Monday, June 25, 2012

Feedly - It's like Flipboard for your desktop. Sort of.

What I love about my iPad is that I can pick it up, open my Flipboard app and begin reading from all of the news websites (uh, hum my social media outlets) and ed tech blogs that I have hand picked. The best part is that these websites are arranged as if they were in a magazine or newspaper. Complete with a headlines and images. So, it makes choosing the articles to read a little easier. I'm a visual guy.
I love Flipboard for my iPad. However, I spend 85% of my day behind my desktop and there isn't a desktop version for Flipboard. So I went searching for my own and found FeedlyFeedly works very similar to the way Flipboard does. Once you sync your Google account Feedly takes your existing Google Reader feed and displays it on your desktop in a magazine or newspaper type layout for easy navigation. I use my Google Reader quite a bit, but I'm lazy and I don't like scrolling through an entire post to get to the next article. And just displaying the title isn't good for me. Remember, visual guy here.
Feedly has several options for you to choose how your content is displayed. You can display your content in a magazine style, with titles only, as a mosaic of images, as cards or as the entire article. Your content will be pulled straight from your Google Reader feed so you don't have to start manually migrating all of your websites to Feedly. Don't worry if you don't have a Google Reader feed.  You can start building content directly within Feedly. One downside, is that Feedly doesn't display your social media streams (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) within the layout you choose. It creates a separate sidebar that displays your social media stream. Similar to a widget in your blog. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oh Social Media, How I Have Tamed You. For Now.

What I love about social media is that it can provide you several avenues of communication and collaboration in the professional world. If, you choose to use them. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Blogger, LinkedIn, etc. There seems to be infinite ways to "stay in the loop" or contribute to "the loop". However, it's those same infinite ways that can be a nightmare!

I'm sure many of you with multiple social media accounts have gone through one the following scenarios. You send out a tweet, with a great resource or idea, to your followers. However, you feel like those who have "liked" your Facebook Page would love to hear about this idea as well. And don't forget about you LinkedIn connections. So you find yourself...

A. Copying and pasting the various links to the resources into your many social media accounts and then making all the necessary edits.
B. Growing tired of maintaining all your accounts so you really only keep one account up to date.

I find myself doing the latter.

Then I found or If This Then That. It allows you to distribute content from one social media account (ifttt calls them channels) to others. No more copying and pasting from your Blogger to your FB Page, Twitter, Posterous, Tumblr, ect. It shows up on both! And it's so simple.
Here's the way the website works. You create these "If this... then that...." statements (ifttt calls them tasks) using your social media accounts. By creating content on one account you trigger the other account to post the same content. Take a look at a task I'm using below. If I create a post on my Blogger, then it creates a tweet on my Twitter feed with the post title and a link back to my to blog!

Sure, you can go on your Blogger, Wordpress or Facebook and hit "share" and send it out via Twitter, but eliminates that extra step. How about setting up a task like this...
So from now on all the Instagram photos you take, go straight to your Dropbox. 

I suggest you give this service a try and see if it works for you. Unfortunately, you can't create an If this... then that... statement that takes care of all of your social media needs. You'll need to create tasks that only includes two channels. For example, I can't say, If I post to Twitter, then post to my Tumblr, Blogger, FB page, LinkedIn, and Evernote. Which is a good thing. Because each service is a little different and requires a little tweaking in the way it's content is distributed. You can't post a 300 character status update from FB to your Twitter. So you'll find what work for you.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Snapguide - Create Step By Step "How To" Guides

Would you like to quickly show the world how to prepare gazpacho that would make Samuel L. Jackson proud? Or demonstrate how to change out the wiper blades on your HondaSnapguide is the way to go.

While searching for free iPad apps for an upcoming presentation, I came across this wonderful little gem. It's called SnapguideSnapguide is a free iPhone app that allows you to create a step by step "How To" guide about anything right from your iDevice! Your guide can then be published to the web and viewed on many web enabled devices!

Here's how it works. 
1. With your iDevice, take a few photos or capture some video that demonstrates each step in your "how to guide"
2. Add text and/or audio to your steps to provide more detail.
3. Publish to the web. 
4. Share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

It's that simple. I made one in about 20 minutes. Take a look!

How can students, teachers and even tech support use this little gem in the classroom?
1. Students create their own visual tutorials about a particular concept or idea
2. Students submit a guide demonstrating the mastery of a skill
3. Students create a visual guide on the steps taken in the scientific process
4 . Student publish interactive digital stories
5. Teachers post homework guides on their websites or blogs demonstrating how to solve step by step sample problems
6. Teachers develop an interactive scavenger hunt by posting visual clues with directions on how to accomplish a task
7. Tech support posts guides for teachers explaining how to troubleshoot or perform a task

Friday, March 2, 2012

iPad Initiative - Who downloads your free apps?

