April 12, 2011

Most Used Productivity Apps

We have some new "iPad Using Educators" on our staff and I quickly typed up the apps I would suggest for any teacher with a new iPad. Here is the list of my favorite productivity apps; most of these I use daily. Let me know if any should be added to this list...am I missing out on something better!!??!!

App Shopper
Download 1st! This is not like the App Store already on the iPad. You can view the history of any app… price and updates. If the price fluctuates often and you don’t need the app immediately…wait…the price might drop and you will save a few dollars. Also, how often have there been updates? Is the developer making the app better? Are new features being added? Or, did the developer release it and never look back? This might not be a deciding factor for a kid’s game, but if it is an app you will utilize frequently and you are trying to decide which app is the best, this could be a deciding factor.
Good Reader
$4.99 (price has changed a few times)
I use this one all the time! You can save, view, annotate, and organize .Pdf, Office, iWork, .html, audio, and video files using Good Reader. I frequently find files online that I would like to save for later…all I do is open in Good Reader and I have it on my iPad for good. The files are easily organized and you can connect to DropBox, MobileMe, and other cloud services.
Dragon Dictation
Very easy for you AND students. Convert your speech to text…then email, save it as a .txt file, or copy and paste to another app (you can even post the text as a comment on Facebook or Twitter). I have found Dragon Dication to be very accurate everytime I have used the app…rarely do I edit to the text produced by the app. One thing I like to do with this app is “take notes” as I read articles on my iPad. While reading I will switch to Dragon Dictation, then say a summary of the article or points I want to remember, then say the website where I found the info.
I use this all the time! It’s like an online jump drive. Save any file from any computer, iPhone, or iPad to be viewed on any other computer, iPhone, or iPad. Easy, easy, easy and free, free, free! Highly recommended! When I am “out and about” my most accessed files are always available.
$4.99 (price has changed a few times)
Also used very frequently. This is an app to write notes with your finger or stylus…no typing required. There are different color pens, different widths, an eraser, a ton of emoticons, and pictures can be imported to write or draw on. Any of the notes can be emailed or saved to Dropbox (and other cloud services) as a .Pdf or an image. Easy, Easy, Easy! I have tried a few handwriting apps and this is the one I like best.
Lesson Plan app! Create lesson plans that can be emailed or printed. One reason I promote this app is the developer is very responsive to suggestions and requests. I “liked” his Planbook page on Facebook where I have found he answers all questions. The app is not perfect yet, but it’s close. There are 6 customizable text fields which I have named: Overview, Standards, Objectives, Opening/Explicit Instruction/Modeling, Guided Practice, Close/Review/Reflections.
Read It Later & Read It Later Pro
Free & $.99
Any article or website can be saved for viewing later. This is cool because when I come across an article or website I want to read but don’t have time, Read It Later allows me to save it on my iPad. Then when I am sitting at a practice, or doc office, or slow drive through, or wherever, those articles are waiting to be read.
Sticky Notes
Must have! Too Cute! This app uses the Bump API to allow users to pass sticky notes between iPads. Oh…imagine the possibilities with collaboration between small groups!
(iPod/iPhone app)
Create rubrics for quick and easy formative assessment during class or small groups. Quickly rate a student using the chosen rubric and add a comment when needed. Use the data for small group formation, behavior history, etc. Reports can be emailed or exported to an online account. Also, share rubrics with the online account or download rubrics created by others. My co-teacher is using this app to track progress of special ed students in RTI.
Bump (iPhone app)
“Bump” iPads and iPhones to exchange contact info, photos, and free apps.
HP iPrint
Print to any HP printer on the same network as the iPad. NOT AirPrint! Yes, that’s right, you read it right, no need to buy a new printer just to print with your iPad. HP iPrint will print .pdf, .txt, .jpg, .png, .tiff, and .bmp files on any HP printer. I print to a 7 year old HP LaserJet 1320 with this app! It is ssslllloooowww…but it gets the job done.
Photo Pal
$2.99 (price has changed a few times)
Out of all the photo editing apps I have tried…so far, this is my fave. Any photo on the iPad can be edited, even ones taken with your phone or another digital camera, just open them from DropBox. Fix red eye, resize, reduce shadows, add frames, crop, etc. Easy, easy, easy!

April 5, 2011

iPad Accessories

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Apple bluetooth keyboard. I highly recommend this keyboard to any iPad user. I have successfully been using this keyboard with the iPad 1 and 2 and have not encountered any problems so far. It has worked with every app and website. This was a very well spent $69!

It is light but still has a "good feel." When I have something to type that is more than one or two paragraphs, I whip out my keyboard, turn it on and type away. It is that easy!

