The Best Screencasting Apps for the iPad

Explain EverythingScreencasting apps are among my favorite types of apps for the iPad because they are just so versatile. They can be used across grade levels and across the curriculum. Their uses are really only limited by the imagination of the teacher or the student. My lastest collection of iPad apps, includes some of the best screencasting apps available for the iPad today.

Each app has their own unique selling point. Educreations, for instance, lets teachers create an online classroom to host their video tutorials. ShowMe lets teachers create and manage accounts for students without the need for email. ScreenChomp allows you to link your Dropbox account so you can import PDFs and annotate them live annotations.

However, by far my favorite of all the apps is ExplainEverything. Unlike the three I just mentioned, it is a paid app, but you get so much for your money that it is a compelling choice for all schools using iPads. You can record your video over multiple pages, re-record audio as you please, use the page sorter to rearrange or see your pages at a glance. You can have almost any pen color you can imagine, a choice of 5 pen widths, control over pen transparency and choice of two pen tips. The app has a built-in laser pointer, shape tool and text tool with more fonts that you could ever need. You can even insert a web browser and record a live website as part of your screencast.

Want to record yourself annotating a document? No problem. ExplainEverything supports Photos, PDF, PPT, XLS, RTF, Pages, Numbers and Keynote files. Your slides can be exported as an image or as a PDF to a variety of apps, email or PDF.  Video files can be sent to your Photo Roll for further editing in iMovie, YouTube, E-mail, Dropbox, Evernote, Box or WebDav accounts. You can also choose the resolution or quality of the finished movie.

So, to see ExplainEverything and the rest of my picks for screencasting apps for the iPad, head over to the iPad Apps section of this website and check out my growing collection of educational apps. Feel free to leave a comment with how you are using any of these apps, or to suggest any others that are not part of this collection.

More Digital Storytelling iPad Apps

digital storytelling apps for the ipad

I have recently added a new section to this site that is dedicated to iPad apps. I know that there are countless lists of apps out there, and more created every day, so these apps will be my own contribution to all that is good for teachers in a K-12 iPad classroom. They are some of my favorite apps, and the ones that I think give you the best bang for your buck.

Are the apps organized in the best possible way? Probably not, but I struggled with a way to this for a while. I have seen lots of good, (and bad), ways to organize apps. Spreadsheets, databases, lists, tables, standards, learning goals, and more. In the end, I opted for what made sense to me. The apps are organized in much the same way I organize apps on my iPad.

Could some apps appear in more than one category? Absolutely. In fact, the really good ones do. Teachers often ask me about a good app for Science or Math, and while there are some great apps dedicated to Science or Math, the apps I end up showing them are ones like Nearpod, Explain Everything or, because these are apps that can be used in Science, Math, Language Arts, Social Studies and just about everything else!

So, the first group of apps I chose for this new section of the site are digital storytelling apps. I shared a presentation I gave on this topic at ITEC 2012 this year. There were many more apps that I wanted to include, but just didn’t have time for in that one hour session, so I added them all to a new page of digital storytelling apps, and I will update it with new additions whenever I come across new apps that are worthy of inclusion.

Future collections will include screencasting apps, note taking apps, assessment apps, PLN apps, and more. Stay tuned for further updates and feel free to add any app suggestions of your own as I look to build up this resource for others.

iPad Tips for Teachers Using iBooks for Education

I’ve been spending a lot of time in iBooks recently, and have showed teachers a whole slew of features that are new, or not as well known, in Apple’s default e-reader. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorites tips for teachers using iBooks in education.

1. Find Free Books

There are probably more free book titles in the iBooks Store than you might think, and they can be a great way to add to your classroom library without taking up any more valuable shelf space! Want to know a quick way to find them? Once you are in the iBooks Store, tap Top Charts, then tap Categories in the top left hand corner and select Children and Teens from the dropdown menu. Apple will then display a list of the most popular paid books on the left of your screen, and a list of the most popular free books on the right hand side of the screen. Try it with other categories like Reference, History, Science and Nature, and even Textbooks! Wait, free textbooks? Yes! There are a number of free academic textbooks available from the iBooks Store, including the highly regarded CK12 series.

2. Find Free Read Alouds

A number of titles in the iBooks Store come with a built-in read aloud feature that will read the text to students, and highlight words as it does so. This can be great for the struggling readers or those that need extra help with higher level texts. How do you know if your book is a read aloud book? Tap a page in the book, and look for the speaker icon on the black menu bar at the top of the page. If it is there, you can tap the speaker and choose to turn on read aloud, and even decide whether you want the pages to automatically advance, or be turned manually. A number of books also have “read aloud” in their titles, so you can search the store for “free read aloud books” to find a good selection to get started with.

