TouchCast – interactive, browsable web in a video – insert possibilities here!

 

For a fully interactive version of this video, go to the Touchcast website and see it in action.

Just when I thought the Explain Everything iPad app was going to be my ‘go to’ app for everything in Education, this new app comes along. Touchcast (App Store link) is described as ‘the Web in a video’ rather than video on the web. It creates fully browsable, interactive videos that embed everything from websites, Twitter feeds and Youtube videos to polls, quizzes and news tickers inside your video creation.I’ve only just started experimenting  with the app and am yet to create a completed video, but I’ve already started getting a feel for how it works. Like all iPad apps, its dead easy to use. Using it effectively and with purpose is the crucial step.

While the above video and product website gives you a fair intro to the use of Touchcast, I’ve taken some screenshots of the app to show some of the features available. I have tested most but not all (greenscreen for one – sounds like a winner if it works well!).

newtouchcast

When you open the app, a number of themed touchcasts ( News, Business, Sports, How to, Review, Travel Diary) are available as well as the option to create one from scratch.

createnewtouchcast

If you select a theme, the option to add the title and search terms is provided. This creates the Touchcast title automatically and adds relevant content related to the subject to be used straight away, as seen below with the inclusion of a news ticker from Google News, a Twitter Feed and News Headlines. You can delete these if you don’t want them. Deleting content is as simple as selecting and dragging the thumbnail at the bottom to a ‘magically appearing’ trash icon.

autocontent

If you create a Touchcast from scratch, all the tools are at the bottom of the screen. The basic tools are Camera, The Record Button, Effects, Whiteboard, Titles and vApps.(see below)

tools

There are many title styles to choose from but all have a similar look to the Titles seen on TV programs

titleoptionscameratools

One of the most powerful features of the app is the capacity to add vApps. These are the interactive, live and embeddable extra content elements that can be added to your video as you record. Ideally though, you would add and prepare all of these elements before recording. The screenshot below shows all of the vApp options. It’s an impressive list of options that can help create a truly interactive and educational experience in the school setting. Imagine an interactive presentation that calls up web pages, images, polls,quizzes and rating systems, slide shows from Flickr, working GoogleMaps. There is certainly potential for overkill from both teachers and students but the possibilities for screencasting/flipped lessons, multimodal presentations, digital story tellings, project presentations, reports, reviews, surveys are there to be considered.

vapps

Once a vApp is created, they appear in a thumbnail view at the bottom of the screen and with a simple touch they can appear and disappear from your video at your discretion. As I said earlier, by preparing all of the vApps you require before recording, you have great control over their use during the video creation process.

Another useful feature in the Educational setting is the Whiteboard. You can call up multiple whiteboards and switch between visible boards to record notes or invisible in order to draw or type directly onto the video or images

whiteboard

To help with the flow of your recording, Touchcast comes with a built in Teleprompter. This is found in the Camera tool.This allows you to write a script to follow as you record rather than umming and aahing your way through your video. You can alter the speed at any time. Also within the Camera tool options is the ability to swap between front and rear cameras

teleprompt

Special effects include a Green Screen option ( will check this out when I get access to my GReen Screen), video filters for different effects and sound effects such as applause, laughter and emotional expressions ( a bit cheesy, but some will like it!)

effects

filters

soundeffects

Opportunities for digital literacy and multimodal learning abound in using this app but there are some limitations that are not obvious until you start using the app.

 

  • First there is a 5 minute limit to the length of the video. Probably not a bad thing as you could fall in the trap of going overboard. Also this 5 minute limit doesn’t restrict you from pausing the video and viewing the interactive elements and multimedia content ( e.g. the embedded YouTube clip can be as long as it is in its source location). 
  • While you can save your project along the way as you add in all of your extra elements, once you start recording, you cannot go back and edit or continue. Once you start recording, you can pause but if you want to stop or exit the app, you can only save as a non editable video not as a project. I hope they can change this option in the future. You can re-record the video if you make mistakes and restart without losing all of your vApps, however
  • Another limitation is that the only additional video you can add is through the web. You cannot add your own video (only photos)  from the iPad. This is probably reasonable, considering the file sizes this would create. You can always add your video content to a Youtube account and then add it.
  • As this is a very recent startup, at present it is a free account for users to experiment with. At present, this means a maximum of 60 minutes of video on their site. There are plans for paid accounts in the future but as it stands now, 1 hour is it. Of course, you can store videos locally on your iPad within the app, but you can’t save to Camera Roll. You can export to a Touchcast account on their website, share via social media and post on YouTube. Be warned, though, the YouTube video is only a video – there is no interaction. That is only possible through Touchcast. However, for presentation only purposes with all the content included, YouTube export is a way of storing more content if you dont need the interaction.
  • As with most Web tools, the Under 13 caveat applies. There are some features you woud want to monitor.I have emailed Touchcast for clarification on whether it is OK to set up a teacher controlled account for students to post content from their iPad app. I’ll post their answer if and when they reply.

