Instashare: Free AirDrop-like File Sharing for iPads and Macs

Instashare

Instashare is a new app for iOS and OS X devices that lets you share files wirelessly for free over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. I’ve been playing with it on and off for the last week, and I have to say I have been impressed with its capabilities. More importantly, it could have some great uses for a tech savvy teacher in the classroom.

How does it work? Simple really. The Instashare app acts like a bridge between your devices. You send files from your device to Instashare, and Instashare sends it to a device within Bluetooth range, or on the same Wi-Fi network. Best of all, it works with almost any file on your iPad via the sharing menu. Simply select to open your file in another app, and then send it to Instashare.

It works with Pages, Keynote, Numbers, and anything you can put in your Camera Roll. It works with Google Drive, Notability and just about any other app that lets you open your final product into another app. Notable exclusions include the likes of Garageband and Educreations.

Free iPad Files Sharing with Instashare

In the classroom, this could certainly add flexibility to the use of the iPad. Imagine a collaborative writing project where each student writes a part of the story and then sends it to the next student via Instashare. The same could be done with a collaborative video project. If all students need access to a video shot on one iPad, the owner could share it with others so that they can work on the media in iMovie or other video apps.

Videos taking up too much storage? Students can share their iMovie or ExplainEverything projects with the teacher’s Mac, and then have them saved to a flash drive or burned to a DVD. Want to add a video from your Mac to a Keynote presentation on your iPad? No problem. Send it to your Camera Roll via Instashare. It could even be a useful way for students to hand in assignments to their teacher, although currently it does not support more than one transfer at the same time. Still, it does mean no printing, no email, no fuss.

The iOS app is free, and so is the Mac app (currently listed as BETA). A Windows app is in the works, and so is an Android version. It is unclear right now as to whether they will all communicate with each other, but I am sure that would be the plan. Transferring files from iPad to iPad was almost flawless for me and worked almost every time. Going from my Mac to an iPad was a little more inconsistent at times and occasionally produced an error message, but it is a BETA app so it will surely become more reliable in time as they continue to develop it.

So, if you are looking for a quick and easy way to transfer files between iOS devices, or to and from a Mac, take a look at Instashare. The free version of the iOS app is ad supported, but these can be removed for a 99c in-app purchase.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/60177819]

Not an ADE Today? Carry On!

The Apple Distinguished Educator Program

Today, Apple contacted hundreds, if not thousands, of educators who applied for the North American Apple Distinguished Educator program. 75 were chosen to be a part of this elite group, but the majority were left disappointed, and face a two-year wait before they can try again.

To those that were unsuccessful, I say take heart. You applied for the program because of a passion for learning, creativity, and innovation. You applied for this program because you were proud of your achievements in education. You applied for the program to challenge yourself and network with the best. None of that needs to change. Carry on.

Being recognized as an Apple Distinguished Educator is high praise indeed, but even if I don’t know you personally, I’d wager that you were already distinguished and well regarded for what you do. I saw countless ADE videos that were shared by candidates on Twitter, and around the web, and each was as inspiring as the next. North America’s Got Talent! Our schools and colleges need this talent. Carry on.

Your enthusiasm for teaching and technology will not wither overnight. The students and teachers you work with will continue to benefit from your knowledge and experience, and your stature in the education community will remain undiminished. You will still meet great educators that will challenge your thinking or inspire you to great heights, and the opportunity to share and showcase your talents will come again soon. Carry on.

So, if like me, you did not get the answer you were hoping for today, know that education is still better because of you. Know that you still make a difference in the classroom. Know that your imagination and invention is valued, and revered. Carry on.

Google Apps on the iPad: The Good, The Great & The Ugly!

Using Google Apps for Education on the iPad has not always been a pleasurable experience, but things are changing. Google is constantly adding new features and updates to its popular suite of online productivity tools, and many of these changes are geared towards making their services more accessible on all platforms. For instance, the new Create menu in Drive is a much nicer way to select the type of document you want to create when doing so from an iPad or other mobile device.

Recently, I have given a number of presentations on the best ways for educators to access Google Apps on the iPad, so I decided to share a slideshow of my current findings below. I have no doubt that I will need to update this presentation very soon, but I will be glad to do so, because it will mean Google has made yet more changes to make their apps more palatable on iOS and other mobile platforms.

Are you in a Google Apps school that uses iPads? Do you have any tips you would like to share on the best ways to use Google on an iPad at school? If so, leave a comment below.

[slideshare id=16582672&doc=googleontheipad-goodgreatugly-130217071352-phpapp01]

Wallwisher is Relaunched as Padlet

Wallwisher now Padlet

Been to Wallwisher.com recently? If so, you may have noticed a change. The site has re-branded itself as Padlet. For now, the site can still be accessed at http://wallwisher.com, but Padlet is the future, so http://padlet.com will soon be the new URL of this popular collaborative workspace.

