Mobile App Reviews for Educators

Each month we'll review a highlighted app for iPad/iPod/iPhone or Android devices. We also invite you to add your comments and share with other educators how you used the highlighted app in your school.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reflections on the LESCN12 Conference

I'm sitting by a fireplace in the beautiful Mills Falls resort in Meredith, NH and reflecting over today's LESCN
conference. In the morning Tony Baldasaro (@baldy7) started us off in his keynote by challenging us to think about many aspects of learning in today's classrooms. Why do we sort and label students? By scores, by age, by predetermined paths? Learning should be personal and individualized he said. He used a visual example from Flicker of Desire Paths ( to demonstrate how humans want to follow their own desire path more than the ones we force them to. He also discussed the importance for educators to model building a positive digital footprint for students to follow in creating their own. He showed the example of one fathers digital message to his daughter in the "Google Chrome: Dear Sophie" video at I left his very well spoken keynote full of inspiration and ideas about a connected participatory society that our students are growing up in.

I also attended a session on gaming in education. Here I was presented with some new tools to try and followed some great discussions both in the session and on Twitter before heading on to co-present a session with Jenn Middaugh (@jmiddaugh) on "20 ways an iPad Can Be a Strong Educator Tool". I was happy to find I had learned something in my own session as Jenn modeled the apple TV tool being controlled wirelessly by multiple iPads. Then an educator in the audience shared an app that connects the ipad wirekessly to a projector turning it into a document camera named Board Cam. Neat stuff!

At the end if the day, I had the great honor of introducing Patrick Larkin (@bhsprincipal) at his end of the day Keynote. Patrick covered many concrete examples relative to current trends in educational technology. He showed how the 1:1 iPad program has impacted his school. He also let us see how his student tech team worked. What a great concept.... Student technology integration teams that earn a class credit. I love it! He played additional examples of 21st century learning to include a student video project on the importance of digital citizenship. All great examples of innovations in learning.

At the end of the day, I sat filled with new ideas, tools and views on technology in education. As I later sat by a warm fire in a quiet part of the resort where the conference took place, I reflected on what was the overall biggest thing I took away from the event. Looking back over all of the examples, discussions and ideas I encountered, I believe the biggest impression on me was the importance of educators having opportunities like this one to connect, explore, play and share with one another. There is so much value in the ability to connect and share with fellow educators but add on the ability to explore and play while making these connections and it becomes something powerful. Thank you to Patrick, Tony, Amy Cantone and everyone else that made our LESCN event such a great one and I look forward to connecting, learning, and sharing with each you in the very near future.

A Journey Into New Media Literacies

I had been working for the past year on a grant project through the New Hampshire Department of Education that provided opportunities for teams of teachers from different school districts to receive training and equipment that would equip them to become tech leaders in their schools. There were five groups of teams from across the state and each group could include a varying number of teams and participants.

My group contained five teams from five different School districts and a total of 19 participants that each had received an iPad, tickets to conferences and rigorous online training. The online learning piece found on exposed them to digital tools, concepts, and ideas to transform them into a future Tech Leader at their school.

One of my teams also came up with a very exciting project. They had decided to explore deeper into the concept of NML, or new media literacies, as defined by Henry Jenkins from They focused in on specific areas within new media literacies and created a toolkit for educators that both explained what NML is and create ready-to-use lesson plans for the classrooms. It was an ambitious proposal as they planned on meeting once a month reporting on pre-determined questions and assignments in a Google group, then going on to create a toolkit, working in the TLC grant program in addition to their current full-time teaching positions. They also presented their materials to the other teams in the grant of enough face-to-face session using hello slides and on the online piece for the other teams to respond to and using their own classrooms.

They presented their presentation to our teams recently as well as the teams of another group and I have to say I was very impressed with their final product. I collaborated on the project with their team leader, Robin Corbiel, throughout the year but I have to say that I have nowhere near the amount of energy this incredible educator has. Take a look at their project and all the wonderful things they put together throughout their journey into it NML.

TLC and NML project site

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Printopia and FingerPrint Take a Bite Out of the Printing/ Filesharing Headache for iOs Devices

FingerPrint by Collobos
If you have an iPad or iPod or work in a school with carts of several iPads, two of the major challenges faced are "How do we share files and how do we print?" Two programs sit out from the rest in making these challenges almost effortless, Printopia for Mac and Fingerprint from for PC or Mac. Both have many features that allow multiple iOS devices to print and share files with no setup needed on the devices themselves and very little setup on your computer.
Printopia by eCamm

Printopia for the Mac has been out for some time and is the better known printing solution. To set it up, simply download one copy on to a Mac computer with a license priced at about $20 per Mac (update its a one-time purchase not yearly as previously thought) and $15 for volume purchases. Once the program is up and running on the same wireless network, that's it. Your iPads/ iPods can now print to any printer that the Mac is able to print to. Opened up, you can customize what printers to give your devices access to and if you pair it up with programs like Dropbox and Evernote, you have a wonderful way to share out files. There are a lot of other exciting features too. One article that describes its features at length can be found here: Printopia Makes Airprint Useful On the iPad.
or go to the Printopia site for the latest updates as features are added to improve its functionality.

