Monthly Archives: March 2013

The 5 Best Presentation Apps for the iPad

Teachers often turn to presentation software to help deliver the content they choose to meet their lesson objectives, but what is the best way to do this on an iPad? Well, there is no PowerPoint for the iPad, (yet),  but don’t let that put you off. There’s an app for that!

Keynote

1. Keynote – A “best of” list like this would not be complete without Apple’s own venerable presentation app. In many ways it sets the standard for all the others, but its sheer simplicity and ease of use continues to surprise new users of this very capable app. Everything is optimized for a touch screen device, and presentations sync effortlessly between your Mac and iOS devices via iCloud. There are only 12 built-in themes, but a recent update to the app means you can now add your own themes without too much effort. Keynote is by far the most complete and most versatile presentation app for the iPad, but it is not your only option.

2. Haiku Deck – All the cool kids are using it, so isn’t it time you started too? Haiku Deck emphasizes minimalism. It forbids you from overloading the audience with too much information by limiting the amount of text you can add to one slide. This is great for students who may be prone to reading you their presentation, as opposed to delivering you a presentation. There is a built-in library of creative commons images that can be used for creating your slideshow, but be careful what you search for, because these images are not filtered for the classroom. However, it is hard not to impress when using Haiku Deck. The app is free, as are your first five themes, and others can be bought via in-app purchases.

Haiku Deck

3. SlideShark – This app started as a simple PowerPoint viewer for the iPad, but has since grown into so much more. It only supports PowerPoint files right now, but so long as you are okay with that, you will be able to quickly take advantage of this useful iPad presentation app. Start by uploading your PowerPoint to the SlideShark website, or use the Open In feature to send it there from another app. It plays embedded videos, and lets you read your notes. A timer keeps you on track for finishing on time, while the laser pointer and annotation tools let you draw your audience’s attention to exactly what you want them to focus on.The iPhone app can even act as a remote for your iPad to help you advance the presentation over Bluetooth.

The free account comes with 100MB of storage, but you can easily remove presentations that are taking up too much space if you don’t want to upgrade to the Pro account. To date, the only issues I have had with SlideShark is when you try to import a Keynote file that you exported as a PowerPoint. The formatting was not good, but this is more to do with Keynote’s export abilities than SlideShark’s ability to present it.

SlideShark

4. Nearpod – This stalwart of the classroom has been around for a while now, but it terms of interactivity, there are few better ways to deliver your presentation. This is one of my favorite apps to show teachers if they have never seen it before. The look on their faces when everybody’s iPad advances to the next slide simultaneously is priceless! 🙂 Nearpod stands out from the others in terms of audience participation. Although you can use it solely as a content delivery tool, the ability to throw in a short quiz, a poll or even a live website, means that this app is a truly immersive multimedia presentation tool.

Again, the standard account is free, but further options that include more storage, or the ability to have students log in from any web browser, are available. As a word of caution though, Nearpod works best on a strong Wi-Fi network. Presentations can quickly get out of sync or grind to a halt if you are often maxing out your available bandwidth.

5. PDF Expert – Ok, so this is one is a wildcard, but it is better than you might think. If you can export your Keynote or PowerPoint as a PDF, you have some nice presentation options for showing it with PDF Expert. This app was originally created as a PDF annotator, and it does this exceedingly well, but recent updates added a presentation mode. Simply connect your iPad to a projector via VGA/HDMI or through AirPlay, and you will automatically have the option of entering the new presentation mode.

PDF Expert

There are four options. Screen mirroring lets your participants see exactly what you see, and gives you a gamut of annotation tools with which to annotate your presentation. Document view shows them a full page document, regardless of whether you as the presenter need to scroll, zoom or pan on your screen. Again, annotation tools are available, but the toolbar is hidden from the viewer. Then there is the Screenshot mode, which freezes the curent slide for the viewer, letting you flick ahead to future slides to see what is coming up. Best of all in my opinion is the Focus mode. Simply draw a circle around an area you want to draw the audience’s attention to and PDF Expert will highlight it and dim the rest of the screen. If Readdle would add support for presenter notes, I would be a very happy man! 🙂

If you need more ideas for what to use as a presentation app on the iPad, check out my iPad Apps page for a more extensive list. Meanwhile, if you have any comments about any of the apps above, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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Markup: A Beta Review of a New iPad Grading App for Teachers

On Friday I was granted access to a beta version of a new iPad grading app called Markup. The app, which has yet to be released to the App Store, comes from the makers of ShowMe. It is designed to help teachers transition to a paperless grading system using just their iPad and a stylus. Markup is currently a Kickstarter project, but with 4 days to go, they have already exceeded their target funding goal of $7,500.

I know there has been considerable interest in this app on Twitter and among teachers using iPads, so I am offering this review to give other teachers a taste of what might be in store when this app is released in the App Store. However, please remember that this is the beta version of Markup. It is not the finished article. It was only released for testing purposes and to get feedback on how it performs in its current state.

