Guide to Using Free Apps to Support Higher Order Thinking Skills

Lisa Johnson and Yolanda Barker have published an eBook titled Hot Apps 4 HOTS: A Guide to Using Free Apps to Support Higher Order Thinking Skills. The book includes nine step-by-step activities that focus on each level of Bloom's taxonomy and includes loads of links to further resources. Like the title says, Lisa and Yolanda write about free apps and most of them work on both iPads and iPod touches. Here are the apps used in the activities:

Along with the apps, the book is also a free download in the iBooks Store. Thanks Lisa and Yolanda for putting together this helpful resource!



Gathering of Mobile-Minded Educators

Have you heard? Classroom teachers, technology coordinators, administrators, special educators, and others interested in reaching today's students are gathering in Phoenix, Arizona April 11-13 for Mobile Learning Experience 2012

This is the second year for Mobile Learning Experience. I'm on the planning team and I have to say that Mobile Learning Experience 2011 was one of my favorite conferences ever. And now Mobile2012 is shaping up to be even better!

Mobile Learning Experience 2012 has already received registrations from all over the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. It's very powerful to network with those in attendance. In fact, even if there was no program the conference would still be incredible because of the passion those in attendance bring.

However, Mobile2012 does indeed have a program. A very strong one. There are over 60 breakouts sessions scheduled over the three days lead by impressive speakers. Daily keynoters include Jaime Kasap of Google, Eric Marcos of, and Graham Brown-Martin of Learning Without Frontiers.

You might be interested in looking over the daily agendas or browsing the session descriptions in PDF or in iBooks for iPad. You can download those documents on the Schedule + Materials page of Do check back often because those documents will have updates.

Here's a word cloud made from the titles and descriptions from the keynote and breakout sessions:

Siri has a little something to say about Mobile Learning Experience 2012.

And I had a little something to say about the conference on Mobile Reach #20 and MacReach#31 podcasts. Others are talking about Mobile Learning Experience 2012 on Twitter using the hastag #mobile2012. Furthermore, Felix Jacomino has made a public Twitter list for speakers at the Mobile2012.

To keep an intimate atmosphere, Mobile Learning Experience 2012 will have no more than 300 participants. Registration ends March 19th or when all 300 slots are filled, so get your registration in soon!


iOS Math Apps by Teachers

You've probably heard of apps developed by kids, like Bustin Jieber by twelve-year-old Thomas Suarez and MathTime by fifth grader Owen Voorhees and his slightly younger brother Finn. It's really great to see youth creating apps. It's also fantastic to see educators developing apps. I'd like to tell you about two new math apps and the teachers who made them.

William Gann is a fifth grade teacher in Willard, Missouri. He codes his own math apps with input from his students. He started with an iOS app to help practice rounding. His newest offering is a game called 32 where the objective to to combine given numbers to make an expression that equals 32. It's a great way for students to apply their knowledge of the Order of Operations. 32 is available for 99¢ as an iPhone/iPod touch app or as an iPad app.

William has developed other math apps, including ones that address multiplication, division, prime numbers, and more. Search for William Gann in the App Store to see all of his apps. Also, check out the KY3 News story that features William: Willard 5th Grade Math Students are using iPods with Some of Their Teacher's Own Apps in Class. 

Kevin Scritchfield teaches math at Sierra High School in California. He worked with a developer to make the first of what he hopes to be many apps. This first app is for iPad and is called Alge-Bingo. Kevin says the game is great for Pre-Algebra and Algebra I students who are just learning how to solve equations. He priced Alge-Bingo at 99¢.


32 and Alge-Bingo are just two of the many great apps for math out there, and it's nice that they are brought to us by ambitious classroom teachers.




Craving more math apps? I'm keeping a list of good and (mostly) free math apps on my Pinterest board.



What I Bought in 2011

It's that time when like to tell about the gadgets I bought throughout the year. Just like I did for 2009 and 2010, I give you some of my favorite purchases. I did not include Apple products because you probably already know about those.


Germ Gaudian Mini UV-C Light Wand
Touchscreen-based computer manufactures do not want you to use chemicals to clean their devices. Solvents and abrasive products can wear away the oleophobic (grease-repelling) coating. Yes, you can use a lightly damp cloth to remove goobers, but that does not sanitize the surface. In fact, studies have shown shared touchscreen devices can be crawling with bacteria. UV-C light wands like the Germ Guardian Mini Light Wand kill bacteria when used close to an area for about 10 seconds. In addition to hand washing and hand sanitizing, a UV-C light wand can help prevent your technology from spreading germs. This one runs on four AA batteries and has been tough enough to be passed around many of my workshops.


Cocoon Grid-It Organizer
I love to be organized, and it's an essential skill for me since I travel so much. I thought I was clever last year when I began carrying around pencil cases that organized my cables, cords, and gadgets. This year my friend Rosy Escandon introduced me to her Grid-It, and it was love at first sight. Grid-It is simply a sturdy board with elastic bands attached. The elastic holds my cords, cables, and gadgets all in one spot. I can pull my Grid-It out of my bag and can easily find what I'm looking for. Grid-It comes in different sizes. I started with a 12" x 8" and moved up to the 15" x 11".


