Podcast Player Review: Castro 2

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I’ve used a lot of podcast apps over the years. Doggcatcher, Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Downcast, Overcast, Pocket Casts, and countless others have all found their way onto my devices at some point in their lifetime. Some of these podcast players were trusted servants for a long period of time, others not so much. As you may already deduced, I am kind of hard to please when it comes to podcast apps. However, things may be about to change. In this post I am going to take a closer look at my current favorite podcast player, Castro 2 for iPhone from Supertop.

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How to Record Your iPad Screen in iOS 11

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One of the features that educators have been most looking forward to in iOS 11 is screen recording. There are lots of ways to record your iPad screen, and I’ve written about some of those in the past, but native iOS screen recording is likely going to be the most convenient option for most people. However, it’s somewhat hidden in Settings, so here’s a quick guide on how to set it up and start recording your own iPad screencasts.

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11 iOS 11 Features for iPad Educators

Apple describes iOS 11 as “a giant leap for iPhones but a monumental leap for iPads.” Whether you agree or not, there are a number of fantastic new features available for iOS devices when iOS 11 is released. What’s more, many of these additions are only available on iPads and that is great news for those using iOS devices in the classroom. In this post I wanted to run through a few of my favorite new iPad features for efficiency, power and ease of use. Here’s what you need to know.Read More »

Find Apps That Won’t Work in iOS 11

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When Apple launches iOS 11 this Fall, they are ending support for 32-bit apps. This means that there could be some apps on your iPhone or iPad that won’t work unless they are updated to run as a 64-bit application. Some of these apps will be updated by developers, others will not, but you can plan ahead by seeing which ones are compatible and which ones are not. So, here’s a quick way for you to find apps that won’t work when you decide to upgrade to iOS 11.

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Everyone Can Code With Apple’s K-12 Coding Initiative

Apple’s coding curriculum for schools has been expanded and updated recently to include a full spectrum of offerings for students in K-12 classrooms. It even includes the ability to code smart toys like Spheros and drones. So, if you have access to Apple devices in your school, you should definitely take a look at what this program can offer teachers and students. Here’s what you can expect.

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Getting Creative With Video in the Classroom

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While watching the Oscars tonight, I was intrigued to see a promotion that Walmart was running to celebrate the craft of film making. I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to  commercials, but these ads managed to catch my attention, and I think that they have some interesting potential for teachers who are looking to add some creativity to video projects in their classroom.

Walmart contacted four award-winning directors, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Neighbors), Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw, The Magnificent Seven), and Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner). They sent each of them a receipt with the same six items and challenged them to make a one minute movie that was centered around the six items on the receipt. You can learn more here, but take a look at the videos below to see what these talented directors came up with…

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The Apple Adapter Classroom Gear Guide

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If you use an Apple device, you are probably increasingly used to using dongles, adapters or whatever else you want to call them. They give you the functionality that Apple doesn’t natively include because of design constraints or a forward thinking approach to new technologies. However, there are dozens of Apple adapters available, and it can be hard to know which ones are the right ones for a given situation. This edtech gear guide was written to help remedy that problem.

The adapters below are ordered by price (from low to high) and include a number of likely scenarios for when you would want to use each one. Official Apple adapters will usually work best and these can be purchased in a number of different places, but third-party versions are available too. The list below is not an exhaustive list, but it does include the most commonly used dongles and adapters for use in Apple classrooms. Whenever possible, links are included to the official Apple product.


I want to… connect headphones to an iPhone 7 or multiple sets to an iPad/iPod Touch.

You need: Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter (Apple price: $9)

More information: This dongle lets you plug 3.5mm headphones into the iPhone 7, (a device that has no traditional headphone jack), however, it can be used with any iOS 10 device that has a lightning port. It can be used to add an extra headphone jack to iPads and iPod Touches, but a dual headphone splitter, or a multi-headphone splitter, would be cheaper (or more efficient) in the long run.


I want to… plug a traditional USB device into a new Apple MacBook.

You need: USB-C to USB Adapter (Apple price: $9)

More information: If you own one of the newer MacBook laptops, you will be missing standard USB ports to plug in Bluetooth mice, a SMART board, or other USB accessories. This adapter restores that ability.


I want to… connect my new MacBook to the internet with an Ethernet cable.

You need: Belkin USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (Apple price: $26)

More information: The Ethernet port has been missing on MacBooks for some time now. This adapter is for MacBook and 2016 MacBook Pro users who want to connect to the internet with a wired connection.


I want to… connect my older MacBook to the internet with an Ethernet cable.

You need: Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: This is the same adapter as the one above, but it works with older MacBooks that don’t have the USB-C inputs by converting a Thunderbolt port to an Ethernet port. You can also use the Apple USB Ethernet Adapter or the Belkin USB Gigabit Ethernet Adapter that comes with 3 integrated USB 3.0 ports.