Markup for iPad

Markup currently supports PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and plain text documents. Teachers can open student assignments into the app using the “Open in another app” feature that is found in many iOS apps, or by emailing documents to a unique email address that will sync with the app. If you share this email address with students, they can email their assignment directly to the Markup app. I tried emailing Pages and Keynote files to the app, but they never appeared, and Markup does not appear as an option when you try to open Pages or Keynote files in another app.

Documents appear in a file browser area whether they were emailed to you, or you chose to open them into Markup, and notifications can be turned on so that you receive an alert when assignments are emailed to you. New files are tagged with a blue ribbon in the top left hand corner. For me, the thumbnails here are a little large for my liking. If I had 25 assignment to grade, it would be a lot of scrolling to get to the ones at the bottom. There also did not seem to be any way to remove assignment that I have already graded, but I am sure that will change by the final version of the app. Personally, I would prefer some way to organize files into folders. Better still, they could take a page out of Evernote’s book and have emailed assignments automatically filed in a folder according to the subject line of an email.

Markup File Browser

The interface in this early beta version is very simple, and not too unlike ShowMe. There are five pen colors to choose from, an eraser, and an undo button. There is also a Send button to email the graded paper back to the student. Simply choose the color you want and begin annotating. In the future it might be nice to see a highlighter or a text tool. The ability to zoom in to a document would also be useful for more precise annotations. I’d also like a thumbnail view of the document so that I could quickly navigate to a specific page in longer assignments.

Markup Annotation Tools

When the assignment is graded you can tap the Send button to automatically attach it to an email, ready to send back to the student. With any luck, future versions of this app will include the “Open In” functionality so that teachers can send it to a shared Dropbox or Drive folder, or even to apps like Edmodo or Showbie.

For me, Notability is the standard that Markup has to live up to. It is a well established app with a huge amount of functionality for just $1.99. Lots of teachers are already using Notability to as their iPad grading app. It already does a lot of what Markup does, and it has useful additional features like the ability to include an audio note as feedback for students. So, it will be interesting to see whether or not Markup can differentiate itself enough to win these teachers over or not.

The latest information I received was that Markup was on track to be released to the App Store in a couple of weeks, so I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished version. There are very few, if any, iPad apps that are created solely to help teachers grade papers electronically. Notability, iAnnotate, PDF Expert, and Remarks are great, but they were not created for educators. Markup has a chance to take the lead in this category, and if they respond to user feedback the same way that they do with ShowMe, then the future is bright for this app.

Do you have a favorite iPad grading app? Will you be buying Markup when it is released to the App Store? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Why Wunderlist is Wonderful for Teachers, Students, and Me!

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Wunderlist 2

I’m big into to-do lists. As such, I have tried a whole plethora of apps to try and organize the chaos that is my life most days, but only one has truly met my specific criteria. I need something that works on every platform, something that syncs seamlessly, and something that is quick and easy to use. It has to be easy on the eye, offer sub-tasks, and give me the option of setting reminders and repeating events. Oh, and it had to be free. Enter Wunderlist.

I’m a fan of Getting Things Done, so I have a lot of lists. These lists keep me productive and stop me going insane over the little things that I fret and worry about on a daily basis. However, once it is on my list, I can relax because I know I will get to it. Yesterday, Wunderlist released a new browser extension that will increase my productivity even more, and it could be a great tool for the classroom.

Add to Wunderlist is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari that lets you add a whole lot more to your Wunderlists quickly and easily, just like you can with Evernote, Diigo and sites like that. Need to bookmark a website to read it later? No problem. Once installed you simply click the Wunderlist icon in your toolbar and add it to a list of your choice. Tired of using your email as your to-do list? Click the custom “Add to Wunderlist” button inside Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or Outlook and you can add an email to your task list so that you can streamline your workflow, clean up your inbox, and barrel headlong towards inbox zero. You can see more of these custom buttons at Amazon, Etsy, YouTube and even Wikipedia, but the toolbar button is always there for adding almost any other site to your Wunderlist.

Add to Wunderlist

At school I can see a lot of creative uses for Wunderlist. Teachers can use it to help organize the multitude of tasks they complete on a daily basis. Ideas for lessons, interesting articles, and a list of things that have to get done can all be put into Wunderlist. Teaching in a team? No problem. Lists can be shared with other Wunderlist users, or emailed to anyone. You can also set a recurring reminder to yourself about that team meeting you always forget every second Wednesday. Smart Lists can show you what is due today, or reveal all the starred tasks across all of your lists.

If you use Wunderlist on a mobile device you don’t have access to the Add to Wunderlist extension yet, but you can get close to the same functionality  You can email URLs or forward emails to me@wunderlist.com, and it will quickly arrive in your Wunderlist inbox for sorting, so long as you email it from the same account you use for your Wunderlist account. Clever, eh?

