Test Driving the New iOS Apps for Google Docs and Sheets

Today Google released two standalone apps for Google Docs and Google Sheets. They are available for iOS and Android, and perhaps most exciting of all, another new app for Slides is on its way. So, how are they different to the iOS Drive app? Let’s find out.

google docs for ios

In terms of features, the big difference is the ability to create and edit documents offline. This is obviously nice to have, but it does not work with the “old” Google Spreadsheets, only with the “new” Google Spreadsheets or spreadsheets you create inside the app.

Additionally, seeing as they are separate apps, you only see your Docs in the Docs app and Sheets in the Sheets app. Teachers of younger students in a GAFE school may appreciate the separate app for just that reason.

It’s also a little easier to share a doc, because just like the desktop version you can now do that from inside the document or spreadsheet by pressing the “i” in the top right hand corner. You can also use Speak Selection on selected text to read that text aloud,  which is great as as an assistive technology tool.

You can now set a passcode lock for each user of the app. This could potentially be handy if your iPads are shared devices, but you will not always be prompted to enter a code or choose an account each time you open the app unless you choose the “always lock” feature, so turn that on to switch between users every time you open the app.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, the Docs and Spreadsheet apps are now the only way to create and edit Docs and Spreadsheets. Google has removed that functionality from the iOS Drive app, and turned it into a file manager like Dropbox, Box or OneDrive. If you hit the “+” sign and try to create a new document, you will be prompted to download the new Documents app if you don’t already have it.

google sheets for ios

Missing features? The most obvious gap seems to be the continued lack of support for tables in Documents. Hopefully that will come in a future update. I’d also like to see a Forms app that is optimized for the iPad, so hopefully that will be on the roadmap in the not too distant future. Other thoughts? Feel free to leave your own ideas below. Maybe Google is watching! 🙂

More information here.

The Best Free Interactive Presentation Tools

There are lots of great presentation tools for the classroom and these days they are being used by both students and teachers. So, in this post I have decided to round up a few of my favorites from the last few months in the hope that you find something new to use in your classroom the next time you want to engage your students with something a little different.

1. Nearpod – iPad teachers know that Nearpod is synonymous with engaging, interactive presentations. In fact, some would say they wrote the book on it. However, it is no longer just for the iPad because you can use it on Android, Nooks, Chromebooks and Macs or PCs via the web. Top features include the ability to add quiz tools, videos, photo slideshows, drawing tools, a PDF viewer and even a live Twitter stream.

nearpod

2. EverySlide – Building on the success of apps like Nearpod, EverySlide has some other unique features that make it a great tool for the classroom. As the presenter moves through the slides on their device, the audience slides move at the same time. However, you can build in interactive elements like polls. You can also create quizzes based on interactive hotspots that you add to your slides. Everytime the audience clicks (or taps) on an area of your slide it is recorded for you to view later. Oh, and its web-based and works on any device!

everyslide

3. Movenote – With an eye on the flipped classroom fans, Movenote lets you add interactivity to your presentations via a webcam video of yourself! You upload your presentation to movenote.com, authorize your webcam, and flip through your slides like a screencast as you record a live video feed of yourself at the same time. If you prefer you can record your video ahead of time, then use movenote to sync the slides to the video. Still not convinced? It integrates with Google Drive, so you can pull over your favorite Google Presentations and use those too.

movenote

4. Swipe.to – It may officially be in beta, but Swipe is still a polished performer. Simply upload your presentation as a PDF and/or add some image files are you are good to go. There are no limits on the number of files you upload, or the size of the files you add. YouTube and Vimeo videos can be added with just a URL, and all your decks are private until you are ready to share them. When you are ready to present, share the presentation URL so your audience can follow along on their devices in real time. There are no limits on the number of people you can present to at one time, so if you happen to get called to give an ISTE keynote, this might be a tool worth considering! 🙂 You can even give your students a coding challenge and get them to write their slides in Markup.

swipe

 

5. ClassFlow – Promethean made their name with interactive whiteboards, but when they launched ClassFlow you can see that they are now starting to look beyond the board. The teacher creates interactive lessons like they would for a SMART or Promethean whiteboard, except students interact with it via a mobile app or the web. Videos, websites, documents and more can be added and they are all stored in your cloud account so they are accessible on any device you want to use. Polling tools give teachers instant feedback and the data is stored for future planning.

classflow

6. Slideidea – I have blogged about Slideidea before, but it remains a great presentation tool for iPad teachers. It lets you create and present your slideshow and includes a variety of interesting features to make your presentation stand out. There is a digital whiteboard for drawing up some ideas, an interactive polling tool, and even the ability to record your presentation as a screencast. So, if you you are looking for a change from Keynote or Haiku Deck, give it a try. You won’t regret it! Read more about Slideidea here.

