Using AirDrop to share files between iOS Devices in the Classroom

AirDrop is a feature that was introduced to the iPad, iPad Mini and iPod Touch with the release of iOS 7.  It is Apple’s solution to wirelessly share media and files between iOS devices.  Before AirDrop, users would need to rely on iTunes in order to sync files between devices.  This was a clunky process involving the connection of devices to a common PC or Mac with iTunes.  Originally available to Mac users, AirDrop for iOS devices (iPhone 5 or later, 4th generation iPad, iPad Mini and the 5th generation iPod Touch) brings the ability to wirelessly share files quickly and easily.

This is a critical feature for classrooms that do not have the time or luxury of being able to sync media between iOS devices through iTunes.  AirDrop connects two iOS devices wirelessly by having them create their own wireless network.  As a result, this will work within classrooms that do not have existing wireless networks.

What you need to know:

  • AirDrop is only available to iPhone 5 (or later), 4th generation iPad, iPad Air, iPad Mini and the 5th generation iPod Touch.  These devices also need to be running iOS 7
  • Because AirDrop will create local wireless network between iOS devices it is important to have the devices in close proximity to each other when attempting to connect and share files between devices
  • Your iOS devices will need to have both WiFi and Bluetooth turned ON
  • AirDrop will allow you to share media (photos and videos) from your Camera Roll as well as files created in iWork (Pages, Numbers & Keynote) and iLife (GarageBand, iMovie & iPhoto) iOS apps
  • You can wirelessly share files to more than one iOS device at a time

What you need to do if you want to share a media file from your Photo App (Camera Roll):

Lets name the iOS that is attempting to share a file, “Device A” and the receiving iOS device will be named, “Device B’.

On both Device A and Device B

1.  Turn ON WiFi and Bluetooth.  These settings are found quickly by accessing Control Center (swipe up from the bottom).

Turn ON WiFi and Bluetooth
Access Control Center in order to quickly turn ON Wifi and Bluetooth

On Device B

2.  Again by accessing Control Center (swipe up from the bottom), select “AirDrop”.  For simplicity sake, I often set the discoverability setting to “Everyone” particularly if I do not keep an up-to-date Contacts list.

 

Set AirDrop discoverability to "Everyone"
Select and open AirDrop settings
To keep things simple, set AirDrop discoverability to "Everyone"
To keep things simple, set AirDrop discoverability to “Everyone”

On Device A

3.  Open the Photos app, find and “Select” the file(s) you wish to share.

4.  Select the sharing icon (box with an arrow pointing upwards).

5. Select the AirDrop option and wait for Device B to appear.  Once Device B appears you can select it.  (Note: You will need to refresh and unlock Device B if it has automatically powered down.  Other devices may also appear if they are discoverable for AirDrop.  In this case, look for the appropriate name of the iPad that appears under each icon)

Pressing the "Select" option will allow you to select one or more media files to share.
Pressing the “Select” option will allow you to select one or more media files to share.

 

Select media files
Select the media files that you wish to share

Select the AirDrop option to start
Select the AirDrop option to start

Find and select the destination iPad (Device B) - it may take a few seconds for the device to appear
Find and select the destination iPad (Device B) – it may take a few seconds for the device to appear

On Device B

6.  You should see an AirDrop pop-up window on your screen asking for permission to accept the file(s) from Device A.  Select “Accept”.

7.  Upon accepting the AirDrop, you should be taken automatically to your Photo app where you will now be able to view and use the file(s) on the Camera Roll

Select the "Accept" button when the pop-up button appears on the receiving iOS device.
Select the “Accept” button when the pop-up button appears on the receiving iOS device.

In a classroom setting where you may have several iOS devices in proximity at once, it will be important to name (Settings –> General –> About) and carefully manage devices if you are looking to have students (or yourself) sharing files to certain devices.  For example, you may only want to temporarily turn ON AirDrop discoverability when you are looking to share files and then promptly turn it OFF once it is done.  This will help reduce the number of devices appearing on your AirDrop menu when you are looking to connect to a specific iOS device.

 

– K. Takahashi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Chromecast in the Classroom

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?

Strengths

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.

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Limitations

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).

Consider this…

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.

