Course 2 – Creating a Class Blog.

Below is the second of a set of 8 courses that feature both on this blog and also over on The EDtech Portal.

These screencasts will talk you through how to create a class blog.

For a full list of available courses check out our list here

Note: If you want certification for this course you can take it over on The EDtech Portal. Upon completing the course activities you will receive a certificate and there are also lots of opportunities to engage with other course takers. If not you can just watch the screencasts in the playlist below.

Course 1 – Create an iBook in iBooks Author course.

Below is the first of a set of 8 courses that feature both on this blog and also over on The EDtech Portal.

These screencasts will talk you through how to create a simple iBook for use in a classroom.

Note: If you want certification for this course you can take it over on The EDtech Portal. Upon completing the course activities you will receive a certificate and there are also lots of opportunities to engage with other course takers. If not you can just watch the screencasts in the playlist below.

For a full list of available courses check out our list here

Creating multi-touch books with students.

Teaching a digital media course has been an endless exciting journey of app exploration. The module is so vague you can make most apps work and change the content around depending on an individual class group.
As part of the module descriptor there is an option for students to create iBooks/eBooks. For the first couple of years I avoided this simply because the tech wasn’t available for us to easily create this. However, this past year students have created iBooks using Book Creator and/or iBooks Author and they really enjoyed it. They even suggested that I run a course that is solely based on iBooks creation. Hopefully their requests can become a reality this year.

For their assignments, I allow them to create books on literally anything they want to. This has resulted in a wide range of books being created from a student who created a wonderful tribute book to his grandfather which included a poem and song and short story, a student who created a vegan cookbook and then to a student who created a kids book about a dinosaur his imaginary character encountered on his travels.

Creating books gives students to opportunity to explore their creativity. Students who before would have never written a story and many who came in with the attitude of ‘I hate creative writing’ simply because it was never fun before.

This coming year there will be more of a focus on Book authoring. Into this we will encorporate Six Word Stories and Nanowrimo

The apps and sites we will use are listed below.




Using iTunes U for eportfolios

I have had a lot of messages about this recently and I’m sure those going to the Netherlands will hear more but I want to just explain how I used iTunes U for portfolios this year.

Previously i had problems that some might remember where an external examiner did not like receiving work digitally (via dropbox) because he couldn’t figure out how to view / download the work. Well this solved all those problems. This was how I got around this.

When students sign up for classes the first thing we always do is get them an email address (if they don’t have one already) sign them up to the relevant iTunes U course and set them up some form of cloud storage (in the past this was iCloud or Dropbox). We did all that this year but we also set them up an iTunes U course each. This course was created using their own Apple IDs and I was added as a contributor to each course.

I used the exact same outline for their portfolio course as the associated iTunes U course had so they were able to become familiar with both.

In the case of one class there were 8 sections in the outline

1. Research Project – this contained a researched project students completed on the evolution of digital media. It was a pages document.

2. Websites – studens had to create a wordpress and/or wix website so this had a link to this website.

3. Facebook – this contained a link to the students business page.

4. QR codes & digital marketing – this contained student made QR codes, and an ezine.

5. iBook – this contained books that students had made using iBooks Author

6. Movies – this section contained movies they had created using Animoto, Powtoon and FCPX

7. Photo-editing – this section contained photos they had edited using Fotor

8. Assessment – this section contained their end of year exam which was taken and graded using Socrative. I just downloaded it as a PDF for them to insert.

Students had no problems at all doing this. What I liked most was that I could keep an eye on their progress because I was a collaborator on the course. My students are all adults but in a k-12 environment this would mean that you could also allow parents access.

What I also liked is because the student work was added as assessments they had the post section to give more info. For example on their movies they were able to explain more about the movie if they wanted to. Something which isn’t readily possible in iCloud / Dropbox.

The way the assignments appear like a checklist is also great because it meant that I could check them off to make sure they were all there.