Currently, our district is enrolled in the Apple's Volume Purchase Plan. However, we are still waiting to receive our first set of volume purchase vouchers. So until then we are downloading free apps to the iPads.
I thought I'd post a Q & A between myself and I to show you how we are managing this task. Don't worry. I didn't ask these out loud. Nor did I respond to myself out loud. But I guess that should be the least of our worries. 

Myself: Good morning. How are you?
I: Great. Enjoying my first cup of coffee.

Myself: Well, lets get started. 

Q: What are you using to sync your devices?
A: A Bretford Sync Cart with a dedicated Dell laptop. We are using 30 devices (iPad 2)

Q: Who purchases and syncs the free apps? 
A: Me (District Instructional Technology Coach). I will eventually delegate this down to the campus ITS.

Q: How do the teachers let you know what apps they want?
A: We're using a Google spreadsheet with color coding. Teachers have editing permissions and may add apps that they would like to have synced to the devices. I then go in and sync what I can. I use a color coding system to let teachers know it has been done. It's simple and makes sense. Take a look ours. Nothing fancy. iPad App Spreadsheet

Q: How often do you sync the devices? 
A: I try to do it as often as I can. At least once every two weeks. Well that is my goal until it gets too overwhelming. I have to go to the campus to do this and it can take a couple of hours. I've only completed this twice. We haven't had the devices long. 

Q: What if a teacher needs an app ASAP?
A: They can do it themselves if they'd like. They know how to sync them using the Sync Cart but it can take a lot of time. The cart does not sync them all at one time or very quickly. The other option is for the teacher is to touch each device, log in and sync them. It's up to the teacher and how much time they have. 

Q: Are you going to use the same process for the new cart you are expecting with 30 additional iPads?
A: Yes. I'll just use a different spreadsheet for different teachers. And then the delegating will begin!

Me: I'd like to thank you for your time and I hope we can talk again soon. 
I: You welcome. Have a great day!

iPad Initiative - Writing Workshop Research

Last Thursday, Ms. Murphy's 5th grade class utilized their iPads to begin conducting research for their writing workshop that would focus on careers. Students participated in an open class discussion and generated a lengthy list of potential career choices to research. The students then used the iPad app Qwiki to help with their research. With Qwiki, students could search a topic and Qwiki would combine relevant images, videos, graphics and narration into one presentation that students could begin exploring. From there, students would then decide if this was the right career choice for them to write about. If not, they could move on to another option. I loved how easy it was for a student to begin researching another career without having to get up and grab a different book or other resource. Everything was at their fingertips!

From the images below, you can see that our next app may be a mind-mapping or brainstorming app! If you know of any good ones, please feel free to share. I've had some Twitter followers give me several recommendations. Thank you to @nanc765 and @MissDSciTeacher for your recommendations. Here is a blog post by Greg Swanson from his blog Apps In Education titled 10 Mind Mapping Tools 4 the iPad.

Ms. Murphy teaches an all girls 5th grade class at Lucas Crossing Elementary in the Normandy School District. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

iPad Initiative - Restrictions and Responsible Use Policy

Another update on our iPad Initiative. I'm trying to play a little catch up with this post. The next step we took before we handed our students their iPads was to create a Responsible Use Policy. We reviewed various iPad RUPs before creating ours to help give us an idea of what we needed to include. The iPad RUP that we created is called, "iWill". Very creative, huh? Earlier in the year the students reviewed and signed a District Acceptable Use Policy but we felt that the iPads needed a little extra attention. It's not perfect, but then again what is. What we wanted to do was create some dialog between the teachers and students on the purpose of their iPads. I've included a sample of what we included in our "iWill" at the bottom of this post. Please let us know if you have any suggestions on how we could make it better.

In addition to the "iWill" RUP and the classroom discussion, we enabled various restrictions on the iPad. I've included a screen shot from one of the devices. I'm sure many of you will say, "Wow. That's a lot of restrictions!" Remember, this is new to us and we would like to avoid some of the potential mistakes that may happen. These devices are also shared. Therefore, one teacher may not be ready to manage a classroom set with all the bells and whistles. I'd like to share our thoughts behind the restrictions and get any of your feedback. 
FaceTime - We may look to open it up for certain projects. This is more of a student safety concern. 
Ping - Managing a social network for music is not a priority right now. 
Deleting Apps - Why would we want kids to do this?
Location - It's enabled. Just locked.
Email - We plan to open this up very soon with an email address. As of now, we just have not figured out how we will manage it. Will we have one email for all 30 devices or one for each. 
Allowed Content - We set these according to the age of our students. 
In-App Purchases - There is not a credit card on file with the Apple ID's that we are using but we would still like to avoid any accidental charges. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

METC 2012 Presentation

For those of you who were unable to attend my METC presentation, No More Paper, No More Books.... I wanted to write up a short post on a few of the tools that I shared. 

