How to Share and Collaborate with iWork for iCloud in the Classroom

If you watched Apple’s latest special event, you will no doubt have heard the news about new iPads, new Macbook Pros, and even the new Mac Pro. However, amid all the hardware announcements, Apple revealed the ability to work collaboratively on iWork documents. So, how do you do that, and are there any restrictions? Here’s what I found out so far…

iwork for icloud

Q. How to Share an iWork Document

You can share documents you created on the iPad, the Mac, or online at icloud.com in very much the same way. Just look for the new share button on the toolbar, click it, and choose to share your document. You can copy the link, or email it to someone. On the iPad you can also tweet it, post it on Facebook, or send via an iMessage. When the document is shared you will see a green triangle on the corner of the file in your document manager view.

The shared link works in most browsers, and although Safari, Chrome and IE9+ are the officially supported browsers, I did get iWork to run well enough in Firefox and even on a Samsung Series 3 Chromebook. So, it should be easy enough for students to share a link to a document with a teacher/classmate and have them make the changes they need. Apple notes, however, that to share an iWork ’09, or Microsoft document, you need to open it in iWork for iCloud beta first.

share a document in iWork

Q. How to Collaborate on an iWork Document

To collaborate on a shared document, you simply click on the link that is sent to you by the document owner. After that, you are free to work at the same time on the same document together. However, real time collaboration is a hard thing to crack with an online office suite, just ask Microsoft. Nevertheless, Apple has done a pretty good job so far.

When two people are working on an iWork document inside a web browser, the changes occur very close to real time. It is not quite as slick as Google Apps, but it’s close, and the lag is minimal enough not to be a real issue. If two people happen to be working on the same paragraph at the same time, iCloud will temporarily store both versions and ask the owner which version of the document they want to keep.

However, things are a little different when you are working between a browser and say the iOS version of an iWork app. You won’t see real time changes in this scenario, at least not yet. Instead you need to wait for iCloud to sync on the mobile device before changes are pushed to and from the web. Once iCloud syncs, the changes will be viewable on an iOS device, but sometimes I found you have to exit the app and return to it later to force an iCloud sync. Hopefully this will get snappier before too long.

collaborate with iwork for icloud

Q. How to Stop Sharing an iWork Document

The time may come when you no longer want or need to have your document shared with another student or teacher. No problem. You can quickly and easily rescind sharing privileges by opening the document, and clicking on the Share icon. Then click (or tap) Stop Sharing. The link you shared previously will now no longer work, and the green sharing icon in the top right hand corner of the document will be gone. As the owner of a document, you can stop sharing from your Mac, iPad or the web.

stop sharing iwork document

Restrictions with iCloud Sharing

Apple are new to the whole cloud sharing arena, and although this product is a great start, there are definitely some things to consider before you go live with this in the classroom. These are not necessarily the only issues, but these are the biggest ones I have found so far:

  • No sharing permissions. When you share a document you can’t set the link to be “view only”. Those in possession of the document link will always be able to edit your document. Recipients do not even need to have an iCloud account. Bear that in mind if the link gets sent around social networks, and remember what you need to know in order to stop sharing  document.
  • Collaborators are anonymous. Say you shared the link with four people. You have no way of knowing exactly who is in the document with you at any one time. Google has a handle on this. Apple does not.
  • No comments or chat. The document chat window that Google has is a great way that teachers and students can instantly communicate back and forward on a given document. Even if they are not in the same document at the same time, comments can be used to leave feedback. Apple has neither of these features yet.
  • No revision history. If you are tracking changes in a document, you cannot share the link via iCloud. This is strange, because once the document has been shared with others, you will likely want to be able to check and see who did what on a given document, a la Google’s revision history. So, because iWork for iCloud does not support tracking changes, you have to turn that off on the Mac or the iPad before you can share.
  • No iPads online. If you get sent a link to a shared document and try to open it on the iPad, you will be greeted with a screen that politely informs you that you cannot be a collaborator of said document on your iPad. To edit, you need to open the link on a Mac or PC. Alternatively, you can edit a copy of the document. But if you do that, no edits will appear to the person who shared the original document with you, because it is a copy of the original document.

ipad sharing

Summary

Remember that this is version 1.0 of a Beta product. There will be improvements, there will be bugs, there will be changes, but right now if you are thinking about using it in the classroom with students, you need to be aware of its capabilities and its restrictions. iWork for iCloud has a huge amount of potential, and could one day offer some real competition to Google, but like the first draft of an essay, there are still a few things to work on.

The Best Free K-12 iPad Apps You Might Never Have Heard Of!

Looking for some new iPad apps to use in your classroom this year? New apps are released every week, but which ones are really worth your time? Which ones could truly push the boundaries of teaching and learning in your classroom? Sometime I am surprised at what apps people have not discovered yet, but often I am equally surprised at what I see other teachers using.  So here is a quick rundown of the best free K-12 iPad apps you might never have heard of!

StageTellagamiOur StoryToDo MathThinglink

Stage Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera – While it may win the prize for the longest app title in the App Store, it is also a genuinely useful app that helps add yet another useful feature to your iPad. It turns it into a document camera, complete with annotation tools for your to mark up objects over a live view camera. The app is free, but there is an optional $1.99 in-app purchase if you would like to record your live session as a video.

