Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lots of Fun iPad news!

Three days ago I sent this memo to staff:

Our iPads have shipped.

Today I blogged about the apps that we expect to pre-load on the iPads.  We exercised restraint so as not to overwhelm you with too many apps and redundant functions.  I think you might be interested in reviewing the thumb nail descriptions I have included with our list:  http://it.mhsmi.org/?p=333

Tom and Gary did a day's training last week on the software they will use to add apps for your students "on the fly".  We have devised a scheme to completely segregate personal purchases and classroom purchases.  The classroom purchases will go through department chairs and Tom, but they can be deployed within hours to specified iPads.  I will explain this plan at Curriculum on Wednesday.

Personal downloads will be entirely possible for you and the students.  Parents will understand that the personal account will never be used for required classroom apps.  And of course you can explore apps (so many of which are free) on your own this way.  Though the iPad will belong to the school,  your personal downloads will remain yours at iTunes.

I'll stop now, having probably reached the "too much information" point.  But going forward, don't hesitate to ask any questions to the three of us on the IT Team.  We're geeked!

With Tom's and Gary's expertise, the Casper Suite will administer our App deployment

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Apps and Methods

CloudOn Brings Microsoft Office Apps To iPads
If you’re a frequent Microsoft Office user, then this is a must-have iPad app. Until Microsoft releases an official iOS version of its Office suite, this is the best alternative on an iOS device.

QR Coded Student Videos: Classifying Activity
Have them generate QR Codes for each video they created using a service such http://goqr.me/ or  YouTube Video QR Code Generator.  These are generated by inserting the YouTube video URL to general the QR code.

Professor’s Classroom iPad App Debuts
A professor from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is trying to turn the iPad into a new kind of classroom tool that lets students draw on a shared canvas.
Inkling Creates First Industrial-Grade Publishing Platform For Interactive eBooks
The team set out to build a publishing platform that would redefine digital media, starting with reinventing the textbook. But in doing so, they’ve discovered that to reinvent books, they’ve had to go back to ground zero and re-imagine the entire printing process itself.
Twitter Helps Journalists Break News
Researchers at Rutgers University and Microsoft developed Seriously Rapid Source Review to give journalists access to breaking news like never before. Reporters won’t have to comb the web — or Twitter’s 200 million tweets a day — for sources.

Scanner Apps Turn the Phone Into a Fax Machine
The scanning process is fairly consistent, regardless of the app. You take a photo of a page, preferably in good light. The software scans the image and lets you crop it before a version is created for sharing. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Mercy iPad Package!

This is the announcement I published on March 18 for our Mercy families:

After extensive research and consideration,  we have selected the "Mercy iPad Package".  Seventy new iPads have been ordered for staff, and after we have finalized our work flow and operationalized our web site, we will begin taking orders from new students (required) and current students (optional).

The Mercy iPad package will be slightly more expensive than anticipated because we have included two extremely worthwhile upgrades:
* Staff and students will have the new iPad which was introduced by Apple on March 7.  It will be the basic Wi-Fi model, but we have chosen to double its standard storage to 32 gigabytes.  As David Pogue recently noted, "the graphics in Retina-ready apps consume two to three times as much of the iPad’s non expandable storage."  We also want the iPads to contain sufficient storage for digital textbooks which consume considerable storage with their multimedia content.  The  cost of this iPad will be $579 (normally $599).

*On March 7, Apple also announced that AppleCare+ would be available for iPad.  This deluxe warranty costs $20 more than what we had planned, because it covers accidental damage .  (Users are allowed two incidents of accidental damage, each of which will require a $49 service fee).  This warranty also provides two years of service and 24 hour telephone technical support.  The cost to Mercy families' will be $79 (normally $99).

We are currently selecting a protective case with Mercy logo ($20-25).  An app fee  of $50 will be charged for the bountiful apps that will be included on the Mercy iPad.  (Many of these apps will be obtained at half price through volume purchasing).  Mercy's only tiny slice of the entire transaction will be  a $15 fee for processing the order. The total cost (before sales tax) of the Mercy iPad package will be about $750.

We are planning to host a special iPad "launch", the evening of May 14th for new and current students.  Families may examine the iPads, ask questions, and place orders.  In addition, we hope to have some vetted accessories like keyboards available for purchase through a third party.  Attending will not be necessary-- We wish to offer this as a convenience to our valued partners in this exciting adventure.

We will keep our families informed as these plans develop.  In the mean time feel free to contact me with questions.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

App Recommendations from MACUL 2012

Naturally, when I was at the Macul Conference last week, I was on the look out for promising iPad apps.  Here are half a dozen that I have downloaded to my iPad for future investigation:

"Zite is a free personalized magazine for your iPad that automatically learns what you like and gets smarter every time you use it. Zite delivers all the great news, articles, blogs, and videos you want – and helps you discover new stuff that you'll love."

"This is by far the best periodic table app out there. It's receiving continuous updates and it's free."
EMD's dynamic periodic table of the elements

"With Wolfram|Alpha on your iPad, you can explore a vast world of knowledge, whether hanging out at the local coffee shop or relaxing on your couch. Use Wolfram|Alpha to discover new information about the world and to breathe expert knowledge into any facet of your life."  

"There’s so much power built into iPhoto for iOS, you need to touch it to believe it. Using only your fingers, you can make a blue sky bluer. A landscape greener. Or a smile brighter. From the moment you touch the screen, the way you see things will never be the same."

Prezi Viewer
"View and present your prezis anywhere with simple, intuitive multitouch gestures. Drag to pan and pinch to zoom in or out of topics, just like you do in any map apps. Revise and retouch your prezis, correct typos and adjust your presentation on-the-fly. Prezi Viewer is the perfect companion to your Prezi experience."