This program requires very little effort to be set up by teachers making the file sharing and printing issues less of a headache for IT staff. It does have to run on a Mac and the Mac has to be on. It will need to have printers set up on it for the devices to print to and this software will not work on a PC at this time. For Mac users though, it's a very robust program that works quite well.

To solve the problem for PC users, there is Fingerprint by Before finding Fingerprint, all I could find for the PC were solutions where I had to install a printing app on every device and a streamer on the PC. Each app had a cost so every device that needed to print from another Apple ID or using the Volume Purchasing with the iPad carts would just add to the cost.  Fingerprint works on both Mac and PC and costs only $10 for the one computer. No costly apps have to be installed on the devices themselves.  It does not currently state on the site that it requires a yearly renewal either but that could change, of course. It sets up very similar to Printopia in that you simply install the program on a PC or Mac and when its running, your devices will be able to print to almost any printer that the PC or Mac can print to. Just like Printopia, it also can send files to the computer and to a predetermined Dropbox folder connected with the computer. I've used it in workshops where participants bring in their devices with nothing pre-set up to print and they are amazed when they can print, send files to my computer and send files to a shared Dropbox folder that they can access later from a different computer using a Dropbox link. Just like Printopia, the computer or Mac has to be on so choose something that will be on and accessible for other to connect to. If you want to be able to access files later back on the devices, you can share out a Dropbox folder with the Dropbox app on the devices. If you do not have the Dropbox app or an account on your device, you can place files into the Public folder in Dropbox on the computer. Any file in the Public folder automatically will have a shareable link that can be opened in the Safari app on the iPads.

Now that I have a copy of both of these programs (Printopia for work and Fingerprint on my personal laptop), I'm not sure what to do with all of the printing apps I purchased. Hmmmm I wonder if there is a way to gift them out to someone?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tips and Resources for iOS 5 and iCloud

Since the upgrade to iOS 5.0, then 5.1 and the introduction of iCloud, there have been a lot of questions about exactly what these "game-changing" features will bring. As I discover and learn about each one, I'm posting them on my online Google Doc "Lowton's List of Tips and Tricks for the iPad" to share with others. I've also started to add some resources and tips for using iCloud because of the many question on how to use this new player in the Apple line-up. There are many new features that may be great for some iPad users but not so great for others who have a larger number of iOS devices all sharing the same Apple ID. Here are some highlighted changes and resources:
Screenshot from site "How to set up iCloud"

Tips and Tricks:
Getting back to the Home screen without using the Home Button
pinch with all five fingers (can work with 4) and whatever app you are in will shrink down until it disappears and you are back on the home screen. (My kids thought this looked "magical" when I showed them!)

See what's running in the background or switch between apps without double clicking the Home button
Take Four fingers and hold and slide up on any screen to display the multi-tasking bar. Slide back down with all four fingers to close the mulit-tasking bar.

Switch between programs without using the multi-tasking bar
Take Four fingers and hold and slide across on any screen. The next running app will appear just like sliding between pictures in a slide show. Slide back across with all four fingers to go back to the original app.

Split the keyboard and Merge again
take one finger from each hand and swipe from the middle of the keyboard outwards in each direction. This will split the keyboard. To Merge again swipe back toward the middle with the two separate fingers. You can also hold down on the keyboard button which will bring up a menu with these options.

Type with the Emoji or "Emoticons" keyboard
In the Settings app, go to General and Keyboard. Choose International keyboards and then add new a keyboard. Emoji will be in the list and this is actually the Japanese word for emoticons. Switch to the app where you want to type and now the World  or "international" keyboard button will appear on the keyboard and you can switch back and forth between the regular keyboard and the emoticon keyboard at any time within any app. (Same for other language keyboards.)

notifications from top or main screen
In the Settings app, go to notifications. Within each app you can decide if you want the notifications to be a hidden slider (banner) that you can pull down from the top or to appear in the middle of your screen (alert). You can also turn off the notifications here from showing up on the lock screen so others can not see your alerts without unlocking the iPad.