While it’s early days in my experimenting , I’m really excited about this app. The use of it can really encourage creativity, problem solving, planning, and a range of digital literacy skills. Like any tool, we need to make sure purpose comes before play. There is more to ed tech than engagement. We want it to make a difference. Check it out. It’s a free app but you do need to set up an account (not a lot of info required – user name and password). Would like to hear from anyone who has used it and appreciate ideas on how it can be used for educational purposes. Like most tools on the Web, they don’t start out aimed at schools, but we tend to find a way to embed them in teaching and learning.

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.

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.

Preceden Timeline Maker:”The Easiest Way to Make a Timeline”

With a big history unit coming up in Term 1 for the 5/6 teams, I’ve become a bit obsessed with making History timelines. I’ve already reviewed Meograph earlier this year and posted my multimedia Meograph timeline on Australian History for your viewing. I’ve since discovered a simpler, more linear and cutback timeline creator that I can see having both advantages and disadvantages over Meograph. I see myself using both for different reasons.

Preceden Timeline Maker has been around since 2010 but this is the first time I have discovered it. Unlike Meograph, which is more of a multimedia storytelling tool with timeline capabilities, Preceden is very much a timeline first and foremost. As you can seen from the annotated screenshot above, it has an easy to follow layout that presents as a clearly labelled timeline of events.

The timeline consists of layers and events. The layers are a good way of categorising the events, especially useful when dealing with an historical period with many different themes. The layer titles are placed at the beginning of timeline left of screen but stay anchored and visible as you scroll across the timeline.

Events can be colour coded, either automatically or manually. If the event is a particular moment in time, it is represented by a coloured dot placed along the timeline in the date/time zone it belongs to. If it is an event that lasts over a period of time, it becomes a coloured horizontal bar that stretches across the timeline from starting date to finish date. Each event occupies its own vertical space so as you add more events, the dots or bars fill the page from top to bottom. If the event name is short enough, it fits inside the bar but if it is longer than the bar duration, it is located to the right of the bar. By allocating each event to its related layer, the events appear in that specific section. If you designate the event as a milestone, a vertical line stretches from top to bottom, acting as a visible dividing line between other less significant events.

At first glance, Precenden appears to lack multimedia functionality, with the emphasis on the timeline itself. Images and links, however, can be added ( which I’ll describe later) and they can be viewed by ‘mousing over’ the event, appearing as a temporary popup box. Any notes you add for detail also appear in this pop up box.

In the top right corner, you will notice a zoom feature. This is a useful feature that alters the appearance of the timeline. You can zoom in or out of the timeline from as accurate as seconds to as wide ranging as 10 billion years, meaning you can represent any time period in historical records. There is also the auto function which fits the whole timeline to your viewing window.

At the bottom on the right hand side are other functions worth noting. First, there is the embed instructions, which will take you to the embed code so that you can embed your timeline into your own website or blog. Note that the embedded timeline. as you’ll notice in my example below, only presents the timeline itself – the popup info window does not work in embedded timelines, nor do you see the event list. You should include a link to the original for full viewing. It should be noted that any changes that you make are automatically updated in the embedded timeline.There is also a option to rearrange the layer order, through a simple drag and drop UI. There is a function for importing CSV files (instructions included) so that you can create data in a spreadsheet offline, then import for visual publication. You also have PDF, Image and CSV export options.

One final option to note is the Rename function. While not obvious, this is where you will find the delete option if you want to get rid of your timeline. Obviously, it is also where you can edit the name of the timeline.

When you add an event the dialog box below appears.

Here you input the name of the event and have the option to alter the colour of the dot, text or bar with the popup colour editor to the right. A preview is shown directly below the text. Next you allocate a layer to the event and enter the start and end times. Finally, there is a Notes box where you can enter additional information about the event, insert an image or hyperlink.

Images can only be inserted from the internet – you can’t upload images to the program. Read the FAQ section for instructions but basically you copy the link to the image from its original website location ( it should be Creative Commons or your own images only) and insert exclamation marks before and after the URL ( as seen in the example above). To insert a hyperlink, you use other simple code, again described in the FAQ section. It’s a bit clunky but simple enough once you get the hang of it.

The final function in the event dialog box is the Advanced feature, which gives you the option to make the event a milestone, as described earlier.

As well as the timeline itself, a list of ordered events is also published below the timeline, as seen in the screenshot below.  This is where you can easily view the images, the information about the events and access the hyperlinks without mousing over the timeline. It is also where you access the editing features and bring up the event dialog box to make any changes.

While I am obviously impressed with the multimedia ( audio narration, video/image, map, timeline) features of Meograph, I also like the simplicity and timeline focus of Precenden. I am particularly impressed with the control over the timeline ranges from seconds to billions of years. This makes it useful for a lot of time based Mathematics possibilities as well as the usual History emphasis that timelines get used for. It also makes it easy to compare the duration of different events and put time periods and events into perspective, when comparing, for example, the 100 years war to the First Gulf war. the life cycle/span of a turtle compared to a fly or the time frame of human existence compared to the whole of Earth’s existence.