Acer Iconia Tab A500 10.1-Inch Tablet Computer
While I'm a happy iPad user, I wanted to get to know Google's Android operating system so I bought this Acer tablet. When I bought it in the spring there weren't as many Android tablet choices as there is now. I've downloaded dozens of apps, and it's a fairly capable computer. I have a charging station set up in my office where my devices tend to hang out. When it's time to grab one, I don't usually go for the Acer Iconia Tab. My iPad 2 seems faster, holds a charge longer, and has better apps. Also, I prefer iPad's 4:3 screen aspect ratio to the tall/long and awkward-feeling 16:9 ratio of  Iconia and most Android-based tablets. If you're looking for an Android tablet, today it looks like the Android tablet of choice is the Asus Transformer Prime, unless you consider Kindle Fire.


Amazon Kindle Fire
Kindle Fire has an attractive price tag at $200. At half the cost of an iPad 2, it lacks cameras and a microphone. Fire's touchscreen is 7 inches, which is half the screen real-estate of iPad, but Fire can be held in one hand. $200 makes the Fire a possible iPod touch competitor. Unlike iPod touch and iPad, Kindle Fire does not have parental controls. In fact, there's currently no way to turn off purchases on the device. That's a problem because Kindle Fire does not ask for a password when making purchases--it all works through Amazon's 1-Click feature. (A workaround at this time is to remove credit card information from your 1-Click payment settings. To make a future purchase, you'll have to put that credit card number back into your 1-Click settings.)  I'm sure Amazon will issue software updates making Fire more child and school friendly. While I don't think Kindle Fire is ready to be purchased by schools, those working in Bring Your Own Device environments may be seeing lots of these 7-inch devices, especially after Christmas. Kindle Fire runs a version of Android, but Amazon has customized the look and feel so much that you might not realize it is Android. Fire gets its apps from Amazon's Appstore for Android, but it doesn't have as many apps as Google's Android Market. Curious about the apps that are available? Check out Amazon's page showcasing some "essential" apps.


MiFi 4510L Wi-Fi 4G LTE Portable Hotspot
I travel a lot and I can't always depend on connecting a Wi-Fi network. Often the schools where I conduct workshops won't let my devices on their network (or it takes too many bureaucratic and technical steps to allow me to connect to their network). My MiFi hotspot gets its internet from the Verizon network. If I'm in a location with 4G, the speed can rival that of what I get with my home cable internet. MiFi takes that Verizon signal and shares it with up to five devices that connect to it through Wi-Fi. Yes, I have to pay a monthly fee and had to sign a two-year contract, but for me it's worth it. I never have to pay for hotel or airport internet--and I even have internet in the car if I want it. There is a 5 GB monthly cap, so MiFi won't replace my home cable internet connection.


Western Digital Passport Essential SE USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
I travel with a MacBook Air that has a relatively small 256 GB hard drive. 256 GB is not large enough for me to carry around all of the files I like to travel with. So, I got a portable external hard drive. Portable is important because that means it doesn't require a power outlet; the drive gets its power through USB. The drive I bought has USB 3.0, which my Mac doesn't have, but it still works great and seems quite fast. Besides storing files that don't fit on my MacBook, I use Carbon Copy Cloner (free Mac software) to clone and backup my laptop. I do this each night before a presentation. That way if my laptop is stolen or dies, I can boot from my portable hard drive on another Mac and it will have all of my data, apps, files, and settings. 


Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling Headphones
I'm someone who is easily distracted by sounds--and classrooms are some of the noisiest places around. It would have been nice to have these headphones as a student with work time in class. It's too bad good noise canceling headphones are prohibitively expensive for schools. The headphones cover your ears and use microphones inside and outside each ear cup to sense sounds around you and reduce them. I bought mine after being seated behind a couple on a plane who insisted on talking the entire four-hour flight using their outside voices. The headphones don't block out all sounds, but they work well enough where I can concentrate on what I need to be focused on. The headphones come with a cord for iOS and Mac devices that have an in-line microphone and volume controls.


Kanex AirBlue Portable Bluetooth Music Receiver
I use this in my car to play podcasts while I'm driving. My car doesn't have Bluetooth audio capabilities, so AirBlue pairs with my iPhone wirelessly. All of the audio coming from my iPhone is routed to AirBlue, which is connected to my car's aux audio input. I also take this with me when I travel since I drive so many rental cars. Unfortunately, AirBlue isn't the best for playing music as the audio quality is somewhat poor. However, the audio from apps and podcasts is good enough that some tablet-using teachers may find this to be handy when walking around the classroom with AirBlue connected to speakers or an audio system. There are less expensive alternatives to AirBlue, including one by Belkin and another from Monoprice (Monoprice's does not have a battery so it requires a power outlet.)


3 Pack of Universal Touch Screen Stylus Pen (Red + Black + Silver)
There are times when a stylus is desired for touchscreen devices. I like to use a stylus when handwriting or drawing. I also like to use a stylus when demonstrating to others so that my hand doesn't block what I want other to see. Using a stylus also reduces fingerprints. Because modern-day touchscreens are capacitive, styluses cannot have sharp points. In fact, styluses for iPads and other tablets will most likely have large rubber or foam tips. Yes, you could make your own stylus, but why bother when you can buy three for less than $2 with free shipping? These are cheaply made, but at least they are also cheap to replace.


iRig Mic iPod/iPhone/iPad Handheld Microphone
Apple's devices have a pretty good built-in microphones…if you are holding the device close to you. I use my iRig Mic mostly for interviews. This way the iOS device doing the recording can be a nice distance from those doing the speaking, but they can be heard very clearly. I am surprised at how good this mic sounds, even if it's not held all that close to a person's mouth. iRig Mic works with any app that records audio. It simply connects to the headphone jack.


iCelsius Temperature Sensor
This sensor connects to an iPad/iPod/iPhone's dock connector and is used in combination with the iCelsius app. The app tracks temperature, generates graphs, and can export the data. You can set upper and lower temperature limits to trigger an alarm. This could be great for math and science. 