I want to… connect USB devices to my iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

You need: Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: The Lightning to USB Camera Adapter was designed to help you transfer photos and videos from a digital camera to an iOS device. However, this handy dongle also allows you to connect a USB microphone for better audio recording, a USB keyboard for better typing, and some other low power USB accessories. It’s a handy adapter to have because of how flexible it is. You can’t use it for all your USB devices, (a mouse and a flash drive will not work), but it’s compatible with more than you think.


I want to… connect my older MacBook to a VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: The majority of projectors used in schools today seem to have a VGA connection. A VGA connector is the trapezoid shaped port with pins on the male side and holes on the female side. This adapter lets you use a VGA cable with your MacBook so you can connect it to a projector, monitor or TV that has VGA connectors.


I want to… connect my new MacBook to a VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Belkin USB-C to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: This dongle lets you continue to use a VGA projector with the newest MacBooks by converting one of your USB-C ports into a VGA connector.


I want to… connect my iPad 2 or 3 to a VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Apple 30-pin to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: Many schools still have some iPad 2s in circulation. If you are looking to connect one of these to a a projector, monitor or TV that has VGA connectors, then this is the adapter you need.


I want to… connect my iPad 2 or 3 to an HDMI projector or external monitor.

You need: Apple 30-pin Digital AV Adapter (Apple price: $39)

More information: Displaying an iPad 2 on an HDTV or HDMI projector can be achieved with the aid of this (pricey) adapter. It includes a secondary 30-pin port that allows you to charge your device while displaying it on an external screen. Consider using it to show a looping slideshow on TVs that are mounted on walls around your school.


I want to… connect my iPad 4 (or later) to an VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Lightning to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $49)

More information: Another pricey adapter but a must have if you want to show your iPad on a SMART Board, projector or TV via a VGA cable. Needs no wifi access and is generally very reliable. Includes a lightning port to let you charge your device while it is on screen.


I want to… connect my iPad 4 (or later) to an HDMI projector or external monitor.

You need: Lightning Digital AV Adapter (Apple price: $49)

More information: This is the HDMI version of the adapter above. It works in exactly the same way, but connects to HDMI devices as opposed to VGA. Also includes a lightning port for charging while your iOS device is displayed on screen.


I want to… connect my Apple TV to a VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Kanex ATV Pro X HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio Support or the Kanex HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio for Apple TV 4th generation (Apple price: $49.95-59.95)

More information: The Apple TV only comes with an HDMI output, so if you want to connect it to a VGA projector or a TV or Monitor that has a VGA connections, then you need one of these adapters. The Kanex ATV Pro X HDMI to VGA Adapter works for 2nd and 3rd generation Apple TVs while the Kanex HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio for Apple TV is designed to work with the newer 4th generation Apple TVs.


Need more help?

Unsure which dongle or adapter you need? Want to double check that you picked the right one? Leave a comment below, or drop me an email via the contact page, and include as much information about what you are trying to achieve and the devices you want to do it with. If there is an adapter out there that fills that need, I’ll tell you what it is, and where you can buy it.

Note that some Apple adapters are currently on a limited sale until April 1, 2017.

How (and Why) to Compress Video on iPads & iPhones

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Do your videos take a long time to upload to YouTube? Does the iOS Mail app refuse to send your large videos? If so, you should consider a video compression app for your iPad or iPhone. The job of a video compressor is to make your file sizes smaller so that they are easier to work with or share with other people.  Today I am going to show you one that I use and give you some tips on how to get the most out of it.

Why Use a Video Compression App?

Today there are lots of reasons why you might want to compress a video that you have on your iPhone or iPad. Smaller videos are easier to share with others whether that is via YouTube or simply to upload as a student assignment via Showbie or an LMS. Storage space is another good example of why you might want to compress videos. If you have a 16GB iPad (or iPhone) then free space is increasingly a problem. Compressing a video lets you keep a more friendly file-sized version on your device so that you can backup or remove the original. In schools, this can be a common problem.

If students are working on a shared video project, or filming with multiple devices, smaller video files are easier to transfer from one device to another via AirDrop or cloud services. They are also more email friendly because you can usually reduce them below the maximum file size limits found in most email services.

Video Compression Apps for the iPad & iPhone

The app I have been using for compressing video on an iPad or iPhone is called Video Compressor – Just Set the Target Size! It’s a free app and a useful one to keep on your iOS device for those times when you really need it. Best of all, the app is really easy to use. Simply select the video you want to compress, and move the slider to select the file size you would like to achieve, (also shown as a percentage reduction). Compressed videos are saved to the Camera Roll alongside the original video. This means you effectively have two copies of the same video, but the file size of one will be significantly smaller than the other.

Compress Video - Just Set the Target Size

The Downsides of Using a Video Compression App

Of course, everything has a downside. When you compress a video you are making a compromise between quality and file size. The more you compress a video, the more artifacts you will see on the final product. This means a video that has been compressed a lot could appear fuzzy or grainy when viewed full screen or on high resolution screens. So, it is a bit like limbo dancing. You have to think about how low can you go before things start to get out of control! 🙂

Often this comes down to trial and error as you work between what file size you need versus how much resolution you need. However, it could also come down to what your end goal is. For instance, is your goal to share an HD video at the highest quality, or are you just looking to share a first cut with an instructor or peer in order to get their feedback on your early edit? This is an important distinction to make, but the results you get from compressing a video may be better than you think if you are judicious with your use of the Target Size slider.