The focus of the presentation was to share with teachers several free web-based tools that can help turn student netbooks, laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphone into learner response devices.

You can view my "virtual handout" here:

The first tool is MentimeterMentimeter is a free web-based tool that provides the teacher a quick and simple way to interact with their students and receive feedback. Teachers can do this by having students respond to multiple choice questions via their mobile device. All the participants need is a link to the question. Results are displayed in real-time. No login required. 

 Poll Everywhere is a another free-web based polling service that allows a teacher to gather live responses from an audience via their mobile device or desktop computer. Students access the question via a direct link to the poll and can respond to a single multiple choice question created by the teacher. There are two features that set this tool apart from Mentimeter.
1. When you create an account, all of your polls are saved and can be used again.
2. Teachers have the option to ask an open ended question that the students can respond to in a free text format.

 Socrative is my favorite of the three listed here. Socrative is also a web-based tool that allows the teachers to collect response from their students. However, there are several great features that set this tool apart from the others.
1. An entire multiple choice tets can be created and saved within the application or upload using their .xls template. 
2. Questions can be graded and results can be sent back to the teacher via email or downloaded as an .xls file. 
3.  It's also a free iPad, iPhone, and iPod app. There is an app available for the teacher and an app for the student. 
4. Very simple to use.
Currently, Socrative is in beta and is free. However, with the easy to use and needed features, this will not be free for long. 

Monday, February 13, 2012


If you are looking for a simple web-based tool that can make your lessons or presentations more interactive, then Mentimeter is a good solution for you. Mentimeter is a tool that allows you create a simple one question poll that your audience members can respond to via their mobile device. As long as their device can access the web, they are ready to respond! Just provide your audience the Poll URL or Vote ID and send them on their way. Give it a try for yourself.

Go to and type in 71756
Or go to

Now watch the results below populate instantly!

Mentimeter is free and there is no log in or registration required. Your poll is saved forever and you can go back an edit it at any time as long as you keep the administrator URL that is provided once you create your poll. Results can also be embedded into your blog or wiki or shared via Twitter or email.

Friday, February 10, 2012

iPad Initiative - In the Classroom

Well the day has finally arrived! The iPads are in the classroom at Lucas Crossing Elementary. I think i was just as excited as the kids! Here is a glimpse into the first day!
Day 1
Ms Camp's 2nd and 3rd grade class had a day of exploration and reading. Students had a chance to do a little clicking and a little swiping. Many of the students had never used an iPad prior to this. They treated them with extreme care! Students were also introduced to reading their favorite books online.
More pics and details to come!

Friday, February 3, 2012

iPad Initiative - Volume Purchase Program

Apple IDs. Check. 
Sync cart. Check.
30 iPads connected. Check.
Synced free apps. Check. 
Now lets spend some district money!

Apple App Volume Purchase Plan
To maximize our small budget we decided to go with Apple's Volume Purchase Plan. Many of the apps in Apple's VPP are sold at a discount. The more you purchase, the more you save. Many apps are up to 50% off! I would love to say that we went in this direction because it was the easier process. However, it's actually a little more involved than just going into the App Store to download and sync. Well, the initial set up is. Here's the low down.
Program Manager
To enroll in the program, I had to identify someone as the VPP (Volume Purchase Plan) Manager. This needed to be someone who would will set up the VPP account for the campus or the district. This person would also submit purchase orders for VPP vouchers. More on the vouchers a little further down. In the end, I decided to take on this role. My goal is to extend our iPad program, if we see positive results, to other campus. With my position as the district technology coach, I felt this was a good idea.
Program Facilitator
The next step was for me, the Program Manager, was to identify a VPP Facilitator. This person would be the one who does all the app purchasing with the VPP vouchers. Everyone I spoke with does this a little different. Some PM designate a person on the campus, others designate someone in the district office. After talking with our team, I was nominated. Lucky me. Once I workout any kinks in the process, this will be moved back down to the campus level.
How it works
With the Volume Purchase Plan, the Program Manager will submit a purchase order to buy a certain dollar amount of Apple VPP Vouchers. These can be purchased in $100 dollar increments. Once they are purchased, these vouchers will be mailed out to the PM in 3-5 business days. The PM then sends those vouchers to the Program Facilitator. The PF will then go to the VPP portal (different from iTunes) to redeem the vouchers and purchase the apps in various quantities. App specific download codes will then be emailed to the PF to begin downloading the purchased apps to the devices. The downloads can be done by the PF, the teacher or the students. It all depends on how you are managing your devices. With our situation, the teachers will be performing all the downloads and syncing.  
That's the Volume Purchase Plan in a nutshell. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

