A quick tip for those looking for a screen capture solution for the Chromebook. ScreenCastify is a Chrome application that allows the user to record their browser tab or desktop. This is a fantastic option for students who are looking to create, record and annotate projects (ex. Google Slides, Google Drawings, etc.) that they have created on their Chromebook. Recorded videos can then be saved and exported to Google Drive or YouTube to be shared or submitted as part of an assignment or formative assessment. There is a free version of ScreenCastify that will allow you to record projects that are under 10 minutes long. For those who are familiar with the Explain Everything app for iOS, Windows, Android and Chrome, ScreenCastify is a simple and handy alternative for educators and students.
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.
Storify is an online application where users can create a story (although you can think of it as a list, collection or lesson) by bringing together material and content from other social media platforms. This Web 2.0 platform presents the opportunity for teachers to further differentiate content, process and product within their own classrooms. Content can be pulled from a number of sources such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr and Google – to name just a few. Searching for content takes place within the Storify interface and adding content to your “story” is as simple as dragging and dropping elements from your search results into your storyline. You can also add your own text (headers, captions, etc.) and links to your “story”.
Publishing your work allows you to share via a link that you can send out yourself or publicize your work via Twitter or Facebook. Readers can further share your publications via email or through their own preferred social media platform. Storify also provides an embed code for those looking to embed a published “story” on their own website or blog.
Storify for the Classroom – The Possibilities
Create an online lesson or resource that can be posted to on your website or use the HTML embed code to embed your publication within your own learning management system (LMS) or website. You can create a mini lesson or generate a list of media and links to support a lesson very quickly. All of those relevant and supporting articles, images and YouTube videos that you want supplement your lesson can now be corralled into one place complete with your own guiding text and titles. Media content that you add is viewable and playable from within your “story” so students can stay within the context of your lesson rather than navigating away to other sites.
You now have another way to produce, present and distribute content that can be differentiated according to student interest, readiness or learning preference. It is the ability to drag and drop content that enables a teacher to piece together a piece of content or several pieces of content that are customized to the needs and strengths of their students. Not a lot of time fussing with backgrounds and digital decorations but rather the ability to bring together a variety of content into a presentable “story” or publication.
Similarly, Storify provides a simple platform for students to gather and curate their own links, videos and media that they feel are relevant to a piece of research or help illustrate a particular opinion or concept. Again, it is the simple drag and drop functionality within Storify that provides a simple way for students to arrange, organize and/or rank elements and content within their publication. Students can generate notes or extensions from the “stories” that they and their classmates have created.
As a formative assessment tool, teachers can gauge student understanding and provide feedback on the student-curated content as well as their comments and captions that accompany their Storify projects. Students can easily share their “stories” with others in their classroom and engage in both self and peer assessment.
Storify provides another compelling choice for students to demonstrate their learning through the creation of a Storify publication. For me this is a great alternative to creating a website or blog. If you have students that have created videos or photos, those elements can be quickly added to their “story” if they have been uploaded to a social platform like YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, etc.
As always if you are looking at any Web 2.0 or social media platform to support student learning in your classroom, you are going to want to be sure to do your homework and understand the conditions and agreements that you and your students are acknowledging when you hit the “accept” button. Schools and school boards will also have policies, procedures and guidelines for social media. Be sure to understand and adhere to these important guidelines before engaging in the vast selection of online tools and platforms.
As someone who supports students, teachers and schools in my school board it requires me to try to arrange meetings with different stakeholders where I need to either coordinate a common meeting time or set up a series of individual meetings within a specified period of time. I have always found this to be incredibly time consuming as it requires a barrage of exchanging emails, phone calls, text messages, etc. I have always accepted this as an unavoidable task in order to coordinate my day. That was until Doodle entered the picture…
Doodle is an online and interactive scheduler that allows you poll participants in order to find common meeting times or arrange a series of meetings. You can create a free account or start a simple Doodle without any account at all. The paid subscription to Doodle offers more tools and functionality such as tracking, collecting participant info and setting up reminders. For my use, the free account has been more than adequate as it allows me to invite participants via email or by directing them to a link. As the administrator, I can then view the results and determine meeting times based upon participant feedback.
Even with the free account you do have some useful options available to you. Aside from determining dates and times that you would like others to consider for possible meeting times, you can also adjust settings so that busy participants can indicate an “if need be” response as well as limit the number of selections a participant can make on your Doodle. Another handy setting was the ability to set the number of eligible spots/openings available per proposed meeting time. This allowed me to open up a variety of dates and times that I would be available to meet with schools and teachers where they could then select and occupy a time slot that would then no longer be available to others. This little feature literally saved me numerous back and forth emails of updating participants on remaining available dates and times.