Make a "Read Later" list in Safari
in the Safari app, when you come to a site you want to read later but not necessarily put in your favorites, go the the add bookmarks button (the box with a right pointing arrow jumping out of it at the top near the web address box) and drop down to "Add to Reading list". To see the reading list and "check it as read", go to your bookmarks button (the open book icon), and you will see Reading List as an option. Click on the list and then click on the site and it will open that site and clear it from your reading list.

taking screenshots on the iPad
click both the sleep/wake (power) and home buttons at the same time for just a second until you hear a click or see the screen do a quick flash. The picture is then sent to your Photos app. You can now also edit photos in your camera roll within the Photo app, create albums and delete photos or albums created on the iPad.

projector stops projecting the iPad
unplug the SVGA cord (dongle) from the projector cord and iPad and then plug back in. Sometimes you also have to hit "source" or computer on the projector or its remote as well but that usually does it. Another tip is to take a rubber band to hold the dongle firmly onto the SVGA cord from the projector.
Setup automatic downloading of apps or ibooks to all your devices
Go to the Settings App and choose the App store and then turn on or off the auto download of either apps, music or books. An example is my son and daughter each have ipods on my same Apple ID. If I download "beautiful bride" for my daughter on her iPod, it will auto download on my son's ipod (who really doesn't want "girly" apps) so I would turn off the auto download for them to prevent auto download of one child's apps and music on to the other child's device that share my same Apple ID. For the devices I use to teach or present that all share the same Apple ID, I would turn ON this feature (at least for apps) so if I install an app on one device, it will download to the others as well. (You will still be prompted to type in your password on each device.)

Changes Using iCloud
Keynote, Pages and Numbers
Pros:  If syncing to iCloud, you can now have anything you create in Keynote, Pages and Numbers show up on all devices that share the same iCloud account. You can also go to and log in with your Apple ID to download or view these files on a PC or Mac in a 3 different formats to include PDF, Microsoft Office Extensions and of course the original file format they were created in.

Cons: If you have multiple devices being used by multiple users all under the same Apple ID and iCloud account, all files created under theses apps will appear on all devices. (Ex. If you have 4 carts totaling 120 iPads, all files, theoretically, would try to download on each device until it hit some kind of limit. I wouldn’t suggest turning iCloud or iTunes Wireless for such a situation until Apple comes up with a solution to better fit the schools with large iPad deployments

Syncing/Backing up Wirelessly to iCloud/ Wireless iTunes
Pros: you can have all of your backups and software updates done wirelessly without being manually tethered to a computer. You can choose what to include in a backup. You can also turn on something called Photo Stream on your PC or Mac to stream photos for 30 days to your devices.

Cons or "Challenges": Only 5GB of space is given to an iCloud account although there is the option to purchase more space. I witnessed one person back up her very full and large sized iPad until it used up what appears to be 2GB. She still had 2 more devices on the account and realized how fast that 5GB would fill up. Contact, Email and Calendar data all syncing to the same space under one account. If you have your professional info on one device under the same account as your personal devices owned by your children or spouse, you may not want this info shared across all devices.  (I’m told you can create different iCloud accounts using more than one accounts under the same Apple ID but I haven’t tried it. If you have, please comment or contact me to let me know if it works.)

Using and Activating iCloud on your Computer
Go to and log in with your Apple ID. Now most people think they will be able to access the data from all of their apps because it sent up a back up of all iPad data. This is not the case. At you can access Contacts, FindMyiPhone, Calendar, Mail and iWorks (Keynote, Pages and Numbers) and that is it. You cannot access your photos or movies but you can activate Photo Stream on PCs with Windows Vista or 7 or on a Mac with either Lion or iPhoto v9.2 or higher. This is still limited to photos placed in a photostream folder for 30 days only but provides some access to those photos on your devices from your computer without a manual sync. For detailed instructions on setting up iCloud and PhotoStream on an iPad, Mac or PC, check out the site "How to set up iCloud".

As I explore all of these changes and new features, I find some to be really exciting and then also find some to be a little challenging depending on the situation of the device owner. Many of the features in iCloud and Wireless iTunes are still a little gray at times to me even after reading multiple articles on how they work. If you have found a great article that really clearly explains them all, please share!

As I find more tips, resources and ideas, I'll keep posting them on the Google Doc online. If you have a great one I've missed, just let me know as I'm constantly finding there are so many features to these devices.

To access the online spreadsheet of tips and tricks and resources you can click here: .

Here is a list a couple of my iCloud and iOS resources on this post as well as the Google Doc.
iPad User Guide iOS5
Avoiding the iCloud Storage Gotcha
iCloud: What You Need to Know

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tackling the File Sharing Issues with the iPad

As more iPads and iPods are deployed into schools, many great benefits and many challenges are coming to light. One issue has to do with the sharing of files between devices. To read about some ideas and possible solutions to tackling this issue, click here and read the following post on my jllowton Wordpress blog.

