Monthly Archives: December 2014

How to Switch from Zite to Flipboard

Switch from Zite to Flipboard(1)

So the time has come. I am about to delete one of my favorite iPad apps of all time. Zite has been an amazing discovery tool for me. It has enhanced my learning and given me lots of great ideas to share in this blog and online via social media. However, as you may already have heard, Zite was acquired by Flipboard recently and will be discontinued.

For a long time I was bullish about these changes and carried on using Zite regardless. After all, it still works, and has yet to be pulled from the App Store, but it doesn’t work as well as it used to. The app has not been updated since March 2014. There have been a number of weekends recently when there would be no new stories for several days. When it does work, I have found the articles in my feed increasingly irrelevant to my tastes.

So, after years of great service, it is time to remove Zite from my iPad. The only remaining question was what to replace it with. There are numerous news aggregation apps that will adapt to your specific interests, but Flipboard is increasingly the one I have been turning to for the most relevant and up to date articles for my needs. So, here’s some tips on how to switch from Zite to Flipboard.

1. Adding Topics

Adding topics you are interested in is pretty straight forward in Flipboard. Simply tap the search bar at the top of the screen and enter some keywords. Topics appear as a selection of words that are surrounded by a rectangle. Tap on the one you are interested in and you will get a preview of the kinds of articles you will see in this topic. If you lie what you see, tap the blue Follow button to add it to your the boards you see when you start the app.

adding topics to flipboard

2. Organizing Topics

The more topics you add, the more interactive tiles you will see when you are on the Flipboard home screen. You may have several pages of boards, so organizing them is worth your time. Thankfully this is easy, because it is basically the same method you use to organize apps on your iPhone or iPad. Press and hold on any topic, then drag it to another space to give it a new home. To move topics between pages, press and hold on the topic, then drag it to the edge of the screen until the page flips over. Then drop it where you want it. You can delete topics you no longer want by pressing and holding on a topic, then tapping the “x” in the corner to delete it.

organize topics in Flipboard

3. Reading Articles

In Zite, your aggregate news feed was called Your Top Stories, but in Flipboard, this is called Cover Stories. To all intents and purposes, I believe that it is pretty much the same thing. You can tap Cover Stories to read about all your chosen topics in one place, or tap one of the topic boards to read something more specific.

cover stories flipboard

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A Digital Worksheet is Still Just a Worksheet

digital worksheets

Recently, there have been a number of tech tools that have been created to help enhance teacher productivity and improve assignment workflows in the classroom. Take, for example, the excellent OneNote Class Notebook Creator. It is an ideal app for Office 365 schools who want to quickly distribute materials to a whole class, have students work in a paperless environment, while also providing a collaboration space for the whole class to work in.

Google Apps schools are flocking to Google Classroom – a management tool for teachers who are looking to consolidate and simplify the flow of electronic files. It lets you make a copy of an individual document and distribute it to students with permissions configured automatically so that only the student and the teacher can see the document. There is also a discussion feed for students to communicate inside your Google Classroom.

iPad classrooms are using workflow apps like Showbie as a way for students to turn in assignments created on the iPad so teachers can grade them and give feedback. Similar apps like Skaffl, Handouts, and Turnitin do much the same thing, while others are turning to cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive to meet the same need.

Then there are the many learning management systems that were created to take your classroom to the cloud. Canvas, Moodle, Schoology, Blackboard, Haiku, BrainHoney and many many more exist because teachers are looking for simple ways to unify the experience of delivering content and working online with students.

However, there’s a problem with all of these systems. The problem is, that they make it too easy for teachers to do what they always used to do – assign worksheets that don’t challenge, engage and empower students in their learning. A digital version of a paper worksheet is still just a worksheet, and it is not taking advantage of the powerful technologies that students have at their fingertips today.

It doesn’t matter whether you are using Chromebooks, Macbooks, iPads or Surface tablets. A low-level worksheet is a low-level worksheet whether it is in paper form, a PDF, a Word Doc or a Google Doc. Whether they type on it, or write over it with digital ink, it makes no difference. I know it is quick, easy, and convenient to assign. I know because I did it myself when I was in the classroom. It doesn’t make you a bad teacher, but your students deserve better.

None of these tools are inherently flawed. In fact the majority of them are fantastic because they  offer multiple solutions to a very real digital problem. However, I would encourage you to use them in a way that is most befitting a modern digital classroom. Use them to collect authentic assignments that demand creativity. Use them as part of project based or inquiry driven learning projects. Use them to showcase learning in a way that can only be captured with an electronic device.

Consider collaborative projects in Office Online or Google Drive. Have your students write a blog post or create a website to showcase their learning. Have them create a screencast or an Office Mix presentation. Assign them a video project that combines other multimedia content or take advantage of stop motion and green screen effects to communicate their learning. Have them create a Thinglink, an interactive timeline, or a custom Google Map. Challenge them to some App Smashing (it’s not just for iPads by the way), tell some digital stories, create some Kahoot quizzes, or reach out for new ideas like augmented reality, QR codes, and makerspaces.

I know there is a lot out there, and I know it gets overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and help is at hand. The chances are high that someone in your building is already doing this, and if they aren’t, there are thousands of educators on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ that will be more than happy to help you out and share their ideas.

Start small. Begin by replacing just one worksheet with an idea like the ones above and see how it goes. Watch the reaction you get from your students. As time goes by, continue to look for more ways to leverage the power of your digital devices and integrate meaningful digital experiences to demonstrate learning in new and innovative ways. Trust me. It will challenge your students, motivate them, and engage them in something deeper, and more meaningful, than any worksheet you can lay your hands on.

ABCya! Animation for Kids: Creative Stop Motion Movies for the Classroom

abcya animate

If you are looking for a new way to inject some creativity into your digital storytelling, stop motion is a great way to do just that. ABCya! Animate is a website I learned about from Elizabeth McCarthy on Google+. It’s a free, and engaging web tool that lets students create an animated GIF from up to 100 frames of digitally drawn images, with no logins or accounts required.

The editor has a simple layout and is easy to use. You can draw with pens, brushes or the shape tool. You can also add text and clipart images from the library. When you have the first frame ready, click the “copy frame” button to duplicate it to slide two so that you can add a little more to your animation. Continue this process for up to 100 slides until you have the animation that you need.

abycya animate editor

There are three frame rates for your finished animation – slow, medium and fast – so you do have some control over the final effect. Clicking Export will walk you through the steps of how to save your animation as a GIF file. Wondering how to open a GIF? Almost all modern web browsers will open a GIF file so the student’s final project will be easy to share with others or add to a website.

ABCya! Animate is a Flash based tool. So, although it is great for Mac, PCs and Chromebooks, it will not work on a mobile device like an iPad. However, if you try this on a laptop and decide you would like to use this on an iPad you can check out the ABCya! Animate iPad app. It is available from the App Store for $1.99 and includes the same functionality that you get in the free web version.

I am a fan of Stop Motion movies for the classroom because they are an endlessly creative way to tell a story. Whether you do it as a PowerPoint presentation, a claymation movie, or an iPad animation combined with green screen effects, it is always a great medium that requires students to plan and think ahead to create an effective product. It is also ideal for group work and collaboration skills.