In order to distribute your Doodle you can invite participants directly from Doodle using their email address or you can simply copy and paste the URL to the Doodle and distribute it on your own. For participants who are responding to your Doodle, you have the option of allowing them to see the results and selections of others. However, if you wish you can also have the responses set to private so only the administrator is able to see the selections of other participants.
Outside of my own work, I can see how Doodle would help teachers/educators organize meetings within a school, coordinate meeting times for parent-teacher interviews, committee meetings, extracurricular groups and sports teams, etc. For meetings or gatherings that span across departments and schools, Doodle can be a great timesaver.
There is no shortage of iPad apps and games to help young learners practice their skills in literacy and numeracy. However, the iPad presents the opportunity for young learners to create and apply new learning using the tablet’s cameras, microphone and touch screen.
Toontastic allows students to manipulate characters as they provide voice and narration for the story. Toontastic makes use of standard story templates that help guide students through the basic elements of plot (story arc) as they create their animated story. The free version offers access to a small selection of backdrops and characters as well as the option for students to create their own background using the in-app painting program. The finished product can be viewed within the app but if you are looking to export the finished product to the camera roll, you will have to opt for the paid version of Toontasic (Toontastic: School Edition).
the app walks students through the creative process with a plot/story arc template
instructions are accompanied with voice-over instructions
large buttons and symbols for easy touch navigation
allows students to go back and edit the project after they have viewed it
unable to export finished product to the camera roll with the free version
access to the camera roll and camera to create custom backgrounds is available in the paid version (Toontastic: School Edition)
users who opt to use the free version will have to endure the persistent reminders to purchase additional content
the premium upgrade is pricey at $9.99
The free version of Toontastic offers enough content and functionality to get a good sense of what this app can offer. In the end it serves as a great opportunity to test drive the app and have students try to create a story using the iPad’s touch screen and microphone. Teachers can then evaluate how the app can best support learning in their respective classrooms and decide for themselves if the School Edition is indeed worth the additional cost.
Powtoon is a web-based presentation platform that allows the user to create animated presentations. Originally designed for business, Powtoon may prove to be another way for students to “show what they know” and demonstrate understanding of a concept or learning expectation. Educators can try Powtoon for free and for those looking for another alternative to PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi, Powtoon may be worth checking out. But beware, there are some important limitations and issues to consider as dive into your first project.
The Chromecast is a small, portable streaming device that is backed by Google’s Chrome browser. A winning combination right? But how does it fit within the classroom environment and infrastructure?
Small form factor – The Chromecast looks like an oversized thumbdrive that essentially plugs right into the HDMI port of a data projector or display. This makes for an easier installation as there is no need to stow or mount the hardware.
Works across different platforms – Since the Chromecast works through the Chrome browser and other Google services it provides the ability for different platforms (ex. Windows, Mac, Android and iOS) to connect with this streaming device. In a modern classroom where it is not unusual to see Windows desktop computers working alongside iPads and Android devices, the Chromecast places itself in a unique position where those different devices can be supported.
– HDMI only – Similar to the Apple TV, the Chromecast is only able to connect to displays (monitors, televisions) and data projectors through an HDMI port. This will be a challenge for classrooms with older projectors and displays. HDMI to VGA converters threaten to undermine the compact form factor of the Chromecast and there is no guarantee that a converter will work.
– Power via USB – Another potential drawback in the set up of a Chromecast is the need to provide additional power via a USB cable. Although the Chromecast comes with an AC-to-USB power adapter (and a fairly long USB cable), it can still serve as a challenge to power the Chromecast if there is no powered USB port or available AC outlet near the data projector or display.
– Different platforms, different functionality – Although the Chromecast brings the ability to support different platforms, Chromecast functionality and features differ as you move from Windows PCs and Macs to Android tablets and iOS devices. A Chrome browser running on a Mac or PC will allow the user to broadcast their browser and mirror their entire desktop (beta feature) to the Chromecast. On the other hand, iOS and some Android devices will only be able to connect to the Chromecast through specific, supported applications. So for those looking for an all-in-one, classroom solution to project the screens of different devices (mirroring), the Chromecast is not able to do this for iOS and specific Android devices… at least not yet (see the next section below).