Explain Everything
"Explain Everything is an easy-to-use design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations. You can create dynamic interactive lessons, activities, assessments, and tutorials using Explain Everything's flexible and integrated design." 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Thoughts from MACUL 2012

I participated in the 2012 MACUL Conference last week.  This was a state-wide ed tech convention attended by 4,000 educators.  Though Susan Smith, Ann Lusch, And I presented (Free Multimedia Activities for Secondary Students That Don't Gobble Time!)  for an hour, most of our time was spent attending other presentations.  
While they are fresh on my mind, I wanted to share some general impressions:
* Presently, the Michigan Ed tech world is for better or worse, being swept by iPad mania.  The sessions about iPad were jammed or even closed (like the one on assessment that I really hoped to attend)..  My colleagues and I agreed that at least half of the educators carrying devices were carrying iPads.
*One such jammed session was hosted by the Zeeland Public Schools who are a year ahead of us in 1:1 implementation.  The planning and integrity of their implementation impressed me greatly.  But I also found myself reassured that our own Mercy 2.0 is addressing the key challenges that we will be facing.

*Zeeland pointed out that no longer is a "business" model being held up to educators as they seek to integrate technology.  With the iPad, schools like Zeeland (us!) are ahead of businesses.
*The iPad instructional apps that I found most interesting took advantage of the camera or microphone.  These clearly were game changers  

*Programmed physical objects like blocks and cubes will be entering classrooms soon.  They contain sensors and capacities that allow them to be used for tactile challenges and demonstrations. They are can be linked 
to each other and/or mobile devices.  Strange, fascinating stuff.
"Programmable matter" at M.I.T.

*The most basic session I attended was for school administrators.  I left, but the rest of the room seemed at rapt attention.  I guess you could look at this as a good or bad sign.

*At long last there was very little talk of "21st Century Skills".  It's about time. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

MACUL 2012 Conference

Today,  we are making a presentation at the MACUL state conference in Grand Rapids, MI.  I will be joined by two of Mercy High School's department chairpersons, Ann Lusch (Religious Studies) and Susan Smith (Art).  Our topic will be  "Free Multimedia Activities for Secondary Students That Don't Gobble Time!"

We hope to fly through as many tech tools and lessons as our time constraints allow. By taking a multi-disciplinary approach, we hope to inspire rather than instruct.  In other words, rather than laboriously showing our lessons, we hope to give a taste of several easy recipes, hoping that each person in attendance will find one or two things for his or her students. 

Here are the slides that we will use at our presentation:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Daily Apps-etizers!

I did a lot of driving this weekend.  And while on the road, I was reflecting on how so many of my work habits have changed in a year.  Along with new assignments and responsibilities, I have adopted some new apps to help me get my work done.  Here is a short list of the apps I use on a daily basis as part of my "work."

I mentioned in iPad Projects that I was trying out some new cloud-based project management software called Basecamp.  I currently have a dozen work and personal projects going on it.  I have to admit the only features I am taking full advantage of are the "To Do" lists and Milestones", but I check them daily and use them to push my projects forward.

Kindle App
Many people don't realize that Amazon's Kindle Books are readable from all varieties of computers and mobile devices.  All of my course texts are on Kindle and I read them across three different computers as well as my iPad.  I've so quickly gotten used to it that the thought of actually hauling the old-fashioned course books around seems inconceivable to me.

PDf Expert
PDF Expert "lets you read and annotate PDF documents, highlight text, make notes, draw with your finger and save these changes which are compatible with Preview and Adobe Acrobat."  When I am going to give a short presentation, I usually toss my file into PDF Expert and add notes to it from my iPad, right up to the last second.

Dropbox is not new to me, but I now store 95% of my file there.   The only reason I ever use a USB flash drive is for sharing with another person.  I have only recently used shared dropbox folders to gather files from students, but when I check in with you next school year, you can imagine that it will have become one of my standard practices.

As an administrator, I've had to get used to bouncing from one meeting to another.  I now take virtually all of my notes on Noteshelf for iPad.  Its fluid handwriting features are really nice and the export functions to Evernote and Dropbox seal the deal!

I am quite addicted to Flipboard for iPad.  While my employer does not directly benefit from my predilection to start flipping through its pages while I am supposed to be listening at one of the aforesaid meetings, this blog certainly does.  I get more inspiration for blog postings and stay better abreast ed tech gossip via Flipboard than any other single source.  It has displaced my Google RSS Reader in this regard.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Back in the Saddle with CBL

My AP Government students and I have been banging our heads against our Make a Difference CBL project.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is the most abstract challenge that I have dished out.  What is more, I put the students on a pretty tight timeline. I knew all this, but what I forgot is how foreign the methodology can be for the kinds of students who have the academic confidence to elect an AP course.  They have experienced success with conventional assignments, and were pretty flummoxed by CBL's open-endedness and lack of teacher-direction.

At first I was pretty disappointed by how slowly they were rolling into action.  During the initial stage of conjuring up questions about the challenge, they explored the topic in a narrow or cursory way.  I snapped back on their shared Google Docs and gave out some low grades (temporary), which got everyone's attention.  However, I have to say that looking back on it, I took much for granted.  I insufficiently communicated the rigor necessary to truly tackling the challenge.

Last week, I "surprised" them with three prompts and asked them to make a spoken reflection (They had a half hour of class).  The prompts:

1) Single out a team member and explain a notable contribution that she has made thus far to the project.
2) When asked, what would your team members say that you have contributed?
3) What fresh knowledge have you gained from this experience to date?

I was blown away by what I heard: great ideas, terrific research, and impressive teamwork. I am reassured that the girls are on the "right track" (whatever that may be!), and I am excited about the solutions that may be in store.

I thought you might like to hear a sample. Christina has given me permission to share Christina's reflection.

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