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.Read More »
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.
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.Read More »
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Osmo is an educational games system for iPads that has a somewhat unique hands-on approach to learning. Once you buy the base kit, there are a number of great apps and accessories that you can add to extend the functionality of your Osmo. It was designed for children aged 5-12, but some activities could be used with younger (or older) children. Although you do have to pay for some of the add-on packs, the apps for the iPad are free and this can make it a compelling option for the classroom. Here’s what you need to know.
Is the Osmo Educational?
There are dozens of new learning toys that are ideal for the home environment. However, not all of these products fit well with the curricular demands of the modern classroom. Osmo straddles both ecosystems with ease. In fact, according to their own statistics, Osmo kits are being used in over 22,000 schools in 42 different countries around the world.
To help meet this demand, Osmo created the Osmo Academy – a collection of lesson plans that are designed around curricular units that you could be teaching in Kindergarten through 6th grade. The lessons are grouped by topic and are a growing collection of the educational value that Osmo has for the classroom. Click here to download the Osmo Teacher Guide with how-tos, lessons, and more, or visit the Osmo Academy for more information and ideas.
The Osmo Starter Kit
The Osmo Starter Kit includes the base Osmo stand (which works for all models of iPads except for the 12.9 inch iPad Pro), the Tangram pack and the Words pack. The Tangram game offers over 500 puzzles that are based around the ancient Chinese game that uses geometric shapes to build a variety of forms. The Words app is a spelling game similar to hangman, but with picture prompts. There are different levels of difficulty that you can set depending on the age of the student, as well as the ability to create your own word packs and use vocabulary and images that are directly related to the content you are teaching.
There are other Osmo apps that can also be used with the Starter Kit. These include Newton, a physics-based game that requires you to bounce a series of structures that you draw on paper. Masterpiece is a drawing app that lets you take a picture, search the web, or use one of the included gallery images to trace and color your drawing. It includes a neat time lapse function creates a video of your entire process. You can also use Monster, another drawing based app that lets young students draw objects that become part of an interactive digital story.
So, when you consider all that you can do with just the Starter Kit, the Osmo can be a compelling option for elementary classrooms. Here are some links that will get you started with the free iPad apps, as well as more information on the base kit.
- Download the free Osmo Tangram iPad app
- Download the free Osmo Words iPad app
- Download the free Osmo Newton iPad app
- Download the free Osmo Masterpiece iPad app
- Download the free Osmo Monster iPad app
- Buy the Osmo Starter Kit here
Numbers is one of the add-on packs that can be purchased to extend the functionality of the base kit. It has tiles, similar to the Words pack, and you use these to solve a variety of mathematical equations. The nice thing about Numbers is that there is no timer forcing kids to rush into making mistakes, and there is always more than one way to make the target number. It’s fun, engaging and easy to pick up and get started.
The Osmo Numbers game is sold as a separate pack that can be used with the Osmo Starter Kit. However, you can also get something called the Osmo Genius Kit. This is essentially the Starter Kit with the Numbers pack included so you get the Osmo base unit, Tangram, Words and Number packs. For some reason, it is sometimes cheaper to buy the kits separately on Amazon than it is to buy the all-in-one Genius Kit, but that may vary depending on sales and special offers so be sure to check before you buy.
Osmo Creative Set
Although you can use the Newton, Masterpiece and Monster apps with paper or a classroom whiteboard, the Osmo Creative Set does add an extra layer of durability and convenience. It includes a dry erase whiteboard, six liquid chalk markers, and a microfiber pencil case that doubles as an eraser. Technically, you don’t need the Creative Set to interact and use the Osmo drawing apps, but many people do decide to purchase this add-on because of the way it seamlessly integrates with the Starter and Genius kits.
Note that you don’t get the Osmo base or any additional packs with the creative kit. You won’t be able to use the Newton, Masterpiece and Monster apps without having purchased the base kit. The Osmo Creative Set is only the whiteboard, markers and pencil case.
Coding With Awbie
Whether you are doing the Hour of Code or just looking for ways to introduce more problem solving activities with your students, Osmo Coding can help. Traditionally, coding is an on-screen activity. Everything you do involves typing or clicking and dragging things on a screen. Osmo Coding uses physical blocks that students can arrange to guide a engaging character called Awbie around a forest maze. It is simple, intuitive and instantly rewarding.