Should You Compress Videos?

At the end of the day, it comes down to what your needs are and how important it is to have the full resolution in your final videos. If you use services like Google Photos to back up your media, you are already compressing your photos and videos to a smaller file size if you opted for unlimited online storage, (like most people do). Google says that if your video is 1080p or less, it will look “close to the original” when uploaded to Google Photos. Ultimately that is what I aim for if I ever have to compress an iPad or iPhone video, but 720p is very usable too, especially if YouTube is the final destination.

Of course,  a good way to avoid compressing videos is editing. When you edit video on the iPad you have the chance to cut down the length of your videos, which will in turn cut down the file size of your videos. Shoot short, and edit tight. Nobody really wants to watch a ten minute video so if you can, try to aim for two to three minutes at the most on your finished, edited project. Otherwise, compression is a valid option. I don’t compress videos often, but when I do, this is the app I use.

How (and Why) to Zoom In On PC, Mac, iPad & Chromebook

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Have you ever wanted to zoom in on your Mac, PC, Chromebook or iPad screen? As an educator, and facilitator of professional development, I do this a lot and people often ask me how I do it. So, here is a quick rundown of how (and why) to use a screen zoom on Macs, PCs, iPads and Chromebooks.

Why I Use Screen Zooming

For the most part, I zoom in on my screen to draw people’s attention to a specific area or feature that I want to highlight. It helps eliminate distracting elements, and is ideal for large rooms of people where the projector screen may not be as large as you might want it to be.

The other reason I show educators screen zooming is in the context of assistive technology. For students with visual impairments, the ability to zoom in on your screen is a very useful accessibility feature. It helps make text more readable and can give those students a much better way to access electronic materials.

How to Zoom In On A PC Screen

If you are using Windows 7 or later, you can take advantage of the screen magnifier tool. This is built-in to the operating system so no additional software is required. So, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Hold down the Windows key and tap the plus sign repeatedly to zoom in.
  2. Use the Windows key and the minus sign to zoom out.
  3. To exit the screen magnifier, hold down the Windows key and press Escape.

When working with the Magnifier tool, there are three viewing modes to choose from – Full Screen, Lens or Docked. Each have their own uses so feel free to experiment to see which one will work best for you. You can also customize the amount that you zoom in when you first activate the tool. For more information on the Windows Magnifier tool, read this support document from Microsoft.

How To Zoom In On A Mac Screen

Mac users have a couple of options for zooming in and out of their screen, depending on whether they want to zoom with keyboard shortcuts, or with the trackpad on your Macbook.

To zoom with the keyboard:

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
  2. Check the box that says Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom
  3. Hold down the Command and Option keys, then tap the plus sign to zoom in
  4. Hold down the Command and Option keys and tap the minus sign to zoom out

To zoom with the trackpad:

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
  2. Check the box that says Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom
  3. Hold down the Control key and scroll with two fingers on your trackpad to zoom in and out.

Both options work well, but the latter is the one that I prefer because it is much smoother. Some versions of Mac OS X will let you choose the zoom style. This is also found in System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom. It lets you choose to zoom in on the whole screen, or just a framed area, (similar to the Lens view on Windows). Learn more about zooming your screen on Mac in this Apple support document.

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How To Zoom In On An iPad Screen

Can you zoom your screen on an iPad? Indeed you can. In fact, it is one of the many reasons why special education teachers like the iPad as an accessibility device. However, it is great for demonstrating new apps too. Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom and flip the Zoom switch on.
  2. Then, double tap on the screen with three fingers to zoom in or out.
  3. When zoomed in, drag three fingers to pan around the screen to pan and move.
  4. You can change the zoom percentage by double tapping with three fingers and dragging up and down on the screen (it takes practice, but it does work!)

On the same settings screen you will find additional options like the maximum zoom level and the ability to do a full screen zoom or a window zoom. There is even a neat on screen controller that you can use to zoom and pan without the three finger taps.

How To Zoom In On A Chromebook Screen

Chromebook users need not feel left out because Google has a built-in screen magnifier for Chrome OS. As you may have guessed by now, the option lies in the accessibility settings. Here’s how to find it.

  1. Go to Settings > Show Advanced Settings > Accessibility
  2. Check the box next to Enable Screen Magnifier
  3. Hold down Ctrl and Alt, then use the brightness up and down keys to zoom in and out.
  4. Alternatively, you can hold down the Ctrl & Alt keys and then scroll with two fingers on your trackpad to zoom in and out.

BONUS: How To Zoom In On A Desktop Browser

This is a well-known trick, but if you only need to zoom in on a web page, you can do so without using any of the options above. This works with all major browsers. Simply use Ctrl and the plus sign (Cmd + on a Mac) to zoom in, and Ctrl and the minus sign (Cmd – on a Mac) to zoom out. To reset your screen to the original size use Ctrl and the zero key (Cmd 0 on a Mac).