Check out the following Pinterest board from Apple’s App Store that is loaded with lesson ideas for using iOS apps in the classroom.
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On Wednesday in a Buzzfeed interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Chromebooks “test machines” and cited Google’s take over of the education market as primarily a result of schools just buying hardware for standardized assessments.
There is no denying that recent mass purchases from school districts have been in response to needing more equipment for tests that have moved from paper to web browser. What is in question is why schools are choosing Chromebooks over Macs and iPads. Cook sells educational leaders and teachers short when he implies that testing is all that went into the decision making and all that is being done with the products once they reach schools.
Now, don’t write me off as a hater. Heck, one of the proudest recognitions I have received is that of being named an Apple Distinguished Educator. I am a huge Apple advocate and I truly believe that Cupertino builds the most durable and best designed products in the tech world. For a long long time Apple won the classroom because its stuff “just worked” and it still does. The six-year-old Macbooks I teach with just hum along. The three-year-old cart of HPs…don’t. The iPad has opened worlds previously un-explorable to people with disabilities. Apple has done great things in the classroom and I still believe schools need a number of Macs or iPads around for tasks Chrome devices can’t. I am just not convinced anymore that Apple products are the only solution.
Here Mr. Cook are 10 reasons why educators are choosing Chrome devices over Apple products…and they don’t have anything to do with testing.
The Reality of Classroom Technology Integration – “We create products that are whole solutions for people — that allow kids to learn how to create and engage on a different level,” Cook stated in the and he’s correct. iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Final Cut Pro, Motion, and other high level apps are the staples when it comes to kids creating high level content. The only problem for Apple is that the vast majority of students and teachers don’t learn and teach constantly at this level. As great as all of these Apple tools are, right or wrong, they have taken a support role to the tools students and teachers use most.The SAMR framework discusses how teachers use tech at varied levels between basic “substitution” and creating previously inconceivable activities in a level defined as “redefinition”. The Apple stuff excels in the hands of teachers who have mastered ways of getting to redefinition but the vast majority of educators are somewhere in the middle and most of the learning tasks they ask students to do with technology doesn’t require the high end apps.
Price – Chrome devices continue to drop in price to the point where schools can buy five Chromebooks with touchscreens for the price of one Macbook. It’s hard to justify the extra cost if the job can be done with a solid device at a fraction of the money. I just bought a fully functioning Chrome computer in the $85 Chromebit. $85! Yes it requires me to connect it to an HDMI display and I have to supply the keyboard and mouse but that price point alone makes it wildly affordable for a number of functions around a school.
They Just Work – It is still the number one reason I always choose Apple stuff over Windows stuff and I was very suspect of the Chrome products when they first hit the market. Aside from getting used to the layout of where everything is on these devices my experience has been that the simplicity of the Chrome “just works” as well. With less operating system there are less hassles.
Ease of Management – Managing a cart of iPads is incredibly time consuming and not something most classroom teachers are entrusted to do. Apple has put out a series of management solutions but none have been the silver bullet that actually make life easier for teachers. With Chrome there is virtually no management because when a kid logs in with their Google Apps for Education account, all of their stuff is available.
Google Apps – No, the free suite won’t let you make your documents as cute as Word or Pages will, but with a little skill you and your kids can get darn close. Cute isn’t deal closer on GAFE though. Storage is unlimited for schools and with a little foresight educators can help kids set up portfolios that will follow them all of the way through high school. No one will ever lose their work due to a dead laptop battery because Google saves every few seconds. Plus, it’s just automatically already set up with every Google account. Yes, Apple offers a version of its iWork suite online for free and it can do a lot but space is limited and the sharing options aren’t close to what GAFE does. What is really cool though is that if you want to use the online versions of iLife you can do it on a Chromebook.
