Review: Magic Adblock for iPad Classrooms

adblock for ipad

Magic Adblock, for iPad or iPhone, is a free ad blocking app that can eliminate ads from your iOS browsing experience. For teachers in the classroom, this can be a great way to reduce distractions and help reduce confusion online. However, blocking ads is just one of the things it does to protect your online privacy. So, here’s how it works and how you can take advantage of an ad blocking app on your iPads at home or at school.

Why Use an Ad Blocking App for iPads and iPhones?

Ad blockers have been around for a long time on desktop machines, but they have only recently been made available for iOS users. Why should you use one? The developers of these apps tout many advantages for the end user. They include:

  • A cleaner online browsing experience
  • The elimination of tracking and malware scripts
  • Faster browsing (because you are not waiting for ads to load)
  • Less cellular data usage
  • Better battery life
  • Blocking adult websites

What You Need to Know Before You Install the App

From the outset, you should know that ad blockers only work on iOS devices that are running iOS 9 and later. So, make sure your iPad software is up to date before trying to use any kind of ad blocking apps, (Settings > General > Software Update).

You should also know that ad blocking apps only work in Safari because this is all that Apple has allowed. If you use Chrome for iPad or another application that has ads built-in, then apps like Magic Adblock for iPad will have no effect. However, if you do a lot of web browsing or research in Safari, then you can absolutely take advantage of ad blocking software.

How to Set Up an Ad Blocking App on the iPad & iPhone

  1. Open your Settings app
  2. Scroll down and tap on Safari
  3. On the right-hand side of the screen, tap on Content Blockers
  4. Toggle the switch next to Magic Adblock for iPad to make it green
  5. Return to Safari and test it on a website of your choice

Adblock settings in iOS

What To Do If Webpages Don’t Load Properly

It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally you will come across a website that doesn’t render very well when you have Magic Adblock installed.  However, there is a very quick fix for this. All you have to do is press and hold on the refresh arrow in the address bar of Safari. This lets you choose to reload the current page without your ad blocker. This won’t turn off ad blocking in your Settings, but it will temporarily disable it so that you can view this specific website with all ads enabled.

Reload Website Without Content Blockers

Are Ad Blockers Legal?

Legal? Yes. Ethical? It depends on who you talk to. The majority of the Internet that we all know and love is really only accessible for free because of the revenue that is generated by online ads. If everyone used an ad blocker on all their devices, and at all times, then it is almost certain that we would have to pay for a lot more of the web than we might want to. Companies like Google make a lot of their revenue from selling ads online. Many other companies do too. If this concerns you, there is the option in the Settings of Magic Adblock for iPad to whitelist sites that you still want to show ads on. This is a good way you can support the sites that you appreciate the most.

Why Should You Use Magic Adblock for iPad?

I have been using Magic for a while now and have been impressed by how well it performs. It loads sites very quickly and blocks a very high percentage of online ads. It gives websites a cleaner format that makes them easier to read, and there are far less distractions or unsuitable content displayed on the screen when using iPads with students. Best of all, Magic is 100% free! There are no in-app purchases.

There are, of course, a variety of other ad blocking apps for iOS available in the App Store. Crystal is a decent alternative. I used it for a while when it first came out. It costs you 99c and has very much the same feature set as Magic. However, I have found Magic was far more reliable. Crystal did not block as many ads for me, and some sites like Amazon did not always load when it was enabled in Safari.

1Blocker is another app you could consider. It is free, with the option of an in-app purchase, and differs from Magic because it has a much more granular approach. It gives you greater control over what you block and what you don’t. For many people this app may be more than you need, but if you want this level of control, then this could be the app for you. For everyone else, Magic Adblock for iPad will do just fine!

magic ipad adblock

Mark Up PDFs With Apple’s Mail App for iPad & iPhone

pdf mail markup

There are undoubtedly many great PDF annotation apps for the iPad and iPhone. I own many of them. Apps like PDF Expert, Notability, iAnnotate and Foxit PDF are great options, but you don’t always need such a full featured app. Sometimes you just want to do some quick markups to a document and send it back to the person who emailed it to you. For occasions like this, you can use the Apple Mail app in iOS 9 or later.