K. Takahashi

 

 

 

 

 

A multiple user solution for your classroom iPad? Try Google’s Passcode Lock

Welcome to Google Drive

iPads (as well as the iPad Mini and iPod Touch for that matter) can be compelling tools for learning but as teachers look to use an iPad or group of iPads among a group of students and across several classes, these iOS devices do not initially present themselves as a tool for multiple users.  Essentially, media files saved locally on the camera roll or photos application are accessible to all users.  Currently, iOS 7 does not have the ability to discern between different users.  Restrictions settings in iOS 7 offers some differentiation between an iPad administrator (ex. teacher or IT administrator) and the student, but that is more for limiting access to core features of the device and operating system.  When it comes to providing separate accounts for students to save and access their own work on an iOS device, iOS 7 falls short.  As we look to iOS 8 for a hopeful solution, a handy feature called Passcode Lock is found within some of Google’s applications for iOS and provides a temporary solution for teachers and educators.

What is Passcode Lock?

This is a setting that is found within the Google Drive, Google Docs and Google Sheets applications for iOS.  This feature allows a Google user to lock access to their Google Drive using a 4-digit code.  Even if several students log into their Google account through either the Google Drive, Google Docs or Google Sheets app on an iOS device, having each student set their passcode will ensure that only they will be able to access their work and files.

How to set up Passcode Lock

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What Google Drive and Passcode does right…

Google’s execution of the Passcode feature illustrates the proficiency of the Google account (and Google Apps for Education) and the ability for Google to quickly push new features and coordinate settings across their apps.  Case in point, the Passcode Lock was quietly introduced through a simple application update for Google Drive for iOS (and Android) back in April 2014.  Since the passcode is linked to the user’s Google account, once the user opts to activate this feature on the Google Drive app it automatically applies to the user’s account when accessing the Google Doc and the Google Sheets applications as well.  If a student forgets their passcode, they can simply remove their account from the application and sign back in again with their login and password.

But keep in mind…

Passcodes are set locally to the iPad so if a student moves to another iPad they will also need to set another passcode for that iPad.  This may require some coordination on the part of the teacher if they are looking to have certain groups of students linked to specific iPads.

For those looking for a comprehensive multiuser experience on the iPad, Google’s Passcode Lock feature will really only apply to accessing files from the Google Drive application as well as creating and editing Google documents and spreadsheets.  Unfortunately, Passcode Lock will not extend to other 3rd party applications that also link to Google Drive as a cloud-based storage.

In the end…

With Google Classroom due for release in September 2014, Passcode Lock adds a small yet important feature for those looking for a more secure way to manage multiple users and Google accounts.  Google I/O 2014 provided some insight on some upcoming features for Google Drive including better support for native documents created in Microsoft Office.  Ultimately, there are some exciting new updates and features in store for Google Drive and with that, the Passcode Lock is a great feature to support this in a multiuser environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iPod Touch in the Classroom? Is it a good alternative to the iPad?

Taking a picture with an iPod Touch

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.

iPod Strengths

Taking a picture with an iPod Touch
The iPod Touch handles much more like a camera than the iPad and iPad Mini.

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.

iPod Weaknesses

iMovie for the iPod Touch screenshot
With the limited screen space of the iPod Touch, I prefer to edit videos on the iPad version of iMovie.

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.

Explain Everything is an app for the iPad only
Although many developers are creating iPod/iPhone versions of popular apps, there are still a few that are only available for the iPad.

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.

Final Thought

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.

– K. Takahashi

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Surface RT: Back to the Drawing Board

Surface RT home screen

Microsoft’s Surface event on May 20th, 2014 outlined the future for the Surface tablet and unfortunately the Windows RT-based Surface does not seem to be in their plans moving forward.  For schools and educators who were looking to the Surface RT tablet as a versatile yet affordable tool to support learning, it seems time is running out for this struggling tablet.  Looking back, it can be argued that there were several signs signalling the demise of the Surface RT and Surface 2 (the 2nd generation of the Surface RT).

A screen capture of the Windows app store
Although you can most of the big name apps that most of us have to rely upon in our office and classroom, there are still some notable apps that are absent from the Windows store.

APPS

There are many critical apps that are still missing from the Windows Store.  In my experience, the lack of a Google Drive application presents a significant challenge in trying to tie in the Surface RT with a learning environment that encourages BYOD where Google Apps for Education (GAFE) is being used to bring together a wide variety of operating systems and platforms.  Furthermore, some of the essential apps that are currently available for the Surface RT have been prone to bugs and glitches.  Most notably, the Evernote Touch app was rendered useless for many Surface RT users who reported persistent issues of the app crashing upon start up.  To make matters worse, it was the slow response of Evernote to update their app that certainly reinforced the notion that the RT platform was not on front burner for many developers.  Understandably, these issues cannot be pinned to Microsoft directly but it ultimately impacts user experience and the functionality of the Surface RT in the classroom.