Collaboration – The whole game changed way back in the day when Google bought Writely from an upstart called Upstartle. Simply being able to edit something simultaneously ten years ago was groundbreaking. Google has used the last decade to further enhance the collaborative capabilities. Apple is bringing that to iLife but are essentially playing catch up. The collaboration built into a Google Apps/Chrome environment helps teachers better communicate with students and provide useful feedback. The same is true with students communicating and collaborating better with each other.
Google Classroom – From its introduction teachers have been flocking to the free learning management system. As it evolves and becomes more stable it is becoming the go-to, even by die hard Edmodo and Schoology users. What is the big deal? See all six of the previous reasons. Seriously, you can apply all of them. As a classroom teacher, paper was my Achilles heel. In Classroom it’s all digital and the interface shows who has completed work and who hasn’t. Once it’s turned in, it’s locked until the teacher grades and returns it. Apple offers iTunes U which is a beautiful way to present content and develop courses that don’t rely on Internet connectivity but they only run on an Apple device. Classroom works everywhere.
Access Everywhere – Speaking working everywhere, students and teachers can access the work they started on the Chrome device at school anywhere they can find a web browser with an Internet connection. It is something kids have come to take completely for granted. Ubiquitous access is their normal. A perfect example was when we were making book report trailers on iMovie and my students all wanted to know how they could find their work when they got home so they could continue working. They were put off when I told them it was only available on the one device they’d been using.
Open To Innovation – Google Apps has evolved at light speed because of the way individuals can create add-ons. Doctopus and Goobric are examples of innovation created by a user that have made the product better fit teacher needs. This isn’t just in Docs either. There are a ton of new Chrome apps being developed that bring a lot of the creativity and depth of exploration to the Chrome browser. Apple obviously innovates all of the time too but doesn’t adapt as fast as Google because the innovation all takes place within Apple.
Big Yet Nimble – Lebron James and Cam Newton are special athletes because they are big yet have uncharacteristic speed. Google Chrome and the devices that run it are a lot like that. Google is massive with unlimited resources to support its products yet has retained a simplicity that makes stuff work at the highest level of efficiency. There is no reason to expect that won’t continue to be the case.
Ultimately schools have to find the platforms and devices that work best for their needs. I always have a Mac nearby because I use so many levels of its functionality. My students don’t always need the firepower and Google is picking up a lot of believers in educators who see all of the benefits Chrome devices can deliver at a fraction of the cost.
I understand and appreciate Tim Cook’s passion for giving educators and learners amazing stuff but if Chrome devices are just “test machines”, he needs to Think Different.
Chirp has proven itself to be incredibly helpful to teachers who want to send content or links to students using iPads or Android devices. Now with a free install, teachers can send content from their Chrome browser to devices running the app. This opens a whole world of convenience in that data doesn’t have to be moved to a teacher device before it can be sent to students.
Check out Chirp’s blog post below on this development and its plans to soon make Chirp be able to send data in the other direction, from mobile devices back to Chrome.
The calendar is about to flip to April and with that comes Spring Break, at least here in West Michigan. It’s been another brutally cold and long winter and I personally can’t wait to get to some warmth, relaxation, and time with my family away from the daily school routine. As families prepare to hit the road or just enjoy some time off here are ten great iPad apps and features for Spring Break 2015.
Off Switch – It’s not an app but probably the best feature of any electronic device for Spring Break is the off switch. Shut down for a while and unplug. Focus on all of the natural and analog adventures you can have even if it’s just for an extended period each day. Unplugging completely might not be that easy though for the family facing a 24 hour drive, hours in airports, or suddenly now faced with a whole week at home together. The following recommendations are to help keep kids’ brains, creativity, and fun going throughout the week. They’re not in any particular order as far as one being better than another, just great apps.
Keynote– This is more than Apple’s version of PowerPoint. Not only is it a really powerful presentation maker, it’s a powerful design tool as well. After a week of taking pictures and video of their adventures, kids can spend the ride home assembling all of their memories. Keynote is free on all iOS devices purchased since the Fall of 2013. Keynote is car friendly because most features aside from sharing are not wifi dependent.