Tellagami – If you haven’t tried Tellagami yet, you have got to give this free app a try. It lets you create a Voki-esque talking avatar video. Videos are limited to 30 seconds, but are highly customizable. You can type the text for your audio and have it read by a voice of your choice, or use your own voice. Backgrounds, facial expressions, and gender can also be changed. Videos can be saved to the camera roll for use later in apps like iMovie.

Our Story (for iPad) – This excellent digital storytelling app is simple to use and easy to achieve great results with. Created by the Open University, it allows you to add photos from your camera roll and add text and/or audio to them. It’s perfect for elementary teachers who are looking to introduce their students to digital storytelling for the first time. A good alternative app here is 30 Hands.

ToDo K-2 Math Practice – With activities that are aligned with Common Core State Standards, ToDo Math may be a great option for early years teachers looking to help their student practice some basic math facts. Skills include counting, writing numerals, addition and subtraction, but it has some nice additional touches. For instance, at the end of each level, students are also asked as to whether the questions were too easy, just right, or too hard, and subsequent questions are then adjusted accordingly depending on how they answer.

Thinglink – Welcome to the future of images, proclaim Thinglink, and I think they might be right! With Thinglink, you can add interactive elements to a picture. Web links, YouTube videos, camera roll videos, and text can all be hidden under hotspot targets on an image so that students can give multimedia description of their images.

showbieTouchCastDuolingoMoldivCargo-bot

Showbie – Still struggling with getting student assignments from their iPad to yours? Revolutionize your iPad workflow with Showbie, a (mostly) free service that was built for just that purpose. It is slick, easy to manage, and works  effortlessly. It’s the kind of app that Apple should have built for teachers a long time ago, but they didn’t. It can be used at all grade levels because students do not need an email address to sign up.

TouchCast – With Thinglink, you add interactive elements over a picture. With TouchCast, you add interactive elements over a video! They are called vApps, or video apps, and include the likes of Twitter feeds, web pages, photos, news tickers, polls and more. You can also add filters to your video or experiment with the green screen effect. TouchCasts are shared online.

Duolingo – Looking to introduce a second language to your students? Duolingo might be a good place to start. This popular app starts with the basics, but soon has you translating more and more difficult texts. It might not replace Rosetta Stone yet, but it has a clean, fresh look, and includes gamification elements to boot. Most importantly, it makes learning fun. With Duolingo you can learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English.

Moldiv – This photo collage editor may have in-app purchases, but it offers so much for free that you may as well forget that they are there. Choose from around 80 frame layouts for your photos, and add stylish fonts or labels to your collage. You can change the background color of your collage and even adjust the spacing, margins and roundness of your collage corners. Finished collages can be saved back to the camera roll or send to other apps for sharing or further edits.

Cargo-bot – Interested in teaching your students about programming, but not sure where to start? Cargo-bot may be just what you need. The premise is simple. Move crates from one side of the screen to the other. The execution, however, is less simple. It starts off easy with some in-app prompts, but soon gets more complicated and requires you to think like a programmer to complete your task in hand. Alternative free programming apps include Hopscotch and Daisy the Dinosaur.

Is your favorite on this list? Do you have an app which you like that most teachers don’t know about it? Feel free to share your comments below.

iWork for iCloud Beta: Hands on With Apple’s Answer to Google Drive

iCloud Home

This week I got an email from Apple inviting me to try out the Beta version of iWork for iCloud. I was keen to see how useful this could be for educators in the classroom, and whether or not it could be a serious contender to my current favorite online productivity suite – Google Drive. So, I logged in to iCloud with Chrome on my Mac and there they were – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – complete with all the documents I had created on my Mac and iPads.

Keynote Slide

The interface is familiar, yet different. The menus are a hybrid of the desktop and iOS version of iWork, but they are intuitive enough that you can almost always find what you are looking for without too much trouble. You won’t find all the features you are used to in the desktop (or even iOS) versions, but more functionality will doubtless come in time, and most of the essentials are included in the beta version.

iWork for iCloud runs on Mac or PC and is compatible with the latest versions of Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. For some reason, Firefox is not a supported browser right now, but if you click past the warning messages it does seem to run as you would expect it to in other browsers, so it will likely be supported once it leaves the beta stage of development. iWork for iCloud is an HTML5 environment which Firefox is obviously more than capable of running.

Syncing has worked great, but I have never really had a problem in the past moving between documents on my iPad and my Mac, so that didn’t surprise me too much. Changes made on the web, my Mac, and my iPad were all quickly synced to the other devices.

Pages

Does it beat Google Drive? Not yet, for me at least. iWork for iCloud works well, but right now it still lacks some collaboration and sharing options that I have come to enjoy with Google. For instance, real-time collaboration can be a great boon for teachers and students, as can the ability to leave comments on a document. There are no signs of either appearing in iWork any time soon. That said, the ability to share a link to your document is listed as “coming soon” so the potential for improvements in this area does exist.

Numbers

If you are curious to check out more about what iWork for iCloud can and can’t do, you can check out the newly created Apple online help guides, even if you don’t have access to the Beta program at this time. The links for those are below:

UPDATE: Another important support page to read is Opening iWork for iOS and iWork ’09 documents in iWork for iCloud Beta. This gives more information on what to do if you try to open a document that has features that are unsupported in the current version of iWork for iCloud. Thanks to Kathy Schrock for the heads up on this one.

Have you been playing with the new iWork for iCloud Beta? What do you most like about it and how do you think it could fit into your classroom workflow?