SUBSTANTIAL DISCOUNTS

Although the attractive educational pricing for Surface RT grabbed the attention of many schools and districts, it can be argued that it was a harbinger of bigger problems for the device and platform.  Now faced with the demise of the Windows RT platform, school districts that took advantage of the educational pricing for the Surface RT (and to a lesser extent the Surface 2) are now left with the task of making the most of a technology that looks to have run its course.

MICROSOFT WORD, EXCEL, POWERPOINT and for iOS and ANDROID

One of the defining features of the Surface RT and Surface 2 tablet was the inclusion of the Office 2013 RT productivity suite.  At the time, the RT version of Microsoft Office was the only mobile, touch-friendly offering of this popular software.  However with the release of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications for the iPad (with Android versions coming soon) it now takes one of the redeeming features of the Surface RT tablet off the table.  More importantly, it suggests a shift in Microsoft’s approach and leverage with its coveted productivity suite.  Rather than use Microsoft Office to attract new users to Windows devices, their approach appears to leverage the software in an attempt to permeate into other hardware platforms.  As noted by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, this move by Microsoft is about market share.

NO SURFACE MINI

As mentioned above, Microsoft’s Surface event on May 20th set the stage for the future of the Surface tablet and it was the notable no-show of the rumoured Surface Mini tablet that signals the end of the Surface RT tablet and most likely the Windows RT platform as well.  Speculation around the Surface Mini tablet described a 7″-8″ tablet running Windows RT but in what looks to be a last minute decision, Microsoft opted to shelve the latest version of an RT-based tablet.  Paul Thurrott suggests that the impact of a quickly changing tablet market and the resistance on the part of some Windows users towards the new user interface of Windows 8 has helped hinder the push for new Windows Surface RT tablets.

When you add it up, it does not look good for Windows RT-based Surface tablets moving forward.  Although the speed and volatility surrounding technological change and advancements is unavoidable, for school boards and districts working with limited resources and funding it is still a tough pill to swallow.  Looking towards the positive, perhaps the move to bring Microsoft products and services across different platforms and hardware is a hopeful change that will be of better value and use to the learner than the introduction of a new Surface tablet.

K. Takahashi

Google Cloud Print: A Hopeful Solution for Wireless Classroom Printing

As you would expect, setting up your "classic" printers with Cloud Print takes place within the Chrome browser.
As you would expect, setting up your “classic” printers with Cloud Print takes place within the Chrome browser.

 

First and foremost, I would suggest that schools need to print less. There is a huge cost (and potential waste) for schools that still rely on paper media to provide resources and course materials to students. But I concede that there are occasions whether at school or home where a hard copy of a document is required.

For those looking to print from their iOS device, AirPrint is a technology that allows the user to wirelessly print to a compatible printer. However for those without an AirPrint option, Google is currently offering a wireless printing solution that makes use of Google Drive and the Chrome browser. Google’s Cloud Print (Beta) uses its cloud services to allow access to any printers that may be connected to devices (Android, iOS, Windows) under the same Google account. The beauty behind such an arrangement is the potential to wirelessly print to conventional, non-AirPrint printers.

I was able to access the Cloud Print feature from my Chrome and Google Drive iOS applications.
I was able to access the Cloud Print feature from my Chrome and Google Drive iOS applications.

My trials of this beta service were successful and I was able to wirelessly print to networked printers (not AirPrint compliant) in my office but this does not come without some limitations. As mentioned before, this makes use of Google’s cloud services so you will see the Cloud Print option in Chrome and Google Drive but not across all browsers and applications. Additionally, although I store a variety of documents in Google Drive, I found I was able to print a narrow range of file types. The most significant limitation for me was my inability to print Microsoft Office documents. However, I was able to print my Google Drive documents and PDFs without a problem.

So ultimately Google Print is a service that is still in beta and it still has some significant limitations to address, but if you are already working within the Google environment and are looking for a quick way to print from your mobile device, Google Cloud Print is definitely worth a look.

– K. Takahashi

Evernote Crashing on my RT: My Solution & a Bigger Problem?

Evernote Touch on the Windows Store yield mixed reviews.
Evernote Touch on the Windows Store yield mixed reviews.

The ability to access and use Evernote across my computing and mobile devices has been an incredible way for me to record and organize my notes, thoughts and observations at work and home. It allows me to move between platforms and devices seamlessly and capture those moments when they occur as they occur.

However my experience recently with Evernote Touch on the Microsoft Surface has been plagued with persistent crashing of this touch application. Updating Windows and applying application updates did not resolve the issue. Reinstalling the application also failed to fix these frustrating crashes.