So, why Padlet? The developers say it is a nod to tablets as the future of computing, but also an almagamation of the words paper, wood and tablet – the ancestors of the original Wallwisher concept. Although the new name might take a little while to get used to, it does make sense, especially after the site’s last big overhaul to make it compatible with iPads and other mobile devices.

If you already have links to existing Wallwisher wall, or have some embedded on websites, they will continue to work as normal, even once they get renamed with Padlet.com branding. Otherwise the site looks just the same as it did a week ago with all the usual features you have come to expect.

While there are similar sites like Lino.it, Corkboard.me, and Murally, Wallwisher, or Padlet as it now is, has probably been around the longest, and there is good reason for that. Its evolution over a five year existence has kept it at the forefront in terms of features and ease of use for educators.

So, if you haven’t paid it a visit for a while, you should. There is a lot to like about this multi-platform collaboration tool, and the future looks bright.

 

The iPad Camera Connector Kit: For More Than Just Cameras!

iPad Camera Connector Kit

Apple’s official camera connector kit was created to help photographers transfer photos and/or videos from a camera to the iPad, but it really does much more than this. The kit comes in two parts – a USB connector, and an SD card reader. So, in theory, you can connect your camera via a USB cable, or, (if it uses SD cards), via the SD card reader.

Much of what follows is already well known in technology circles, but when I showed this accessory to a group of teachers recently, they had no idea of what else it could do. You see, it has long been known that there are a number of peripherals that you can connect to the iPad via the USB camera connector. Here are some examples of ones that have been proven to work:

  • USB Keyboards – Not all will work, but many will, and the ability to work on a full-sized keyboard, as opposed to the iPad’s onscreen keyboard, can be a major boon for some students with motor control difficulties, or those that may want to avoid hand fatigue when they write extended pieces of writing on the iPad.
  • USB Microphones – The iPad has a great built-in microphone, but when videoing, it does not always have the reach that you might want it to. So, things like a Snowball mic, and a long USB cable, can be a great way of extending the reach of the iPad’s audio recording abilities, and can even improve the quality of recorded audio too.
  • USB Headsets – This is probably less useful, but many believe that the audio you get from a USB headset is superior to anything that you might get from a 3.5mm audio jack. Personally, I think there is more to it than that, but it is still nice to have the option if you have a USB headset you are particularly fond of.
  • USB MIDI Equipment – Several USB MIDI devices can be connected to the iPad via USB and can be used in audio recording apps like Garageband. This could greatly expand the types of activities a music teacher may want to attempt in the classroom. A list of some compatible USB MIDI devices can be found here.
  • Other iOS Devices – Ever needed to transfer photos or videos from one iPad to another? A quick and easy way is to use the USB camera connector. The iPhone has a great camera, and so does the new iPod Touch, but editing video or images on that small screen is not ideal. Why not transfer them to the iPad instead!

Will all USB devices work? No. Only those that draw a very small amount of power, or some that are powered by a separate mains power supply. Also, a USB mouse will not work as there is no ability to use a mouse within the iOS ecosystem, and similarly a USB flash drive will also not be of any use here either. However, there are numerous devices that do work, so experimentation is not a bad thing. If you get a warning that the device is incompatible, don’t worry. That is normal, and may or may not be truthful!

If you have anything up to the 3rd generation iPad, you can get a camera connector kit (as pictured above) for $29 from Apple, or other authorized retailers. If you have an iPad Mini or a 4th generation iPad, you will notice that Apple decided to sell the Lightning equivalents separately, so they are $29 each, but you may only want the USB version. Most cameras in the last 4 years or so will have no trouble connecting via USB, and you can experiment with what else might work in your own time.

Feel free to leave a comment with any success that you have had connecting USB peripherals to the iPad.

Free McGraw Hill Apps for iOS – Limited Time Offer

Free McGraw Hill Apps

In celebration of the forthcoming Digital Learning Day, McGraw Hill has a number of apps free in the App Store right now – the majority of which are usually paid apps. They are mainly aimed at elementary aged students, but definitely worth taking a look to see if there is anything you might want to use in your classroom. These apps are free as of the time this post was published, but will go back to regular prices after Digital Learning Day on February 6.

How to Update Books in the iBooks Store

Updating apps is easy. Your iPad puts a nice red circle notification on the App Store icon, prompting you to open the App Store, tap Updates, and see which of your apps are ready for the latest version. Updating books you have downloaded from the iBooks Store is just as easy, but not necessarily as obvious. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do it.