Or copy and paste this link into your browser:

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Learning Experience About Social Media in Education

I recently hosted a workshop presented by Tony Baldasaro (@baldy7 for Twitter folks) that was titled "iPads for Admin" but turned into a great session on social media tools in education as well. The audience included school administrators and Directors from different districts across NH. It started by my introducing Tony as a presenter that I follow on Twitter (and now Google +) and how I had found him to be a great resource professionally. I explained that I started following him not because of his local connections to the NH schools that I work with but rather from my connections on Twitter from all over the world that have shared out his "tweets". I then shared the names and/or Twitter "handles" of the school administrators and connected educators who linked me to Tony and offered the suggestion to the participants to follow and connect with these great resourceful connections for their own PLN. I can't remember all the names I mentioned as they just rolled out but Patrick Larkin (@BHSPrincipal), Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal), Steven Anderson (web2.0classroom), Alec and George Couros (@courosa and @gcouros), Sheryl Nussbaum Beach (@snbeach), and Principal EL come to mind right now. As I mentioned these different names and the important impact that social media has made for me as an educator, I had no idea that I was creating an almost framework for Tony's session and the great spin he would take on it. I also had no idea that all of these people and even more that I have come to value so much were all part of his presentation!

He started by showing short videos about the impact of social media from things like a dad journaling his daughter's life in video, to that great guitar throwing airline complaint song, United Breaks Guitars, by Dave Carroll and how his viral (and catchy) video song finally got the attention of the airline giant, to the impact of Twitter on global events, and then to how Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga used social media in the entertainment field. He also shared that he's not an endorser of their music and struggles to understand why Lady Gaga wears those "interesting" outfits (many admin in the audience share an understood laugh at this) but that he sees the powerful impact social media has had on their success and the power it can have in other areas such as education. He then shows another video clip on the participatory culture our students are growing up in and how leaders in corporations get it. (Great video, I think to myself and immediately tweet it out "Corporations get it, why not in education?") from here, Tony segways over into the impact social media has on education and starts with a bit about Patrick Larkin from Burlington HS and how he uses, advocates for and teaches about social media in schools. (Remember I mentioned @BHSPrincipal in my intro? Well here he was full screen in Tony's presentation!) He told the administrators in the audience how Patrick uses social media tools like Twitter and blogs in his school and even teaches a class there about social media responsibility and digital citizenship. (To add to this, I would also note that his class is part of a wonderfully connected project found in an article by Edutopia  here with two other schools and great connected educators Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) and William Brannick.)

Remember that I said the audience was mostly school administrators and Directors? Well, they came into this session focused on using iPads and Web 2.0 tools for Administrators with varying experience and comfort levels in using the technology in general but especially towards the idea of social media tools. While some did seem to be into the idea of using social media as a learning and collaborative tool, others seemed to be absorbing this information as if it were presented in a new light they hadn't seen before. Maybe this was because it came from a local source they could relate with and trust in and in an audience of their peers where they could share and discuss these tools. I heard questions about Twitter versus Facebook, Do you use Twitter differently than Facebook? where do you start?, who would you suggest to start following? How do you join in conversations and school specific questions? Tony was really great about offering ideas and tips such as how to use hashtags to follow conversation such as #edchat or #edtech, how to create lists of different followers, or how to DM (direct message) someone. To my surprise and slight embarrassment, he showed how you could tell when you have been mentioned and there popped up my latest tweet. "Jenn's been tweeting about this session, I see." Eyes turn on me and I joke back something about backchanneling. From here though, I could see a light turn on in some of them as they explored these concepts on their iPads and began discussing how they currently use or would perhaps in the future use such tools. Tony finished the session with a great video that served as a nice ending note for the group and explained a few things for me. He showed the video with George Couros (@gcouros) that begins with "So I Started This Google Doc...." (The original movie was for Alec Couros titled "Happy Birthday Alec Couros" and was uploaded by Dennis Shareski.) Now, understand that I had attended an exceptionally great remote symposium called RSCON3 (Reform Symposium #rscon3) and attended a session by both George Couros and his brother, Alec Couros. They are two administrators in Canada (if you don't already know about them) with a strong and proud Greek heritage who are very interesting, entertaining and engaging in their sessions. Throughout this specific session, I kept seeing chat requests for George to break out into song or karaoke. I didn't quite understand but thought he must just be a musical guy as well and didn't pay it too much attention. After watching this video, it all made sense..... (Watch and you'll understand too.) It was the perfect note to send these participants off on because it truly showed the powerful ties that can be created through social media. As they left, the group seemed very energized and even those who were new to the tools showed interest and excitement at their possibilities. Tony also seemed pleased that he had a chance to share this information with his peers.

I was also energized to hear these conversations happening from area administrators. It was such a positive change versus the negativity many educators and school leaders have shown in relation to social media and online collaborative tools in the classroom. From the comments that I hear from many of my colleagues, they have fears related to this type of technology that "puts yourself out there" to people you don't know or they fear how employers and the students might see them. Mostly, I feel that there is a lack of understanding relating to how these tools can be used as professional learning resources versus "gossipy socializing" tools that they are sometimes seen as. More examples need to be available for educators to see the positive side of using social media. (The video by George Couros was definitely one of them.) The resources, ideas, connections are just incredible. I know it has made a large impact on me professionally and personally.