3. Find Your Own Books

By now, you might have several shelves full of fine free books, but how do you quickly find the one that you want? You could take the time to manually sort them into alphabetical order, but every time you download a new book, it sits proudly at the first spot on your bookshelf, and that will quickly mess up your system. So, instead you can search for the books you need. While looking at your Library bookshelf, pull down with one finger to reveal a search bar at the top of your screen. You can search by title, author or keyword to find the book you need.

4. Find Books in Flipboard

This might be a little obscure, but Apple recently teamed up with Flipboard to let you find new titles from the iBooks Store right from inside the Flipboard app. Simply browse through Flipboard’s categories until you find Books. The sub categories are the same as that in the iBooks Store, so you can browse through a good selection of titles from inside Flipboard’s unique user interface. It seems like an unlikely alliance, but you’ll quickly find that the number of free books you find this way will be very limited. Apple is pushing only paid books through the Flipboard app. No real surprise there I guess.

5. Organize Your Books

While it might be nice to organize your books into folders, like you can with apps, it wouldn’t look right on Apple’s carefully designed bookshelves. However, you can bring some order to the chaos by creating additional book shelves and moving books of the same genre, or reading level, to sit on these new bookshelves. To do this, tap Collections in your Library, then tap New and give your bookshelf a name. Hit Done to create your new shelf. Next, tap Edit in the top right hand corner, select the books you want to put on your new bookshelf, and tap Move. Select your newly created bookshelf, and watch the books vanish to their new home. If you have a group of iPads that are shared between grade levels you could create separate bookshelves for different grade levels, teachers, or curriculum areas. Another compelling reason why iBooks is great for education.

Creating New Shelves in iBooks

6. Highlight, Add Notes and more

Although this doesn’t apply to all texts, many iBooks titles will let you highlight text and add sticky notes, just like you did in college with print versions. So, encourage your students to take advantage of this and teach them to be active readers. Simply press a finger on the text and drag it over a line or paragraph to highlight a section of text. Tap the highlighted section to change the color of your highlighter, or to add a sticky note. Tap it again and look for the share arrow so you can copy, or share your excerpt by email, Twitter, Facebook or iMessage. Useful, eh? Well, you can go one step further and tap the other white arrow and get the option to have your iPad read the selection aloud, (if you have Speak Selection turned on – more on that later).

Highlighting and adding notes to iBooks

7. Change Fonts, Themes and Scroll

Tapping the double “A” on the menu bar in the top right allows you adjust the brightness of your chosen text. You can also increase or decrease your font size by tapping on the capital As. Tap Fonts to choose from a variety of fonts for your text. Selecting Themes lets you change the background color of your page to Sepia or Black, and you can eliminate Apple’s newly patented page turning animations by activating the Scroll mode to turn your book into a web-esque reading experience that will scroll vertically through pages. These options may not appear on all book types, so experiment with the books in your library to see which ones have this and which ones don’t.

Changing fonts and themes in iBooks

8. Use Speak Selection to Read PDFs

Find the PDFs in your Library by tapping Collections and selecting PDFs. If you turn on Speak Selection (Settings > General > Accessibility > Speak Selection) you can use this feature to read PDFs aloud. You could always do this with Voiceover, but it was never ideal because it would read the whole page without the option to pause or stop the reading voice. It also made big changes to how you navigate the iPad. So, to speak selected text on a PDF, press and hold on a word until you see the magnifying glass, then release your finger. Drag the blue bars around the selected word to highlight a section of text you want read aloud, and then tap Speak in the black pop-up menu. This could be another great option for struggling readers or even as a test taking accommodation.

What’s Your Favorite Tip?

There are undoubtedly any other great tips for using iBooks in the classroom, but these are a great first few steps for new iPad users or those who are not as familiar with iBooks as they might want to be. So, what is your favorite iBooks tip for educators? Leave a comment below.

Adding an Apple Touch Icon to Google Sites

You’ve seen it before. You add a Google Site to the homescreen of your iOS device, and you get that generic Google Sites logo as your icon. For an individual user, it’s no big deal. However, for Google Apps schools, it is much more of an issue. They may want their students (or staff) to bookmark several different Google Sites websites. So, what would be a good way to differentiate between these sites on an iPad or iPod Touch homescreen? An Apple Touch icon.

The Apple Touch icon is a small image that will replace the generic Google Sites logo as the homescreen icon and help your bookmarks stand out more. They are easy to create, and require very little technical expertise. So, if you are interested in creating an Apple Touch icon for your Google Site, watch the video below. I made it in less than 5 minutes, and with a little bit of practice, so can you. All you need is a royalty free image, and a little imagination.