Right now, there is no red circle notifications on the iBooks app to tell you that books you have downloaded are in need of an update. Hopefully that will change in a future iOS update, but for now, the only way to see if any of your books have been updated is to open the iBooks app and look for a number next to the Store button in the top left hand corner, (see image below). This number indicates the number of updates available for books you have purchased from the iBooks Store.

iBooks Store Update Notification

Tapping on this number will open the iBooks Store, at which point you will tap the Purchased tab on the black bar at the bottom of your screen, (see image below).

Finding iBooks Updates

You are now looking at your purchase history for the account you are logged in with at the iBooks Store. At the top of the screen, you will see two tabs. The first one, Books, is selected by default, but if you tap Updates, you can see a list of books that are waiting to be updated. You can update them one at a time, or do what most people do and just tap UPDATE ALL.

Updating iBooks in the iBooks Store

That’s all there is to it. The truth of the matter is, if you don’t visit the iBooks app very often, you may not even know you have any updates waiting for you. So, if you have a growing collection of texts from the iBooks Store, try to make time every so often to check in for any updates that the author has pushed out for your favorite reads! For more iBooks tips, make sure to read my earlier post with some of my favorite iBooks tips for teachers.

The NEW Animoto for Education

Animoto, the popular online video creation service, been around for a while now. In fact it has been “in the works” since 2005. I first used it almost four years ago, and I have revisited it many times since that first experience. Why? Because there are few tools that are quicker, easier to use, and capable of producing such a high quality finished product. I love showing it to teachers.

The site is updated regularly with new features, and it even has its own mobile app for iOS and Android. Best of all, Animoto has a free account for Educators. Today, they relaunched their site with a great new look and a new logo too, so I thought now would be as good a time as any to take another look at how useful this tool can be in the classroom.

Animoto.com

Making an Animoto video is a very simple process. You start by choosing a style for your video. There are plenty to choose from, and each will add its own personality to your finished product. Next, choose some music. You can upload music of your own that you or your students created in something like Garageband, or you can browse through the library of songs that are built-in to the Animoto editor. Photos and videos can be uploaded directly to the site, or imported from a variety of social media sites. Lastly, you can add text slides, to help tell your story and give context to your media.

Animoto video editor

At this point, if you wanted, you could render your video and download or share it with others. However, there are a number of tweaks you can make to enhance your video. For instance, the spotlight tool will give more prominence to images you deem worthy of it. You can duplicate slides, rotate them, and change the order of them by dragging and dropping them. You can choose a starting point for your music, and pace your slides to the length of music you chose. After you are done with all the tweaking, you can preview the video to see if it is all that you hoped it would be. If not, simply return to the editing screen and change your style, music, or media until it is perfect. Videos can be downloaded, embedded and shared on social media sites.

Animoto Education

So, if you have not tried Animoto recently, or at all, you should definitely take a look to see what is there. Just be sure to sign up for the educator account (a $30 value) because this will remove the 30 second video limit you get with the free accounts. Once signed up, you will be given a class code that you can share with students. When students register for an account, they use this code to get the upgraded education edition of Animoto. Want to create your own student accounts? Animoto has a solution for that too.

Do you use Animoto in your classroom? What do you (or your students) like about it? Feel free to leave a comment below with your experiences.

5 iPad Apps to Help Students and Teachers Collaborate

There are not an abundance of apps for the iPad that really encourage a worthwhile level of collaboration between students or between students and teachers. There are several that would allow students to share an iPad and work on something together on one iPad, but what if you want students to be working on their own iPads at school, at home, or at a time of their choosing? The following 5 apps are designed for just that, and help take advantage of the iPad as a collaborative tool.

1. Rabble Browser – Spend a lot of time online with your class? Rabble Browser may be ideal for you. This app lets a teacher, or student, host a collaborative web browsing experience on the same wi-fi network. There is a chat window to collaborate and discuss ideas, a file browser that lets you share files with the others in your sessions, and a bunch of restrictions that let you lock the client app view, enable navigation, disallow chat, and allow voting. The app is robust, and a great way to collaborate with iPads in the classroom. Rabble Browser is currently $2.99.

Rabble Browser

2. iBrainstorm – In days gone by, sticky yellow notes would litter a desk or whiteboard to record a brainstorming session. Today, most of us do this digitally. The iBrainstorm app was created for this purpose, but it has a neat trick that is sure to wow first time users. There are two apps needed to collaborate with iBrainstorm – the host app (the iPad app) and the companion app (an iPhone app, which also runs on the iPad). You can have one iPad app and four clients connected at once. Students type on a yellow sticky note on the companion app, and then flick it towards the iPad and it appears like magic on a corkboard for the host to rearrange, edit or delete as required. iBrainstorm is free, and according to their Twitter feed, they are working on a native iPad companion app.