I, myself, took this journey from the "against social media" to the "advocating for" camp fairly recently. So I can see where those still shying away from it are coming from and know that it will take something like this session with Tony to spin a new positive light on it for them. Solid examples of administrators with successful social media programs and how their students and staff are benefiting from it such as that of Patrick Larkin or Eric Sheninger are a good way to start such a conversation. Finding resources to help educators looking for the best way to start is important to support their journey.

In training sessions, whether on the iPads, or other classroom technology, I try to have conversations on how social media and collaborative online tools can be a great help to learn more about digital tools and for finding related resources. I even have these discussions at home with my husband who works as an IT Project Manager but isn't really into social networking. He does use LinkedIn but not much and really doesn't get how I use Twitter. "Its a great tool for me professionally and I learn so much!" I tell him. He nods but doesn't really absorb what I mean. I show things I've discovered to him and the value behind them hoping it will spark his interest down the road but I know it will take lots of baby steps and patience to convince him.

I look forward to future workshops by Tony at my center. I hope to bring in other connected administrators here as well to provide these important examples to educators in my area and put a positive light on the use of Twitter, Google + and other social media tools.

Recently, my husband showed some promise in venturing into social media. "Started using a Twitter account" he tells me.
For creating a professional network? gathering resources? learning? I ask.

"Uh, no" he says, "For my fantasy football league."

Oh well......... babysteps, I tell myself.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Tips and Tricks To Get More From Your iPad

I have been delivering a lot of training sessions lately related to the iPad and many of my participants seemed to really like having access to my Google Doc that I use in my sessions as a resource. Here is the first part of my Google Spreadsheet that I have been sharing out to workshop participants in my sessions on tips and tricks in using the iPads iOS 4.3.3 or higher. There are also sheets on iPad Resources, Digital Storytelling Resources and Apps, Apps for any Subject, Apps by Subject Area. If you want to access the actual Google Doc Workbook with each of these different sheets, you can find it here

Lowton's List of Tips and Tricks for the iPad
tip or trickDirectionsLvltopic
taking screenshots on the iPad (click both power and home buttons)L IItool
grab quotes without switching keyboard screenshold the question mark for 2 seconds and the quotations appearkeyboard
grab apostrophe without switching keyboard screenshold the exclamation mark for 2 seconds and the quotations appearkeyboard
extra charactersfor some keys on the keyboard, you can hold down and more options will appear such as letters with accent markskeyboard
Quickly Insert a perioddouble tap space bar or tap the space bar with two fingerskeyboard
Fast Way to Top of pagetap the status bar where the clock or current time is and it will auto scroll to the topweb browsing
multi-taskto switch between programs you're working in, double tap home button to choose a different running programL IItool
iPod controls when you need themwhen playing a song, you can double tap the Home button and swipe right to get the iPod controlstool
Each folder can hold up to 20 appsHold down any app icon on any screen until they quiver and shake. Slide one app onto another and they end up in a folder that you are instantly asked to name.L ITool
You can lock the rotation at any time Double tap the Home button and sweep right to iPod controls and click the rotation buttontool
Force badly behaving apps to closepress and hold the SLEEP/AWAKE button until the "slide to power off" appears. Then hold down the HOME button for six seconds. This will close the open app and return you to the home screentool
More than just .comhold down the .com button and the keyboard brings up other options such as .org, .net or .eduL IIkeyboard
save an image in SafariTap an hold an image on a site and a menu appears with the option to "save image"L Iweb browsing
Create an App icon for a favorite sitewhile on the website, click and hold the + button and choose "add to home screen"L Iweb browsing
2-fingered scrollto scroll within a box on a site, use two fingers to move up and down within the box without sliding the entire websiteL Iweb browsing
bookmarks barif you like to have quick access to your favorite websites, go to settings and Safari and turn on"always show bookmarks bar". Now each site is a quick click at the top of the browserweb browsing
punctuate quicklytap and hold the button and then drag a finger to the number or punctuation mark desired and when you let go, the keyboard returns to the letters again.keyboard
choosing a send from in the unified boxIn the unified mailbox, if you want to choose which account to send from, click the "Mailboxes" button and choose the account you wish to reply fromemail
options beyond the dotif typing in email in the Mail app, hold down the period and additional options appearL IIemail
highlight what you want to forward or reply toIf you want to reply to or forward a long email that has more in it than you wish to send, highlight the part that you want and when you hit reply/forward ipad pulls out just that selectionemail
mobileMe and find your ipadIf you create a MobileMe account, you can enable a feature to "Find My Ipad" which will not only locate it on a map but also allows you to lock it, wipe all data or send it a message and make it play a persistent sound for up to two minutes to help you locate it.L Isecurity
drop a pinwhen viewing maps, you can drop a pin to save a location by tapping the page curl at the bottom right and choosing "drop pin" this will save to the iPad's memory in case you lose your internet connection and want to remember an unfamiliar place or where you parked your carmaps
clear cookiesIn Safari, data is stored as you surf called cookies, this can be handy to remember you next time you come to a website but you can clear this as well. Go to settings and Safari and choose "clear cookies". You can also clear history here if you want Safari to forget websites you have visited
Customize Home buttonSettings-general-HomeShortcuts
Street view in mapsDrop a red pin then click red and white icon
Hexadecimal longer passwordsSettings-passcode turn off simple password and also choose amount of time before it locks
Bluetooth keyboard more keyboard commandsYou can pair the regular Apple Bluetooth keyboard and most others which also allows for more keyboard shortcuts and commands most computer users are accustomed to.LIKeyboard
Change number of preview lines in email and add CC BC address linesSettings-email, contactsLIEmail
Turn of badgesSettings-notifications-choose each app and decide what types of notifications if any you would like to receive for eachLISettings
More on the dockWith the newest iOS for iPads, you are not limited to the regular four icons on the dock, you can add2 moreLITool
More screens and appsIn the new iOS you can now have 11 home screens and a total of 4460 appsLITip
Zoom anywhere any screenSettings-general-accessibility-zoom. You tap with three fingers then slide up or down to zoom in or outSettings
Make a custom web clip for your site or blogChoose a jpeg that's 72x72pixels and then put the following code into your site's HTML header. <link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="" /> Change the value of the href attribute to reflect the URL to your site‘s icon. Be sure to change to your own domain name.
UndoIf editing, in some programs giving the iPad a quick shake will either bring up an undo option or automatically delete/undo what you just typed Tip
Scrolling in a frame on a websiteTo scroll within a frame instead of the entire page, use a two finger dragTip
turn off email (without deleting your account or settings!)Go to Settings app and Mail, click on the mail account that you wish to turn off when someone else is using your iPad/iPod (ex GMAIL) and choose "Mail" and slide to offLIEmail
Voice over "on-demand"go to settings app and choose "Accessibility" and then choose "Triple Click Home" button. Set the action to Voice Over and now if there is a book or other reading selection a student or user would like read to them they can just triple-click the Home button and then click the item they want read. To turn off, triple-click the button againLIItool
projector stops projecting the iPadunplug the SVGA cord (dongle) from the projector cord and iPad and then plug back in. Sometimes you also have to hit "source" or computer on the projector or its remote as well but that usually does it.