2-Port VGA Monitor Switch Box
While it looks like it belongs in the 1980s, I carry this switch box with me to any presentation about iPads. When I present I use features only my laptop can provide, so it is connected to a projector. But, I often switch from showing my laptop's screen to mirroring my iPad's screen. Rather than disconnect and reconnect each time I want to switch the signal sent to the projector, I use this VGA switch. I also bring with me two short VGA cables because both my computer and iPad need to be connected to the switching box.


Paid iPad Apps
I tend to stick with free iOS apps because when doing workshops, I know those are accessible to everyone. However, there are some apps that are so good, I paid for them. Here are some I think you'll also think are worth the price.

  • Puppet Pals Director's Pass - Make a movie out of what happens on screen and what the microphone records. The Director's Pass lets you cut out any image to be a puppet and choose any image as the background.
  • Explain Everything - Record your voice and what you draw on the screen to make a video. Unlike most screencasting/whiteboard apps for iPad, this one saves the videos into the Photo app so you can import it into other apps.
  • GarageBand - Make music with a variety of instruments or record audio podcasts, skits, and shows where you can easily edit out mistakes and insert music and sounds effects.
  • iMovie - Shoot, edit, and enhance video. iMovie has some nice themes, but they are limiting. Splice for iPhone does much of what iMovie does for free. I'm also a fan of ReelDirector because it has the most features, including more control over titles.
  • QuickOffice Pro HD  - Create, open, and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint slideshows. It has many of the same features as Apple's iWork apps, but QuickOffice bundles all three into one powerful app. There's no iCloud support, but QuickOffice connects to many more services, making it easier to get your documents in and out of the app. Services include Google Docs, Dropbox, Box, and sharing over WiFi.

Universal Bracket Adapter for Tripod
If you want to mount your smartphone or iPod touch on a tripod, you need to have some sort of adapter. eBay has inexpensive adapter mounts that are spring-loaded to fit most small handheld devices. There are tripod adapter mounts for iPad 2 as well, which can turn an iPad into a passable teleprompter.


ZipShot Compact Instant Tripod
When making movies on the go, it's nice to have a very portable tripod. It's even nicer if the tripod sets up in a couple second. That's right. The ZipsShot has a unique design that springs open when you release its red cords. Watch the video below to see what I mean. ZipShot can be positioned at an angle to adjust your shot; however, it is stuck at a height of 44 inches tall.

I liked these products enough to spend my own money on them--I don't receive free or special deals on products. Note that I do receive an affiliate's fee if you follow a product link and buy from Amazon.


Clone an iPad or iPod touch

Melissa Dills is an Ohio kindergarten teacher and has a blog, Adventures of iPads in Kindergarten. Melissa recently contacted me with this question:

I currently have 5 ipads in my kindergarten classroom.  I back up my 'original' one on iCloud and it pushes out the apps to the other four.  My question is do you know of a way to get them to go into the appropriate folder They are just going onto the screen instead of the folder I put it into on my original.  Thanks for your great website. It is very helpful!

It's very convenient to enable Automatic Downloads of apps in the Store section of Settings on iOS devices. This automatically downloads new purchases (including free) made on other devices and in iTunes. You just need to be signed into the same iTunes account on all of your devices. Don't worry; you don't have to input the account's password each time an automatic download happens (that would be annoying).

As Melissa points out, apps are indeed automatically downloaded, but they are not placed into folders or even necessarily onto the same Home screens. Currently Apple does not provide a way to synchronize folders among devices. Other settings, like wallpaper and sounds, are also not synced and have to be set up manually on each device. With older students, teachers can have them place apps in folders and make settings consistent across devices.

In Melissa's situation with younger students and only five devices, she could set up one of the iPads as a master. That means she would move apps into folders or onto specific Home screens and configure settings. After she has the iPad exactly the way she wants it, she will connect to iTunes, right-click the iPad's name in iTunes' sidebar, and choose Back Up.

After back up is complete, Melissa will disconnect the master iPad. Then, she'll connect one of her other four iPads, right-click the iPad's name in iTunes' sidebar, and choose Restore from Backup.

iTunes will ask Melissa to choose a backup to restore onto the current device. She'll of course choose the backup of the master iPad.

It will probably take some time for the restore to complete. When done, this iPad will be a clone of the master. That means all apps will be in the same folders, Home screens will be identical, and settings will match exactly. I suggest that Melissa rename the iPad so that it's not confused with the master iPad.

Melissa can restore her other three iPads from the master's backup as well. Afterwards, all five of her iPads will be set up identically. Because iTunes allows you restore only one iPad at a time, Melissa probably won't want to go through this process very often. She'll probably still rely on automatic downloading of apps and manually putting into folders unless she has downloaded a large number of apps that would take lots of time to sort.

Now, this method of restoring from a backup of a master device will replace all data with that from the master. That means images, recordings, and any high scores will be erased from the other devices.

