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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Apple never saw fit to add a stock calculator app to the iPad, but there are dozens of free calculator apps to choose from in the App Store. Unsure which one to choose? My recommendation is My Script Calculator. It’s one of my favorite new free apps, and was built to maximize the touch screen interface of the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s also an app that can grow with your students as they move from elementary, to middle school and even to high school.
MyScript Calculator works different from other iPad calculator apps because there are no buttons. Instead, you simply write out the equation you wish to solve with your finger or a stylus. The app recognizes your handwriting, turns it into print, and solves it for you. Some of you might be dubious of this, as handwriting recognition apps do not have a great track record of success, but this one works very well.
Best of all, almost any grade level student will be able to use it. The app supports even the most basic math operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, but it will also do percentages, square roots, negative numbers, brackets and exponents. Need more? How about trigonometry, inverse trigonometry, logarithms and constants? Need to change part of your equation? Simply scribble over it to erase it and then write in your alteration and the equation will be solved again with the new values. You really have to see it to believe it.
If you are teaching Math at a higher level, this will obviously not be the only app you ever need, because as good as MyScript Calculator is, it does not graph equations but there are others out there that will. This app, however, is incredible at what it does do, and is ideally suited to a touch screen device like the iPad (an Android version is also available). Check out the tutorial video below, and feel free to leave a comment with your own experiences with MyScript Calculator, or other Math apps you love.
AirPlay is a technology that Apple baked into their more recent devices to allow them to wirelessly mirror the content of one screen to another. This content can be music, movies, or other multimedia content. A teacher, for instance, can use AirPlay to wirelessly present their lesson to a class or demonstrate an app, while students could use it to share their work with their peers.
What devices can AirPlay?
iPad 2, iPad3, iPad 4, the iPad Mini, and the iPad Air
iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and the iPhone 5s
iPod Touch (5th Generation)
iMac (Mid 2011 or newer), Mac mini (Mid 2011 or newer), MacBook Air (Mid 2011 or newer), and MacBook Pro (Early 2011 or newer)
iOS devices need to be running iOS 4.3 or newer
OS X devices need to be running OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)
How to Set Up AirPlay
In order for your device to be able to take advantage of AirPlay, it needs to be able to connect to an AirPlay enabled device. The default Apple device is the Apple TV. Connect this to your projector via HDMI (or use the Kanex ATV Pro if you have a VGA projector).
For a cheaper option, you can turn an existing laptop or desktop computer into an AirPlay device by installing the Reflector or AirServer app. There are version for Mac and Windows computers. Once installed, run the program and connect the computer running the software to an LCD projector.
Reflector vs. AirServer
Reflector (or Reflection as it was previously known) was essentially the first desktop app for turning your computer into an AirPlay receiver. AirServer is a licensed version of Reflector, so essentially they are pretty much the same. However, AirServer does offer educational discounts for schools, so this may help keep costs down. I’ve also found that the developer for AirServer is very receptive to new feature requests that can improve the classroom experience.
Connecting to Airplay on an iPad
1. Before you attempt to mirror your iPad’s screen, you need to first ensure that your iPad, and the AirPlay device you are connecting to (Apple TV or a computer running Reflector or AirServer) are on the same WiFi network. If they are not, the devices will not “see” each other.
2. Next, Swipe up from the bottom bezel on your iPad to reveal the new iOS 7 Control Center, (see image below).
3. Tap the AirPlay button, (the rectangle with a triangle on it) and select the device you want to connect to – the Apple TV or the computer running Reflector or AirServer. Turn Mirroring on to send the image of your screen to the projector.
4. Press the home button to close the Control Center, and bask in the glory of your wireless media connection! 🙂
Connecting to AirPlay on a Mac
1. Again, before you attempt to mirror your Mac’s screen, you need to first ensure that your iPad, and the AirPlay device you are connecting to (Apple TV or a computer running Reflector or AirServer) are on the same WiFi network. If not, the devices will not “see” each other.
2. Look for the AirPlay symbol in the menu bar at the top of your screen, (next to the WiFi indicator, date and volume icon)
3. Click the AirPlay button, and select the device you want to connect to – an Apple TV or a computer running Reflector or AirServer.