Google’s I/O 2014 event unveiled some encouraging plans for the Chromecast. Most notable were the updates around mirroring and connectivity across different wireless networks. Mirroring functionality is currently being extended to certain Android devices and will allow for the broadcast of an Android device to another display through the Chromecast. As mentioned above, this is a feature that PCs and Macs currently enjoy through the Chrome browser.
Future Chromecast features that would allow devices to connect across different wireless networks is a function that seems to rely upon technologies that allow for devices to locally connect to each other. It will be interesting to see if this feature will support a BYOD environment where personal student and teacher devices connect to a classroom Chromecast residing on a secured wireless network. Ultimately the news around Chromecast at Google’s I/O 2014 event helps to assure users that there is still more in store for this device over the next year.
I love the resources, tools and interactivity of the iPad within the learning environment but how does the smaller and cheaper iPod Touch fare in the classroom? Educators looking to purchase an iOS device (or devices) for their school or classroom can currently select from 3 different sizes or form factors. Although my preference has been the full size iPad (now the iPad Air) sporting the 9.7″ touch screen, there are classrooms that make use of the 7.9″ iPad mini and the 4″ iPod Touch. Along with a lighter and extremely portable form factor, the iPod Touch also provides a more affordable option for those looking to obtain iOS devices for their school or classroom. But can the iPod Touch match the utility and productivity of the full-size iPad? What compromises and advantages arise when opting to go with the iPod Touch over it’s larger siblings?
The iPod Touch that I will be referring to throughout this article is the 5th generation of this iPod running iOS 7.
1. Form factor fit for a camera (and flash too!) – Taking photos and videos with an iPad is about as elegant as it looks. It is not surprising that the iPhone is a popular camera as it presents a form factor that is much more camera-like than the tablet. Similarly, the compact iPod Touch handles more like a typical point-and-shoot camera. Taking pictures with one hand is easy, especially when using one of the volume buttons as the “shutter” button. The iPod Touch also has the benefit of an LED flash which is currently absent from the iPad Air and iPad Mini.
2. Active and versatile applications in the classroom – From my own observations, the iPod Touch is a popular choice in classrooms where the device is used as a tool that needs to travel with the student or is perhaps being applied in ways that would be too awkward with a larger iPad. For example, students in health and physical education classes can easily document and record data and results on the iPod (number of repetitions, timed performances, etc.) and then quickly store the device in a pocket or armband so it is out of the way. Science classrooms have used the iPod’s camera, gyroscope and accelerometer to record data related to motion, position and even light refraction. Furthermore, the iPod’s smaller form factor make it possible for the device to be carefully attached or strapped to moving test objects or models. Sensor Kinetics, Sensor Tools and Data Collection are just a few apps that make use of these sensors.
3. Faster charging time – The latest 5th generation iPod Touch boasts a 2 hour fast charge time that will allow you to recharge the iPod’s battery to 80% in 2 hours. This fast charge feature may be a life saver in a school or classroom where a set of iPods could be used many times during the day and charging times may be brief and sporadic.
1. Smaller form factor comes at a cost – The smaller 4″ screen size of the iPod Touch presents some limitations in its use within groups of students and its display of applications when compared to the iPad and even the iPad Mini. Depending on the app itself, user experience may benefit significantly when accessed on a larger iPad screen. iMovie for iOS is an example an application that I find much easier to use and navigate on an iPad. Features and tool panels are easily accessible from one screen whereas the iPod/iPhone version requires the user to flip between different screens to access various iMovie tools.
The smaller screen of the iPod Touch is really only suitable for the single user. With a full size (9.7″) iPad, it is possible to have 2-3 students working around the device. (Granted, it makes for a cozy grouping but I have seen it done!) The dynamic is much different with an iPod Touch, and rather than having students gathered around its smaller screen, I would imagine that students would be more inclined to pass the device around the group.
2. Goodbye iPad apps – iPads have the benefit of being able to download and run apps that are native to the iPhone and iPod Touch. iPads will simply scale the display of the app to fit the size of the larger screen. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the iPhone and iPod. Apps that are available only for the iPad will not be available for download on the iPod Touch or iPhone. With that said, before investing in iPods with the intent of installing your favourite iOS apps, be sure to check that the apps are indeed compatible with the iPod Touch.
