Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Great Apps for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Another set of recommended apps that I garnered at ADE 2010 Summer Institute:

Drawing Pad (iPad) $1.99 - “Apple Staff Favorite." Create your own art using "actual size" photo-realistic crayons, markers, paint brushes, colored pencils, stickers, roller pens, etc.

WolframAlpha (iPhone or iPad) $1.99 -- Amazing reference tool for two bucks. Remarkably good at seeking out information and determining a specific answer including advanced mathematics and chemistry! Oh, and did I tell you it also has crossword puzzles and other games?

Omni Note (iPhone) $2.99 -- is modeled after the intuitive notepad which comes withe the iPhone and iPod touch. But this app holds tons of stuff-- photos, drawings, voice memos. It also allows note filing by categories. A great little bargain for someone on the go.

Hipstamatic (iPhone) $1.99-- This app allows you to give your digital photos analog effects. Brings back the unpredictable feel of the legendary 1982 toy camera. Allows for lens swaps. Characterized by blurring, oversaturation, slight discoloration. Fun Photoshop-like stuff.

Proloquo2Go -- (iPhone or iPad) $189 - Most of us are not going to shell out $189 for an app. But what if it restored your ability to "speak" with others. Roger Ebert, a papillary thyroid cancer survivor, brought this app to national attention and it was named the top medical app of 2009. I wanted to give a shout out to this tremendous special education tool.

Evernote -- (iPhone or iPad) free - Write notes, clip web sites, take photos, add videos -- all of these can be synchronized across all of your devices. You can use can use Evernote on your desktop, the web, iPhone, and iPad or on the mobile web (iPhone for me). For those of you who miss Google Notebook, this is even better!

Story Kit (iPhone) free - Are you looking for a fun educational app for a young child? Story kit is a multimedia app that allows you and your child to combine photos, your own noises and drawings and text. Ideal for playful learning.

Penultimate (iPad) $2.99 - This is a simple sketch pad tool with that produces elegant script. When you draw or write with a finger the virtual ink looks as though it were written with a gel pen. You can easily adjust the thickness and color of the ink. People at my school would certainly sit up and take notice that this functionality is available for $2.99!

Screen shot of Drawing Pad featured at iTunes App Store

Monday, July 26, 2010

Future of the Book

Two weeks ago , at the ADE Summer Institute 2010, I had the good fortune to room with Robert Andersen , professor of Humanities and Language at Oakland Community College, Auburn Hills, Campus. Bob and I share a strong mutual interest in film, as well as educational technology. However, he is light years ahead of me in terms of technical skills. Given his professional background in film editing, it was unsurprising that his project group chose him to edit their movie on Final Cut Pro, "Future of the Book". Many of the groups worked late into the night before the projects were due, so I wasn't surprised to find his whole gang gathered in our room after midnight. "Connected . . . . connected . . .connected" I heard played well into the night and bright and early the next day. But they came up with a nice piece:

Within days after returning home, I came across the following news:

* Amazon announced that Kindle books were outselling hardcovers.

* Both Apple and Amazon have already added functionality to the Kindle and iPad that will allow their ebooks to include embedded audio and video as well as other goodies, just as the speakers in the Future of the Book are requesting.

Sounds to me like the future is at hand. I think we educators should start insisting that the book publishers start producing 21st century media for our students.

A shout out to Bob's project teammates: Jill Burdo, Charlene Chausis, Chris Penny, Bill Rankin, Harry St. Ours

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Great Apps for Educators-- iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

As promised, I'm passing along a set of apps that were recommended to me at the ADE Summer Institute, last week. Some of the language is cribbed from the iTunes store descriptions or reviews.

Dragon Dictation (free iPad & iPhone app)-- Easy-to-use voice recognition. Allows you to speak and instantly see your text message or email messages. This sucker is amazingly accurate. (Last night I dictated an errorless three sentence email).

ProPrompter (Terrific on iPad, but also available on iPhone). This costs $9.99 but turns your iPhone or iPad into a teleprompter with terrific eas. Create a script in “text”, go to the ProPrompter web site. You can then synch with your mobile.

Puppet Pals (for iPad) -- Very fun. Free. Pick your actors and backdrops. Drag them to the stage and hit record. Your movements and audio will be recorded as a movie.

Dropbox -- Free. (iPhone + iPad) -- In a recent post I raved about the usefulness of Dropbox. This app will allow you to share a folder with on any computing device that you use, including your iPhone Touch, iPhone, and iPad.

