Doodle: My great timesaver in scheduling & coordinating

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…

Simple, straightforward and if you are in a rush, no account required!
Set up is simple and easy – allowing you to quickly get a Doodle up and running.

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.

Even with the free account (and with no account) you have some useful options when setting up and administering your Doodle

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.

K. Takahashi

Reflecting on my Reflective Practice – Making the Implicit Explicit

As I write this reflective blog post, I sit in an airport awaiting my flight. With technology, having the ability to quickly document my thoughts and feelings as they occur may be a critical piece in allowing me to capture my reflective practice as it happens.
As I write this reflective blog post, I sit in an airport awaiting my flight. With technology, having the ability to quickly document my thoughts and feelings as they occur may be a critical piece in allowing me to capture my reflective practice as it happens.

Over the next year I will be completing a series of online courses through Charles Sturt University. During this time of course work I will be engaging in reflective journalling and with my personal interest in technology, I want to be able to draw upon a number applications and platforms that may help facilitate a deeper and more consistent practice of reflection. The practicality and integrity of these electronic methods will also be reflected upon as I try to determine the most effective way for me to journal my reflections.

In general I do not schedule in times for personal, professional reflection. For me, I find that moments of reflection are spontaneous often fuelled by an event or experience that either challenges my current beliefs, contradicts my expectations or yields surprising or unexpected results. Currently, my process of reflection is not formalized in any way as I do not subscribe to a particular format or timeline. Up until now documentation has been in the form of an occasional brief note to myself, a blog post or tweet. Many times my own reflections remain to be a process where my thoughts are never really articulated in writing and/or documented for future reference.

Having said that, I do not believe that I am new to the practice of reflection. My process may be less formal without the consistent use of an organizer and platform for documentation but I have come to truly appreciate the improvements that reflective practice has provided me as I improve my work as a teacher and educational leader. However as I try to stretch my own development to be more explicit in my reflective practice, I do stand to engage in self reflection that is more focussed, influential and pervasive. Investing in a record of reflection over the course of the next year will provide me the opportunity to see where I have come and hopefully the improvements and learnings I have encountered.

10 iOS Features Every Teacher Should Know About (Part 2)

6. Photo Stream

When sharing your Photo Stream publicly, it will shared as a URL.
When sharing your Photo Stream publicly, it will shared as a URL.

Why? Photo Stream uploads your photos to the cloud so they are synced to other devices. iOS 6 also introduces Shared Photo Streams where users can select and share photos with others. This feature can serve as a fast and easy way for students to select photos from their classroom iOS devices and quickly share them with others. As students use the iOS camera to document learning, record observations and capture visuals as well as text, these images can now be immediately shared with other students and teachers. Furthermore, Photo Stream will allow you to share any images saved to the camera roll including exported works from other applications.

How? In order to turn ON Photo Stream and Shared Photo Streams, you will need to first go to the iCloud menu and turn ON Photo Stream. Next, navigate to Settings and select the Photos & Camera menu. Within this menu you can choose to turn ON either Photo Stream or Shared Photo Streams or both. Once activated, Photo Stream will work automatically and begin syncing every photo or image that is saved to the Camera Roll. Shared Photo Streams are started when you choose to share photos in your Camera Roll. Selecting Photo Stream will allow to create a new Photo Stream or add it to an existing Photo Stream. You will then have the choice to name it and to share it as a public website.

7. Switching iTunes Accounts

Switch iTunes AcctWhy? As iOS devices continue to find their way into schools and classrooms, it is conceivable that different departments and teachers will purchase specific apps under different iTunes accounts. As iPads are distributed and used around the school or across departments there may be the need to upload applications purchased from another iTunes account. By switching the iTunes account connected to the iOS device, the user can upload applications from a different account on to the same device. This is a helpful tip for those teachers who may have purchased their own apps that they now wish to use on a different iPad attached to a different iTunes account.

How? Starting in Settings, navigate down the list of menu items and select iTunes & App Stores. This will open up options iTunes and Automatic Downloads and at the top of this screen you will also notice the Apple ID that is currently associated with the device. Selecting the account will open up some options including the option to Sign Out. Selecting this will now prompt you to enter another Apple ID and Password. Once you have signed in with a different iTunes account, exit out of Settings and head on over to the App Store and access your Purchased apps using the navigation button at the bottom. You will see a list of the apps you have purchased with this current account and by selecting the Not on This iPad button at the top of you screen, you will see all of the apps that you currently do not have installed on your current device. Simply selecting an or app will start the download process.

8. Folders for Apps and the Dock

Use the iOS dock to hold folders or apps that you want to quickly access.
Use the iOS dock to hold folders or apps that you want to quickly access.