4. Your Mac should automatically connect to the AirPlay device, and you can bask in the glory of your wireless media connection! 🙂
Password Protecting Your AirPlay Connection
Regardless of whether you use an Apple TV, Reflector, or AirServer, it is important to be aware of your option to protect your AirPlay connection with a password. After all, you won’t necessarily want someone connecting to your AirPlay whenever they feel like it. On the Apple TV you go to Settings > AirPlay > Set Passcode. The passcode is great if you have just one class, but if your students leave for another class, they can still hijack your AirPlay if you have previously shared a password with them in order that they too can AirPlay.
You could change the passcode every lesson, but this would be a pain, so I recommend going to Settings > AirPlay > Onscreen code. This adds an onscreen code so that you can only AirPlay to this connection if you can see the onscreen code, (ie. you are in that classroom). If you are using Reflector, you can also set a passcode. If you are using AirServer, you have the same options as with an Apple TV – a passcode or onscreen code.
The recent update to Keynote, brought the ability to import presentations complete with master slides and preset styles. So, this got me thinking. How could I take advantage of this new feature? Well, here is a simple, but straightforward way to do just that and create some free iPad templates for Keynote to supplement the 12 themes that Apple gives you as a default on the iOS version. If you already have the desktop versions of Keynote, or PowerPoint, this method will cost you nothing at all!
Start by opening Keynote, or PowerPoint, on your Mac/PC and choose a template for your presentation. It does not need to be any longer than one slide. Next, you need to add that presentation to your iPad. (Mountain Lion users can save it to iCloud, but you can also email it to your iPad or save it to Dropbox and Open in… Keynote).
Repeat for as many templates as you would like to bring over to the iPad, and organize them by creating a folder for these new templates, like in the image below. You can group presentations together on the iPad version of Keynote simply by dragging one on top of another to create a new folder. I went a step further and renamed each presentation to the name of the original template, but this is optional.
Now, these aren’t new templates in the strictest sense of the word, because once you start editing one of these, it will automatically save your new content, so here is what you need to do. DUPLICATE the file before you start working on it and work on a copy of the original template you brought over. You do this by tapping Edit in the top right hand corner, tapping the presentation you want to duplicate, and then tapping the duplicate button, (see below).
Rename your newly duplicated presentation by tapping the name under the thumbnail and then open it when you are done. Before the latest Keynote update, the user would go to add a page to a PowerPoint file, and be greeted with eight blank slide layouts that rarely matched the theme. However, when you go to add a new slide to your presentation now, all the original master slide layouts are an available, (see below).
Simply repeat ad nauseum, and when you get tired of the presentation templates you have, go find some more! The new Keynote for iOS is great at bringing over those master slide layouts, although I have noticed it works a lot better with Keynote than it does with PowerPoint. It will still give you some nice new slide layouts for PowerPoint, but not nearly as many as you get with an imported Keynote file.
Are there apps available in the App Store that do very much the same thing? Yes, but none for free, and the one I have opens a default presentation with over 40 slides. I need to delete the ones I don’t want, and duplicate the ones I do. This takes away some of that hassle and gives you a bunch of free iPad templates for Keynote that you didn’t have before! 🙂
There were some fairly major updates to some popular iOS apps today, so I thought I would take a few minutes to give you the lowdown on what’s new for Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Zite, YouTube and Gmail, if you have not already updated them to the latest versions.
The iWork updates include some nice tweaks and greater compatibility. For instance, tracking changes will no doubt be useful for a lot of students and teachers using Pages to edit documents,especially when working between devices. Keynote has a couple of new transitions and the ability to preserve the master slides and preset styles during import and export. Numbers now allows you to hide and unhide rows/columns and work with filters.
Gmail, however, has arguably seen the biggest update. The much maligned official Google email app may well have finally benefitted from Google’s earlier acquisition of the Sparrow Mail app for Mac. It has a completely new interface, the ability to switch between up to 5 Gmail accounts, a much better search capability, and the ability to reply to calendar invites from within the email you are reading. Gmail 2.0 is a HUGE improvement, and so far I really like it. Google’s other big news today was an update for their YouTube app, which now has iPad support.
