123D Circuits (from Autodesk) is a free, online tool for designing, building and testing a variety of different electrical circuits. Working within their web-based Electronics Lab, you start with an empty, virtual circuit breadboard. A pop up menu reveals a variety of electronic components that can be quickly added to your breadboard. Batteries, resistors, capacitors, servos and motors are just a few of the components available to the user. There is also an option to use and program a virtual Arduino board and incorporate it into your circuit.
Testing and running circuits is done quickly as you run the simulation online and allows for quick troubleshooting and feedback. Projects are automatically saved to your account and can be shared with other users. New accountsfor 123D Circuits are free to create or users can opt to login using an existing FaceBook, Yahoo, Microsoft or Google account. As this is a web application, 123D Circuits works well from any Mac, Chromebook or Windows PC but as of the date of this post there are no dedicated applications for Android or iOS devices.
For teachers looking for a new and innovative way for students to learn about and play with electrical circuits, you are going to want to check this out.
If you want to maintain or hold a specific point of focus and exposure while using the native camera app for iOS devices (iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone) simply press and hold on the area of the frame that you wish to focus on. After about 2 seconds you should see the message “AE/AF Lock” indicating that the focus and exposure are now locked. You can still manually adjust exposure by sliding your finger up or down the screen and any new adjustments to exposure will now remain locked.
This feature works when taking either photos or videos. This is a great feature for any videographer that wants to maintain focus on a subject during a shot and prevent the camera from continually refocusing on different elements in the frame or from automatically adjusting to changes in lighting. As an example, this would be important when shooting subjects in front of a greenscreen. Exposure and focus lock would also be important if you were taking a series of photos for stop motion animation. To disengage the AE/AF lock, simply tap anywhere on the screen again.
NOTE: You will need the latest version of iOS 8 in order to manually adjust the exposure while still in the locked mode.
Customize the name of your Apple TV so it is easier to find
If you are in a school with several operating Apple TVs, it may be necessary to a use a naming convention that is more specific (and more appropriate) than the stock labels that Apple provides (ex. Office, Living Room , Kitchen, etc.). Create a custom name for your Apple TV in order to make it easier to identify it from other units. Typically, I have always recommended using room numbers as labels as it helps to easily and quickly identify the appropriate Apple TV.
Navigate to SETTINGS and then select AIRPLAY. Next choose APPLE TV NAME and then scroll down to the CUSTOM option. Go ahead and name your Apple TV with a label that easily distinguishable form other Apple TVs on the same networks.
Turn ON either ONSCREEN CODE, PASSWORD or DEVICE VERIFICATION in order to manage user access to the Apple TV
Now that students and teachers can find your Apple TV, it is time to manage who can actually connect to it. Activating either one of these 3 settings (ONSCREEN CODE, PASSWORD or DEVICE VERIFICATION) will help determine who can stream to your Apple TV. This is another helpful feature to consider when setting up your Apple TV within a classroom or school.
Go to SETTINGS, select AIRPLAY and then navigate to SECURITY. From here you can opt to select and set up ONSCREEN CODE, PASSWORD or DEVICE VERIFICATION.
Onscreen code will ask users looking to connect to the Apple TV to enter a randomly generated 4-digit code that is displayed on the screen. I find that this is a great option for a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment as you do not need to share a password with other users. Password makes use of a password that is generated by the Apple TV administrator where users are then prompted to enter it when their Apple device looks to connect to the Apple TV. This is not a bad solution if you are working with a class set of iPads that you will want to have access to the Apple TV without having to enter an onscreen code every time. Device verification works in the same way as password, except that the user enters an onscreen code once in order to verify future connections to the Apple TV.
Apple has posted a number of great resources on the Apple TV. Find them HERE.