SlideIdea iPad Presentation Templates

Which is your favorite interactive presentation tool for the classroom? Is it listed above? If not, feel free to add it to the comments below to share with others!

Puffin Academy: A Flash Browser for iPad Schools

puffin flash browser for iPad

For a while, Rover used to be a default app on school iPads because it was a Flash browser for the iPad, and many curricular resources that were still being used in schools were reliant on Adobe’s Flash Player. Rover still exists, albeit in a different format, but it now has some competition in the form of Puffin Academy.

The Puffin app is already a well-known and reliable Flash browser that has been available for the iPad for some time now, but the Academy version is relatively recent. It is a filtered, educational browser and only specifically approved content is accessible through the app. Anyone who wants to have their content featured on Puffin Academy has to apply and be vetted before they are accepted as a content partner.

Curious as to what has already been approved? Check out the Puffin Academy Portal. Here you will find a selection of K-12 websites sorted by curricular subjects. This is essentially the home page of the browser itself, but it can be accessed via the link above to let you know what kinds of content is available.

puffin portal: ipad flash browser for schools

Puffin Academy whitelists sites, so only the websites that are specifically approved can be accessed from the browser. Any attempts to navigate to Google, Facebook, YouTube or other non-approved sites will result in a “Website Blocked” message for the user. This means that your students will be safe while using this app.

After a while, you will doubtless wish that this website or that was part of the Puffin Academy. Unfortunately, you can’t just add a website by emailing Puffin. They have a strict process for content providers who have to apply to have their content added. So, email your favorite educational Flash website providers and tell them about Puffin to see if they are willing to apply for their free listing on the Puffin Academy app.

Other advantages of Puffin Academy? Well, even though it is a Flash browser for iPads, Puffin Academy is rated suitable for 4+. Almost all other browsers in the App Store – Chrome, Dolphin, Mercury, Photon etc. – are actually rated as 17+ apps because they have the ability to access all available content on the web.

So, if you haven’t tried Puffin Academy yet, and you need a Flash browser for your classroom iPads, you should definitely take a look. It is free app, and the developers are committed to supporting educators with approved content in the classroom. Is it limiting? In some ways yes, but it can be a great introduction to the web while you are still working on developing digital citizenship skills with your students.

Helpful Links:

How to Hide iPad Apps and Put Folders in a Folder!

I do a lot of iPad trainings and provide support for educators with iPads on almost a daily basis. So, I get my fair share of complaints along the way. For instance, people who wish that they could “swipe to type” just like they can on their Android phone, or those that want to set certain apps as default apps. I explain that this is just the way things are on iOS right now. It might change in the future, but right now you can’t do that.

Today, however, I am happy to eat my words. Today I came across The iTeach Hub website and I learned two new things that I had previously told people were not currently possible on an iPad. So, I feel compelled to share what they are, just to put the record straight. After all, maybe they are new to you too!

UPDATE: These tricks may no longer work if you update to iOS 7.1 🙁

1. How to Put Folders in a Folder (i.e. nest folders)

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one Language folder that had sub-folders for Fluency, Writing, Vocabulary and so forth? Well, you can, and it works. The video below explains all you need to know. Personally I had more luck double clicking the home button first and then selecting the folder, but it works the other way around too…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVFmPbQ0iCc

2. How to Hide the Settings App from Students

Most educators, therapists or consultants have fallen foul to students who have messed with the Settings on your iPad by accident, or on purpose. This trick is designed to fix that, and can be used with other apps too, like the Mail app for instance. Again, I had more luck with double-clicking first, and it should be noted that you can only hide apps that are on your dock to begin with. If you want to hide an app that is not on your dock, drag it to your dock first. The video below explains the rest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxligQLVxmo

These hacks work for now, but don’t be surprised if Apple removes this functionality in future updates to iOS. They have done that before. However, until that time, feel free to enjoy it while it lasts and share your newfound iPad knowledge with others. 🙂

 

The Best Classroom Alternatives to the iOS Notes App

There is nothing wrong with the iOS Notes app. I know lots of people that use it, and like it, but it’s a little light on features. There are other apps that do more, a lot more in some cases, and they are all great apps for teachers and students to use in the classroom. So, without further ado, here are some of the best alternatives to the iOS Notes app.