Precenden is free to use, with one caveat – all of your timelines are viewable (but not editable) by the public at all time, even before they are finished. You can view all public timelines from the Shared Timelines link at the top of the screen. You will seen timelines with one event and others with 100s. As long as you don’t include any private info in your timelines, this shouldn’t be a reason to avoid it. They make their money by offering a private timeline option with the paid account ($59 a year)

Teachers can share their account with students by activating Teacher mode in the account settings. It gives you a code to give to the students. This is not as good as it sound though, as with this option, the children are limited to only five events per timeline, hardly enough for anything worthwhile. The usual Under 13 restrictions are in the Terms of Use. However, I emailed the creators for clarification and they said my Grade 5/6s could use it as long as no personal information was provided.

It works on an iPad for creating. The scrolling and mouse over viewing functions don’t though.

I can see a lot of benefits to Preceden and can see myself using it in a lot of curriculum areas in the future. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Below is an embedded view of my incomplete History timeline to show you how it looks embedded in your blog, You can view the full timeline here to see how the mousing over, zoom and scrolling works.

Make a Timeline at Preceden.com

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!
PART 1

PART 2

Biblionasium – a reading network for the Under 13 crowd

Tour of BiblioNasium from Coach Manzee on Vimeo.

In a previous post last year, I lamented the lack of options the under 13 crowd is getting in Web 2.0 tools. Most of the free ones lock out children under 13 and the ones that have dedicated education sites can cost an arm and a leg in subscription fees. Occasionally you get gems like Edmodo and StoryJumper who are both free and Under 13 friendly. Today, thanks to my blogging friend Henrietta Miller, I came across another Under 13 friendly, free Web tool, Biblionasium.

For anyone familiar with Shelfari, the Amazon book related social networking site, Biblionasium works in a similar way but has been built specifically for the under 13 student. It is a teacher/parent controlled tool that acts as a reading journal and book sharing/recommending site. The video above, from the site itself via Vimeo, explains the site’s features in fairly good detail.

In a nutshell, teachers are able to set up a class site and assign children usernames and passwords to login. The students can record what they are reading, the teachers can monitor and recommend books to read and, with parent permission and control, students can ‘friend’ each other and share/recommend books to each other. Teachers have options of adding reading level indicators to books so they and parents can monitor the skill level their children are choosing to read at and encourage them to challenge themselves ( or conversely recommend books that are more reading ability appropriate.

Because Australian schools are on holidays, I haven’t had much of a chance to check out how it works but from what I have seen it seems like an excellent reading tool to add to your literacy program. I was able to search for a wide range of books to add to my list ( every search I did was successful, including Australian books) and I set up a couple of dummy student accounts using my own children without a hitch.

I actually like the level of involvement it encourages from parents. While the teacher sets up the account, ( although a parent could do it personally for their child if the school doesn’t use it) for the social networking features, which is where I see the benefits of sharing and recommending books with fellow students, can only occur if the parents grant the permission through the site. This puts the parents into an active role with the reading program, something we need more of in schools today.

Some of the more mature Grade 5/6 students may find its interface a bit cheesy, with its chimpanzee mascot, but other than that it is good to find  an educational tool aimed specifically at the younger child. It could be a great incentive and resource in particular for the early to middle grades (Grades 1-4). Check out the video above, go to the site and explore. It could prove worthwhile.

Meograph – 4 Dimensional Story Telling Web 2.0 Style

What I love about Web 2.0 apps is the simplicity. Bloated desktop apps like Office and Photoshop, with their hundreds of menu items and toolbars, are powerful tools but become difficult for non techies to handle. Web 2.o tools, on the other hand, are focused on specific purposes, allowing them to be streamlined and simple enough for anyone to use.

Meograph, a relatively new tool ( released in July, 2012 and still in Beta form) is one such simple to use but still powerful web app. It sells itself as a “4 Dimensional Story telling” app. In a nutshell, it allows you to tell stories through (1)images/videos, (2)narration,  (3)maps and a (4)timeline (hence the 4 dimensions) OR WHO/WHAT, WHEN and WHERE. Now this could be done using a variety of software options but what I love about Meograph is that the whole process only involves 8 simple steps, which I am about to outline for you using the above screenshot and some simple instructions. There is also a video embedded below that provides a demo of the tool.