Instapaper -- IPhone [free/$4.99] + iPad $4.99) - This app allows the user to save web pages for later reading. These are stored for viewing anywhere, including your PC or Mac.

Good Reader -- (iPad & iPhone) $0.99 Several ADEs raved about this. It is a superb pdf reader. works with google docs. Pdfs (and all sorts of other files) conform to your screen with wrap-around text. Great bargain for less than a buck.

“Band” -- This is an iPhone ($3.99) band in a box with a collection of virtual instruments that allows anyone, regardless of musical ability, to go beyond just listening to other people's music on the iPhone or iPod Touch, and actually create music themselves from scratch.

Doodle Buddy (free iPad & iPhone app) -- Allows you or your child to finger paint on your iPhone or iPad. Great fun!

Check back next week for another list!
iPad screenshot from iTunes App Store

Monday, July 19, 2010

Web Resource Recommendations (All Free!)

Last week at the 2010 Apple Distinguised Educator Institute, I attended many workshops and presentations. Today I am passing along a variety of free resources that were highlighted by fellow ADEs.

Appolicious is a highly recommended site for getting the lattest news on Droid and iPhone apps. It has blogs, reviews, "best of" lists, etc. I learned about this one at a workshop given by Mike Amante.

The Visual Thesaurus is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus which creates word maps that blossom with meanings and branch to related words.

Bill Rankin recommended a book which gives tips on slide presentations. Go to A Good Man to get a free copy of Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good People.

Wikimatrix helps you find wikis that match your personal needs. It features customized searches and side by side comparisons of wiki features.

Are you looking to replace your Ning? Edmodo is a secure environment for creating a private social media site. It has a simple interface and extraordinary features. It comes highly recommended from fellow '09 ADE, Robert Miller

Xtranormal is a web-site powered by a web-based application used to create short 3D animated movies from simple text-based movie-scripts. The characters in the movie speak the dialogue in the script, and react to performance triggers—icons that are dropped directly into the script. Quite addictive.

Come back on Thursday for some recommended iPhone and iPad apps.


Screen shot from from an Xtranormal movie

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Steven Spielberg, Dropbox and Me

Both of my posts this week conform to the "down in the trenches" theme of this blog. While I am not slogging it out in the classroom this summer, I am trying to develop actual solutions for real classes, using available technologies. No pontificating guru, I.

Recently I added to my collection of resources for my film class. I've described this process before: I write a script or outline and lay down a soundtrack with GarageBand. I then select jpegs and drop them and the soundtrack into PhotoToMovie. It took about five hours to synch the photos with the sound in the following ten minute movie :

This Speilberg movie has two new elements. Most of the Minority Report stills were captured with Voila. And I completed my work across two computers, using Dropbox. Dropbox is free. As described on its home page, this is what it does:

Put your files into your Dropbox on one computer, and they'll be instantly available on any of your other computers that you've installed Dropbox on (Windows, Mac, and Linux too!). Because a copy of your files are stored on Dropbox's secure servers, you can also access them from any computer or mobile device.

I have already added the link for my Spielberg movie to Moodle. My students will be required to listen to it. I hope you will sample a couple of minutes, voluntarily!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Digital Anthology update

Last year, my major project for the summer was for my AP American Government and Politics class. I posted this plan at that time:

I am using Google Docs to collate my materials. The hyperlink feature (see Hyperlink Heaven) allows me to pull all the resources into one space. After seven years I have a pretty clear idea of the kinds of topics I want to include for my students. As I pull together the resources, I also compose critical thinking topics, which I compose in a different color text)

Next school year, besides saving my students fifty dollars, I will break by anthology into course
packs which correspond to each unit. Students will have direct links to the resources with attendant topics to write, vlog, blog about (according to instructions).

The plan succeeded in nearly every respect, and I promoted the concept at MAME 36 and to our school staff on in-service day.

But since the strength of the anthology is its ability to stay current with events, it was time for an update. While I did add materials on the fly during the school year, I usually just bookmarked them for later consideration. By last month the bookmarks had accumulated to over fifty, and I felt like a slacker. But I'm glad that I procrastinated. As I sifted through the bookmarks last week, I found that many of the articles which had seemed very interesting a few months ago, already had lost their zest.

The anthology is organized into seventeen chapters which correspond to our text (available as an ebook of course!). I added material to eight of the chapters and deleted many old pieces, so I am pleased with the new level of currency. But I also have two regrets:

1) I could sense as I was adding some interesting sources to the later chapters of the anthology that they would probably not seem so great when we are finally ready for them in 2011. But the day to day time-consuming tasks of classroom teaching make it pretty difficult to freshen the anthology a priority during the school year.