If you have more great tips or ideas that I should add and share out, please comment below. I love finding new resources and ideas to share!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 Be a Curator of Your Favorite Topic

I recently started using and I have to say that I'm becoming very impressed with it. is a web tool that allows you to literally "scoop up" any website that relates to a topic someone is interested in. I started with one called "Digital Tools for Educators" to begin with. I liked the options of adding bookmarklets or extensions for browsers like Google Chrome similar to that of Evernote or Diigo where I can come to a site and just hit the bookmarklet to "scoop up" the site and paste it to my topic page. They have an introductory video on Youtube that is fairly slick but only shows some of the features. They advertise it to be a "virtual magazine" of sorts. The layout is visually appealing compared to a regular website with just the list of links to click on. Links are good but sometimes they don't provide enough quick visual information to let the viewer know instantly if that site may be of interest and it is passed on by. changes this way of listing great sites by adding a visual image from the site, a quick blurb relating to the content and ways to instantly share out a site via social media such as Twitter, Facebook or link sharing.

The aspect of community is very strong in I already mentioned that you can share out a site from a page to either Twitter or Facebook. They also provide the link in case you want to share it on Google+ or on a blog. From there you can also integrate your Twitter and/or Facebook community into your account to receive notifications on what others are creating topics on. It will alert you if anyone from your community has created one and the topic. If you have a page and go to someone else's page, there is an option to "re-scoop" a site and add it back to your own page. A new feature has been a community search tool where you can type in a topic or keywords and see other pages that have similar content and even follow their topics to receive notifications on new sites added that may be of interest to you.

The latest feature,that I'm playing with is the option to add widgets to your blog. Here is one for my "Lowton's Scoop on Digital Tools for Educators"

Here is the one I started later, "Lowton's Scoop on Digital Storytelling"

I love the interface and the widgets are quite appealing. I struggled with having the widgets work on Wordpress so if you view this on my Wordpress blog, it won't look the same. (Any help fellow Wordpressers?)I can see lots of uses for this great digital tool and the features that they are adding make it very user friendly and share-friendly. Currently, it says pages can be made by invitation only but you simply sign up and they will send a confirmation email to grant access. The next topic I'm working on is "Lowton's Scoop on Social Media in Education" and I'm looking forward to scooping up great resources for it already.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Taking Notes and iJournaling on the IPad and Android Tablets