Restoring from a backup can also save teachers time if they customize an app. For example, Learn How to Spell from Grasshopper Apps is fully customizable. You can use the sets of words that are included in the app. But even better, you can add your own words, complete with your own images and voice recordings.

It can take lots of time to make customized sets of words within the app. In a classroom like Melissa's where there are a small number of iPads that can be used as a center, it saves a lot of time and repetition to use the cloning method above to copy the customized sets from a master iPad to other devices. Perhaps one day Grasshopper Apps will update their apps to save customized lists to iCloud so they can be easily copied to other devices. Until then, restoring from a backup is the way to copy the app's data from one device to another.

Canby Schools in Oregon have deployed hundreds of iPod touches using this restore from backup technique. Joseph Morelock has written how they do it in the wiki article Imaging iPod touch Devices Using iTunes Restore.


How to Set Up Gmail for School iPads and iPods

One challenge for teachers with students using devices like iPad and iPod touch is collecting student work. Unfortunately, there is not one consistent way for apps to export what a user creates. Some apps connect to Dropbox, some share through iTunes, some export to a website, some share through an IP address, but most apps email content as an attachment.

In order to send images, movies, and documents as an attachment, email must be set up on the device. Logging in through web-based mail won't work because you cannot attach files when using web mail in iOS. Email has to be set up in iOS's Mail app in order for an app that shares through email to actually be able to send.

I think the best solution is to give each student an email account and teach them to use it responsibly. I understand this is not an option in some places and doesn't work so well on shared devices. So, what's a school to do when students do not or cannot have email addresses but they want students using school-owned devices to be able to email their work to the teacher or to a blog?

The answer I've seen many schools use is Gmail. They set up free Gmail accounts for their devices. These email accounts aren't for receiving emails--they are used so that iPads and iPods can send. Without an email set up in the Mail app, no messages can be sent from the Mail app or any other app that shares via email.

It's time consuming to create email accounts for each and every device. Instead, I suggest creating one Gmail account for every 10 devices. You probably could use one Gmail account for a whole class set, but I've seen this cause problems at times.

After creating the Gmail account at, you'll have to do this on each device that will use that account:

  1. Launch the Mail app or go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the Settings app on iPad or iPod touch to add the account.
  2. Choose Gmail.
  3. Enter a name, Gmail address, and Gmail password. The name is what will be shown in the From field. On a shared set of devices, I suggest putting the device's assigned number first and then class, cart, or teacher name. Starting with the number allows emails to be sorted in a teacher's inbox.
  4. On the next screen, turn off Calendars and Notes and tap Save.
  5. Email is ready to use!

Chances are that if your school doesn't supply students with email accounts, they are probably concerned about what students may receive via email, either from each other or from spammers. To put those concerns to rest, I suggest adding a filter to each Gmail account that deletes all incoming email unless it comes from the teacher. This prevents students from sending messages that would appear in all devices' inboxes, prohibits spam, and still allows teachers to send messages and files to the devices via email. 

Here's how to set up a filter that will delete all incoming email unless it is from the teacher:

  1. Log into the Gmail account.
  2. Click Create a filter near the top of the screen.
  3. Enter the teacher's email address preceded by a minus symbol in the From field. Enter more addresses by separating them with commas and having each address preceded by a minus.
  4. Click Next Step.
  5. Check the box next to Delete it.
  6. Click Create Filter and now all incoming email will be deleted unless it was sent by the teacher.

Note that because many devices are sharing one email account, once one student deletes an email from the teacher, it will be deleted on all devices using that account.

Additional Tips
You can use email services other than Gmail. Some use district email addresses or email. Filters probably work differently when using different email services.

Do not give students the email account's password. You only have to set up email on a device one time. After that the device remembers the password, so students will not require the password.

Teachers may not want to clutter their inbox with emails. One option is to have students send emails to a unique email address provided by Send To Dropbox. This will place email attachments directly into a Dropbox folder on a Mac or Windows computer without taking up space in an inbox.

Add the teacher's email address in the Contact app. This way when students begin composing an email, the teacher's address will auto complete.

Instruct students how to use email appropriately, including subject line etiquette. Instructional technology coordinator Terice Schneider wrote about how middle school students sent teachers foolish and silly messages, and they changed email signatures:

Teachers report up to 120 emails a day with such intoxicating content as “Go  Tigers!” and funny cat faces. Their signatures are “PB&J Time!” and “Rangers Fan.” Teachers could just delete them in the inbox, but the students are not using the SUBJECT line, so teachers must open each one to know if it’s class related.

If you receive an error when trying to set up the email address by tapping the Gmail option on the device, try setting up the account as Microsoft Exchange. Here's how: 

  1. Launch the Mail app or go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the Settings app on iPad or iPod touch to add the account.
  2. Choose Microsoft Exchange.
  3. Enter the Gmail address for the Email and Username. Also enter the Gmail account's password.
  4. On the next screen, enter for Server.
  5. Cross your fingers that the account is verified.

Chatting About Pencils on Twitter

Educators on Twitter have been posting tweets about pencils. In fact, hundreds of messages are on Twitter have been tagged with #pencilchat. It doesn't sound very interesting to chat about graphite in a wooden holder, right? Well, the allegories, absurdities, and awesomeness of these tweets are not to be missed!