3. iPod specs are not on par with the iPad – The 5th generation of the iPod Touch makes use of an A5 chip which is a notable step back from the current A7 chip found in the most recent full sized iPad (iPad Air) and iPad Mini (with Retina). The iPod’s A5 chip is on par with the chipset found in the 2nd generation iPad and the original, non-retina iPad Mini. So what does this all mean? The use of the older A5 chip may be an issue for those who are looking to purchase the most recent hardware with the intent to maximize the compatibility window to update to future versions of iOS and iOS applications.
So how does the iPod Touch stack up against the iPad and iPad Mini? First acknowledging the differences listed above, it is critical to recognize that the iPod Touch is not equal to the iPad and iPad Mini from the perspectives of both functionality and performance. Classrooms and schools looking to use the iPod Touch as a competent replacement for an iPad may be unhappy with the overall experience. Although it is not uncommon to see iPods being used alongside iPads within a classroom, it is important to appreciate the unique discrepancies between these devices in order to avoid disappointment when an iPod Touch is simply unable to fill the niche of an iPad. For certain subjects of study, learning tasks or applications, the iPod may be the more appropriate tool for the classroom. Ultimately, educators will have to carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses of the iPod Touch and decide if it is indeed a suitable device that can meet the learning needs of the classroom.
After about a month with the Pelican i1065 case for the iPad, the Pelican brand lives up to its name and I now have a better sense of where this case can be used both in and out of the classroom.
If you are already familiar with the Pelican line of protective cases and storage units, the i1065 does not stray far from its siblings. The i1065 sports a solid hard case with soft fabric lining along with strips of high density foam for added protection. This particular model also comes with a rubberized insert that the iPad (iPad 2, 3 & 4) slides into. The case seals nicely and the latch does a good job of securing the case closed without being cumbersome or difficult to operate. With the Pelican brand comes the claim that the case is watertight, crushproof and dust proof. As I do not have a sacrificial iPad to test this claim, I will simply have to take Pelican at their word.
USING THE i1065 CASE
Considering its lineage of bulky cases and the type of protection that it is offering, the Pelican i1065 is thin and light enough to easily slide into a laptop or messenger bag. However, the relatively thin form factor comes at the price of not having a lot of additional space for anything else but an iPad. Even the presence of a SMART Cover poses some problems as the rubber sleeve inside the case really does not allow for the additional thickness of a cover or protective case. Having said that, I was able to fold the SMART Cover back on itself and essentially squeeze in the cover without having to unattached it from the iPad.
Those looking ahead may also want to use this case with the iPad Air. Based upon the reduced dimensions of the iPad Air, the newest iPad will indeed fit inside of the case but its narrower and slimmer form factor may impact how well it is secured inside the rubberized sleeve. Those looking for a very snug fit for their iPad Air may find it unsettling to have their iPad Air shifting inside of the case.
In my use of the case, I found it easy enough to slide my iPad in and out of the case when I wanted to simply use the iPad on its own at home. However when at work I tended to keep it in the case where I used the integrated stand/easel feature to prop up the iPad. When using the easel feature on the i1065, I could either lay the hinged lid flat on the table or have it resting on the top edge of the iPad to serve as a bit of a hood for my tablet. I preferred the latter simply because it minimized the amount of desk space that it would take up when in use.
FOR USE IN THE CLASSROOM?
I really like this case. It provides very good protection and yet the case is light and the form factor is relatively slim. However it is important to consider how this case will be used and integrated in the classroom. If you are looking for iPad protection where students can carry and simultaneously use the iPad they may find the i1065 case to be somewhat awkward with its attached, hinged lid. Where this case really shines is in situations where students are carrying the device to a location (in or out of the classroom) and then using it on some sort of table or surface. I envision this case being extremely useful in school labs, workshops and in learning that is taking place outdoors. The ability to open up the case, prop up the iPad and then rest it on the ground, workbench or lab counter is extremely useful to the active learner.
This case provides fantastic protection but before making the purchase, teachers will need to consider how they intend on using the iPad in their classroom. There is no shortage of protective options for your classroom iPad, so you want to be sure that you invest in the most suitable, protective option.
The Rugged Rukus by Eton is a speaker system that I really want to recommend and for the most part it delivers on what it promises but there is a persistent recharging issue that continues to dampen my enthusiasm for this portable speaker.
– great battery life
– loud sound for a small device
– recharges other portable devices via USB
– connects to audio devices via Bluetooth or audio jack
– solar panel seems prone to scratches despite solid build quality for the rest of the unit
– solar charging fails to charge internal battery
Great idea in concept but issues surrounding the solar charging of this device has essentially taken away the most compelling aspect of this product.