2) I only added two multi-media resources to the updated anthology. This was also due to very practical reasons-- it is much easier to browse an article than a chunk of television program or a podcast.

Despite these regrets I am happy to share a slice of the 2010-11 Digital Anthology. (The red text describe the assignments which correspond to the resources.)

Feedback is welcome!
Screen Capture from MAME 36 "Digital Anthology" presentation.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Experimenting with Assessments

Last school year, I taught six sections of American Government. And I had very positive results with the projects I designed for the class. These resulted in multi media products, presentations, self-reflections and other unconventional means of assessment. Nevertheless, most of the assessment for the class was dominated by a variety of conventional quizzes and tests.

I ended the school year determined to shake this habit. Somewhat cautious (or perhaps practical) by nature, rather than tackle the entire course in one fell swoop, I decided to address the first unit. My first impulse, as usual, was to over-complicate everything. I tried to correct this, but I'm sure I will create plenty of confusion on the first go-round.

Here are the main features:

* Students choose from a menu of assessments.

* Within the conventional testing choices there are options.

* A project assessment (two choices) is available instead of some of the testing.

* A pass/fail pathway is available to a top grade.

* Students can stick with conventional testing if they (or their parents choose).

* Students will track their own progress toward their grades.

Possible Strengths

- The variety of assessments should allow for more individualized personal assessment.

- This should work well as a pilot-- With three classes in the Fall I will generate lots of feedback.

- I think I have come up with a couple of interesting multimedia ideas that are valid tests of authentic knowledge.

Possible Weaknesses

- By only sticking a toe in the water of alternative assessment, I may actually generate little enthusiasm for the alternatives.

- It's still likely to be pretty confusing for students, I'm afraid.

- I want to try this out early in the semester so that I can build upon it if I choose, but the earliness may only compound the confusion.

Please check out the plan. Feedback of any sort is welcome:

"Studying Hard" Flickr Creative Commons photo by Dean+Barb

Monday, July 5, 2010

Re-imagining Learning in the 21st Century

Last year, Karen Cator was one of the leaders at the 2009 ADE Summer Institute (USA). She led the Challenge Based Learning piece of the Institute. She was hands-on during the process and her conversations with my project group had a terrific impact upon me.

Since then, Karen has become the Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. Recently Karen spoke at a MacArthur Foundation event at New York City's New School which focused on re-imagining learning for the 21st century. I have included a video of that event. Karen's remarks start at the 4:29 mark.

Karen's theme theme on this occasion was "Re-imagining Learning in the 21st Century". Three points in particular resonated with me:

*The current trends in educational technology are
- Mobility
- Learning outside of formal school
- Proliferation of digital content
- Publication going from print to online

Keys to 21st Century Assessment include:
- Measure what matters
- Embedded assessment
- Real time feedback
- Persistent learning
- Universal design

* And this great quote: "A highly effective teacher is one who is connected-- connected to the data, to the information, to the content and resources. . . connected to experts, and connected to learning environments for themselves and learning experiences for themselves. . . ."

Good stuff. Give Karen a listen. What resonates with you?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Today's Take-out from the Opinion Drive-thru

Today, I'm sharing quotes form three of my go-to sources:

"We say we want our kids to be problem solvers, but all too often, when faced with the challenges of a changing educational landscape, we don’t offer solutions. Instead, we offer excuses as to why we shouldn’t solve the problem, why it’s better to just keep on keepin’ on. And solving these problems is getting easier and easier, actually, as more and more schools have already done the heavy lifting to find and implement solutions. It’s not like anyone needs to reinvent the wheel any more. And it’s also not like you need a solution overnight, either. Frame the problem, create a timeline and a process, and have at it. If you had say, two years, is there really NO way to solve that access problem?"

(About homework) "The key is in having kids do things outside of class that will complement or drive things within class; problem is that too often homework not only fails to do this, but in fact instills bad habits and resentment towards school in general. As the school-day itself is gradually redefined over the course of the next decade, I do think however that our concept of what exactly homework is will change."

"Many leaders pride themselves on setting high-level direction: I'll set the vision and stay out of the details. It is true that a compelling vision is critical . . . . But it is no enough. Big-picture, hands off leadership isn't likely to work in a change situation, because the hardest part of the change-- the paralyzing part-- is precisely in the details."

"Take Out" with generous permission of americanvirus

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