A Guide to Using Shortcuts on iPhone & iPad

The Shortcuts app for iOS is one of those apps that I didn’t spend enough time with when it first came out. It was packed full of potential, but it looked complex and difficult to learn. I was wrong. You don’t need to be a programmer or even know very much about shortcuts at all, so long as you have a few basics under your belt. That’s what this guide is all about. It introduces the iOS Shortcuts app from the ground up and gives you the tools and resources you need to be successful.

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How to Access & Customize the iPhone Control Center

A white iPhone on a table displaying the iOS Control Center

Do you use the iPhone Control Center? Most people I know have a love-hate relationship with this particular iOS feature. It’s exactly what they need when they can find it, but when they forget where it is, frustration sets in and they start to swipe madly around their screen to try and find it again. Personally, I think there is a lot to like about Control Center, especially if you take some time to dig a little deeper and take full advantage of everything that it can do for you. Here’s a look at the best it has to offer.

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iMovie: A Free Green Screen App for iPad

As much as I enjoy using Green Screen by DoInk, there are still teachers that find it hard to get paid apps approved, or to raise enough money to put a paid app on all the devices that they want it on. Consequently, I still get a lot of questions about the best free green screen app for the iPad. Up until today, there weren’t a lot of options, but a recent update to iMovie has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

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How to Publish to the Apple Books Store on Any Device

How to Publish to the Apple Books Store by Jonathan Wylie

A recent update to Apple’s publishing standards has allowed more flexibility in the creation and sharing of eBooks on the Apple Books Store. Previously, all books had to be submitted to the store via the iBooks Author app for MacOS. However, you can now use Pages on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or online at iCloud.com. Here’s how it works.

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How to do Green Screen Photos Without the Green Screen

How to create green screen photos the easy way

Earlier this week I saw a tool going around Twitter called Remove Image Background. It’s a clever, web-based tool that uses artificial intelligence to identify a person in a photo and remove the background behind them. It’s free, it works on all devices, it doesn’t require a login, and it removes backgrounds surprisingly well. I am sure that it could be used for all kinds of graphic design projects, but like many things, it made me think about green screen.

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New Macs & iPad Pros Announced

New iPad Pro.png

Apple held a special event in New York today. They unveiled a new MacBook Air, an updated Mac Mini, and a bold redesign of the existing iPad Pro line. All of these devices were released just in time for the holiday season, but are they worth your time and, more importantly, your money? Here’s what you need to know.

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How To Make iPad Screencasts on an iPad

Copy of new ipad schools

Recently, I had the need to create a screencast of an iPad app for a teacher I work with. Normally, I would just AirPlay my iPad to my Mac, and then record (and edit) my video with Camtasia. However, this time I felt like doing something different. I wanted to explore the options for doing this using an iPad, because I am increasingly of the opinion that there are very few things you can’t do with just an iPad any more. As it happens, there are a number of apps that will let you do this, so in this post I am going to demonstrate one of those apps, tell you about the process I used, and as suggest some others that you might want to take a look at if you decide to try this yourself. Here’s what you need to know.

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Annotate Photos & Screenshots Using the iOS Photos App

ios markup tools

There are a number of decent annotation apps for the iPhone & iPad. I know, because I have used a lot of them. However, I almost never use a dedicated app any more. The tools that I need are actually built-in to iOS, and they cover almost all of my image annotation needs. I’m talking specifically about the Photos app. It has some great options for marking up images and screenshots, but not everyone knows where those tools are. So, here’s what you need to know.

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Tips for Using an iPad with an External Keyboard: Shortcuts & More


Up until this week, I rarely used an external keyboard with my iPad. The on-screen keyboard was fine for what I needed to do and unlike a lot of people, I really have no problem typing on the screen. I can’t type as fast as I can on a standard keyboard, but I can type fast enough to churn out emails and blog posts with no real concerns. This week, however, I decided to try something a little different. I resolved to use the iPad as my only device for a week.

On a “normal” week I would spend my time switching between a MacBook, a Surface Pro 4, and my iPad for the tasks that I need to get done. However, I happened to read an article entitled, Stop Using A Laptop in 2017; It’s Time To Use A Tablet. In it, the author made a case that desktop operating systems are less relevant than they used to be, so that got me thinking. Could I use an iPad, and only an iPad, for a week? No reason why not, right?! The challenge was on, and I took a Bluetooth keyboard along for the ride.

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The Apple Adapter Classroom Gear Guide

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If you use an Apple device, you are probably increasingly used to using dongles, adapters or whatever else you want to call them. They give you the functionality that Apple doesn’t natively include because of design constraints or a forward thinking approach to new technologies. However, there are dozens of Apple adapters available, and it can be hard to know which ones are the right ones for a given situation. This edtech gear guide was written to help remedy that problem.