Students can use Wunderlist as a homework planner because tasks can have a due date, and reminders can be set for upcoming assignments. They can even have lists for every class that they attend so that they can keep track of all that they want to get done. Students can gather research for school projects by sending links to articles or YouTube videos to pre-defined lists in Wunderlist, and again share these lists with others if they need to. The built-in Activity Monitor will notify you if someone has added something to a shared list, or completed a shared task. Planning a project? Wunderlist lets you have up to 25 sub tasks, so it is easy to plan a step-by-step action plan.

There are lots of task list managers out there, but if you haven’t tried Wunderlist, you should. It might look simple, but it can do a lot for you if you take advantage of all the features it has. In my opinion, there really are very few free options that compare as favorably. Do you have a favorite task manager? Feel free to add it to the comments below and tell us why you like it so much.

 

Can the Amplify Tablet Make Some Noise in the Mobile Learning Market?

Amplify Tablets

There’s a new tablet in town – courtesy of Amplify, an educational media company backed by News Corp. The Amplify Tablet, unlike a lot of popular slates, has been designed exclusively for the education market, and now goes head to head with devices like the LearnPad and the Kuno.

A tablet tailored specifically for the schools is an appealing prospect for a lot of educators. Apple’s iPad is the dominant player in this sector, but it is not without its drawbacks. Managing apps and imaging devices, for instance, requires a dedicated techspert, and Apple haven’t done a whole lot to make that easier.

The device itself looks to be based on the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300TL, and it runs Android’s Jelly Bean software. It has a 10-inch screen, a 5MP camera, and an NVIDIA® Tegra® 3 quad-core CPU with 4-Plus 1™ architecture and 12-core GPU. The battery life is rated at 8.5 hours, and it comes with headphones and a protective case.

teacher featrues amplify tablet

Teacher features include the ability to block apps on student tablets, conduct quick polls, spot check understanding, see what a given student is using on their tablet, or even send a message to all students to move their eyes to the teacher. They can also build and share lessons with students. The tablet comes preloaded with Encyclopaedia Britannica, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Google Apps for Education, Desmos graphing calculator, EverFi’s digital literacy curriculum, Project Noah science tools, Common Sense Media and education-specific tools that allow teachers and students to take advantage of millions of multimedia resources aligned to the Common Core Standards. However, you can of course add to this software selection.

Perhaps most interesting of all, is the ability to manage all of your school’s Amplify tablets from a secure online dashboard. From here you can manage devices and configure them en masse or on an individual student basis. Devices can be tracked, locked or wiped from this online management console.

So, how much does it cost? Maybe less than you might think. The Wi-Fi tablet is being priced at an introductory rate  of $299, (from now until June 30, 2013), plus a $99 per year subscription fee for two years. Over a two-year period, that puts it right up into the same price category as an iPad, so it will be interesting to see if it can stand out enough to sway schools away from Apple’s tablet, which is already well established in schools. I am trying to schedule a demonstration of the Amplify tablet next month, so if I get that confirmed, I will return with more thoughts after I get some hands-on time with the device.

You can find out more by visiting http://amplify.com or by watching the video below.

Chromebooks 101: A Guide for Which Chromebook to buy?

Is your school looking at Chromebooks? Unsure which one to buy? Although there might seem like a lot to choose from, there are infinitely fewer than if you were looking to buy a new Windows laptop. This guide takes a quick tour of the current lineup and gives some pros and cons for each in order to help you decide which Chromebook to buy. Prices listed do not include the $30 management console fee, which is in addition to the retail price and is charged per device for schools who want to manage their Chromebooks from a secure online Dashboard.

Acer C7 – $199

Acer c7

Pros:

  • Price – $199
  • 320GB of local storage – plenty for all your offline docs
  • VGA and HDMI ports
  • 100Gb of Drive storage for free for 2 years
  • HD webcam
  • Ethernet port

Cons:

  • Intel Celeron Processor
  • HDD not SSD so slower boot times and resume
  • 4 hour battery life – the least of all Chromebooks and not enough for a school day
  • No Bluetooth

Samsung Chromebook – $249

Samsung Chromebook

Pros:

  • Price – $249
  • 0.7 inches thin and only 2.4 lbs
  • 16Gb Solid State Hard Drive for 10 second boot times
  • 6.5 hour battery life
  • 100Gb of Drive storage for free for 2 years
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Dual core ARM processor

Cons:

  • No VGA out
  • Perhaps not as durable as some others?
  • No Ethernet port
  • VGA Webcam

HP Pavillion Chromebook – $329

HP Pavillion Chromebook

Pros:

  • 14-inch screen – the largest of any Chromebook
  • HD webcam
  • 16Gb Solid State Hard Drive for 10 second boot times
  • Multi-format Card Reader
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Ethernet port
  • 100Gb of Drive storage for free for 2 years

Cons:

  • 4.25 hour battery life
  • No VGA out
  • Weight – 3.96lbs

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