Maps – If you’re on the road this break, give your kids part of the navigational duties. When I was growing up, we would travel most summers across country from Arizona to Michigan. My sister and I learned so much about geography and math when we rode shotgun with the big Rand McNally atlas on our laps. The iPad’s built-in Maps app or its Google counterpart do way more than a print atlas. You can search for restaurants, upcoming gas stations, hotels, and more. Maps requires an Internet connection so in the car, kids might need to use the one on your phone.
Here is a game based on doing work at the shipyard, but every kid I know thinks of it more as the beloved claw at 90% of America’s pizza joints and grocery stores. Kids have to program the claw to move crates in a series of puzzles that gradually increase in difficulty. This app is ladened with advanced problem solving and an introduction to computer science in that in order to move the claw, kids have to assemble directions as if they were coding an app. Building this type of logical reasoning transcends many different subject areas. No Internet needed.
Replay– Here is a fabulously easy-to-use movie editor that provides stunning results. In fact, this app is so good, Apple used it in its product launch of the iPad Air 2 in October. The killer feature lies in the app’s ability to analyze your photos and footage for tempo, sound, and color. High-end effects like lens-flare, background color, and music are all added automatically and can also be adjusted manually. It’s actually called Replay Video Editor for Instagram but no Instagram account is needed. Internet is only needed for sharing projects or buying advanced features. Remember to always, always, always shoot your video horizontally! Here’s a sample of what you can do literally in just a few minutes with Replay. This was some really, really rough drone footage we took over my house.
IXL– Sometimes the math drill apps get a bad rap, but I am a firm believer that in the proper dose they can do a lot of good as building computational fluency is essential. Without a strong handle on basic facts, kids are greatly hampered moving forward into more complicated math. IXL is a great app that works all math standards from Pre-K on up. Many schools have student subscriptions. Check with your kid’s school to see if they do and get the username and password for your trip. You’ll need an Internet connection so it might not be the best for the car or van, but incorporating a little math never ruined anyone’s vacation…not completely anyway.
Penultimate– Here is a notebook app where kids can doodle, journal, or draw-up inventions. Because it is digital, they have an endless supply of paper and no crayons will melt all over your interior when left on a hot backseat. Any photos on the iPad can be easily inserted into sketches and if they have an Evernote account, your kids can sync their creations and keep them among their other notes on the cloud-based free service. Internet is only required to sync or share.
Google Drive– This one is more practical over exciting, but many schools issue students Google Apps for Education accounts. With the Drive app, kids can upload all of the photos and videos they shoot with the iPad to their school accounts. When they get back to school and get the “What I did over Spring Break” essay assignment, they’ll have tons of visuals to insert. Requires Internet.
Tinkerbox HD – This puzzle app is ridiculously addictive and involves engineering one contraption after another. Getting a ball into a basket gets increasingly more difficult as new conveyor belts, levers, and ramps are introduced. It works scientific concepts and logical thinking but in the end it is just fun.
No matter where you are headed or if you are just sticking around home, these apps all can fend off the dreaded “I’m bored” and keep brains firing all week. A few others to explore include Canva, Photoshop Mix, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Snapseed. Whatever you make, make sure great memories are at the top of the list.
If you are still on the fence about trying the Google Classroom app or fledgling along trying to figure it out on the fly, Michael Fricano’s new resources for you and your students may just be the resource you need for moving all-in on the classroom and document management tool.
Get your FREE user guide for the new Google Classroom iPad App!
Google just released an Android & iOS app for Google Classroom. It’s not full featured (yet) so it’s important that teachers and students understand exactly what you can and can’t do with the app.
Here are five technology infused ways for kids to show their thankfulness as we head into Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Canadian friends can file this one away until next Fall.
The great thing about each of these activities is that thoughts and ideas are not only shared with the whole class but also an authentic audience across the web. Publish a link in a newsletter or on a class blog and invite the outside world into your classroom and the hard work of your students.