IFTTT allows the user to connect different online platforms and applications by establishing conditional relationships between them. IFTTT stands for “IF This Then That” and it nicely sums up how one connects two applications together. Changes in one application or platform will trigger an action in another. These simple chains or strings of commands are referred to as “recipes” and they can be shared to other IFTTT users looking to do the same thing with their own respective applications.
IFTTT does a great job in walking new users through the process of creating their own recipe. Currently, IFTTT can connect to about 180 different online applications or “channels” that support productivity, social media, home automation and wearable technologies. As a result, one can create some unique recipes that can combine and automate applications that would otherwise work independently from each other.
Examples of some possible recipes include:
Save and document all of your Twitter posts to a Google spreadsheet
Save your Instagram photos to DropBox
Automatically save Gmail attachments to either Dropbox, Box or OneDrive
Receive a SMStext message if any new post appears on your Tumblr blog
Download SoundCloud tracks to your Google Drive
IFTTT is also available as an app for iOS and Android. The developers at IFTTT have just released their DO applications that allow you to connect action items to their DO Button, DO Camera or DO Note apps. If you are looking to automate and coordinate your favourite applications, you will want to check out IFTTT.
It is not unusual to see a mounted LCD (or LED) panel in the foyer of a school as a way to display school updates and information for students, parents and teachers. Some schools may choose to display a school website, loop a PowerPoint presentation or employ a 3rd party digital signage software (ex. http://www.ucview.com/digital-signage-markets/k12-schools) to help manage how the information is presented on the screen. For those with an older iPad and the means to connect the tablet to an LCD (or LED) display, Status Board (Panic Inc.) may provide a simple and interesting solution for you to display information to your school community.
Status Board ($11.99) is an iPad application that allows the user to create and customize a digital bulletin board that is mirrored to a display. There are a variety of elements or panels that you can use to populate your board. Calendars, weather updates as well as RSS and Twitter feeds can be added as panels and arranged around the canvas of your board. For the more technically inclined, you have the option of creating and sharing your own DIY panels.
Searching for a movie or television show within and across different streaming services (ex. Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, etc.) can be a painful and lengthy process. If you know what you want to watch but have no idea what streaming service is currently offering the title, check out Can I Stream.it. This is a free service that also allows you to search for titles available as digital rentals, digital purchases as well as disc purchases. Can I Stream.it is also available as an app for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Chrome.
iOS devices with smaller storage capacities can quickly fill up with a variety of recordings, projects and media. The installation of some applications may also use up large amounts of storage space as well. Inevitably, there will come a point where the storage capacity of the device will fill up and decisions will need to be made on applications and media that may need to be deleted, backed-up or uninstalled in order to free up more space.
Go to your storage management settings in order to quickly determine the applications that are currently using up the most amount of storage on your iOS device.
Go to SETTINGS
Select the GENERAL menu item
Find and select the USAGE menu
Then go to MANAGE STORAGE
In the MANAGE STORAGE section, you will be able to see the amount of storage still available on your device as well as a list of all your apps and the amount of available storage capacity. You may be surprised to discover the amount of storage that certain apps use up. With that said, this information can help you determine which applications to attend to (ex. delete or back up) in order to recover the maximum amount of storage space on your iPad, iPod or iPhone.
– K. Takahashi
Why 1 of 31?
In an attempt to start my own everyday project, here is my modest attempt at trying to complete a 31 day project. At the end of day 31 whether this daily project is successful or a complete failure, I want to be able to reflect back on this experience and articulate what I have learned. Since my work currently involves the support and exploration of technology and its support of classroom instruction, I am going to post a quick tech tip each day. Here we go…
iMovie for iOS is Apple’s video editor for the iPad, iPad Mini and iPod Touch. It is designed with a touch interface in mind and provides a very intuitive user experience. For the classroom, iMovie is a powerful tool for students to create content and demonstrate learning. However even with its growing list of features and effects, some students (and teachers) may already be looking for more functionality from iMovie. If you and your students are looking to do more with video production have a look at the following applications that can help extend the scope and potential of iMovie for iOS.