A quick search online revealed that this is a problem that others are experiencing with their RT devices. What is more, there seems to be no official solution to this problem. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that this issue has pestered some Evernote/Windows RT users as far back as October 2012. Not surprisingly, a number of reviews of the Evernote Touch app on the Windows Store also draw attention to this problem.

Solving the Evernote crashing problem comes at the cost of not being able to access my Evernote notes from other user accounts on the Surface.
Solving the Evernote crashing problem comes at the cost of not being able to access my Evernote notes from other user accounts on the Surface.

My “Solution”?

With some trial and error, it seems like my problem of Evernote crashing is linked to the multiple user accounts on the RT. Originally, I had two user accounts on my Surface; a Microsoft Live account for work that I used when I initially set up the RT and my own personal Microsoft Live account. Evernote was originally installed with my work account but once I started using my personal account on the Surface, I wanted to access Evernote from my personal account as well. And that’s when my Evernote crashing problems started.

However I found that once I completely uninstalled the Evernote program from my work account and then reinstalled the app again within my personal account the crashing seemed to stop. All of my notes (over 1500) loaded up successfully and quickly synced any changes to my notes. What is more, when I reinstalled the app under the work account/user and logged into my Evernote account the crashing started up again. It would seem that at least for me, the Evernote Touch app works on my Windows RT device providing that I am not trying to access Evernote under a different Windows user account on the same Surface tablet. To be clear, this is a stopgap solution that I have found that circumvents the Evernote crashing issue on my RT but it certainly does not resolve the problem.

A Sign Of Bigger Issues?

I cannot say for sure if the root of this problem resides with the Windows RT operating system or the Evernote Touch application. What I do find concerning is the persistence of this problem and the lack of success in trying to find a solution to this issue. If the crashing application is indeed linked to its use under multiple users on Windows RT then this becomes a potential problem for educators who wish to use Evernote in a classroom setting where students would be logging in under their own personal Microsoft Live accounts. Could this also indicate potential problems for other applications when used within different user accounts on one RT device? I guess only time will tell…

K. Takahashi

The Surface RT (Surface) Tablet for the Classroom – One Year Later…

Looking back to December 2012, my first post on the Windows Surface RT explored the potential strengths and challenges of the Surface RT tablet in the classroom. Well, a lot can change in a year and it presents an opportunity to now reassess and see what the RT has to show since that first blog post.

Windows 8.1

Updating the Surface RT to Windows 8.1 provided some critical improvements to the overall experience of the tablet. Battery life and overall performance has improved significantly on the Surface RT (now the Surface) tablet and for many, this update brought new life into the Windows tablet. The addition of a “Start” button and the improvements to the user interface were all welcome improvements. For me personally, these changes go on to make the argument that the “metro” or “live tile” interface is indeed the future of Windows and the days of the aging Windows desktop are definitely numbered.

What's new in the Windows Store?
What’s new in the Windows Store?

Windows RT Apps: A Source of Hope and Frustration

With the Windows RT platform, it is all about the apps or applications. Although the number of apps offered in the Windows Store have increased, there is still a lot to be desired in the overall quality of apps available. This is especially true of compelling, creative applications for the classroom. Having said that there are a few apps that I have stumbled across that may be of value to the classroom.

  • Novamind Mind Mapping (Free, $14.99) – A mind mapping application that is worth checking out if this is a learning activity that you would like to move to the tablet.
  • Record Voice & Pen (Free, Paid Upgrades) – Draw, write, annotate and record on your tablet. A nice interface, but not as fully featured as Explain Everything.
  • Photo Editor by Aviary (Free) – A solid photo editor for the Windows tablet.

Of course there are also some big name apps like Twitter, WordPress, Evernote Touch and now Flipboard that are available to the RT user. However, there are still a couple of critical apps that I have been waiting for since the launch of the RT. Just having these apps available for the Surface RT (or Surface) would go a long way to secure the Windows RT tablet as a compelling classroom tablet.

  • Google Chrome / Google Drive – Having access to these Google services and applications would be huge.
  • MovieMaker – Why is it taking so long to have a native video editor for the RT?
SkyDrive has enjoyed some nice improvements.
SkyDrive has enjoyed some nice improvements.

SkyDrive is HOT, Skype is NOT

Better SkyDrive integration was a critical and most welcome improvement on the Surface RT and Windows 8 in general. Back in the summer of 2013, Microsoft improved the integration of SkyDrive on the RT operating system and essentially made the cloud storage service much more seamless with the overall experience of Windows 8. Combine that with the ability to have the SkyDrive app installed on your iOS and/or Android device and you have now got another compelling choice for online storage.