How to Annotate PDFs With the iOS Mail App

1. Open your Mail app and tap the PDF icon in your message to open a full screen preview.

2. Tap the screen again to reveal the toolbar at the top of the screen, then tap the toolbox.

toolbox mail icon

If the PDF appears as a live preview in your email, press and hold on the image view of the PDF and select Markup and Reply.

markup and reply

3. Use the annotation tools at the bottom of the screen to markup your PDF.

pdf markup tools mail ios

4. There are a variety of tools available for marking up your PDF. They include a pen tool, a text tool, and the option to add your handwritten signature. You can adjust the font, font size and font alignment as well as the pen color and thickness. There is even a magnifier tool that can be resized and used to call out areas of the document by making them larger.

5. When you are finished, click Done in the top right-hand corner of the screen and the annotated PDF will be added to an email that is pre-populated with the original sender’s email address. You can now add a quick message and send it straight back to the sender for their attention.

Possible Uses for the iOS Mail App Annotation Tools

Perhaps the most obvious use for these tools is to electronically sign documents. This is an increasingly common need and although there are 3rd-party apps to help you do this, nothing would be faster than doing it in the Mail app and sending it right back to the sender.

Teachers could use this tool to markup and give feedback to students on the 1st draft of an essay or another type of assignment that was emailed to them on their iPad. However, students could also use it to email ideas and drafts of group projects back and forward to each other, or as part of a peer review process.

Bonus Tip: iTunesU

Many of the markup tools also appear when you view a PDF inside an iTunesU course. This means teachers could add a PDF for students to annotate and turn in as an assignment. The PDF could be blank and students could use it as a whiteboard for working out Math or Science problems. It could be a map, a graphic organizer, a handwriting guide, graph paper, or any number of other things. The built-in tools can then be used to mark-up the PDF so it can be turned in to the teacher for grading or review.

The 5 Best iPad Podcasting Apps for Students

ipad podcasting apps title

If recent predictions are to be believed, the podcasting scene will explode in 2016. For me, that’s great to hear because I am a big fan of podcasts, but it is also great news for teachers who are looking for new ways for their students to communicate their ideas and reach a global audience. So, with that in mind, here are some of the best apps for podcasting on the iPad.

What is Podcasting?

Depending on who you ask, the definition of podcasting can vary. Some people think they are podcasting when they record audio, but to most who are familiar with podcasting, this leaves out one important aspect, namely the ability to reach that global audience. So, here’s a definition I like from the Oxford Dictionary.

The practice of using the Internet to make digital recordings of broadcasts available for downloading to a computer or mobile device.

Podcasts can be recorded in a video and/or audio format and are often distributed through RSS feeds or other subscribable services.

How Do You Podcast on the iPad?

As a truly multimedia device, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you can record a very decent podcast on the iPad. For video podcasts you can use the iPad’s camera, but if you want to keep it simple, audio podcasts are a great place to start. The built-in microphone does a decent job with many apps, but a more professional sound can be achieved if you use the 30-pin or Lightning to USB Camera Adapter to plug in a USB microphone. You can also choose from a variety of external microphones to use with the iPad.

What are the Best iPad Apps for Podcasting?

There are many different apps that will let you record audio on the iPad, but some are more suited to podcasting than others. Here are a rundown of some of my favorite iPad podcasting apps for the classroom.

1. Opinion Podcasts

If you are looking for a great all-in-one solution, Opinion Podcasts is a great place to start. It lets you record, edit and publish podcasts for free. They give you a webpage to use as the home base for all your podcasts and even supply an RSS feed that you can use to submit your podcast to iTunes and other podcast directories. Opinion also shares to SoundCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, e-mail, and iMessage. You can also import audio for sound effects or intro music from your iTunes music library, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive and others. Recordings are limited to ten minutes in the free version, but you can unlock unlimited recording with a $3.99 in-app purchase. Check out Room 108 Oklahoma City by Shelly Fryer (@sfryer) for a perfect example of how Opinion Podcasts could work in the classroom.