Why? Although this feature is not unique to iOS 6, it is an efficient way to move and arrange large numbers of applications (apps). For those of us who are not particularly diligent in continually grouping and organizing apps into folders, we are often left with pages of random applications. Even those who already group apps may find that their sorting system is no longer useful and may now want to create a new grouping convention. Teachers may want to group apps according to subject, grade level or function alternately there may be a folder that contains all the apps that pertain to a particular assignment, activity or task. Fortunately, considering the endless ways to group apps the process is made easier thanks to folders and the application dock in iOS.

How? If you are new to the process of creating folders on your iPad, it is as simple as holding an app icon until it shakes or wobbles and then drag the app icon on top of another app. This will automatically create a folder, where the iOS will attempt to automatically label it for you. If you wish, you can tap on the folder name and enter in your own custom title. Continue dragging in applications into the folder as you see fit and press the home button to return you back to normal operating mode.

You can also move the folder within and across the different pages of your iPad desktop using the iOS dock located at the bottom of your navigation screen. The dock is the row of applications that lie at the bottom of your screen and remain there for quick and easy access irregardless of the page of apps that you are currently viewing. Providing there is space, you can place any folder onto your iOS dock where you can then essentially have it available to you as scroll across pages of apps. This is a great way to move large numbers of apps across pages of your desktop and/or to quickly populate a new folder as you pick and choose apps from other folders on different pages. A huge time saver!

9. Privacy Settings

iOS 6 offers a quick way to assess and change your privacy settings across the apps of your iPad.
iOS 6 offers a quick way to assess and change your privacy settings across the apps of your iPad.

Why? iOS 6 has improved its privacy settings by grouping them together under one menu icon. The Privacy menu allows you to better control the level of privacy across different iOS features and allows you to set the level of access for individual applications. This is an important feature that every iOS user needs to check out. At the very least the Privacy menu gives you a sense and appreciation of the different types of information that your apps are currently trying to access from your iOS device. What’s more, if you do not want a particular app having access to your location information or contacts, etc. you can quickly and easily toggle OFF that connection.

How? In Settings, find and select the Privacy menu. This will open a list of iOS features including the recently integrated services of Facebook and Twitter. Selecting an item on this list will reveal the apps that have requested access to that feature. Consequently, you can choose to either allow or restrict application access to a feature by toggling between ON & OFF. Access to Location ServicesContactsCalendarsPhotos and even Bluetooth Sharing can all be controlled from the Privacy menu.

10. Restrictions

The variety of options offered under restrictions is worth checking out.
The variety of options offered under Restrictions is worth checking out.

Why? Considering the vast array of services and features available to the iOS user, the Restrictions menu can help to manage and maintain these settings on your iOS device. Teachers can allow or restrict access to the browser, camera, iTunes as well as the App Store. Teachers will also have the ability to restrict certain types of content as well as the ability to change privacy settings. Similar to the Privacy menu, iOS users are encouraged to check out the Restrictions menu as there are a large amount of options available to the classroom teacher.

How? In Settings within the General menu, find and select the Restrictions tab and select the button to Enable Restrictions. You will be prompted to enter and confirm a Passcode that you will use to access Restrictions settings again in the future. Once you have entered your Passcode, you will be able to allow and restrict the list of features and content found within this menu.

10 iOS Features Every Teacher Should Know About (Part 1)

1. Automatic Downloads

Found in Settings under the iTunes & App Stores menu
Found in Settings under the iTunes & App Stores menu

Why? This feature allows you to simultaneously sync the purchase of apps (free or paid) if you have more than one iPad, iPad mini or iPod Touch attached to the same iTunes account. Downloading an app to one device will automatically initiate the download to other similar devices attached to the iTunes account. This is a huge timesaver and saves you from having to repeat the install process across several devices.

How? Navigate over to Settings and then scroll down the list of items along the left hand side of your screen and select iTunes & App Stores. It will reveal a number of settings on right side of your screen including iTunes Match and Automatic Downloads. Under Automatic Downloads, you can choose to automatically download Books and Music as well as Apps. Make your selections and you are done. You may be asked to re-enter your iTunes account login and password as a final step. Keep in mind that you will need to do this for each device that is currently attached to your iTunes account.

2. Back up to iCloud

You can find Storage & Backup settings under the iCloud menu in Settings
You can find Storage & Backup settings under the iCloud menu in Settings

Why? You have the choice to back up your iOS device to iCloud or to your PC through iTunes. By default every iCloud subscriber is entitled to 5GB of free storage with the option to purchase more storage for an annual fee. Backing up to the cloud allows you to restore or set up an iOS device wirelessly and without the need to connect it to a PC installed with iTunes. This could be a big timesaver for a classroom teacher looking to restore an iOS device on the spot providing they have connectivity to the internet. Keep in mind that teachers and schools under the Volume Purchase Program will make use of a different process to restore their iOS devices.