  1. ADD A MOMENT. Once you have set up your FREE account and created your first Meograph, click on +ADD A MOMENT. This brings up the simple data field box for you to input the required information.
  2. THE DATA FIELD BOX. Here you can see the 3 fields to input information. WHEN, WHERE and WHAT. Type in the year or specific date (in MM/DD/YYYY format), the location the event took place (be specific for correct location on map) and information about what happened. The information can be a single sentence or at least a whole paragraph – I haven’t tested its limits but some of my entries have been over 100 words. Once you have added the information, it becomes part of a list of dates. If you add another Moment that occured before your last entry, it will automatically move the moment into the correct chronological order.
  3. LINK. You can add a link to related information by clicking on the Link button and typing or pasting in a website address. The link appears between the image and timeline in a black band. The website page name appears but if it is a PDF web link you only see a diagonal arrow icon.
  4. TEXT. The information you input into the WHAT field is displayed above the image in a simple text box. If you want to add extra information, you can edit the text here instead of the small WHAT field.
  5. MAP EDITING. You can change the Zoom level of the Map by clicking on the CHANGE MAP ZOOM button. You will get a familiar Google Maps slide scale to enable you to zoom in or out for your desired result. That is the only editing you can do – you can’t drag the map around or move the placeholder.
  6. MEDIA. You can upload an image or embed a YouTube clip using the two buttons provided. You can only add one or the other – not both. You don’t paste YouTube embed code; just the page link. You can resize the image and move it around. With the YouTube clip, you can select specific sections of the clip so that your viewers don’t have to view the whole clip when you are only referring to a specific part. This is a useful feature – I only wanted to show 3 minutes of an hour long documentary on YouTube for my History Meograph below.
  7. NARRATION. You can record narration for each moment to help tell your story more effectively. The length of your narration determines how long the moment plays before it moves on to the next moment. Without narration, the Meograph moves from moment to moment almost instantly. The maximum length of narration for each moment is 20 seconds.
  8. MAP VIEW OPTION. You can choose between Google Map or Earth view for the Maps in Meograph. What isn’t in the screenshot above is the option to include or exclude Lines connecting placeholders as you move from moment to moment.
  9. SAVE. Once you have finished your Meograph or you simply want to stop your editing for the day, you simply click the DONE AND SAVE button which returns you to the ready to play Meograph page. You can always click on the Edit button if you want to continue to add or make changes.
  10. PLAY CONTROLS AND TIMELINE. At the bottom of the Meograph is the Timeline and controls. If you want to simply view the Meograph, hit the Play button and it will progress from Moment to Moment. The timeline is like a video progress bar that has the dates displayed instead of the minutes played. There is a time display on the far right. If you want to manually control the progress of the story, pause the video and use the FF/REW buttons for greater control. This is recommended if you want to check out the linked information.
That’s all there is to it. ( One more thing – it has share and embedding options so that you can add your Meograph to your own website/blog, as I have done, or post it directly to Twitter, Facebook and other popular Social Media sites like Pinterest, Google+ Delicious and StumblUpon.) If you want to see first hand how to use Meograph, you can check out the tutorial video below.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

While I have found Meograph to be a very useful and simple to use storytelling tool, there is room for improvement. Of course it is still only in Beta so there are still glitches to the tool. Since the creator actually asked me to do a review, I will list my ideas and criticisms here. I’m not sure if these can all be addressed but hey, worth an ask.

  1. The Timeline. The only way to move from event to event is using the video controls. I would like to be able to drag the timeline dates across like you can on videos so I can move more quickly to a specific time or event without laboriously going moment by moment. This is probably not a big deal for quick stories but in a big presentation like my History Meograph it is needed. Meograph is being aimed at the Education and Journalism markets so there will come a time when I’m not the only one making really long meographs!
  2. Maps. Would like to be able to move the map around rather than just zoom in and out. Would like to move the placeholders too. Some of my locations were a bit inaccurate and a quick drag of the place holder would fix that problem.
  3. Text. Not a big deal but possibly some simple textformatting tools wouldn’t go astray for greater emphasis – size, colour, bold, italic would be enough. Then again my opening paragraph did talk about Web 2.0 simplicity vs Software bloat, so no drama if not done.
  4. Full Screen view. At present, the Meographs are a touch small to view. A Full screen option like Youtube and other video sites offer would make it better for viewing, especially for whole class viewing on a screen or iWB.
  5. Image AND Video instead of OR. Again not a big issue but sometimes I was faced with the choice of using video or image. Would have been nice to use both. Same goes for….
  6. Multiple Links.  From an Educational perspective, it would be good to link to multiple references to verify accuracy of information.
  7. iPads. You can watch it on an iPad just fine but editing is very difficult. Sometimes I managed to add new moments but often the buttons didn’t work. of course that is common with a lot of web 2.0 tools ( but not all). Be interesting to find out if it can be improved.
Everything else is Beta based Bugs. Sometimes it slowed down to a walk, especially when adding additional text. There were times when images or videos wouldn’t load and I had to close the browser and restart a session. There was a bit of a lag when inputting Where/When/What Data at times as well. Sometimes there was inaccurate map placements but that may well be Google Maps’ problem ( Apple’s IOS maps aren’t alone in location errors).
Having said all that, I have found MeoGraph to be a great addition to my teaching toolbox. Below is a yet to be completed but still lengthy Meograph I am putting together for my Grade 5/6 teams who are teaching Australian History this year. I see a lot of possibilities for History, Geography, Biographies, place and time based narrative investigations in this tool. I would like to hear from teachers about whether they would use or have used Meograph.
(Word of warning: Like most Web 2.0 tools, the Under 13s get a raw deal here. However, I can’t see why you can’t set up a class account controlled by you to avoid COPPA problems-Meograph’s Terms and Privacy policies are inconclusive here and the site itself doesn’t seem to have any inappropriate material easily accessible once logged in. It appears possible to use one account on multiple computers – I’ve tested it with my Meograph and even added different moments from different computers logged in at the same time. Meograph might not agree with me here but I’ve said it)

Edmodo just got a lot better on the iPad

20121217-192225.jpg

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.