There are several green screen apps for iOS but Green Screen by Do Ink is the one that I like to use. It offers multitrack editing of footage so you can choose to use prerecorded media to produce your shot or scene. There are also helpful tools like Lock Exposure which prevents your camera from trying to brighten and wash out your green screen. Once you have produced your shot, save it locally to your Photos (camera roll) and then retrieve it in your iMovie project when you import videos saved on your iOS device.
With the ability to do some green screen work on the iPad, you are no longer limited to a classroom or school setting. A picture, graphic or video can now serve as your background and setting. For the creative student, this now opens up a new door of possibilities for their video projects.
Make no mistake, Explain Everything can stand on its own as a fully featured application. However this application has been extremely helpful in creating unique and specialized clips for my video projects. Explain Everything allows you to record and capture annotations of images and videos. This application records both your voice and the changes you are making on the canvas/screen. With the ability, to save finished projects locally to the iOS device, these video clips are available to import into iMovie.
Similar to the added creative potential of green screen (chroma key), the ability to video capture annotations made on the touchscreen opens a new world of functionality for iMovie. These screen captures may help students illustrate new concepts, demonstrate innovative solutions or showcase unique creations.
Apple’s own GarageBand application for iOS is a useful tool to help out with the audio facet of video production. GarageBand may be regarded as a powerful application for music recording and editing, but videographers will appreciate its ability to create and refine audio elements for videos. You can use GarageBand to record and edit your own sound FX, foley work or voice overs and then import the finished products directly into iMovie. You do have the option of recording voice and sound from within iMovie but I find it much easier to edit and manipulate audio recordings within GarageBand. For the more musically inclined, GarageBand also provides the ability to create your own soundtracks and theme music for your video projects.
Like ExplainEverything, iStopMotion can stand on its own as a compelling platform to create stop motion animation. With this app, you have access to a wide range of helpful tools to create your own stop motion footage. You have the ability to adjust frame rate, add audio and even set up your iOS device as a time lapse camera. You have a number of options when it is time export out your finished product, but for the purpose of using this footage within iMovie we will need to export our finished clips to the camera roll.
iStopMotion provides students the chance to create their own animations that they can then bring into iMovie for a larger project. The animations can help illustrate a concept, tell a story or help breakdown a complex process. Students can also use stop motion animation to create unique visual effects as well as their own animated titles.
Recent updates to iMovie for iOS have added more animated titles within the app itself but if you are looking for some other options for titles and credits have a look at Intro Designer. The app makes use of premade templates, animations and sound FX but you provide the text and titles. Templates are grouped into different themes that should help you find the appropriate style for your project.
Completed animated titles and credits are then exported out to your camera roll as video clips where they are now available to import into your iMovie project. Even though you are working from preset templates, you still have the ability to trim and edit these finished video clips to fit your specific movie title and credit needs.
Coordinating the use of these apps along with iMovie is a type of application stacking where the product from one app is then imported into another application where it is changed and edited again. But this is just the beginning! For example, there is nothing stopping you from creating an animated clip using iStopMotion and bring in your finished clip into Explain Everything where you can add in some labels and callouts. From there, that finished video clip can then serve as a backdrop as you place yourself in front of the animation using the Green Screen app. From here, you can narrate the animation and explain what the viewer is seeing. After this new clip is completed, bring it into iMovie where you can add in other supporting clips and media. The sky is the limit…
There are plenty of websites and services that can help you locate some of the best iOS apps for the classroom (Edutecher, Edudemic and Education Apps on Pinterest). However, there comes a point where a teacher, a school or a school district will need to ultimately make the final decision on selecting the best and most appropriate apps for their students. This is easier said than done if you are not sure what to look for when selecting an app.