It all started with John Spencer. He says, "I wrote a few tweets with the hashtag #pencilchat, not expecting anything more than a few retweets and some banter with fellow techie-luddites. Malyn Mawby joined in, along with a few of her followers and all of a sudden there was a conversation."

The conversation about pencils exploded from there. Not only do these tweets show insight, inventiveness, and imagination, but they demonstrate the power of hashtags. You don't have to follow people on Twitter to view their tweets with a hashtag like #pencilchat. Simply go to and do a seach for #pencilchat.

Here's just a sampling of what's been posted:!/erinneo/status/142481984655081472!/timbuckteeth/status/142757359385714689!/tgwynn/status/142703910803603457!/skibtech/status/143037107127070720!/andreareid/status/143069611573780480!/emergentmath/status/143040760776900608!/mcleod/status/142477445042417664!/srtasmith9/status/143017150972567553!/wmchamberlain/status/142667965924519936!/bmob1111/status/143013661034811393!/mrlosik/status/142454361333833729!/allen_shawn/status/143144332860461057!/ransomtech/status/142988224099397632!/kelownagurl/status/142768009470160897!/pammoran/status/142551218215067648!/simon_elliott/status/143043326919196673

Other hastags you might be interested in include #edapp for sharing educational apps, #iear and #slide2learn for mobile learning, and #edchat for selected topics about education. There's also #EduWin for sharing daily successes. And, who knows what other hashtags will become a Twitter sensation in the future!

Update: Now there's #jedichat where educators are using Star Wars references.


Project-Based Learning & iPads at St. Stephen's

Read the short article that appears in St. Stephen's Today, a publication of St. Stephen's Episcopal Day School in Coconut Grove, Florida. The school is focusing on project-based learning and provides an iPad 2 for each of their students in grades one through five. You can access the original article here.

Preparing Our Students for Their Future
by The Technology Team at St. Stephen's Episcopal Day School  (Jenny Diaz, Hilary Haber, Felix Jacomino, Joy McIntosh, Liz Scholer, and Inge Wassmann)

St. Stephen’s has embarked on an exciting new initiative this year in keeping with our Vision Statement to prepare our students for the 21st Century. A focus on Project Based Learning has begun in a yearlong series of on-campus professional development workshops.  A one-to-one iPad program for Grades 1 to 5 lends itself well to meeting these goals.

What is Project Based Learning? Project Based Learning is a teaching method where students are given a driving question or challenge, and after research, analysis, teamwork, and problem-solving, present solutions to their classmates. The projects help students learn key academic subject matter and practice 21st Century skills such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking.  Unlike an activity that can be completed in a short class period, projects may take days, weeks, or months to complete. Instead of just covering material, the teacher develops projects that allow for students to uncover the topic themselves.

During the 2010-2011 school year, Felix Jacomino, Director of Technology,  and Inge Wassmann and Hilary Haber, Technology Teachers, attended numerous workshops and conferences including Mobile Learning Experience the Florida Educational Technology Conference, and the International Society for Technology  in Education Conference, as well as various workshops through Independent Schools of South Florida and the Dade County One-to-One Technology Forum, to research the best ways for us to reach our goals in technology – anywhere, anytime learning using mobile devices. They met several consultants on their trips, but were most intrigued by Tony Vincent’s background and experience and felt he was the best fit to help guide St. Stephen’s. 


Tony Vincent is a Learning and Technology Consultant who began his career as a fifth grade teacher.  He began using mobile learning in his classroom in 2001 when each of his students received a Palm handheld. He became a consultant in 2006 and has become a highly sought-after, hands-on educator who has worked with teachers and students all over the world.  He is personable and practical and makes teaching and learning fresh and fun.

Tony first visited St. Stephen’s prior to the start of school.  He worked in large and small groups to demonstrate the use of iPads on many levels. On his most recent visit, Tony taught lessons in both Grade 4 and 5 in Language Arts, Math, and Social Studies.  In Grade 4 Math, student practiced estimating skills through Google maps and a discussion of travel. As part of their Imagine It unit on Risks and Consequences, Grade 4 students watched a show video on the moon landing which prompted a discussion on the risks and consequences that astronauts experience. They used the Eagle app to "land" on the moon using the correct velocity and proximity for touch down. They completed the activity by creating a web on the Idea Sketch app. Grade 5 learned note taking skills using Noterize as it pertained to their current Native American unit, and they used it later in the day in their Sacred Studies class.

In addition, he held a workshop for the entire faculty on Project Based Learning.  He is scheduled to return three times during the school year, for 3 or 4-day sessions. He is customizing his expertise to meet our needs.

The introduction of iPads in Grades 1 through 5 gives these students the tool to connect, communicate, collaborate, and create throughout the school day. Mobile devices can play a great role in Project Based Learning giving students the access to learning when and where it is needed. The use of exciting handheld technology motivates students, and projects can lend themselves to student voice and choice. 

"The iPads have brought a whole new dimension of learning to the classroom, authentic engagement and motivation.  Active learning is taking place!" said Silvia Larrauri.

Beginning in Grade 1, students will create electronic portfolios of their work.  Electronic portfolios are a creative means of organizing, summarizing, and sharing information, ideas, projects and artwork for other students and families to see.  Each year, the students will  add to their portfolios, having a collection of work they can take with them.

“When a student publishes his work, it’s no longer just the teacher viewing his work.  There is a broader audience base. Now, classmates, parents, extended family, regardless of location, and other students from around the world can read, comment on, and collaborate with ideas that were previously limited to the classroom.”  said Felix Jacomino.   