How? In Settings select iCloud from the navigation menu. If you have not already activated iCloud on your device you will be prompted to do so at this stage. Scroll down to the bottom of this screen and find the Storage & Backup button. On the following screen, turn ON iCloud Backup. Navigating back to your previous screen, you can now select the features and files you would like to sync and backup. By default backup will occur when your iOS device is connected to your AC charger while also connected to the internet.

3. Dictation

Dictation is accessed quickly through the mic icon on the iOS keyboard
Dictation is accessed quickly through the mic icon on the iOS keyboard

Why? Speaking to the device and having your speech converted to text can be extremely helpful when the use of the virtual keyboard is too cumbersome or time consuming. Dictation is also an empowering tool for students who may be more adept at demonstrating their learning through speech and dialogue. The practice of dictation may also prove to be a powerful exercise in recognizing grammatical structure, voice and proper punctuation. The process of converting voice to text is fairly quick and the need to see if the Dictation feature “got it right” encourages the discipline of proof reading written work.

How? When you call up your virtual keyboard you will notice a microphone icon located to the left of the space bar. Tapping once on this icon will call up the microphone where you will then be prompted with a beep to begin your dictation. After you have finished your dictation, select the Done button and your text should appear on your screen. As this feature is connected to your virtual keyboard it essentially allows you to access this tool across all of your iOS applications.

If you do not the see the microphone icon on your keyboard in iOS 6 be sure to check that Siri is set to ON and if your Restrictions are enabled, review them in your Settings menu and ensure that Siri is set to ON. (Within Settings access the General menu, find and select the Restrictions tab and ensure that Siri is not being restricted) For those using iOS 5, you can turn on/off dictation under the General menu where you select the Keyboard tab and look for the Dictation option.

4. Guided Access

Once Guided Access has been enabled, simply click the Home button 3 times to activate it within any application
Once Guided Access has been enabled, simply click the Home button 3 times to activate it within any application

Why? Guided Access allows teachers to lock the home button of their iOS device as well as disable areas of the touchscreen. For young children and students with special needs, Guided Access can be a very useful feature for iOS 6 devices. However this utility can prove to be useful for all students in all classrooms depending on your use and purpose for the iPad, iPad mini, iPod Touch, etc. in your classroom. For example, you can now lock an iPad to a particular application when assigning iPads to specific learning stations. Guided Access can help prevent students from navigating away from a particular resource or task that they are to specifically access or complete.

How? Using Guided Access is a two step process that begins with activating the feature in Settings under the General menu. Once in the General menu, find and select the Accessibility tab. Under the Learning subheading, you will find the option to turn ON Guided Access. Upon activating this feature you will be asked to set a Passcode that you will be prompted to enter each time you begin and end Guided Access. After setting your passcode simply exit out of the Settings menu as you have now completed the first step.

The second step involves initiating Guided Access which takes place when you are in the app of your choice. Initiating this feature involves tapping the home button three times. This will call up the Guided Access control panel and allow you to identify areas of the touch screen that you wish to disable simply by circling those areas with your finger. You also have the option of disabling the screen rotation feature as well. Once you are satisfied with your settings simply select the Start button at the top right-hand corner of the screen to begin the Guided Access viewing mode. Stopping this viewing mode involves tapping the home button again three times. You will be prompted to enter in the four digit passcode in order to view the Guided Access control panel where you can then choose to End the Guided Access viewing mode.

5. Multitasking Gestures

Swiping, pinching & expanding with 4 or 5 fingers on your iPad screen will allow you to quickly access your iOS dock as well as navigate between applications
Swiping, pinching & expanding with 4 or 5 fingers on your iPad screen will allow you to quickly access your iOS dock as well as navigate between applications

Why? Multitasking Gestures is a carryover from iOS 5 but it bears repeating again for anyone who is not familiar with this feature. Simply put, Multitasking Gestures is the movement away from the physical home button through the use of 2, 3 or four finger gestures on the touchscreen. Although it may seem arbitrary at first, Multitasking Gestures provides an easy and efficient way of navigating between applications. For students and teachers, the ability to quickly switch between two or three applications helps to best make use of the multitasking abilities of the iOS device. For example quickly switching between a web browser and a word processor with the use of a four finger swipe to the left or right is a faster alternative to the two taps of the home button in order to reveal previously viewed apps at the bottom of the screen.

How? By default, Multitasking Gestures should be turned ON, however if you need to activate them you can turn on this feature by accessing Settings menu and then selecting the General tab where you find the option to turn ON/OFF Multitasking Gestures.