Anyone that has been struggling to create content that requires larger amounts of text will not regret this purchase!

So far, I have not purchased a case for my keyboard. It lives in the very sturdy box it came in and I carry it in my huge "mom/teacher/doctor/snack master purse." When I am running from classroom to kitchen to bedroom to baseball field to basketball court to track meet and back to classroom, I throw my ipad and keyboard in my purse and I have everything I need to be productive where ever I find myself.


My students and I have been playing with the new HDMI adapter for the iPad2. So far, it has worked like a dream. Everything we have done on the iPad has been projected flawlessly with this adapter. Believe me...if you are an educator that has been struggling to project the iPad image with a document camera, video camera pointed towards the iPad screen, or whatever method you dreamt up, this adapter will be your new favorite accessory!

If I run into any troubles with the HDMI adapter, I will update this post with the details, but so far, smooth sailing with the iPad2 image projected nice and bright for the whole class to see!

April 4, 2011

Sharing Our Favorite Apps

Brainpop recently invited educators to share their favorite apps so they could be loaded on devices used in the Brainpop sponsored “Mobile Device Sandbox” at the Mobile Learning Experience Conference this week in Arizona. Participants will get to play with the newest mobile devices loaded with the all the apps reccommended.

I will follow up with more detailed review of apps used by myself and my students. Until then, here is a copy of my reply with our favorite apps…

My class’s 2 new favorites

Symmetry Shuffle and Sums Stacker by Daren Carstens
These apps are awesome! The visuals are fun and engaging, the games challenge the students to think beyond just knowledge and comprehension and require them to evaluate and analyze symmetrical Symmetry Shuffle shapes and transformations in and different ways to find sums in Sums Stacker. My students heart Daren Carstens and his creative, mathematical mind! We are writing him a letter to thank him and ask him to continue making great apps that make learning fun and challenging. I challenge you to play these apps and not get hooked…especially Symmetry Shuffle.

Our Other Favorites

Math Adventures – You are given numbers and you have to find where the number belongs on a blank 100’s chart. The first round it is a normal 100’s chart, then you have to look for patterns to figure out where the number is because after the first few rounds the chart might be ordered from right to left, bottom to top, etc.

Motion Math – Students work to identify where fractions, decimals, percents, and fraction models belong on a number line. They are addicted to this game…it is so hard to put it down once you get started…even I can’t stop because I want to see how high I can go.

Family Favorites

My pre-school age nieces and nephews love iWriteWords. For the last year they have been regularly playing this “game.” They trace the letter shown, say the letter, and then turn the iPad to make the letter drop into the hole at the bottom. They can practice upper and lower case letters, numbers, and words.

There are many, many more, but there is not enough room or time to write them all here!

March 27, 2011

iPad2 First Impressions

I am composing this blog with a brand new iPad2 using my new Bluetooth keyboard from Apple. Well, it's not actually my iPad...it's my step daughter's. It arrived this week and I have been playing with it almost every day since. The good news is my iPad2, which was scheduled to ship April 1st, shipped Friday! That's right, it shipped a week early! The journey for my new iPad2 began in China and it is now in Hong Kong. If it follows the same route as my step-daughter's, it will sit in Hong Kong for 3-4 days before coming to the U.S. by way of Alaska. I should be composing a post next weekend with my own iPad2. For now, I can blog about my first impressions of the iPad2 I confiscated from my step-daughter.

Case Design
My first thought was...it IS noticeably lighter and thinner, but I don't think it is necessarily easier to hold. I have been using it in my classroom, in the lunch room, on the playground, in bed with morning coffee, in the car (as a passenger of course), at the ball field, and at basketball practices...only to find I handle this one the same way I handle the original iPad. They are both easy to hold, extremely portable, and easy to use. I would take an iPad 1 or 2 over a 6 lb. laptop any day. And yes...I remember when that 15" 6 lb. laptop was a dream compared to my previous 14" 9 lb. laptop from 1995!

Is the new iPad so much faster that it justifies an upgrade? After doing side-by-side comparisons, the difference IS evident. Once my own iPad2 arrives, the apps are installed, and I begin using it daily I will blog about those comparisons.

Smart Cover
I am NOT impressed with the smart cover! It frequently falls off if I am not holding it just right. I almost dropped the iPad because the cover came off as I was walking down the hall while reading an article. I am not sure how I was holding it, but I had to "think fast" before it smashed on the floor. No, the cover was not made to pick up or hold the iPad with but I am thinking about 4th graders handling equipment in my classroom.  Even when it is not in my backpack just right, the cover pops off. When it is not held just right, the cover pops off. The only thing the cover provides is screen protection when not in use and the "coolness factor" of the iPad going to sleep when covered and waking up as the cover opens. Smart covers will not be ordered for my classroom or personal iPad. The "portfolio style" case I currently use and screen protectors with some other kind of case or cover for the classroom iPads will be the best bet.