Zite is not just one of my favorite PLN apps for the iPad, it is one of my favorite apps in any category. Today it got a big update to Zite 2.0. A new logo, a new user interface, and an expansion to 40,000 categories you can subscribe to – up from 2,500. iPad users can use gestures to rate their favorite stories, and even find related topics suggested at the bottom of an article. An update for Zite has been a long time coming, but this looks like it has been worth the wait.
Full details on all the updates, as well as links to the apps concerned, are listed below:
In this release Pages for iOS is updated for improved compatibility with Microsoft Word and Pages for Mac.
• Use Change Tracking to track changes to body text in a document
• Accept and reject individual changes as you review a document
• Import Pages and Microsoft Word documents with change tracking and continue to track changes to body text
• Preserve tracked changes in documents exported in Microsoft Word or Pages format
• Preserve calculations in tables when importing from and exporting to Pages for Mac
• Add reflections to shapes
• Lock and unlock objects
In this release Keynote for iOS is updated for improved compatibility with Microsoft PowerPoint and Keynote for Mac.
• Import and export all Microsoft PowerPoint and Keynote for Mac slide sizes
• Import and export presentation themes, complete with master slides and preset styles
• Play back all Keynote action builds including Move, Rotate, Scale, and Opacity
• Add new slide transitions including Shimmer and Sparkle
• Preserve calculations in tables when importing from and exporting to Keynote for Mac
• Add reflections to shapes
• New print layouts include options to print with presenter notes, with builds, and without backgrounds
• Lock and unlock objects
In this release Numbers for iOS is updated for improved compatibility with Microsoft Excel and Numbers for Mac.
• Hide and unhide rows and columns
• Import & export Numbers for Mac spreadsheets with filters, & turn filters on and off
• Preserve rich text in tables when importing and exporting
• Add reflections to shapes
• Lock and unlock objects
– Multiple account support
– App redesigned with a new, cleaner look
– Search predictions as you type
– Infinite scrolling inbox
– Respond to Google Calendar invites inline
– Interactive Google+ posts support
– New welcome experience
* Optimized for iPad and iPhone 5
* Stream videos with AirPlay
* Tap logo to open your Guide of channels
* Add and remove videos from your playlists
* Clickable links in video descriptions
* Improved accessibility with VoiceOver
Welcome to Zite 2.0. We’ve completely reimagined Zite to be faster, smarter and more beautiful:
· New Explore page helps you find interesting topics
· Jump to topics from anywhere in Zite to find great related content
· Expanded “Your Top Stories,” including Headline News, Featured Topics and Popular Stories in Zite
· Rate stories by simply swiping them up or down (iPad only)
· Link Facebook to get automatic topic suggestions and improve your personalization
· Expansion from 2,500 to over 40,000 categories to explore
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.
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.
Recently, I attended ITEC 2012 -Iowa’s premier technology conference for educators. David Pogue and Marco Torres were the keynote speakers, but there were dozens of other excellent breakout sessions over the course of this three-day event.
I myself had the opportunity to present twice, so I opted for a couple of iPad sessions that I had been wanting to talk about for some time now, and I have included the slides to the first of these two sessions below – iPad Workflow Solutions for Educators.
A digital workflow for the iPad, or the process of getting student work to and from the device, has long been a subject of some consternation among those who use iPads in the classroom. Why? The reason is simple. Apple did not build the iPad for a school environment. It was designed for an individual. As such, it was designed to be managed by an individual, with little real thought about how that individual could interact with other users.
Thankfully, this is beginning to change. Apple is less restrictive that it once was. It has loosened the reins a little with iOS and it is now actively working to help develop mobile device management software like Apple Configurator. My presentation at ITEC was designed to reflect that, and it includes some of the latest changes and developments that have been made to the iOS ecosystem.
So, feel free to take a look at some of the options that are available to you if you use iPads in the classroom. A fully digital workflow is possible on the iPad, but it is not always as intuitive as it might be. The slides here do not always tell the whole story, because of the nature of a slideshow presentation, so if you want or need any further information on any of these methods, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below.