Skype on the other hand has had a rough year as it continues to try to establish its place of prominence in the Microsoft ecosystem. The integration of instant messages in Skype marked the shutdown of the popular Windows Live Messenger and with it an increased scrutiny over how this transition would play out. Unfortunately, the transition did not come without glitches and headaches which were quickly vented to the world. Skype is an important piece of the Microsoft ecosystem and it will be interesting to see where this conversation goes over the course of another year.

Microsoft Buys Nokia – More RTs on the Way?

Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia back in the fall of 2013 added to the speculation surrounding Microsoft’s move toward the future. Around the same time, Nokia released the Lumia 2520 – a tablet running Windows RT. Although nothing has been announced to suggest a surge in more RT tablets, those who are looking to have more variety in Windows RT hardware may be hopeful that the acquisition of Nokia will help make that happen.

So that is pretty much the year for the Surface RT (or Surface). With rumours already swirling around the 3rd generation of this tablet, it will be interesting to see what another year will bring. Stay tuned…

– K. Takahashi

Pelican i1065 iPad Case Review

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.

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PELICAN PROTECTION

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.

– K. Takahashi

Designing an Online Learning Experience: Using Windows Movie Maker 2012

In completing my CSU course on Web Pedagogies, my second assignment will revolve around designing and creating a lesson or group of lessons that make use of a web tool (ex. Blogs, Wikis, Social Media etc.) and an online learning resource (ex. Websites, YouTube, Google Maps, etc.). When it comes to content and focus, the assignment asks us to support a learning goal or objective that supports a curriculum area in our current line of work. With my current position as a Learning Technologies Coordinator, my focus is not directly linked to a classroom or course or subject area but rather the support and development of educators and their integration of technology in their respective classrooms. As a result, my topic will focus on teaching educators about a particular piece of technology.

Identifying a Need

Over the next few months, our school district will be moving on to the Windows 8 operating system. Up to this point, part of my work has been to help facilitate the switch to this new operating system. Identifying software and hardware that will be carried forward as well as marking technology that will need to be dropped in favour of this version of Windows has been a slow and challenging process. Consequently, there is also a need to support teachers and students with new software applications and programs. One such program is Windows Movie Maker 2012 which presents a drastic departure from its XP version.

The use of video in the classroom provides a wide range of opportunities to support learning and instruction across many subject areas and grade levels. Podcasting, presentations, story-telling and self-reflection can all be documented with video and provide choices for students to engage and demonstrate learning. Developing a lesson or series of lessons supported through online tools and resources will help acquaint teachers with this new video editing software and hopefully encourage educators who are not currently using video production in their classrooms to now jump in with Movie Maker 2012.

Things to Consider

Course notes and resources identify some important features to consider when developing an online learning resource or tool (Nelson, 2007). Some features that I found particularly compelling were:

1. Linked to curriculum standards – an obvious point but it can easily be pushed to the back burner when the tech fun begins. I also felt compelled to have this placed first on the list (although the list does not really present these in features in any particular order of importance) because it is inline with the critical question, “What do we want our students (kids or adults) to know and do?”.

2. The task or activity presents a worthy challenge that is not too easy nor impossible to solve or overcome. What makes this more difficult is that different students will most likely be capable of handling different levels of challenge that will be linked to their own relative ability and prior knowledge. Tiering and choice is a strategy or feature that one can use to accommodate different levels of ability but how will I execute that support structure within my own lesson or series of lessons?

3. Opportunities for collaboration – this feature is particularly challenging for me as my particular line of work is in supporting and teaching teachers. Traditionally my time in supporting educators is limited to one, perhaps two workshops with very little opportunity to reconnect together as a learning group.  This is a challenge that I particularly look forward to addressing as their are a number of different online platforms that may provide the opportunity for collaboration to continue.

4. A clear and final product presents another opportunity to infuse some choice for the participating learners/educators. Whatever the product, it again brings me back to the first point of linking it to a curriculum or learning objective.

OK, Now What?

Moving forward, I need to think more on isolating two or three learning goals or objectives for this lesson or series of lessons. Linked to these objectives will be the final product(s) that I intend to have my learners create as a way to document learning.

I hope to have the opportunity to better document my progress throughout this assignment and perhaps post my thoughts on this blog. Again, perhaps this serves as yet another opportunity to investigate another interest of mine, podcasting.

Reference:

Nelson, K. J. (2007). Designing internet-based activities. Teaching in the digital age: Using the internet to increase student engagement and understanding (2nd ed.) (pp. 1-17). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.