An iPad is a toolbox that gets filled with tools such as apps, is a portal to communication and collaboration with others, and when guided by teachers who have been appropriately trained, students become truly engaged and motivated critical thinkers. Working with Tony Vincent and our Technology Team, our teachers will receive the professional development and support to successfully carry out our goals.


Mobile Learning Experience 2012 - April 11-13 in Phoenix, Arizona


Interested in iPad, iPod touch, tablets, netbooks, laptops, phones, apps, podcasting, Android, iOS, and web-based tools? Excited about mobile technology for learning and teaching? Want to connect with other educators and learn from their successes and challenges? Then join me for Mobile Learning Experience 2012 April 11-13 in Phoenix, Arizona.

It's my pleasure to be on the team organizing Mobile Learning Experience 2012. It's the second year of this terrific conference. If you'd like to get a feel for 2011's conference, then read dozens of blog posts submitted during the event.

Registration for Mobile Learning Experience 2012 is open. You can save $200 if you register before January 20, 2012. 

Please consider applying to present a session at Mobile Learning 2012. We're looking for presentations that address topics like:

  • Web-based tools
  • Netbooks and laptops
  • iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone
  • Mobile phones
  • Classroom management
  • One-to-one learning environments
  • Personalized learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Project-based learning
  • Inquiry learning
  • Research about mobile learning
  • Assistive technology
  • Common Core
  • Science, math, and language
  • Higher order thinking

Presenters receive a $50 discount on registration.The deadline for session proposals is November 16, 2011. Read more about the call for proposals.

The event will offer dozens of breakouts sessions, but the best part is connecting with other conference participants. As I'm reading Steve Job's biography, I'm learning that he believed in the power of random encounters. Walter Isaacson, the biography's author, wrote:

Despite being a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew all too well its isolating potential, Steve was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. "There's a temptation is our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat," he said. "That's crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings. From random discussions. You run into someone. You ask what they are doing. You say, 'Wow,' and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas."

That's certainly what happened at 2011's conference and I look forward to cooking up all sorts of ideas April 11-13, 2012!


Myths about iOS, iPad, iPhone & iPod touch

I have the pleasure of working with educators who get to use iPads and iPod touches with students. Wherever I facilitate workshops, I find there are some myths floating around about Apple's iOS devices, and I'd like to clear up some of the misinformation.

iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch do not have user manuals.

Gone are the days when you receive a thick printed user manual with your electronics purchase. Instead of an in-depth guide, Apple includes a glossy folded-up single sheet of paper called Finger Tips in the box. You can hardly call this a user manual. But, if you want a nearly 200 page user manual, you can download one online or in the iBooks app.

You have to have a credit card associated with your iTunes account.

A credit card is not required when you create an iTunes account. Apple would be delighted to get a credit card number from you, but they do provide a way to keep your credit card number to yourself.

First log out of any iTunes accounts you might be signed into. Then simply tap to download any free app in the App Store. When prompted to log into an account, choose Create New Account. When asked for a credit card, choose None. The None option only appears if you create an account by first trying to install a free app. If you try to create an account in any other manner, Apple will not present the None choice and will require a credit card number for the account. Read my previous post, iTunes Account Without a Credit Card

If you have already given iTunes a credit card number, you can log into your account and click to edit your payment information. You should be able to select None for Payment Type.

You can buy an app once and install it on all devices in the classroom or school.

While it is technically possible to purchase an app once and install it on an unlimited number of devices, Apple's Terms and Conditions states:

If you are a commercial enterprise or educational institution, you may download and sync an App Store Product for use by either (a) a single individual on one or more iOS Devices used by that individual that you own or control or (b) multiple individuals, on a single shared iOS Device you own or control. For example, a single employee may use an App Store Product on both the employee's iPhone and iPad, or multiple students may serially use an App Store Product on a single iPad located at a resource center or library. For the sake of clarity, each iOS Device used serially by multiple users requires a separate license.

Individual consumers can sync an app to multiple devices, but Apple expects schools to purchase an app for each and every devices upon which it is installed. In order to buy multiple licenses for apps, there's the App Store Volume Purchase Program. Not only can educational institutions buy in bulk, but the Volume Purchase Program often gives a 50% discount.

The Volume Purchase Program is only for paid apps. Free apps can still be downloaded one time and installed on as many devices as you'd like. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I often share apps that have temporary become free. Simply document that you downloaded an app to a school account when it was free and you can treat it like any other free app (i.e. install it on class sets of devices). Read my blog post, Things to Know about Apps & Apple Devices, for more about apps in classrooms.

Once you fill 12 home screens of apps you cannot install any more.

It's true: you are limited to a dozen Home screens. You can fill those screen with apps, folders, and web page icons. However, once filled you can still install more apps. The catch is that the apps won't have icons on your Home screen. To launch an app that doesn't have a Home screen icon, you'll need to search for it. Access search by clicking the Home button (or swiping right) while you're on your first Home screen. Note: when you have filled all 12 screens, Safari no longer gives you the option to add a webpage to the Home screen.

You need a Mac to sync multiple devices.

For simplicity, I highly recommend syncing a class set of iPads or iPod touches to one computer. That computer's iTunes Library will have all apps, audio, video, playlists, podcasts, and iTunes U content in it. When you make a change to the iTunes Library, that change is mirrored onto all the devices upon the next sync. 