1. Blog Comments: One of the fastest ways for kids to give thanks is on a class blog. Create a post as a writing prompt and then open up the comments to your students. In Blogger and other platforms there are various settings to allow anonymous comments but have students sign each one with a first name. It is a good idea to watch each new addition closely to ward off any pre-holiday hi-jinx or silliness. It is neat to see all of the ideas in one group spot. Students can also comment on each other’s thoughts.
2. Build a Shared Class Slide Deck: If your students all have Google Apps for Education accounts, you can create a presentation that has a blank slide for every student. Just share the deck with the entire class and each student can work in his or her own little corner of the collaborative project. It is a proactive idea to designate each slide ahead of time with a student name or class number. This greatly reduces students interfering with one another. Each can create a slide that has textual and visual expressions of what makes them thankful. The finished deck can be embedded on a class webpage for everyone to easily view.
3. Get Artsy with Haiku Deck: Students will need an account in Haiku Deck, but they can do that with their Google Accounts as well. Haiku Deck is available free as an iOS app or on the web at HaikuDeck.com. There isn’t the option of all collaborating on the same deck of slides like in Google Apps, but there are a number of sharing options that easily let students email links or embed codes to a teacher so all of the work can get compiled in one publicly accessible spot. Students can upload their own background photos or select from the beautiful free collection that Haiku Deck offers.
4. Create a Pic Collage: This a great free app available on iPad and Android devices. It has an easy to use interface for dragging and dropping a number of pictures into a collage and accenting with text and borders. A number of frames are available that makes the maneuvering even easier. Non-linguistic representations of concepts are often the most powerful connections to really understanding something. A collage showing thankfulness really gets kids thinking about what they have special in their lives, but also how to effectively communicate that visually. Collages can be saved as images and then posted by the teacher.
5. Let Them Show it with ShowMe: ShowMe is a great whiteboard recording app for the iPad. Students can upload a picture or draw one and then create a voice over track telling for what they are thankful. One advantage that ShowMe has over some of the other whiteboard apps is that if logged into a teacher account, the quick movies generated can all be easily posted to webspace that ShowMe provides.
None of these techniques take a tremendous amount of tech skills and don’t require a lot of planning on the teacher’s part. Give one a spin this week and you are likely to wind up thankful you did.
I saw today via the Twitterverse that the whiteboard app Explain Everything (iOS|Android) connects with Google Drive. I have primarily been a user of ShowMe when it comes to whiteboard apps but this might be the tipping point for me to move over to the EE side of the fence. Add in the fact that Explain Everything is also the only whiteboard app currently available on Android and it becomes even more attractive since I use devices on that platform as well.
When starting a new project, Explain Everything allows users to access photos from the device’s internal media storage but also makes materials and docs in iTunes, Dropbox, Box.com, Evernote, and OneDrive available in addition to what you have in your connected Google Drive account. With some of the other whiteboard apps, I would get frustrated because something I wanted to annotate in a video wasn’t in the camera roll on that one particular device.
Those multiple cloud-based options are also available when it comes to saving your project video with the additional benefit of exporting to Vimeo. On the iPad, there is even the option to open the project in other apps like iBooks as a .pdf or iMovie as a .mp4.
Here is a scenario where Explain Everything connected to Google Drive could be very handy for a teacher. A fourth grade teacher is trying to figure out why many of her students are struggling with long division so she has them each complete one long division problem on the tablet in the hallway while narrating their problem solving with Explain Everything. By having students save their videos to her Google Drive or a classroom Drive account, she can later watch those videos on her computer. She can analyze exactly where hangups are happening for each student and organize all of those pieces of formative assessment into one folder. She could conference the next day with each student as they watch the video together and address the specifics of the problem. She can also share that video with a child’s family very easily to help explain where the student needs work.
One drawback of Explain Everything is that the app does not provide users an online space to post their videos like ShowMe does. With all of these other options, that is quickly becoming a moot point.
The app costs $2.99 but is easily worth every cent.