Opinion Podcast app

2. AudioBoom

Another useful all-in-one option is AudioBoom (formerly AudioBoo). Like Opinion, you can record, edit and share 10 minute clips for free from the AudioBoom app. It is a little less flexible in that you can only send your audio clips to AudioBoom, and you cannot import any audio from other sources, but sometimes simplicity is better. Of note, this app is rated 12+ because AudioBoom also gives you the ability to search and listen to a variety of other podcasts. Not all may be suitable for young audiences, so that is something to be aware of. That said, AudioBoom can be a great host for a class podcast. Check out Fifth Grade Fever, a daily podcast created by the students of Scott Hagedorn (@mrhagedorn).

AudioBoom iPad App

3. Voice Record Pro 7

Talking a side step away from the packaged solution is a free app called Voice Record Pro 7. This is an extremely versatile audio recording app that I first learned about from Wesley Fryer (@wfryer). You can import and export audio from Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and Box. You can also export to SoundCloud or an FTP server. One compelling feature is the ability to export the audio as a video file, with an image, and send it to YouTube. This would be a great way to add to a class YouTube or student YouTube account with minimal effort. It also gives you a huge audience to interact with your media, as well as the ability to embed it on school or classroom websites.

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How to Skype Anyone With Just a Link

skype logo

Mystery Skype is a fun, engaging, and educational activity for students in the classroom, but it used to require both teachers to have a Skype account, and to have the Skype client installed on a Windows, Mac or mobile device. Recently, that changed because you can now join a Skype call with just a link – no account or desktop clients are required. All you need it is a browser. Here’s how it works.

  1. Open the Skype desktop client on your computer, (the person who is hosting the call needs to have a Skype account and the desktop client for Mac or PC. The guest does not).
  2. Press Ctrl + N (Windows), or Cmd + N (Mac), to begin a new conversation.
  3. Copy the link to the conversation and send it to the person you want to connect with. You can send it by email, with Facebook Messenger, via a direct message on Twitter, or with another service that both participants have access to.

skype join by link

When the person you want to connect with receives your link, and clicks on it, they will find that it opens a new tab in their default browser. If they have Skype installed, they will see a prompt to open the conversation in Skype, else the participant will join your call in Skype for Web as a guest user. (Mobile users need the Skype app to join a conversation link that is sent to them).

Once you are both connected, you can chat with the conversation box or conduct a live audio or video call, just like two registered Skype users would normally do. (Note that a browser plug-in needs to be installed for audio or video calls). The Skype for Web user does not get all the features that a free Skype account gets due to the current limitations of the web client, but they do get the facility to make free calls and connect with people anywhere in the world.

This method of connecting over Skype is great for classrooms who play Mystery Skype games because it removes one more technical hurdle and opens it up to many more users. For more information on Mystery Skype, as well as a full user guide with tips for success, please see the Free Mystery Skype Curriculum for Schools post that I wrote earlier this year.

3 Top Tips for Green Screen Classrooms

green screen tips

Are you part of the green screen revolution that is sweeping schools? iPad apps like Green Screen by DoInk make it easier than ever to take advantage of the magic of green screen from the comfort of your own classroom. So, here are three top tips on how to make your filming experience a little easier for both students and teachers!

1. Use Mirroring Software

Green screen is an abstract thing for your actors because they can’t see where they are. Do they need to move left a bit? If so, by how much? Wouldn’t it just be easier if they could see for themselves without moving away from the green screen? Well, they can if you put your video feed on a projector, TV or large screen monitor. iPad users can do this with mirroring software like Airserver. The difference is like night and day, and your actors invariably look more confident in front of the camera because they can see where they are in the scene.

AirServer image

2. Use a Teleprompter App

Nobody likes memorizing lines, but you don’t need to if you have an extra iPad handy. Why? There are a number of handy teleprompter apps that you can use to make forgotten lines a thing of the past. There are several free ones like Teleprompter Lite or Best Prompter Pro, but if you have the money to spare, take a look at PromptSmart Pro – a voice activated teleprompter that listens to your voice and automatically matches the movement of the script to the pace of your voice! For best results, hold the teleprompter as close to the camera as you can so that it looks like the actors are talking to the camera.

ipad teleprompter

3. Use External Microphones

A study showed that people are more likely to watch a bad video with good audio quality as opposed to a great looking video that has really poor audio. With an iPad, you might think it would be hard to add an external microphone to improve your audio quality, but it is actually easier (and cheaper) than you might think. I like several of the iRig mobile products but there are definitely a number of options available to you if you are looking for better audio quality. The iRig Mic plugs directly into a mobile device, while the iRig Pre will let you add directional shotgun mics or standard XLR mics that you may already have at school.