You can sync multiple devices simultaneously to one computer. There are cartstrays, and cases designed for this task. These syncing solutions all suggest using a Mac for syncing. The problem is that some schools don't allow Macs and some teachers are afraid they won't know how to use a Mac.

Yes, you can use a Windows PC to sync multiple devices. However, Windows computers tend to have problems syncing more than a few devices simultaneously. A Macintosh would be my syncing computer of choice because it does indeed work better (but a Mac can still choke on syncing 20 devices all at the same time). But if a Mac isn't an option for you, a Windows PC will be ok. You will have to babysit it more, perhaps by connecting just a few devices at a time instead of a whole cart at once.

I'm hopeful that syncing is less of an issue when iOS 5 comes out this fall. Wi-Fi Sync will work with Mac or Windows. Apple's website brags:

Wirelessly sync your iOS device to your Mac or PC over a shared Wi-Fi connection. Every time you connect your iOS device to a power source (say, overnight for charging), it automatically syncs and backs up any new content to iTunes. So you always have your movies, TV shows, home videos, and photo albums everywhere you want them.

Apps stay open after you leave them and this drains the battery and slows down the device.

You can view the most recently used apps by double-clicking the Home button. The apps appear at the bottom of the screen. You can flick left to see more apps. All of these apps are not actually running. They appear on the list simply because you launched them lately. Yes, some apps run in the background, like Pandora for playing music or Twitter for receiving notifications. But, most apps do not actually run in the background. They simply stay frozen until you switch back to using them. You can remove an app from the list by touching and holding the app icon until it begins to jiggle and then tapping the red minus button.

I met a media specialist who would manually go through and close all apps that appear in the recents list at the end of each school day. She thought that all of those apps in the list were running and therefore draining the batteries in her school's iPod touches. I can only imagine how much time it took her each day to accomplish this. Alternatively, she could have simply powered down the iPods. When powered back on, an iPod touch's (and iPhone's and iPad's) memory is completely cleared. However, the recent apps list is not cleared, which made this media specialist feel she had to do it manually.

In 2010 Apple's Scott Forstall was asked how you close applications when multitasking in iOS 4. He said, "You don't have to. The user just uses things and doesn't ever have to worry about it." Users do not have to management background tasks.

Apple's own support page states, "Double-clicking the Home button displays a list of recently used apps. These apps are not necessarily actively in use, open, or taking up system resources. They will instantly launch when you return to them. Certain tasks or services can continue to run in the background. You can distinguish most of these by checking the status bar."

So, in theory you shouldn't ever have to close apps. One exception when I do close an app from the recents list is when an app is acting weird. Another is when I'm done using my TomTom GPS navigator app. TomTom runs in the background and constantly uses power to detect my GPS location. It will shut itself down after a while, but it can eat a lot of battery power before closing itself. But, most people should never have to worry about it. If your device seems to be slowing down or the battery is draining faster than usual, simply do a power off and power back on instead of worrying about apps that may or may not be running in the background.

For a very detailed explaination about the misconceptions about multitasking, read Frasier Speirs blog post.

For longer battery life you should occasionally drain the battery completely.

We all want healthy batteries in our precious devices. There are certain things we can do to make sure batteries live a long life. For instance, never store your device in a freezing cold or very hot vehicle. Furthermore, be sure to exercise the battery by occasionally discharging and charging it.

Before modern lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries, old-fashioned nickel-cadmium batteries experienced a "memory effect" where these batteries would lose capacity over time if they were recharged before they were completely drained. Batteries in your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch do not suffer from the memory effect. You can charge these devices at any battery percentage and it will not affect its charge capacity.

I have spoken with numerous teachers who have been stressed out trying to completely drain iPads batteries because Apple told them to. Indeed, Apple's page on batteries states, "For proper reporting of the battery’s state of charge, be sure to go through at least one charge cycle per month (charging the battery to 100% and then completely running it down)." Notice that Apple doesn't claim this is for the battery's health; it's simply so the battery meter is more accurate. Personally, I never run down my batteries on purpose. It's great if it happens by normal usage, but I'm not going to drain my battery for the sole purpose of pleasing the battery meter. My meter seems to be pretty accurate even without a monthly drain. On top of that, batteries have a limited number of charge and discharge cycles. Repeatedly draining a battery uses up some of those cycles. 

The screen scratches easily.

Handhelds' screens used to be made of plastic that could scratch easily. Today's devices, including iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, and most Android handhelds, use glass screens. While glass sounds like it would be fragile, Apple uses a material like Gorilla Glass, which is designed to be resistant to scratches, drops, and bumps of everyday use. Watch a YouTube video where someone runs a metal key over an iPad's screen, and you'll see it causes no scratches. Certainly, your device's glass screen can scratch, but not very easily.

Keys and other objects you might think would scratch the screen don't because of the inability of softer material to scratch harder material. Glass falls between 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. In general, materials with a lower hardness will not scratch a material with a higher hardness. Most metal is less than 5 on the Mohs scale. But, be careful with all your diamonds around your touchscreen because diamond scores a 10 for hardness.

As a cat owner, this is exciting: Friskies makes Games for Cats. They are free web apps that work well on iPad and Android devices. Friskies says, "The bare glass screen on the iPad stands up to our cat's claws with no problems." That's because fingernails, horns, claws, and other keratins are below 3 on the Mohs scale (and remember that glass is 5). Friskies does warn that a cat's claws will damage add-on plastic film covers.