Through my workshops and own classroom experience using tablets in the school setting, I've seen a lot of need for finding effective ways to take notes, write and journal on these devices. I instantly ran into some obstacles in trying to do this on my iPad or other Devices and soon found my peers running into the same issues. Taking notes using the on-screen keyboard on the iPad or Android Tablet can be loud (tippity-tippity-tap of fingers and fingernails on the glass), cumbersome and distracting compared to the traditional methods of pencil-writing or external keyboard typing. In an administrator's meeting where I was the only one to even bring technology at all nevermind a touch tablet to take notes on, I quickly realized that it could be distracting to my peers not accustomed to this new trend to hear the constant finger tapping on the screen as I tried to quickly take and type notes using the on-screen keyboard. Instantly, I switched to a lower tech and less attention-getting paper pencil option and then (to save face in the edtech world) I took a photo of them and uploaded them to my Evernote account. I was determined though to find a way to effectively take notes or write in general in any setting so they could easily be stored, shared or transferred to other documents or projects. Realizing how this would benefit my students as well, I began researching best ways of accomplishing this as a student, teacher and administrator in the different settings we all find ourselves in.

First, let's tackle taking notes whether its for research, meetings or task lists. I've already mentioned Evernote and posted a detailed description about it in a prior blog post. Evernote has expanded quite a bit even since my post about it. It works on any platform or device; iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry RIM making it very user-friendly to those of us who work on different devices and platforms between work, travel and home. It also works and integrates directly with many apps/programs for use on these different device platforms as well. The list is constantly being added to. Although you can read a lot more about it in my prior post, I will quickly summarize what it can do. You can take notes online using a web browser or app, you can take pictures of pencil-paper notes and upload them to the same account. You can save files or "clip" entire websites when doing research on a project and organize content into notebooks and not matter what device you log into, it's all there waiting for you. Imagine the implications for student group projects.

OK, that's a good resource for storing the notes but what about the actual taking of notes? I looked into different apps for both the iOS devices and Android Tablets. First, I tested out the following Phatpad, Writepad and Penultimate for apps that provided either handwriting recognition or just sketch handwriting capabilities so that notes could be taken either with a stylus or just drawing with my fingers which is much quieter than constant screen finger tapping with the keyboard. Also, faster for those who do not have strong traditional keyboarding skills to start with. Phatpad and Writepad are both from Phatware and work on almost any device. Phatpad I found at $4.99 to be a little more student-friendly especially with the lower grade students. It wasn't a super sophisticated or robust handwriting recognition program but for younger students and the price, I found a lot of use for it. Older students and fellow educators would something a little more robust. Writepad has a lot of great features not found in the latter such as a spell checker with its own custom dictionary, a context analyzer, auto-corrector, and a Shorthand feature that is able to fill-in words and phrases used frequently. Begin to sketch out your notes and either wait 2 seconds or use an Enter command and your sketches turn to text. You can also continue writing across multiple pages and over current recognized text where Phatpad only allows for 1-2 lines of sketching notes at a time. There is an option to type with an on-screen keyboard if desired, use hand gestures for commands, select, cut, copy, and paste text between different files as well as integration with Dropbox for file sharing. The iPad version is a little pricier at $9.99 but there is an iPhone version at $3.99 that I installed so I could also use on my iPods and it works just as well after expanding the screen. It even works well with a stylus. A sidenote on styluses would be to pay a decent amount if you truly want to effectively take notes or draw with one. I bought a $5 one and it wasn't super. I found a couple of better options for a little more and found a great difference (Nataal Premium is one) but still use my hand for the fastest solution. Perhaps, I just need practice. The third option does not have handwriting recognition but is excellent at recording handwritten notes and multi-color sketches. Penultimate is a great note taking program that allows for sketches with multiple colors, different papers such as graphing and music notesheets and has great sharing options. Good app for drawing out graphic organizers and mind-mapping charts. Each of these has different pros and cons depending on what feature you are looking for the most. If making sketches of concept maps, music sheets, math or scientific formulas and diagrams are more important than handwriting-text recognition, then I would use Penultimate.  For the most robust note taking tool that you can quickly translate to typed text for sharing in other text files, Writepad is my preference.