20121217-191742.jpg

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.

20121217-191643.jpg

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.

Cybersafety websites for parents, teachers and students

Last week I attended a Cybersafety presentation aimed at parents. I went along mainly to see the message that was being presented to the parents who attended from our school. I wasn’t expecting to learn too much myself as I have always seen myself as a very cyber smart parent who has taught my two children, now 14 and 16, how to be responsible digital citizens. While I heard much that I have done for years, the presenter, Tony Richards from IT Made Simple in Australia, hammered home a few points that made me think.

What I appreciated most was his promise of a wealth of resources he would send us the following week. True to his word, this list of resources just landed in my inbox and I thought it appropriate to share with you on this blog. If nothing else it’s a good place for me to store them for future reference. There are probably too many resources, as Tony said himself, but what teacher doesn’t like a truck load of resources to browse?!?

Hello,

I hope you found the session you attended the other week informative. Please feel free to pass on these links to others that were not able to attend.

Remember to talk with your children and ensure they make smart decisions online.

If I can provide any assistance feel free to contact me, I also provide sessions for community organisations and businesses around social media and online issues.

Tony

The following are some of the sites I spoke about or alluded too during the presentation. Please keep this email somewhere safe to return to at a later date.

Sites – General Information and Help

Google Online Safety – http://www.google.com/goodtoknow/online-safety/
Australian Government – http://www.netalert.gov.au/home.html
NZ NetSafe – http://www.netsafe.org.nz/keeping_safe.php?sectionID=parents
Childnet International – http://www.childnet-int.org/
ThinkuKnow – http://www.thinkuknow.com/
Scams Little Black Book – http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/726050

Cyber Safety Sites for Children and Parents
Parents – http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/en/Parents.aspx
Hectors World -http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/Young%20Kids/Hectors%20World.aspx (A site for young children to explore online safety.)
CyberQuoll -Cybersmart – Have fun (This site is for primary aged students.)
CyberNetrix – http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/cybernetrix/index.html (A site for teenagers to learn how to be smart online.)
Super Clubs Plus – http://www.superclubsplus.com.au/ (An environment for students to learn about online social networks)

CyberBullying
Facts about Cyberbullying – http://www.familysafecomputers.org/bullying.htm
Tips on how to respond – Parents – http://www.adl.org/education/cyberbullying/tips.asp#family
What is CYBERBULLYING? – http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/what_is_cyberbullying_exactly.html
Types of Cyberbullies - http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/educators/howdoyouhandleacyberbully.html
Quick Guide to Responding – Parents – http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/parents/guide.html
Texting Glossary features thousands of relevant and up to date terms. – http://www.dtxtrapp.com/glossary.htm

Family Safety resources
Google Family Safety – http://www.google.com.au/familysafety/
FaceBoook Family Safety – https://www.facebook.com/safety
Scams and Tricks via FaceBook – what to avoid – http://facecrooks.com/
Online Privacy – http://www.microsoft.com/security/onlineprivacy/reputation.aspx#findout
Google Jargon Busters - http://www.google.com/goodtoknow/jargon/#cookie
Australian Government – Easy guide – http://www.dbcde.gov.au/easyguide/social_networking
Google Privacy Tools – http://www.google.com/intl/en/privacy/tools.html
Chat Acronyms – http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php
Digital Reputation Management: Remove content from the web: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=164734

Surf Safely with Browsers
The Facts about Search Engines – http://www.familysafecomputers.org/searchengines.htm
Google Safe Browsing - http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/safebrowsing/
Parental Control Toolbar: Free Filtering Tool – http://www.parentalcontrolbar.org/
How to use Parental Controls on IE Explorer – http://www.ehow.com/how_2033277_use-parental-controls.html
KID-FRIENDLY SITES – http://www.bewebaware.ca/english/KidFriendlySearchEngines.aspx
Web Surfing Tips – http://www.commonsense.com/internet-safety-guide/web-surfing.php
Safety First – Internet Explorer @ How Stuff Works – http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet-explorer-82.htm
Internet Explorer vs. Firefox: Which is Safer? – http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/secu/article.php/3698606
Safe Surfing Tips for Teens – http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/internet_safety.html
Google Safe Search – http://www.google.com/safesearch_help.html

Monitoring Software
The following software allows you to monitor activity on computers systems – it’s up to parents to decide on how severe they want the monitoring to be. Personally, I like to use monitoring programs that aren’t spyware, meaning they show up on the device and my kids know the program is there. I feel that monitoring solutions should be used to reinforce positive behavior without taking away a child’s privacy by spying on them without their knowledge.