3. BaiBoard HD – Need a collaborative whiteboard space? Look no further than BaiBoard HD. It is packed full of features. Multiple iPads can connect to the same space. You get a choice of drawing tools, colors and line thicknesses. You can add photos, stencils and even documents that you want to mark up in real time. There is a chat feature and a push to talk function, the ability to save snapshots of your work at any given moment, and the option to share a URL for others to view the progress even if they don’t have an iPad. Boards can also be “watch only” if required. In short, you get an amazing amount for free and the developers are looking to improve the app wherever they can. Try it!

BaiBoard

4. Subtext – Ok, so what if you wanted to collaborate and share a story or longer piece of text? Take a look at Subtext. It allows you to search Google Books for free or paid books, and the teacher can create small study groups for students working on a given book. Students, and teachers, can highlight sections, leave comments, and create conversations about the text. You can link out to the web and provide additional online content to add to the narrative or put things in a better context. It also integrates well with Edmodo and will import all your groups if you use your Edmodo login. Subtext will even let you share any ePub documents you have, or have converted to that format. Subtext is free and well worth checking out.

5. Ask3 – This new iPad collaboration app comes from the makers of Camtasia, Snagit, and Screenchomp. It offers students and teachers the ability to collaborate using video screencasts. Teachers create an account and can invite students to join their class with a unique class code, (no need for email addresses). Once the class is created, you create short screencast videos and share them with your class. Students watch your video and can leave a comment at any point in the video. These comments are shared publicly with the group, but can be used to help reinforce learning or clear up any misunderstandings. Students can even create a video of their own and add that as a comment to your video lesson, so it could be a great way to add some interactivity to a flipped classroom instructional model.

Ask3

Do you have favorite apps for collaborating across iPads? Which ones do you use the most, and why? Leave a comment below with your favorites, and make sure to check out my iPad Apps page for more ideas on iPad apps for the classroom.

BlueStacks App Player: Android Apps on your Mac or PC for Free!

So here’s an interesting idea. What if you could use mobile apps in the classroom without actually having any mobile/tablet devices? Well, you can, thanks to BlueStacks. With the BlueStacks App Player you can run a huge number of Android apps on your Mac or PC, and right now, you can try it for free.

BlueStacks App Player

It’s an interesting proposition, and one that could have some very real advantages for the classroom. In theory, you get the best of both worlds – access to a huge and growing app store, and the power and flexibility of a desktop/laptop computer when you need it. You could even run these apps on an interactive whiteboard, and interact with them in almost the exact same way you would on an Android tablet.

How does it work? Right now, there are four app stores that you can search through for apps of your choice. You can browse the app stores themselves, or search for an app title across all four stores and choose where you want to download it from. Apps are added to a central dashboard area (see pic above) and can be launched from there after they have been installed on your computer. Do all apps work? No. Snapseed, for instance, did not install properly for me, but many other apps I tried like Evernote, Zite, Twitter, Pulse, and…yes…even Angry Birds Star Wars, worked just fine! 🙂 I didn’t perform an exhaustive test of available apps, but it looks like most of the well known ones you could want would likely be able to run on the BlueStacks App Player.

Angry Birds Star Wars

So, by now you are probably starting to get interested, maybe even wondering how you can sign up. Well, you absolutely can at the BlueStacks website, but I would be remiss if I did not add a word of caution. In theory, this could be a great thing for educators, but right now, it is more of a proof of concept than anything else. BlueStacks is in Beta. It is currently free for anyone who wants to test their innovative creation, but you do so at your own risk.

The apps themselves can be a little frustrating. Unlike the iOS App Store, many Android apps are simply not designed for large screens. Many are still optimized for a smartphone display, so they can be just plain awkward to use in their skinny, rectangular aspect ratio on the BlueStacks App Player. Some can be forced into a tablet sized view, via the settings, but others stubbornly refuse or crash when you try this.

There is also the issue of media. If you have an app like the Aviary Photo Editor, and you want to edit some photos you have on your computer, it is not as simple as just clicking browse and finding the photos you need. There is some behind the scenes work that needs to be done to achieve this, but like I said earlier, this app is still in Beta, so the developers will still be working out some kinks and improving the user interface as they go.

BlueStacks App Settings

A final issue for education would be management. If this app was to be used in a school that was 1:1 with Macbooks or PC laptops, the school IT department would want some way of enforcing restrictions, and a way to push out apps to students and staff. This is not currently an option, and may never be an option.

BlueStacks is a very enticing idea. It looks like it could open the doors to a much more open and flexible learning environment in the classroom, but right now it remains to be seen how stable, reliable, and easy to use it really could be in the classroom with students. Have you tried it? Do you think you would use it? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.