1. Swiftkey Note (Free) – Swiftkey is a relative newcomer to the iOS scene, but it is a name that is well known with Android users for its innovative swipe to type keyboard technologies. There is no keyboard swiping magic in Swiftkey Note, but it still has a great feature for elementary classrooms – word prediction! It will predict the words as you type them, offer you spelling corrections for misspelled words, and learn new words that you add to its dictionary. Better still, it is free, and you can sync all your notes to Evernote.

swiftkey note

2. Evernote (Free) – Speaking of Evernote, it would be remiss of me not to mention it in a roundup of the best iOS notetaking apps. Evernote has been around for a while, but it has stood the test of time, and proven itself to be a reliable and feature packed note taking app. For me the key feature is the ability to access my notes on any device at any time, but the ability to add photos, record audio, and search through all my notes quickly is also very handy.

evernote

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How To Take A Screenshot on Macs, PCs, iPads, Androids and Chromebooks!

Screenshots are a useful, if not essential, skill for both students and teachers to have, but with so many devices out there, it can be hard to remember how to take a screenshot on an iPad, a Chromebook, a Mac or whatever else you might be using in your classroom. So, here is a quick rundown of all the native methods to do this, as well as a couple of recommendations for third-party services that will give you even more options.

Macs

The native screenshot tool on Macs is based around a number of keyboard shortcuts, but once you learn the ones you like best, you will be screenshotting all over the place. So, here is a rundown of what you need to know to take a screenshot on Macs:

  • Command+Shift+3: Takes a full screen screenshot and saves it to the desktop.
  • Command+Shift+4: Lets you select the area to capture, then saves to the desktop.
  • Command+Shift+4+Space: Click an active window to save it to the desktop.
  • Command+Control+Shift+3: Takes a screenshot of the screen, and saves it to the clipboard.
  • Command+Control+Shift+4: Lets you select the area to capture and saves it to the clipboard.
  • Command+Control+Shift+4+Space: Click an active window to save it to the clipboard.

Mac Desktop

Windows 7 & Windows 8 Desktop Mode

Many keyboards will still have the PrtScn (Print Screen) button. Pressing this will copy a full screen screenshot to the clipboard where you can paste it into another application. However, a much more versatile tool is the Windows Snipping Tool. It lets you capture all, or part, of your screen and save or email the capture right from the app. It comes free with all Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers. Learn more here.

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How to Wirelessly Share Files With ANY iOS Device

Ever needed to send a file from one iOS device to another? You could email it, but not all student devices are set up with email, and some files (especially video) are just too big to email. You could plug the device into a laptop and transfer the files via USB, but that can be slow, and what if you accidentally sync your device with iTunes and start transferring apps you don’t need to or from your computer? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just beam them from one device to another? Well, you can! Here are three ways to do it.

1. AirDrop – If you have an iPad Mini, a fourth generation iPad, or an iPad Air that is running iOS 7, you can take advantage of AirDrop. This proprietary technology was originally developed by Apple for Macs, but it landed on iOS devices in the Fall of 2013. Unfortunately, it does not work between iOS and Macs, but it is still a great feature to have. It is activated from the new Control Center, and is found in the sharing menu for almost all recent apps. Read more about AirDrop here.

airdrop

2. Instashare – Before AirDrop, this was my go-to app. It works great on anything running iOS 5 or newer and is free between iOS devices, unless you want to pay the 99c to remove the in-app ads. As a bonus, there is also a Mac and an Android app that lets you share files to those devices too. The Mac app, however, is $2.99. It used to be free, but everyone has to pay the bills right? 🙂 A Windows version is listed as coming soon. Once installed, look for Instashare in the sharing menu of your favorite apps.

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SlideIdea: An Innovative, Interactive Presentation App for the iPad

Looking for a different way to present content and engage students in your lessons? Take a look at SlideIdea – a free app for the iPad that sets out to rival Keynote, Nearpod, Haiku Deck, Swipe and other presentation apps for the iPad. Here are 5 features that I think make it a great app for the classroom.

1.Slide Templates – With clean designs, and plenty of templates to choose from, you can be sure that your audience will not be bored by the same old PowerPoint themes. There are lots to like, and you can preview each one before you decide on the one you want. Templates are customizable to your needs and allow you to change things like the background colors and fonts.

SlideIdea iPad Presentation Templates

2. Widgets – Need a square frame for your image? What about a collage? The image widgets give you lots of shapes to choose from and can help your slides stand out from the crowd. If you don’t see the one you want, tap the download button to view more. The same goes for the shape tool. Polygons, lines, speech bubbles, and a variety of icons are just a tap away and each one can be customized for color, fonts, borders and more.