This has given me the power to go totally paperless. The examiner at the end of the year just needs an iPad. It means no unnecessary downloading of student work and it means everything is accessible. iTunes U also accepts all file formats that we use so it’s great.

Edited to add. A massive benefit some of my students have had is that when they were going for interviews for jobs or other courses they were able to send links to the potential employer or bring the course along to interview.



Release of Socrative iTunes U course.

Many of us use Socrative in our classrooms. I have been encouraging colleagues to try and use it too but they are often reluctant figuring it is complicated. I was recently encourages to create this course and iBook by teachers who did take my word for it being easy and ended up trying it and loving it.

It just goes through the very basics but it’s enough to get teachers interested enough to try more!



App Review – The File Converter

Today’s App Review is The File Converter by Ghost Mobile. There have been many times where I have landed myself in a situation where I have landed something in my Dropbox and left my Macbook at home without realising later that I will have to use a PC which many not be able to open a specific file created on my Mac. The most common issue I have is forgetting to export Pages documents to Word or PDF. My usual solution to this would be to open on my iOS device in Pages and export again. While this is a great and tried and tested solution I do need the Pages App. Another mistake would be forgetting to export something like a Photoshop .psd file which cannot be opened without the software itself.

The File Converter is great in situations like this and will takes files from your email or iOS device. Below are the options available.

  • Video Converter: Convert to 3GP, 3G2, AVI, FLV, MKV, MP4, MPEG-2, OGG, WEBM, and WMV
  • Document Converter: Convert to PDF, DOC, DOCX, TXT, ODT, FLASH and HTML
  • Audio Converter: Convert to MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA, AAC, FLAC, M4A, and MMF
  • E-book Converter: Convert to EPUB, MOBI, PDF, LRF, FB2, LIT, PDB, TCR
  • Archive Converter: Convert any file to ZIP, BZ2, 7Z, GZ

The App may not be one I would use all the time but definitely one that I can see saving me in emergency situations like the one described above. I can definitely see the e-book and documente conversion options being very useful.

The App costs €2.69 and can be downloaded  from HERE.

Fluency Finder

Today’s App Review is Fluency Finder by Lantz, Glass and Gaskins, LLC. As an ESOL (English as a Second Language) Teacher I never really know what stage my students are in their learning when they start. Students are usually varied between those that can read, write and speak English but not accurately. Some students can speak but not read and others can read and write but not speak. This App is a great help during the initial screening process and can be used after too.

Fluency finder tracks a students progress and means all records are right there on your device which cuts down on mass amounts of paper work.
To begin all you have to do is add students to the App and select an appropriate passage for them to read. This can be read from a device or you can print a copy. As the student begins to read the App times them and you can mark any mistakes they make on your device. By tapping + you indicate a student makes a mistake and – indicates that the student corrected their own mistake. After tapping finish you automatically see the results. There are different fluency levels and you can measure readings from 60-175 words per minute so it is easy to find a speed that would suit an individual student.

I have found this App to be a massive asset to my class and really enjoyed seeing the comparisons between the initial recorded results and the results in the classes final week.

The App does cost $6.99 but is great for what you get and it can be downloaded from HERE.

App Review – Teacher Studio.

Time for another App Review and this time it is a Mac App. In the past I used Teacher Kit on my iPad for recording grades, attendance etc but really needed something on my Mac as well.

I couldn’t find an App that synched between Mac and iOS (well one that got good reviews) so decided to splash out on Teacher Studio by Lomation which admittedly was pricey at almost $50 but I have never looked back.
It allows you to store grades, attendance, lesson plans, timetables and notes.

When it comes to attendance I like the fact that it has a ‘tardy” option so you can clearly mark students for being in late which is a recurring problem in some of the early morning classes. There is also a line to write notes so if a student is late for a genuine reason you can make note of it.