The second writing objective I had was to find effective way for students to work on daily or weekly journals and writing projects. Again, I use Evernote for collaborative projects but for journals I tried to find other options.Online there are two good collaborative writing resources of Type With Me and QuietWrite.  Type With Me is an online space that any web browsing device can access to write together as a group whether creating a writing piece or just jotting down notes on a shared project by sharing out a link or emailing invitations. Files can be imported or exported. In QuietWrite, you will find many of the same features of the latter but you can also create an account for extra features such as: export to a WordPress blog or post for public viewing with a QuietWrite link.  For iOS apps, I found iDiary for the Elementary students and PaperDesk Lite and iJournal for upper level students. iDiary is great for all types of digital projects including ijournaling. The app stores up to 6 password protected personalized journals per device. Each personalized journal has a child-friendly interface that is intuitive for younger students to operate with little instruction. They can customize the color, name and avatar for their journals. There are options for sketching, typing, importing photos, pre-defined stickers and exporting as a photo or email. I've used this and then exported a page as a photo to place into an eScrapbooking or Travelogue project. PaperDesk Lite and iJournal are better for older students and adults. PaperDesk Lite allows you to save a few journals (paid version offers more) but you can add as many pages as needed within the journals. This option also allows sketching, typing and importing of photos but also allows the user to record audio notes, change out paper type, import PDFs to annotate and export to options like Google Docs. I couldn't find a password protection option but have to look into the paid version to see if its an option. If you want a password protected option for your older students because devices are shared in most schools, then iJournal is a good option. At $2.99, it's missing some of the features such as recording notes and adding photos (except one as an avatar can be added) but it does offer some  features to create a personalized and protected journal your older students will want to write in.

With all of that said, more apps and online tools are coming out even as I write this. Writing notes and iJournaling is quickly improving on the iPad and other touch devices. I'm hoping with a little more time, practice and patience, I'll find a way that works just write for me.

What are you using for taking notes or iJournaling?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flash Content on the iPad

Recently I delivered a training session on using the iPad in the classroom. I was especially  excited to inform my participants about one specific to view Flash content on the iPad.

Whenever I hear discussions on the "iPad vs. Android tablet" debate, there is always the one definite dividing factor, the iPad's inability to play Flash. My first attempts to view flash on my iPad were a little too complex and way too unreliable for either myself or other teachers to want to deal with in a classroom with 20-30 impatient faces watching. I was finally able, however, through long internet searches and lots of trial and error able to come up with three different ways to easily view flash content on both my iPad Classic and my iPad 2. The three apps that make this possible are Skyfire, Splashtop Remote and Cloud Browse.

Skyfire is a browser app. It offers a couple of features that the Safari browser app that comes standard on the iPad does not. It offers different sharing options for images, links and content beyond the very limited list given in Safari. The biggest difference is that it also will play most flash movies embedded in a web site. The app isn't perfect however. The way it works is to go to the website, then click on the little "movies" icon on the bottom left of the screen. This will switch to analyzing and then tell you if there is a movie on the site that can be previewed. If there is, a small box with a thumbnail of the movie will appear and then it is possible to click on it and another screen will open to view the movie outside of the website. Basically, you are not looking at the flash content within the website but pulled out into a viewer separate than the site. It doesn't seem to recognize Flash or Java-based games like "Lemonade Stand" from the Cool Math Games website, for instance.  This was disappointing as I know many of the teachers would want students to be able to access some of the great learning games on the web that are flash-based. If you're looking for something to just view movies, then this app is pretty decent for the $4.99 but still has a way to go in recognizing other web-based flash content such as learning games.

The second way to view flash is to use an app that will control your desktop computer or laptop. An app such as Splashtop Remote works quite well and was easy to set up. Download the Splashtop app on your iPad and then install the free Splashtop Streamer onto your PC or Mac. It works very easily if you're in the same network as the computer you want to control. There are directions for firewalls and proxies if you want to try remoting into one while on a different network but for the purpose of showing something on the iPad that your computer can do easily, using a computer in the same network works well. I was able to completely control my computer and my iPad appeared to be a Windows-based tablet as it showed all content and actions happening on my PC. The downside is you may not always be somewhere that allows you to remote into your PC and your PC may not always be turned on.

The third option that is right now my absolute favorite is Cloud Browse. This is another browser app that was priced at $2.99 when I purchased it recently. Although the browser itself does not have a lot of advanced features found in other browser apps such as Ultimate Browser that has the ability to open multiple tabs, emulate other browsers and share out content in social media platforms, it does do one thing very well.... play Flash and Java content. I was able directly within the browser look at websites with flash movies playing such as Even better, I was able to go to the same site, Cool Math, and successfully play flash and java-based games such as Snorzees or Lemonade Stand without any special setup or additional steps to follow which means it would be intuitive for the teachers and the students. It isn't completely perfect either as it can suddenly knock you out and close the app on occasion and it has to constantly connect to a server due to how the app is set up. The way the app works is a company by the name of Always On Technologies has to host a desktop Firefox browser on an independent server. For the basic $2.99 app, you have a 10 minute connection to their server and then it can drop and you need to refresh which can be annoying when conquering the final level of that game you were playing. They offer an upgrade to the service which states will take care of these minor glitches but the upgrade is currently a little steep for most educators at $5.99/month. I've been using the basic app just fine and don't intend to upgrade currently as its competition, the release of HTML5, could make the need for such apps obsolete and perhaps their premium prices might drop. For now, I will remain using the $2.99 basic app happily watching my flash content and playing Flash games on my iPads.

What do you use to view Flash or Java content on the iPad? Join my blog and let me know.