’s an App for that!” has become part of the English conversation. While early on, we were inundated with countless games, social apps and a mind boggling selection of skills and drill apps of dubious value, it wasn’t long before every possible educational opportunity could be addressed by an app. For years, many schools have been hamstrung by expensive software packages tied into bulk user licences that added up to hundreds sometimes thousands of dollars, preventing us from going beyond the internet and the obligatory Microsoft Office package. True, there are a great number of Web 2.0 tools that have brought creativity and collaboration to the classroom, but while some are free, many expect yearly licences from schools to use them.

As I have written in my post “Essential Paid iPad Apps”, for a reasonable cost (obviously some will disagree),especially under the half price VPP system, the limitations of the ‘out of the box’ iPad transforms into an all purpose teaching and learning machine. Suddenly students have access to video editing, animation creation, ebook publishing, comic book production, digital storytelling in many forms, annotation tools, note taking, audio recording, collaboration tools, painting and drawing apps, content curation and news feeds all at the touch of an icon. In a 1:1 environment, the user has all of this stored within the apps he uses, making for efficient use of time and a non-reliance on accessing messy network folder hierarchies.

But………and it’s a BIG BUT…..

All the tech tools in the world mean nothing if they are not used effectively. Too often over the last 2 years, I have seen way too many examples of half finished, poorly edited creations in the name of “experimenting with the apps”. That, however, is as far as it goes. The lesson is about the app, not the content or the skills that needed to be developed to make a real difference. This is why the role of the User becomes Number One Priority.

The User

No amount of tech or any other educational innovation can make a difference if the users aren’t prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. The so called “digital natives” in our classrooms may have grown up using technology but it doesn’t mean they know how to use it to its full potential. Teachers have a great opportunity to revolutionise education with what has become available but just because their cupboard is full of iPads (or laptops, digital cameras etc, etc) it doesn’t mean the revolution will happen.

Politicians need PD. Leaders of Education need PD. Teachers need PD. Parents need….whatever we call PD for parents. Students need to learn what  is possible with what they know.

          • Facebook/Twitter/Social media in general isn’t just for organising parties, telling us where in the city you are having dinner or writing funny responses about awkward situations. If that is all educators, students and the community think its for, they won’t use it to collaborate, to share, to investigate, to innovate.
          • If teachers aren’t shown how iPads or any other tech tool can improve their current practices and given time and support to gain confidence in their use and possibilities, they will continue with whole class instruction, worksheets and textbooks and every other practice that worked for them in the past.
          • If we only focus on the tool and not the purpose for using it, then we will still get substandard essays and projects – they’ll just look better.
          • If we spend all of our time talking about increased engagement in class because of iPads, but don’t evaluate the improvement in learning, nothing has been accomplished. After all, a 15 year old can be engaged in an all night movie or video game party. Doesn’t mean they’ll learn anything.

I said at the start that Educators aren’t shallow. We can, though, still get caught up in the latest craze, whether it’s the latest buzzword or the next great tech tool. This Education Revolution has been talked about for a long time. We need to focus on the teaching and learning, the teachers and the learners before we focus on the tools. Instead of investigating and experimenting with tablets and apps, let’s make sure we  investigate and experiment with the pedagogy that’s need to make the difference. Let’s put the user first.

What’s your experience in your schools? Are you planning for change or just having tech thrown at you with the hope that something will stick? Join the conversation.

Book Creator for iPad – updated again for greater e-book functionality (tutorial)

A lot of iPad users in schools have already heard of Book Creator for iPad. I’ve written about it before on my blog before. Nevertheless, I have put together a how to guide in different formats (ebook, PDF and video) to showcase its features and highlight its new features just added in a recent update that how to guides online don’t feature at the moment. ( the how to guide included in the app is still the original guide that doesn’t include half the current features). It’s one of my must have apps for my school and the tutorials are to support my staff and students, most who still haven’t used the app yet,  in learning how to use the app. While others reading this may have checked the app out before, these tutorials may still be of use for you

Book Creator for iPad Tutorial by mcglee1966




Download iBook version of my  Book Creator for iPad tutorial (created using Book Creator )to read on your iPad here.




Here is the video tutorial I made and uploaded to YouTube. It is in 2 parts because it runs for about 28 minutes in total and YouTube won’t let me upload videos that big!


Edmodo just got a lot better on the iPad


One of the justifiable criticisms of the iPad was that it was difficult to impossible to transfer files between many apps or networks. With the addition of some apps like PocketCloud and FileBrowser, and the improvement of the Open in… function in later systems , especially iOS 6, this has become even less of an issue. Still, in terms of downloading files on web based apps, you were often limited to photos from the camera roll. This was the case with the Edmodo app.

An Edmodo app update earlier in the year allowed access to the Camera Roll and Google Docs. This however, was still too limiting to use the Library/Backpack feature of Edmodo to upload, store and download most files.

Today that changed. The latest Edmodo iPad app now adds File Sharing functionality, both uploading and downloading to Edmodo’ s Library (for teachers) and Backpack (students).

To upload files to Edmodo on an iPad, simply use the Open in.. Function, which now includes an Open in Edmodo option. This opens your file, whether an email, a document from Pages or any other word processing app on iPad, or from a file sharing app like Dropbox or FileBrowser, straight into Edmodo and saves it.


To download a file from Edmodo, you select it from the library/backpack, select the file icon, which opens the Open in… Window and choose the app you want to open the file. Once you have worked on the file, you can then upload it back to the library as described earlier. Once a file is in the Library/backpack file system, you can add it to an Assignment or discussion stream.


For schools that are 1:1 iPad schools who also use Edmodo, this is a big improvement that will make it easier to become more independent of laptops and desktops.