Once a students details are added into the application that student can be added to a number of different classes. Within student settings you can store all contact info as well as emergency contacts and notes. You can also upload their photo which can be handy when grading assignments. Right now I have 7 Darrens in one class and believe me it does get confusing. In another class I have two students with the same first and last names!

The one feature I was a bit afraid of was how secure this application would be given all the details stored on it. I didn’t want someone just opening up my laptop and having a peek but don’t worry there is an option to add a password to it which obviously is a bonus feature.

The App can also generate reports of class performance and overall student performance. This is not a feature I have used to date but will be using it as I am grading over the next few weeks and look forward to seeing what kind of reports it produces.

So yes it is expensive but it works and until there is an iOS and Mac App this will be my go to App of choice for managing student activities.

To download it you can visit HERE

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 18.45.18

Sphero Review

Today’s I am going to review something a little different I am going to review Sphero iOS accessory and the associated Apps. Searching the App store for Apps to review I stumbled across Sphero Apps and at the time was disappointed that they required you to purchase a $100 accessory in order to use them.

I was lucky enough to get a present of a Sphero recently and was very excited to download the Apps. Sphero is a round ball which vibrates, changes color, floats in water and rolls around the floor when instructed by an App. It is very interactive and a user has full control over it. There are over 20 different Apps available and they vary from game Apps, music Apps, augmented reality Apps and an App for pets. The augmented reality and pets Apps appealed to me right away and were among the initial Apps I downloaded. The App for animals makes the ball vibrate and roll across the floor. My cat found it a lot of fun especially the boosts which make it move crazily across the floor and the function to change colors. The App did have her amused but this didn’t capture her attention as long as an 80cent feather toy from the pet store.

Sharky the Beaver is an augmented reality App and it was also a lot of fun and once you had your little character placed where you wanted you could throw donuts and cakes around the room. This worked very like string augmented reality Apps and was a lot of fun.

My favorite of the Apps is Sphero Exile which works pretty much like space invaders and you use the Sphero as a control for it.

You can also use your inbuilt device camera to record Sphero which is especially handy if your pet is playing with Sphero. For android users you can download Sphero cam App for iOS users the function is built into the Sphero App and can be activated in the bottom right corner options of the App

All in all Sphero is a lot of fun and I am glad I have given it a try. I do think it is overpriced and that $50 would have been more than enough to pay for it.

There are a few things that I do not like and this is mainly to do with the Apps. The website is very deceiving and says that there are over 20 free Apps. This does not mean there are 20 free Apps for iOS devices in fact there are actually  7 paid iOS Apps costing from 89cent there are also there are many Apps that are only available on the Google Play store and in reverse many not available for Google Play users. For iOS users there is a total of 18 available Apps 7 of which are free so the claim of over 20 free Apps should really be rephrased.

Another thing is the search function in the iTunes store. If you type in Sphero you will not get the full selection of Apps for example Sharky the Beaver is not shown. To get these Apps you then need to search further or look up their names.

All that being said if you have the spare cash I would recommend getting one. They are tons of fun for people (and animals!) of all ages.

To buy a Sphero check it out HERE

You can find available Apps HERE

What is Sphero? from Sphero on Vimeo.

App Review – Write to Read

Yesterday I was asked to review Write to Read by WriteReader Aps
Although agreeing I must be honest I am neither a parent nor a primary teacher so have no kids to try it out with but have to say I was very impressed.

The App is aimed at kids aged 3+ allowing them to create their own books or participate in creating one with their parents, class or siblings. How it works is that the child writes a sentence using whatever level of literacy they might have and then the adult corrects the text for them. The child can then see the difference between the two texts and it helps them in learning new words and creating sentences.

It is great for creating accessible creativity. Kids can let their imaginations run wild creating magical worlds and adventures without having to worry about the boundaries set by literacy and spelling while at the same time improving both of these skills through the creative process. Kids would also benefit from it improving their early learning skills as well as getting them involved in reading and writing from a young age.

The App costs €5.99 which is about the same as other book creators and can be downloaded from HERE