SpectorSoft http://www.spectorsoft.com/
The software is extremely comprehensive and utilizes key-logging, website tracking, social media monitoring and chat/IM logging, among other useful features that can give parents a comprehensive look into their child’s computer activity.

Screen Retriever http://www.screenretriever.com/

Mobile Monitoring Services
Code9Mobile – http://www.code9mobile.com/
Mobile Spy – http://www.mobile-spy.com/
eBlaster Mobile – http://www.spectorsoft.com/home-solutions.html

Social Media
Parenting with the Digital Generation (Article) -http://mashable.com/2010/05/13/parenting-social-media/

Videos
The following sites have a range of video content that you may be interested in watching and even later watching with your child/ren if you deem it appropriate:

Interview with Andrew Fuller on Self Harm – http://vimeo.com/46672640
Common Sense Media Advice Videos – http://www.commonsensemedia.org/video/advice
PBS – Growing up online – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/
Cyber Bullying – a view of this issue from the student view – great for children to watch – http://www.digizen.org/cyberbullying/fullFilm.aspx
Exposed – a view of the issue of sexting and its consequences. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ovR3FF_6us
ThinkUKnow – make sure you know who you are talking too. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDBDUX7KPT0&feature=fvwrel
Megan’s Story - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwKgg35YbC4&feature=relmfu

TalhotBlond
ABC aired an interesting documentary called “Talhotblond ” around an online chatting event that will make you think about the conversations we need to have with our children, even other adults about chatting and communicating online.
The website for the documentary can be found here:http://www.talhotblond.com/
* Please note this documentary contains adult content and language and is not suitable for children.

Online Books
Kids and Video Games
http://www.videogamesandkids.com/index.html

Student Links
20 Things I Learned Online
http://www.20thingsilearned.com/en-US

Password Bird
http://www.passwordbird.com

Protecting your PC
Lastly the following are the products I spoke about in regards to having on your computer to avoid viruses. All these products are free and do a very good job when used together, if you have Norton or McAfee or any other commercial product – please do not download the first product called AVG – as this performs the same task.

AVG – this program runs as a virus protection option and will scan email and software loaded onto your computer.
Product Information:: http://free.grisoft.com/
Download software:: http://free.grisoft.com/ww.download?prd=afe

Spybot – this program checks and removes any malicious software from your browsers, it also helps to scan common locations on your computer for items that should not be there.
Product Information:: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html
Download software:: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/mirrors/index.html

AdAware – this program also checks your internet browser for malicious software.
Product Information:: http://www.lavasoftusa.com/
Download software:: http://www.download.com/Ad-Aware-2007/3000-8022_4-10045910.html?part=dl-ad-aware&subj=dl&tag=top5&cdlPid=10837062

Windows Defender
Site:http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/defender/default.mspx
Microsoft recently released this free tool that will do many of the functions the programs above provide – this tool is highly recommended. However please note that you must have a valid copy of windows to install this application.

The key with these tools is that you need to scan your computer based on your usage – if the internet is used a lot then scan with Spybot and AdAware every fortnight – if the internet is only used a low or moderate amount then scan once a month. if you are every concerned with anything on the computer then run a scan just to be sure. These products are designed to simply help eliminate viruses and unwanted software on your computer.

One other tool to have a look at is Norton Online Family :http://onlinefamilyinfo.norton.com/ – more information on this product can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OnlineFamily.Norton

Or check out the K9 Web Protection tool:http://www1.k9webprotection.com/

Open DNS – http://www.opendns.com/parental-controls
OpenDNS is the only Internet parental controls solution that empowers parents to manage Web access across every device that accesses the Internet on your home network. This includes phones and computers that your kids’ friends bring into the house,

Thanks for being involved and taking time to understand the environment your children are growing up in.

Regards

Tony

Tony Richards
Web. www.itmadesimple.com
Twitter. itmadesimple
Blog. http://blog.itmadesimple.com/
Podcast. http://www.edtechcrew.net

I’d like to thank Tony for the effort in compiling these resources and his presentation. While it focused on the dark side of the Internet, which was necessary in being a strong wake up call for parents who excuse themselves sometimes from responsibility of being in control of Internet usage in their house, he still took time to stress the good that children do online as well, which I tend to focus moore on here on my blog. It was well received by all who attended and if you are in Australia, I recommend getting him to your school to talk to all stakeholders – students, parents and teachers.

Essential Paid iPad Apps for Schools

I’m not a big fan of Top 10 lists but after a year of experimenting with apps on iPads at school, it’s getting to that time when decisions need to be made on what apps we will invest heavily when the App Purchasing Program comes into full effect in Australia, hopefully soon( Yes, rightly or wrongly, I have been running multiple copies of apps from one account for testing purposes, waiting for Apple to release its Purchasing Program so we can be 100% legit. If they had it in place from the start, I would have done it from the start.) So I’m starting to put together a list of what I think are the essential apps that are worth spending the money on for bulk purchasing.