SlideIdea Widgets

3. Screencasting – The built-in screencasting tool lets you record your voice as you flip through your slideshow and will then save it to the app or your SlideIdea web account. As you are recording, you can use some basic annotation tools to draw the viewer’s attention to specific content on the slide. This could be great for students who want to practice a live presentation so that they can play it back for peer or self-assessment.

Screencasting an iPad Presentation

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My BIG List of iPad Coding Apps for Kids!

December 9-15, 2013 is Computer Science Education Week, and this year their big push is to get coding incorporated into school curriculums everywhere. There are lots of reasons why kids should be coding, but none more than the fact that there are more resources than ever to help students and teachers get started, regardless of their previous experiences with computer programming. So, in honor of the #HourOfCode project, here is my BIG list of iPad coding apps for kids. There is something here for students of all ages.

bee botBee Bot PyramidcoddyKineScriptilogo

Bee-Bot (Free) – The new Bee-Bot App from TTS Group has been developed based on our well-loved, award-winning Bee-Bot floor robot. The app makes use of Bee-Bot’s keypad functionality and enables children to improve their skills in directional language and programming through sequences of forwards, backwards, left and right 90 degree turns.

Bee-Bot Pyramid ($0.99) – A fun educational Numeracy game which encourages directional language, sequencing and problem solving. The Bee-Bot app teaches children how to direct and move their Bee-Bot character by giving it a set of sequential commands that they programme in, by pressing the keypad buttons.

Coddy Free or Coddy Luck (Free or $1.99) – CODDY FREE is an original educational tool with the MAIN OBJECTIVE of creating a sequence of steps so that the pencil Coddy can draw a pattern you have chosen from the menu or created by yourself. DO YOU THINK IT IS EASY? There are max. 220 rows to be filled in and there are 7 basic commands to be used. NOW, CAN YOU MAKE IT?

KineScript Lite or KineScript (Free or $1.99) – KineScript is a visual programming language that children can learn a code and share it. It’s easy to make a scene with built-in sprite characters, stage images and sounds library. Drag a script and build the script block to control the flow and to change the behaviour. You can build animations, games and stories easily to share them by email.

i-Logo – LOGO was created in 1967 for educational use, is a computer programming language with functional programming capability. This version of LOGO is an interpreted language, but isn’t a lite version. Functional programming with global and local variables is implemented.

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15 Engaging and Creative Ways to Use iPads in a K-12 Classroom

If you are looking for unique and innovative ways to use the iPad in your classroom, then you have come to the right place. In this post I teamed up with Stephen Lai and Meg Wilson to bring you 15 ideas that will help you think outside the box and bring new levels of creativity to your iPad classroom.

1. Use your iPad as a document camera! – @jonathanwylie

With the Stage Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera app, and the help of a dedicated, or DIY, mount you can easily use your iPad as a document camera. Better still, you can annotate over anything you set under the camera, and even record what you show. Got another $10? Make your own microscope attachment for up to x175 magnification! It is a great way to use iPads in the classroom.

Stage Interactive iPad app

2. Review academic topics! – @sly111

Quizlet is a completely free app that allows you to create flashcards for your students. Interactive games can also be done on the web. Project them over Airplay for a great review opportunity as a class! An optional Teacher account with extra features is available. Students can also practice individually at home for review for upcoming tests. You do not necessarily need the app, as it is a web-based service as well. Run it on your browser.

3. Collaborate with other classrooms! – @iPodsibilities

We should never let our students think that their classroom is just the four walls around them. It is essential that students know that the world is their classroom, and the iPad is a great way for students to connect and collaborate with students anywhere in the world. Whether students video conference with FaceTime or Skype (both free) to discuss a book in they read together in Subtext (a social reading app), or to do a Mystery Skype, the iPad opens doors to collaborative learning experiences for students of all ages.

4. Create a special effects movie!  – @jonathanwylie

One of my favorite new apps is the Doink green screen app. Recreate your favorite Sci-Fi movies or your own mini blockbuster with the aid of a green sheet and this innovative app. Film your scene in front of a green screen, then layer your background on top if it to create an awesome special effect! Export your video to the Camera Roll and it is ready to be edited further or combined with more clips in iMovie. You might also want to take a look at the Action Movie FX app.

green screen app

5. Use your iPad as a “game show” style soundboard! – @sly111

Play review games (with the aide of technology or without) and use special sound effects in your classroom using iPad apps such as the Game Show Sound Board. Younger students will love these special audio effects.

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