The TPACK model of integrating technology in education would tell us that along with the need to assess the pedagogical and content demands of a course and classroom there is also a need to assess the technological aspects of a given technology. So before you settle on that iOS application for your classroom or school set of iPads, spend some time putting the app through a technical diagnostic. Assuming that all is good on the pedagogical and content front, the question remains “what do we look for when we are evaluating the technical merits of an app?”. Below is a list of “look fors” grouped into 4 main areas that I have found to be helpful when testing out a potential app for the classroom.
1. In-app purchases and other hidden costs
One of the first things we look at when sizing up an app is the price. But whether looking at free or paid applications it is important to consider some of the other costs that can come attached with the use of an application.
Scaling Cost for a Classroom or School
Even low-priced apps can present a substantial cost when purchasing them in bulk through Apple’s Volume Purchase Program. A $1.99 application installed across a classroom set of 30 iPads can add up quickly. Even with educational volume pricing (where the price of the app drops by 50% when purchasing 20 or more copies) a $1.99 app balloons to a $30 purchase for 30 iPads. With that said, not all apps offer this special volume pricing.
Some apps subtly ratchet up their price point with in-app purchases that go on to unlock new features, content or tools within the app. Apps that start out as a free download may later prompt users to pay a small fee in order to unlock a key feature within the app. In this case it really does pay to test the app and run it through its paces. I have run across several free apps that look as though they offer certain features and tools only to be presented with a prompt for an in-app purchase that would allow me access that feature.
Advertisements: The price of “free”
Although not a direct cost, the display of ads within an app is another way that developers can generate revenue from an app that is offered for free to consumers. As an educator, my concern around the use of ads within applications is their potential to distract from the learning task at hand. Students may quickly quickly find themselves removed from the context of the intended application with the simple touch (whether deliberate or accidental) of a posted ad within an app. With some apps, it is also difficult to determine and regulate the types of ads that appear within the app itself.
2. User interface and navigation
Intuitive interface and navigation
Since apps do not come with instruction manuals, the user must rely on the tutorials and hints embedded within the app itself. However if an app is designed with gestures and navigation that are intuitive and easy to discover, users may quickly orient themselves within an app with simple tips and interactive instructions. This is something to look for when assessing apps for use with students. Ultimately, is the app inherently designed to quickly orient students and get them using the tools and features quickly? If so, what ages or grade levels would be able to us this app? Are the tutorials helpful and easy to read or view for younger students?
(Snapseed is an example of an application that maximizes the touch gestures of the iOS device. Edits to a photo are done by simply touch gestures (ex.pinch to zoom, tap and drag, etc.) on the screen and specifically manipulating areas of the photo that you wish to edit.).
Buttons and menus
If we specifically look at the layout of buttons and menus that we find when navigating an application, we can begin to assess if the application is at a level that is appropriate for our learners. Applications that present a lot of onscreen menus or provide a navigation bar covered with many buttons and icons may ultimately be too confusing or overwhelming for inexperienced users. Even onscreen buttons that are relatively small in size may be challenging for younger, less dexterous hands.
An application’s onscreen layout and navigation may also determine if the app can be used while simultaneously carrying the tablet or if the device needs to be placed on a surface in order to properly operate the application. If the intent is to have this app support a learning activity where students are constantly moving with the iPad or iPod (ex. physical education class) will the interface allow them to navigate the application easily without the need to prop or rest the device on a surface?
3. Exporting content from the app
Depending on the nature of an app and how it is supporting learning in the classroom, it may be necessary to investigate how students can share and move their work beyond the app itself. In certain situations, a teacher may wish to have their students submit their work or creations from the iPad to another application or into some sort of cloud storage.
If there is an export feature it is typically indicated by a fairly common icon. This icon is drawn out as a box with an arrow or pointer coming out of it. Selecting it will usually reveal your options for exporting content and projects from the app. Apps may offer the ability to export out to Photos, email, Airdrop, iCloud Drive as well as any number of 3rd party applications such as Google Drive, DropBox, Evernote, Twitter and Tumblr to name just a few. Regardless of the export pathway that best suits your classroom needs, be sure to thoroughly test the export feature to ensure that it works and provides the results that you are looking for.