In making my choices, I’m considering multi-purpose apps that can be used across all curriculum areas, apps that take advantage of the multimedia strengths and apps that can help us use technology in new and innovative ways that can change the way we teach, not just do it the same way with a different tech toy. Some apps are needed to handle the shortfalls of the iOS in a shared network setting and others are chosen because they can make the iPad interact with other tech in the school.

I understand that for some schools the cost for a large number of apps for a 1:1 iPad setup may become prohibitive but in our setting of sharing small numbers of sets, the price is controllable. I’m also from an era where we spent (and still do ) $1000s on Microsoft Office licenses that restricted us to using 3 programs with creativity limitations or $1000s on licenses to use a couple of CD-ROMS that quickly became obsolete. For far less and with free upgrades, we can buy a wide array of apps that offer great creativity options for different learning styles. So here are my essential paid apps, in no particular order. Feel free to agree or disagree. (Prices are in Australian $, similar but sometimes slightly  more expensive than US prices, despite our dollar being higher!?!) Get an app like AppShopper to keep track of sales – I actually bought a lot of these apps at discounted prices. Also, even though I haven’t had access to it yet, my understanding is that The Apple App Purchasing Program discounts prices when apps are bought in bulk.(These prices are current as of August 22nd, 2012. Prices do change.)

FileBrowser ($5.49)- effective access of school network for transferring files through open in… command, transfer of picture/video saved to photo library, views a large range of files. Here is a post I did earlier on this app, including video instructions. It’s the best solution I’ve found for working with our school’s network and is an effective way to get a lot of work created on our shared iPads onto individual student’s folders. It means we can delete work on iPads when they are completed, freeing up space for others to use.

iCab Mobile ($1.99) – full featured web browsing with great downloading capabilities( especially video) and sharing functionality . Great for capturing clips of the internet that could then be imported into iMovie to make documentaries. The collaborative research possibilities are endless with the range of sharing options. I wrote about this app in this post on Safari alternatives.

Notability ($0.99) – Low cost word processing (if you don’t want to spend money on more expensive word processing apps more compatible with Word) with sufficient formatting and image importing and labeling. Its main function is as a  full featured note taking app with-

  • in app web browsing and web clipping ( great way to collect websites and quickly access them
  • note synced audio that links audio to specific notes automatically – great for reviewing presentation notes
  •  simple drawing capabilities including graph paper backgrounds for creating hand drawn graphs and charts
  • efficient filing system for sorting and organizing notes including search. In a 1:1 iPad environment, this can enable Notability to replace multiple exercise books, with each subject having its own category for all related notes.
  • Good file transferring setup with automatic syncing to Dropbox and other options.
  • Can save as native Notability file to open on another iPad or as PDF or RTF ( which can then be edited in Word if necessary. )

GoodReader ($5.49) – my favourite PDF annotation app because of its extensive file system and sharing options. Can link to all major cloudservers, mail systems, WebDAV, etc. for sharing files with other students or staff. Save a truckload of paper by avoiding handing our photocopies ( that then get lost or damaged ). Set up folders in your favourite file servers that students and teachers can download PDF versions of anything you want them to read and work with. You can create Folders for arranging and storing files. A great range of annotation tools for taking notes on PDFs, including highlighting, multiple shapes, text annotation, underlining and arrows/pointers.

Explain Everything ($2.99)
This screencasting app is one of my favourite apps for use at school. There are free alternatives but they are linked to online accounts or lack saving options or advanced features. If you can afford this app over ShowMe or Educreations, get it.

  • Useful across all curriculum areas
  • Alternative to PowerPoint for Slideshow making (instead of buying an extra app like Keynote)
  • Great way for creating tutorial videos for flipping classroom
  • Can be used to record student work in any subject, including audio recording of the student’s thinking and explanation accompanying all of their drawing, writing, working out, notes
  • Can save as videos to photo library which is not an option in some of the free screencasting apps

SonicPics($2.99) – A really simple to use app for any age group ( Grade 1s have used it at our school ), SonicPics is a great way to collect photos together into one file and add commentary. Because of the portability and multimedia capabilities of the iPad, you can take it on excursions with junior grades, snap some photos and record the students’ comments right on the spot. Of course, you could come back and do the recordings in class. The fact that all you have to do is import photos and swipe from one to the next while the audio recording is operating makes this a breeze to operate. Great for language experience, oral language practice, recording ideas for writing, reflecting on and reviewing Maths experiences,working with children with special needs who may not be able to write but can talk about the pictures in front of them. a simple, must have app for me.