The adapters below are ordered by price (from low to high) and include a number of likely scenarios for when you would want to use each one. Official Apple adapters will usually work best and these can be purchased in a number of different places, but third-party versions are available too. The list below is not an exhaustive list, but it does include the most commonly used dongles and adapters for use in Apple classrooms. Whenever possible, links are included to the official Apple product.


I want to… connect headphones to an iPhone 7 or multiple sets to an iPad/iPod Touch.

You need: Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter (Apple price: $9)

More information: This dongle lets you plug 3.5mm headphones into the iPhone 7, (a device that has no traditional headphone jack), however, it can be used with any iOS 10 device that has a lightning port. It can be used to add an extra headphone jack to iPads and iPod Touches, but a dual headphone splitter, or a multi-headphone splitter, would be cheaper (or more efficient) in the long run.


I want to… plug a traditional USB device into a new Apple MacBook.

You need: USB-C to USB Adapter (Apple price: $9)

More information: If you own one of the newer MacBook laptops, you will be missing standard USB ports to plug in Bluetooth mice, a SMART board, or other USB accessories. This adapter restores that ability.


I want to… connect my new MacBook to the internet with an Ethernet cable.

You need: Belkin USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (Apple price: $26)

More information: The Ethernet port has been missing on MacBooks for some time now. This adapter is for MacBook and 2016 MacBook Pro users who want to connect to the internet with a wired connection.


I want to… connect my older MacBook to the internet with an Ethernet cable.

You need: Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: This is the same adapter as the one above, but it works with older MacBooks that don’t have the USB-C inputs by converting a Thunderbolt port to an Ethernet port. You can also use the Apple USB Ethernet Adapter or the Belkin USB Gigabit Ethernet Adapter that comes with 3 integrated USB 3.0 ports.


I want to… connect USB devices to my iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

You need: Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: The Lightning to USB Camera Adapter was designed to help you transfer photos and videos from a digital camera to an iOS device. However, this handy dongle also allows you to connect a USB microphone for better audio recording, a USB keyboard for better typing, and some other low power USB accessories. It’s a handy adapter to have because of how flexible it is. You can’t use it for all your USB devices, (a mouse and a flash drive will not work), but it’s compatible with more than you think.


I want to… connect my older MacBook to a VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: The majority of projectors used in schools today seem to have a VGA connection. A VGA connector is the trapezoid shaped port with pins on the male side and holes on the female side. This adapter lets you use a VGA cable with your MacBook so you can connect it to a projector, monitor or TV that has VGA connectors.


I want to… connect my new MacBook to a VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Belkin USB-C to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: This dongle lets you continue to use a VGA projector with the newest MacBooks by converting one of your USB-C ports into a VGA connector.


I want to… connect my iPad 2 or 3 to a VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Apple 30-pin to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)

More information: Many schools still have some iPad 2s in circulation. If you are looking to connect one of these to a a projector, monitor or TV that has VGA connectors, then this is the adapter you need.


I want to… connect my iPad 2 or 3 to an HDMI projector or external monitor.

You need: Apple 30-pin Digital AV Adapter (Apple price: $39)

More information: Displaying an iPad 2 on an HDTV or HDMI projector can be achieved with the aid of this (pricey) adapter. It includes a secondary 30-pin port that allows you to charge your device while displaying it on an external screen. Consider using it to show a looping slideshow on TVs that are mounted on walls around your school.


I want to… connect my iPad 4 (or later) to an VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Lightning to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $49)

More information: Another pricey adapter but a must have if you want to show your iPad on a SMART Board, projector or TV via a VGA cable. Needs no wifi access and is generally very reliable. Includes a lightning port to let you charge your device while it is on screen.


I want to… connect my iPad 4 (or later) to an HDMI projector or external monitor.

You need: Lightning Digital AV Adapter (Apple price: $49)

More information: This is the HDMI version of the adapter above. It works in exactly the same way, but connects to HDMI devices as opposed to VGA. Also includes a lightning port for charging while your iOS device is displayed on screen.


I want to… connect my Apple TV to a VGA projector or external monitor.

You need: Kanex ATV Pro X HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio Support or the Kanex HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio for Apple TV 4th generation (Apple price: $49.95-59.95)

More information: The Apple TV only comes with an HDMI output, so if you want to connect it to a VGA projector or a TV or Monitor that has a VGA connections, then you need one of these adapters. The Kanex ATV Pro X HDMI to VGA Adapter works for 2nd and 3rd generation Apple TVs while the Kanex HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio for Apple TV is designed to work with the newer 4th generation Apple TVs.


Need more help?

Unsure which dongle or adapter you need? Want to double check that you picked the right one? Leave a comment below, or drop me an email via the contact page, and include as much information about what you are trying to achieve and the devices you want to do it with. If there is an adapter out there that fills that need, I’ll tell you what it is, and where you can buy it.

Note that some Apple adapters are currently on a limited sale until April 1, 2017.