Some feel more protected by placing those stick-on screen covers over their touchscreens. Often those stickers have annoying bubbles and they make the screen less sensitive to touch. I find them to usually be ugly and a hindrance. Apple does too because in 2010 they removed all screen protectors from their retail and online stores. Now, if it's likely a device will be dropped, then a screen protector just might keep the glass from cracking because of an accident. Furthermore, I know some teachers who love anti-glare screen protectors, particularly when using a device under a document camera.

The bottom line is that I don't want you to feel guilty for not using screen protectors. Your devices' screens are most likely going to be A-ok.


New Book: 40 Best Apps for Learning in High School

Harry Dickens and Andrew Churches have self-published Apps for Learning: 40 Best iPad, iPod touch, iPhone Apps for High School Classrooms. The one I ordered finally came in the mail last week. Here's the Table of Contents.


From Apps for Learning's the back cover:

In the classroom of the 21st century, the power of mobility has begun to play a significant role in the learning experiences of our students. The ubiquitous digital devices they use so frequently and unconsciously can be harnessed as powerful tools for learning, creativity, and discovery. And, as the saying goes, "there's an app for that."

Inside Apps for Learning: 40 Best iPad/iPod touch/iPhone Apps for High School Classrooms you'll find detailed descriptions of some of the best apps around for high school students. Explore the versatility of utility apps like Atomic Web Browser and GoodReader. Make use of generals apps like Evernote, Pages, and Dragon Dictation, or have fun on projects using GarageBand, iMovie, or Whiteboard HD. Or create unique learning adventures using speciality apps like Comic Touch, StoryKit, VideoScience, or NASA App HD. They're all here, plus more, and they're waiting for you and your students to discover.

The authors answer these questions for each of the 40 apps:

  • What is it?
  • How does it work?
  • How can it be used in the classroom?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Does it require internet?

As a sample, download pages 27-30 of Apps for Learning. These pages highlight Adobe Photoshop Express, an app that belongs on every iOS handheld.

The 40 apps are divided into utility, general, and speciality. Some of the apps are only available for iPad and less than half the apps are free of charge.

Utility Apps

General Apps

Speciality Apps

Apps for Learning lists for $24.95 (add about $4 for shipping or order from Amazon) and has plenty of screenshots and lots of practical advice. The 224 page book is the first a three-part series. The authors are currently writing the middle school version. After that, they're tackling elementary apps. I'm hoping that there will be eBook versions of these books since I rarely buy books made of paper anymore.


More Opportunities Belong in Learning Environments

I have the honor of keynoting the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine's MAINEducation 2011 conference. I wrote the short article below for ACTEM's Electronic Educator September 2011 newsletter.

As a former Nebraska fifth grade teacher and current Arizona resident, I've been envious of Maine's ten year old laptop initiative. The state understands the power of integrating technology and learning. In fact, that's what Mobile Learning is all about—using tools at hand for educational and productivity uses.

The first reaction from those in other states when Maine's laptops are mentioned is, "How can they afford that?" School systems are scraping together as much money as they can to put technology in students' hands. At the same time, most of them ban students from bringing their own computers and devices into their own learning environments. 

Sure, there are some legal and networking reasons for being reluctant to let students bring in the very technology that schools are struggling to finance. But, there are many more reasons for allowing students to learn with their own personal tools. As a learner I would feel angry, deflated, belittled, and offended if I could not use my phone, laptop, tablet, and online tools as I see fit in my learning environment.

More and more schools are empowering their students by turning their frowns upside-down on personally owned devices. With smartphones, iPads, handhelds, laptops and the like always available to students, opportunities for learning increase.

Opportunities for Personalization. Students access content, software, and apps that meet their needs. In the case of Apple and Android devices, there are about half a million apps to choose from. Learners deserve a choice in what and how they learn, and mobile learning can facilitate personalized learning.

Opportunities for Expression. Students can express themselves and share what they have learned in so many ways, including audio recording, moviemaking, and document creation. There are even great online tools for making animated cartoons and super cool apps for creating digital puppet shows.  

Opportunities for Productivity. Mobile technology gives access to tools for organization and for getting things done efficiently. In addition to the typical note taking, calendar, and planner uses, savvy students enter their notes directly into a flashcard app for easy studying. Talk about being productive!

Opportunities for Access. Having technology readily at hand makes its use a commonplace occurrence instead of a special event. There's no seeking permission to go to the computer lab or waiting for the cart of laptops to be wheeled in. Most adults don't have those kinds of roadblocks to technology, why should students?

Opportunities to Use Real-World Tools. Personal and mobile devices are certainly everywhere today. People in the real world use technology for real tasks everyday. I think that school should mirror the outside world as much as possible because "playing school" fails to prepare learners for the reality of life. 

It's true. Technology in schools is typically bought, owned, and controlled by the school. Many are focused on deploying class or one-to-one sets of iPads, iPod touches, tablets, and laptops, but I think this mindset is an intermediate step to eventually having students provide their own technology. Not just because of expense, but because students will have their own technology they'll want at their fingertips. The technology they will bring will be highly portable and what students do and create will be digital and shareable. It will be MOBILE, and that's a good thing because More Opportunities Belong In Learning Environments.

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