The ease at which an Apple Touch icon can be made will quickly compel you to add these to the default list of things you add to a new Google site, but don’t stop there, because you can add a favicon to a Google Site just as quickly.


Apple Configurator and VPP Resource Links

I recently attended an Apple workshop on using Apple Configurator and managing a Volume Purchase Program in schools. I am doing both already, but I i picked up a few useful tips. Participants were also sent some links to Apple resources on both Configurator and the VPP, and I don’t think that some of them are all that well known, so I am listing those below for anyone that might be interested.

Another useful thing I found recently was the US phone number for the Apple Enterprise team, who have been very helpful answering questions I had on problems with Apple Configurator. You can call them on 1-866-752-7753. I can’t say enough good things about the people I have dealt with in that team, so I am sure they could be a great resource too.

I realize that these may be a little technical for some people, but please forward them to your IT team to let them take a look at all that Apple has to support educators in the classroom with iOS devices.

The Goodreader iPad Workflow Solution

GoodfraderAt a workshop today, I got talking to a High School teacher (@MrsMoses227) who uses the Goodreader app for her iPad workflow solution. It wasn’t a method I was previously familiar with, but it worked very well for her, so I thought I would share it here for anyone else that might be interested in following a similar path.

Goodreader, if you don’t already know, is a powerful PDF reader, but that is only half the story. It allows you to view almost any file type you can think of, watch movies from a variety of formats, and even unzip compressed folders. You can connect with numerous cloud accounts, copy, move, rename or transfer files, and send them to other apps. Finally, there is an intuitive number of annotation tools for marking up PDFs, and tabbed file viewing. So, you can see why it is often referred to as the Swiss Army knife of productivity apps on the iPad!

So, what did this teacher use it for? Well, she asks her students to email their assignments as a PDF. These emails go to her Google Apps Gmail account, which she can access through Goodreader, because Goodreader can also connect to a variety of email servers through POP or IMAP. The app doesn’t show all your emails, just those with attachments that Goodreader can view. She opens the students’ PDFs in Goodreader, annotates them accordingly to grade the paper, and emails them back to the students as a flattened copy, right from the Goodreader app.

As a workflow option, it is not necessarily all that new, because you can do very much the same thing with Notability and a shared Google Drive or Dropbox folder, but being able to collect the assignments right from her email, grade it, and return it all from the one app, is still a very efficient solution. You can even streamline it further by using Gmail filters to send each class’s assignments to a specific folder so you don’t have to worry about cleaning out your inbox afterwards.

Do you have a preferred iPad workflow for your students? What have you had the most success with and why?

Revisiting the One iPad Classroom: Resources

There has been a few things going around Twitter recently about the 1 iPad classroom, and for me it has been good timing. I will be visiting a school on Friday who asked me to give some tips and ideas about how to use only a handful of iPads in the classroom. Some have one, some have two or three, but none have any more than that. So, I thought that this would be a great time to revisit the 1 iPad classroom to discover the latest ideas and influences.

Too often, it is easy to get caught up in all the talk about 1:1 initiatives, or multiple iPad carts, when the reality for a lot of schools is quite the opposite. I myself ran a 4 iPod Touch classroom for a couple of years, so I remember the challenges of managing this, making sure all students have equal access to the technology, and trying to find ways to involve as many of the students as possible in meaningful learning activities. It’s not easy, but it can be done, and there are a lot of great ideas out there from those that do it on a daily basis.

So, in the interests of sharing, here are a number of useful blogs and websites that I came across while researching some ideas for the school I am visiting this week. Some you may have seen before, while some may be new, but all are great resources for educators in a 1 iPad classroom. What was interesting to me though, was that almost all of these resources are from elementary teachers. You don’t hear much about the 1 iPad Middle School classroom or the 1 iPad High School classroom. What does that say about the state of mobile technology in our schools today?

Regardless, I want to take the time to say thanks to all who took the time to create these resources for the benefit of others. Feel free to add any of your own favorites to the comments below.

Tips for the One iPad Classroom and a Free iPad Rules Download
One iPad in the Classroom? 10 Apps
The 1 iPad Classroom by Lisa Johnson and Yolanda Barker
The One iPad Classroom: Musings from EdTech Diva
Only 1 iPad in the Classroom? from the Literacy Journal blog
One iPad in the Classroom – Mark Anderson’s blog
One iPad in the Classroom – What Can you Do?
Less than a Class Set – Learning and Leading with Technology
The One iPad Classroom – Ideas from a second grade classroom
Ideas for the 1 iPad Art Room
The Single iPad Classroom – Elementary EdTech
One Music Class, One iPad, Now What?

iPads and Visually Impaired Students

ipads and visually impaired studentsThe iPad has a host of great accessibility features that are built-in to help make the device more accessible for disadvantaged learners. However, today I was asked to think a little bit outside the box. I had a request from one of our consultants that was working with a teacher who wanted to link their iPad with a student’s iPad in real time.