Last night I took pictures and video during my daughter's basketball game. The still images lacked the quality one might expect from Apple devices. They remind me of images the first cell phone cameras produced, grainy and off color. The video was better than expected. From the top row of bleachers the detail of the action on the court was quite good. The 1½ min HD video ended up being 28 meg. Even with poor still image quality; iPad2 cameras will be excellent for 4th grade projects.

Overall, I am pleased with the iPad2. Are the new case design, speed, and cameras worth the money to upgrade? I think so…the case is not the deal maker, but the speed and cameras are. I use my iPad all day in every area of my life. I'm an iPad teacher, iPad mom, iPad wife, iPad homework helper, iPad this and iPad that. I am able to analyze test scores with the other 4th grade teachers in the cafeteria during lunch, reward students with “math app time” on the playground during recess (yes, students choose math skill practice over playing chase), refer to the school calendar during grade level planning meetings, take notes during faculty meetings, work on lesson plans while monitoring basketball practice, search for math apps while watching baseball practice, and I could go on and on and on and on and on... If you are considering an upgrade, will the speed and cameras make a difference for you? I already have a project in the works to use Face Time with the manager of our local UPS center to show my 4th graders the importance of math in every job at UPS and we will do the same with other local businesses. Again, I could go on and on and on and on listing the benefits of this technology in a classroom (and I will in future blogs). For any teacher that has not yet purchased an iPad…I say, “Go for it!” You will not be disappointed. Continue reading blogs like this one for ideas and app reviews and in no time you will blog about how the iPad has become an indispensible tool in your classroom.

On another note...I love this new Bluetooth keyboard! I should not have waited so long to get one. It is great for typing stuff that is too long for the hunt and peck method used with the on screen keyboard or handwriting notes app. This keyboard is small, light, and portable. It took 30 seconds to pair with the iPad and I was typing up a storm! Now, I need to find a cool case to carry the keyboard...preferably one that matches my iPad case!

March 12, 2011

Brand New iPad 2 Owner...Almost

After going back and forth with a decision to upgrade to an iPad2 I finally decided to do it...I am a proud owner of an iPad2. Well...almost...I actually don't have one YET...

As a new iPad die hard fan I felt should stand in line to be one of the first new owners, but I was too late. We don't have an Apple store in our area so I had to decide between Target, Walmart, or Best Buy. Our local Target had 4 white 32gig iPads, Walmart had 5 different ones, and Best Buy had 25. As soon as I could I left school, got the kids situated with surrogates for basketball and softball practice duty, and headed to town. I called Best Buy to ask how many people were in line and there were already too many people for me to actually bring home an iPad...so I dedided to abort the mission.

With my now out-dated iPad1, I brought my boys to basketball. While watching them practice I ordered a white 16gig 3G iPad, however, I was disappointed with the ship date! Apple began selling the new iPad online at 3:00am my time. My step-daughter ordered one at 5:30am and her's is scheduled to ship March 15th. I finally ordered one around 6:00pm and mine is scheduled to ship April 1st! So, I will have to commandeer my step-daughter's when it arrives!

I will post as soon as I have one. I sure hope the extra speed and camera option is worth the money to upgrade! I have a feeling I am not going to be disappointed.

March 10, 2011

My First Post

I am not an "early adopter" of technology...I like to wait and see how it goes with new tech before I put out the money. When the iPad was released I laughed at all the hype and excitement as people waited in lines to buy an iPad. I knew I may get one, but it would be after lots of research on wether it would be an appropriate tool for for organization, collaboration, creation, and effective for use for a teacher and students in 4th grade math classroom.

Last summer, June 2010, I went to the Apple store to get an iPhone4 and left with an iPhone3GS and an iPad. I told my husband if he had been with me he would have gotten one too! How can someone walk into an Apple store and not leave with an iPad...it was so much fun playing with it in the store!

Since then, my iPad has become my main device for reading, communications, creating lessons, research, collaboration, you name it. It took a while to get to this point, but now, I could not imagine working without one. Until a few months ago I toted a laptop back and forth between school and home everyday...now, only when I have a large amount of typing or I am making flipcharts for class, which is once or twice a week and I bring it home on weekends.

The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences for all teachers considering purchasing an iPad, already using an iPad, or for old pros looking for new ideas! By the way, the iPad2 goes on sale tomorrow! You just might see me in one of those long lines...I can't wait to get my hands on one!