Bonus Tip!

Traditionally, a green screen is set against a wall in some kind of vertical arrangement, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In the video below, I laid the green screen flat on the ground and chose an image with some deep perspective to simulate a walk that not many people would want to take! :)

Are you a green screen veteran? If so, what are your favorite tips for recording a great green screen movie in the classroom? Leave a comment below.

The Best iPad Apps You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of!

best ipad apps title

In 2013, I wrote a post entitled The Best Free K-12 iPad Apps You Might Never Have Heard Of! These were some great apps for the classroom. However, they are not as new as they once were and you have probably heard of most, if not all, of them by now. So, I decided to revisit this idea and give it a new twist.

This time around I thought it would be fun to crowdsource some ideas from teachers who are using iPads in the classroom right now. So, I put together a quick Google Form that you can use to submit all the apps that just don’t get talked about enough. You will also find a box on the form to include a brief description of how you use that app in the classroom.

Are you interested in seeing the apps that others have submitted? Me too! That’s why I have made the results publicly viewable for anyone who wants to see them. The links to both the survey, as well as the spreadsheet of results, are included below:

best ipad apps banner

Not sure what to submit? It’s easier than you might think, and the best thing is, there is no wrong answer! Simply take a look at your iPad and see what apps you have that others might not know about. The chances are high that you actually have quite a few. I have a lot of apps on my iPad but people show me new ones all the time. I love exploring these apps and hearing about how teachers are using them in the classroom.

So, I look forward to seeing the apps that you submit. The links have already been shared on Twitter a few times, so even if you can’t think of anything to submit right now, you can still take a look at the apps that have already been submitted.

Here are the links one more time:

Feel free to share this post, the spreadsheet, or the submission form with any of your colleagues. Together we will create something that we can all use for enhancing teaching and learning in an iPad classroom. Here are some of my favorites that I shared with educators recently.

PowerPoint Myths: Busted!

powerpoint myths

PowerPoint gets a bad name, but in my opinion it is often just misrepresented. Are their a wealth of PowerPoint alternatives available for little or no cost? Indeed there are, but do you really know all that PowerPoint is capable of? Here’s a rundown of some common PowerPoint myths and the reasons that PowerPoint is still a worthy tool…in the right hands.

Myth #1: PowerPoints are boring

Let’s get this one out the way from the beginning. We have all sat through some terrible presentations at one point or another. We were bored, tired, and spent more time watching the clock than watching the slides. Death by PowerPoint, right? The real truth, as you probably know, is that it was not PowerPoint that made you bored, it was the presenter. Their performance, and maybe their slide design, were not good enough to keep you interested. Thankfully, performance skills can be learned, as can slide design. Kathy Schrock, for instance, has some great presentation tips and tricks that are well worth a read.

Myth #2: You can’t collaborate on a PowerPoint

If you save your PowerPoint to your school (or personal) OneDrive account, you can go to File > Share > Invite People (Share With People PowerPoint 2016), and add the email addresses of the people you would like to share your file with. Choose whether you want them to have view or edit rights to the file, and write them a short note explaining what you are sending them. Once you are done, click Share to send the invitation. You can also go to File > Share > Get a Link (Share With People > Get a Sharing Link PowerPoint 2016). Multiple people can work on the same PowerPoint at the same time, but as with Google Presentations and other collaborative slideshow apps, it works best when you are all working on different slides.  You should also save often when using the desktop version to ensure you have all changes synced when working with other users simultaneously.

sharing link for powerpoint

Myth #3: You need an Office subscription

You are probably familiar with Google’s online suite of Office applications, but did you know Microsoft has one that is also free? Simply navigate to and log in with your Microsoft account to get access to free online versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and more. The online apps are not as full featured as their desktop counterparts, but you can create, share and collaborate on any Microsoft Office document for free. So, if you want to work on a PowerPoint with someone who does not have Office on their computer, provides that option.

Some students and teachers are eligible for free versions of Office through their school. To check on eligibility, visit this website and sign up. Mobile users can get all of the Office apps for free on iOS and on Android. This lets you create, view and edit existing documents on phones or tablets, and it will sync everything between all your devices.

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