4. Importing content and media into the app
Media stored in your local iOS Photos folder or captured directly from the camera as well as content stored in other applications can help extend the use of an application, providing the app can access them. This is what what we ultimately need to find out when reviewing an application.
Can the app import photos and videos locally stored in your Photos folder?
This feature will most likely appear as a simple button or icon on your screen. This is an important feature to look for as this will allow the user to bring in media created in other applications.
Does the app allow for the recording of photos, audio and video directly into the app?
These features usually appear as camera and microphone icons. This feature allows the user to capture and bring in new media without having to leave the app.
Can you bring in other files from other applications?
When creating a new file or project can you also bring in media and content stored in other applications? Cloud storage services is a common example here. Exploring this feature may also require us to look at other critical applications that we currently use. For example, if your class uses Google Drive, you will want to see if this Google app will allow you to open one its files in the app you are reviewing.
Some other things to check out
Explore the app settings
While you are within the prospective app, be sure to check out its’ settings menu. This is often accessed by selecting a gear or menu icon.
Explore additional app settings within the SETTINGS menu of iOS
You may also discover additional settings listed within your iOS SETTINGS menu. Select the SETTINGS icon and scroll down the list of menu items until you come across the settings for individual apps that are currently installed on your device. Select the app in question and see if there are other additional settings that may be of importance to you and your classroom.
How much space does the app take up on your device?
If storage space is limited on your iOS device, it may be worth seeing how much storage space is eaten up with the app and the files that it creates. The app store does list the initial download size of the app under its description. However as you begin to use the app you can see how much space is dedicated to the app and its associated project files by going to the SETTINGS menu, selecting USAGE and then looking under MANAGE STORAGE.
Exploring these 4 areas during your technical assessment of an application is a great starting point as the features you find (or unable to find) may lead to more questions and areas of exploration. You may find that a promising app lacks a critical feature or perhaps requires the installation of other supporting apps. You may find better alternatives to apps that you are currently using in the classroom. Exploring these apps may also make you aware of some features that you may wish to limit or lock down through restriction settings. Ultimately taking the time to carefully assess and evaluate applications helps us to realize their potential in the classroom.
What else do you look for when sizing up an application?
For those who are manually managing school or classroom iPads, setting up and restoring a collection of iOS devices is a time consuming activity. Configurator offers an automated option to configure and maintain iPads but if these devices are left open and unrestricted, users can quickly undo your hard work. Whether you are managing sets of iPads or just your own, be sure to become familiar with the options after you enable Restrictions in iOS 8. Turning ON a few of these options can save you the time and trouble of having to continually reset and manage your iOS device(s).
First of all, we need to enable Restrictions…
Be sure to create a passcode that is different from your passcode for your lock screen. It is also critical that you have a way of recalling this passcode in the future should you forget.
Restricting Access to the Safari, Camera, FaceTime and Siri
Be mindful that changes that you make to your restrictions settings may also impact the functionality and accessibility of the apps that you currently have installed on your device. For example, completely restricting Siri will also take away the dictation function on your iOS device.
Restrict Purchases, Podcasts and the ability to Install/Delete Applications
Restricting the deletion of apps is a helpful restriction to use if you are concerned about users deleting apps from the iOS device.
Restricting Various Types of Content
Once again be mindful of the content that you are restricting as it may impact and limit the apps and media that you currently have on your device. For example, setting filters on your websites will impact all web browsers on your iOS device not just Safari.
Restricting Changes to your Accounts
Restricting changes to accounts will effectively lock down accounts that you would set up in your Settings menu. This includes account changes to Mail, Calendar, iTunes, iCloud and iMessage to name just a few. Consequently if there is no account currently associated with a service or feature in iOS, restricting changes to accounts will also prevent someone from adding a new account.