The teacher wanted to annotate documents on her iPad and project them to the class so that they could see them on a larger screen. The trouble was that this still wasn’t large enough for her visually impaired student. So, what she really wanted, was a way to project her iPad to two places at the same time. The first was the wall for the whole class to see, the second was the iPad of the student with the visual impairment. That way, the student could get a close up view of what the teacher was doing in real time, and/or use pinch to zoom to get a better view of what the rest of the class was seeing. Easy right? 🙂

So, three of us sat down and put our heads together to try and figure this out. It didn’t sound easy, but surely, there must be some way of doing this. There was. Here’s how it works. The teacher links her computer with the student’s iPad via the free service. This allows the student to view everything on the teacher’s computer, but not interact with it. We’ve done this in the past, and it works great with the iPad app. However, this alone did not fix out problem. This does not get the image of the teacher’s iPad to the student’s iPad. To do that, we will use Reflection, or AirServer. [Kudos to my superstar supervisor, Stacy Behmer (@sbehmer), for suggesting the AirPlay link].

So, the teacher’s computer is linked to the student’s iPad with The teacher then projects her iPad to her computer with Reflection or AirServer. Because the image of the teacher’s iPad is now on her computer, the visually impaired student also has the image of the teacher’s iPad! Then all that is left is for the teacher to plug their projector into their computer, and voila!

So, there you go. It is possible to link two iPads together for a real time mirrored image. There is not really any chance for direct collaboration, but for this purpose, it was ideal, and it is yet another example of how the iPad is helping to break down barriers and increase accessibility for students in the classroom.

iPad SpEd Apps for Reading and Writing

Yesterday, I co-presented a workshop with a well respected colleague of mine on special education iPad apps that can be used for reading and writing. It was a one-day workshop that was well attended by local educators who were looking to further integrate the iPad into special education classrooms to help further Language Arts goals for their students.

Special Education iPad Apps for Reading and Writing

We looked at text to speech apps, digital audio book apps, storytelling apps, test taking apps, note taking apps, handwriting apps, and more. There is a huge number of reading and writing apps for the iPad out there, so narrowing it down to a manageable number was quite the task! However, in my experience, being spoilt for choice is never a bad thing when it comes to good educational iPad apps. You can see the final list if you visit our workshop site.

I learned a lot from my research for this session, but if there was one thing I discovered a shortage of apps for, it was for apps that accurately and efficiently turn printed text into natural, spoken words. Students with reading difficulties need a reliable solution for this. VoiceOver and Speak Selection are great features in many circumstances, but they don’t work very well, if at all, with things like PDFs. (VoiceOver works but there is no way to pause or stop it once it starts, and it changes the touch interface controls on the device). Then there are the students who only have a printed textbook or novel. How can we make that text more accessible for those students with special needs?

There are apps we tried that claim to work in situations like this, but they only did so with mixed success. OCR apps are useful, but again not always as accurate as you might want, and they often involve extra steps or apps to complete the reading process. So, if there are any developers out there looking for a gap in the market, this might just be it. Educational publishers can help out too. What about HTML5 versions of online textbooks with built-in audio voiceovers? Shouldn’t these be available for free with every printed textbook a school buys? Yes please!

Do you have favorite reading or writing apps for special education students in a K-12 learning environment? Which ones do you like best and why?

Happi Papi App Evaluation Program for Schools

Educators looking for a way to discover new iPad apps…for free…might want to take a look at the Happi Papi App Evaluation Program for Schools.

Teachers who sign up get to test drive Happi Papi’s and other developer’s apps for free, in return for filling out a short evaluation survey that takes your feedback as an educator to help revise or improve further app development.

Once enrolled, you will get an email about once a week, offering you the chance to try a specific app. If you like the look of it, you simply click the link in the email to register your interest. You will then be send another email that gives you a redemption code that you can use in the App Store to get a free copy of the app.

After about two weeks you will be sent a link to a survey for the app you received. Completing the survey is not mandatory, but I think it is a great way of informing developers about the kind of features that educators like or dislike in an iPad app, and I am all for improving apps that are designed for the classroom.

I have had several apps since I signed up for the program. Some I thought were great, others less so, but that I always enjoy seeing what new ideas developers are coming out with and how they are looking to market their apps for the classroom. So, if you are interested, and have not already signed up, head on over to the Happi Papi Evaluation Program and give them your email address to get started.