iPad Initiative - Setting Up Apple IDs

The next step in our iPad initiative was to figure out how to create Apple IDs for our end users (teachers and students). How should we do this? 
We considered the following:
1. Do we allow teachers to use their own Apple IDs when they set up their iPads?
2. Will the district reimburse a teacher for buying apps for the classroom using their own credit card?
3. What if the district purchases apps? Who keeps the apps?
4. What if a teacher changes classrooms / campuses or leaves the district?
5. Students do not have district emails so how am I going to set up their Apple ID?
6. Will each device need an Apple ID?
7. Do students need an Apple ID?
In my head, this list went on and on. After consulting with our team, the technology department, various Apple reps and of course, Twitter, we decided to go with generic emails for teachers to help set up generic Apple IDs.
Teacher IDs
Our technology department though it would be best to use generic teacher emails so that it could be passed on to another teacher should a teacher leave the district. This had to be done in Active Directory as well. If you'd like more info on how that was done, let me know.
The emails looked something like this
In addition to the teacher, we also have a Instructional Technology Specialist who will support the campus teachers. We provided that individual an iPad and created them an Apple ID as well. 
The "6" was the grade level and the "1" stood for the first teacher in the grade level. The teacher will then set up their iPad with that email as their Apple ID. If a teacher leaves the district, then the new 6th grade teacher would step into their place and iPad and Apple ID could easily be passed on. 
Student IDs
We determined that students would not need IDs. We would instead create an Apple ID for the iTunes account that would be shared across the 30 devices. So this eliminated the need for individual IDs on each device. I spoke with an Apple rep and he said this was acceptable under the Apple Volume Purchase Plan. We would still be required to purchase 30 Pages apps, for example. More on how we are doing that a little later. Our technology department created another generic email for the iTunes account. Due to the fact that we were using a Bretford sync cart (with the hopes of adding more carts / iPads) we used an email similar to this
Ok, now that we have the Apple IDs in order, I'm moving on to setting up the Volume Purchase Plan. But that's another post. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

iPad Initiative - Now What?

Our Bretford Sync Cart and 36 iPad 2 devices are in! 
Now what? 
This was now the question I was faced with. In the beginning it all sounded so easy and fun. We'll give kids these iPads and they'll use them and it will all be so wonderful. Well, someone needs to determine how we are going to manage these little puppies. That someone was going to be me. 
After watching a few lengthy webinars, tweeting with various colleagues, reading most of Tony Vincent's website and talking to various Apple reps, I have my strategy. Build the plane while flying it!
We will enroll in Apple's Volume Purchase Program. This will allow us to purchase our apps in volume and distribute them out to the devices. One of the best perks of the program is that many of the apps are 50% off! Tony Vincent does a great job of explaining the Apple Volume Purchase Program here. It seems like a very complicated process. I'm not looking forward to this. However, we are only working with 30 iPads so it will be a good way to test this process out. 
All 30 iPads will be placed on a Bretford PowerSync cart to charge and sync all of the devices. The cart did come assembled. This was a relief. On the cart we will have one PC, with iTunes, that is dedicated to the cart. All iPads came engraved with PROPERTY OF NORMANDY SCHOOL DISTRICT to help with identifying them should they end up lost or stolen. We also plan to use the Find My iPad app to assist in locating any device. 
My first step will be to work with our technology department to create generic email addresses to set up Apple IDs for teachers and students. This may require working with our Active Directory. I want to keep the emails generic so that if a teacher leaves the district the Apple ID and any apps purchased with district funds will stay with the district. I'll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

iPad Initiative - The Low Down

In December 2011 the Normandy School District was awarded the Innovative Technology Education Fund Fall Grant. The purpose of submitting the grant was to improve student achievement in literacy skills though the use of mobile devices. In addition to that we wanted to increase teacher effectiveness in technology integration. Four teachers and two technology specialists from Lucas Crossing Elementary are involved in this initiative and I am extremely excited to be a part of this project. This initiative impacts approximately 80 students (grades 2, 3 and 5)

With the help of the ITEF Fall Grant and district funds we were able to purchase the following. 
  • 36 16G Apple iPad2 devices
  • 1 Bretford PowerSync Cart
  • Various iPad apps
  • 40 hours of professional development through the Cooperating School District
  • 1 day registration to the Midwest Educational Technology Conference for each teacher
We are definitely going to be building this plane while we are flying it! More to come!