Osmo Coding starts off easy with lots of prompts and help for students, and although the difficulty level increases the more you play, it never seems to overwhelm. Best of all, you are largely free to code with whatever blocks you want. The prompt may suggest one set of blocks, but if students see another way to achieve the same objective then they can use the blocks that they decide fits best.
So, if you already have the Osmo Starter or Genius kit, Osmo Coding is a great addition for promoting logic and problem solving skills in your classroom.
Osmo Coding Jam
The success of Osmo Coding has led to a second coding pack called Coding Jam. In this version, kids combine magnetic coding blocks to create musical compositions that they can share with others. There are a variety of musical genres that can be created and a collection of fun characters that will play your musical compositions for you on the iPad. Although the coding blocks from Coding with Awbie will work on the introductory levels, Osmo say that you will still need to purchase the Coding Jam kit in order to take full advantage of this new game due to the specialized coding blocks that are unique to Coding Jam. Learn more in the video below.
Osmo Pizza Co.
Another one of Osmo’s newer additions is the Osmo Pizza Co. game. This entrepreneurial app puts students in the role of a pizza store owner. Customers arrive at your store to buy a variety of weird and wonderful pizzas that you need to make, cook and sell. When the customer has finished their meal, they pay you and students work out the correct change that is required for each customer. The app includes a variety of difficulty levels that let you choose whether students handle change in bills only or with a variety of coins. Customer tips are included for increasing the difficulty level.
There are a number of great real world applications for the Osmo Pizza Co. game. Everything from running your own business to authentic math skills that are embedded in a realistic context. The ability to upgrade your pizza store with the money you earn is a nice addition too because it forces kids to think about how much extra they will need to earn in order to buy that new pizza oven or upgrade their flooring. Even the expressions that the customers display when you make their pizza is great for kids who are still learning to recognize and interpret emotions. So, there is a lot to like here.
Additional Osmo Kits
As new packs are added to the Osmo line-up, the number of ways in which they can be combined as multi-packs continues to evolve. So, here are a few additional options that you may want to explore in order to save money on bulk purchases.
- The Osmo Genius Kit – includes the Osmo base unit as well as Words, Tangram, and Numbers packs.
- The Osmo Wonder Kit – includes the Osmo base unit as well as Words, Tangram, Numbers and Coding packs.
- The Osmo Explorer Kit – includes the Osmo base unit as well as Words, Tangram, Numbers and Coding packs. The Explorer kit also includes the Osmo Creative Set and is currently only available from the Osmo website.
- Classroom Kit – includes 4 base units, 4 word packs, 4 Tangram packs, 4 Numbers packs, a plastic storage system, 2 teacher’s guides and a classroom poster. This currently retails for $399. Available from the Osmo website.
- Classroom Kit + Coding – includes 4 base units, 4 word packs, 4 Tangram packs, 4 Numbers packs, 4 Coding kits, a plastic storage system, 2 teacher’s guides and a classroom poster. This currently retails for $595. Available from the Osmo website.
The recent release of iOS 10 unlocked a creative coding opportunity for iPad classrooms called Swift Playgrounds. It’s an iPad app that lets you solve interactive puzzles that are designed to help you learn the basics of how to code in a programming language called Swift. It is aimed at students aged 12 and over and is part of Apple’s Everyone Can Code initiative. So, if you are looking for new ways to start coding with students, this could be a great new platform for you to explore. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Swift?
Swift is an open source programming language that was developed by Apple engineers and released in 2014. It was created to help developers build apps for iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. Swift has its origins firmly rooted in another programming language called Objective-C, but Swift is generally considered to be more concise. The app, Swift Playgrounds, was developed to help introduce a younger audience to the finer points of programming with Swift, and to help foster a new generation of programmers for Apple devices.
Getting Started With Swift Playgrounds
Swift Playgrounds is only available for iPads running iOS 10 or later. You also need at least an iPad Air, or an iPad Mini 2, because these are the oldest devices that are capable of running the app. The iPad 2, the iPad 3, the iPad 4 and the original iPad Mini are not compatible Swift Playgrounds because they either can’t be upgraded past iOS 9 or lack the hardware necessary to run the Playgrounds app.
Once you launch the app you will see lessons at the top of the screen and coding challenges underneath. If your students have never programmed with Swift before, the lessons are the best place to start because they introduce you to the basics that students will need in order to attempt the challenges.Read More »