Strip Designer ($2.99) – I believe in the power of comics as a communication tool. This comic creation app is easy to use and offers a great range of creative options to allow children to plan, tell and retell stories, record reflections and brainstorms, organise explanations and procedures across curriculum areas, make posters… the list can go on. I love the Comic Life app too, especially the Mac version, and in some ways it looks more polished, but Strip Designer is cheaper and has more options. Features include:

  • basic drawing tools to create your own artwork for your comic
  • lots of photo editing and filter options to alter the imported photos
  • Multiple page creation to make a full scale comic book using a large range of comic panel templates
  • Text editing ( reshaping, resizing, colour)  to make graphic Titles
  • Highly editable speech bubbles and text boxes for recording ideas or narrations
  • “Stickers”  add graphics that enhance the comic’s story telling capabilities
  • Exporting options include iCloud, Dropbox, email, Facebook, Flickr, PDF export, emailing or export to iTunes Strip Designer file to edit on another iPad and save to Photo Library as image ( one page at a time)

iMovie ($5.49) – it’s not in the same league as its Mac Desktop companion but coupled with the built in camera and audio capabilities its a great, quick way to put together an edited video with basic titles, sound effects, back ground music and transitions. It’s easy to use once you work out its idiosyncracies ( it has a good help section that explains each function in detail). In a 90 minute class today with Grade 5 students, all students were able to record, edit and publish videos in one session with a five minute overview of features at the start. The students were absolutely absorbed in the process ( the grade tends to be a noisy bunch in general). Students from Grade 2-6 at our school have created iMovies this year with iPads in Maths, Religion, Inquiry, PE and Literacy. Multimodal texts are an important part of learning today and being able to create them, not just view them is essential. iMovie on iPad makes it easy for young students. I’ve just started investigating Avid Studio on iPad – it has a lot more features which I will probably find more useful, and older students might as well – but for simplicity and expediency, I think iMovie is worth the cash.

Creative Book Builder ($4.49) and Book Creator for iPad($5.49) – I put these two apps together as they both create ebooks – Creative Book Builder has more features and a workflow more suited for older students ( late elementary/primary or middle school); Book Creator can be used even by Kinder/Prep students. I think both (or either) of these apps are essential in today’s classroom where we are trying to make writing more authentic by providing an audience to our students. Students at my school from grade 1-6 have already published ebooks across a range of curriculum areas and seen their publsihed books being read by other students in other grades on the iPads. It’s a great incentive to the writers to see other people read their books. We can even email the books to parents to read on their iDevices at home. Both apps allow text, photos and video to be included in the books. Creative Book Builder lets you include weblinks, glossaries, tables of contents, charts and tables in your books. This allows students ( and teachers) to create complex non fiction texts.

Numbers ($10.49) – Apple’s iWork apps are all useful but a little costly buying all three. Notability can do a good enough job as a word processor, Explain Everything can be a Keynote substitute. Numbers, though, as a spreadsheet app is necessary. It’s not a perfect spreadsheet app and is no Excel in terms of overall features but then I’m talking about students not office workers or adult professionals. Spreadsheets are underused in Maths classrooms often because Excel is full of functions that make it too complicated. I love Numbers’ simplicity. I’ve been using it a lot with my extension Maths group recently to support problem solving and modelling using graphs. They have been absolutely engaged in using the app and love how they can easily make several separate charts for related tasks on the same page. The touch screen workflow seems to come easily to them as was dragging graphs and spreadsheets around the iPad screen. Having easy access to an app that can quickly create data and graphs for analysing in all curriculum areas is a big advantage. Critics of Numbers have to stop evaluating it at an adult level when talking about its use in education. I think its a winner, especially in Primary and Middle School grade levels.

Wolfram Alpha ($1.99-drop in price recently from $4.49) – A powerful app for searching for information. Click here for more info about this app – it has too many features to explain. For Maths, though, I find it indispensable.

Garageband ($5.49)- As a Music teacher among other things, I love this app. But it can be used for so much more. Students have used it to create Radio programs, mixing different recordings of news, interviews, competitions, talkback, music ( created in Garageband or imported in). The drag and drop UI of Garageband makes this process so easy. Other students have used it to record songs they have written as creative responses across subjects, adding voice and music. Other uses have been Readers’ Theatre recordings and recording children read for assessment and feedback purposes. And yes, I have also had students create their own multi instrument musical masterpieces in music workshops. For  creative purposes, Garageband is a must have.

SplashTop (Currently $7.49 but was $0.99 last month – keep an eye out for price drops because it regularly changes) - A great app for wirelessly accessing and controlling a computer from your iPad. Great for moving around the room and letting  students control what’s on the interactive whiteboard your computer is connected to. Needs the free Splashtop Streamer installed on computer

Reflection/AirServer - Not  iPad apps but an app to install on your whiteboard-connected computer. This is a much cheaper option that Apple TV. It allows you to project any iPad screen in the classroom onto the whiteboard. Students in my grade have loved showing their work on their iPads with a simple swipe and click on the Airplay button. More info on their websites. ( click on the links at the start of this  paragraph.)

These are my must haves. I love Art Rage ($2.99) for realistic artwork and Snapseed ($5.49 now but I got it for free – watch for sales) for easy photo editing if you want other creative options. I’m sure different teachers have different favourites and I’d love to hear about other essentials from readers. Technology is not cheap but sometimes if you want the best, you have to pay for it. ( Total cost of listed apps at current prices $64 – with an eye on sales you can get much cheaper). I wouldn’t go into an iPad classroom without these.

COMING UP – Essential Free Apps.