iOS Tip: Using Reader

Safari, the iPad’s web browser, offers a feature that is often overlooked and hardly ever used – Reader. You probably see it all the time but may not have ever even bothered to consider what it is. When loading a site with an article, a ‘Reader’ button appears in the address bar.

What that button does is reloads your page in a much cleaner format by removing ads, marginal text, non-essential pictures, or anything else that clutters the page leaving only the article you are reading allowing you to stay focused on what you actually care about. It also resizes the text in an easier to read font size rather than you zooming in to a size you are comfortable reading in. In fact, if it’s still too small you can select a bigger size. I know my parents would appreciate the bigger size since they’re always reaching for their glasses. Anyway that is pretty much it. Press the ‘Reader’ button again to go back to browsing. This tip actually works on iPhones also.

Here’s an example using an article from the NY Times:

Much easier to read and no distractions! =)

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Coming Soon: Guided Access

Apple had their annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC 2012) announcing things like their new Macbook Pro and new updates for the operating system for iPads and iPhones called iOS 6. Among other things, one key feature that stood out to me as a teacher is called, ‘Guided Access.’ Here is the official description from Apple’s website:

“iOS 6 comes with even more features to make it easier for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities to get the most from their iOS devices. Guided Access helps students with disabilities such as autism remain on task and focused on content. It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. VoiceOver, the revolutionary screen reader for blind and low-vision users, is now integrated with Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom. And Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids that will deliver a power-efficient, high-quality digital audio experience.”

This being a blog for teachers what caught my attention was, “It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button…” This new feature allows a teacher to chose an app and then disable the home button basically restricting the students from exiting the app and then trying to open other things such as youtube, facebook, or whatever else. So if students are given iPads during their Algebra I class to use the Quick Graph app to graph a system of linear inequalities, they will not have the temptation to open the Messages app  and start texting all their friends about how bored they are in math class.

And that is the key factor. Once students become accustomed to fact that the iPad can be restricted then they will lose the distraction of trying to do other things once they get their hands on the iPad. All it takes is one student to open a funny video and the whole class becomes distracted. A teacher’s worst nightmare would be a classroom full of students with iPads who are not on task because they’re too busy on twitter, facebook, instagram, youtube, pandora, draw something, and anything else other than what the teacher needs them to be on.

I look forward to this update which is not due until the fall of 2012. Unfortunately, however, the iOS 6 update is only available for the iPad 2 and the New iPad (3rd Generation) and will not be available for the Original iPad which is upsetting. Regardless, Guided Access will be a welcomed feature for teachers.

Click to see the full iOS 6 Preview from the official Apple site.

-Mr. Mendo

App Review: Dropbox – Cloud Storage Service

If students are going to use iPads in the classroom then learning about cloud storage is an inevitability. That being said, most teachers are also going to need training on this topic. I would even recommend a professional development training just to get teachers familiar with it. By no means do I mean to imply that it is difficult to use – it is quite the opposite actually. A quick description of cloud storage is that you can upload your files (documents, pictures, etc.) to a server and be able to access them later through multiple devices such as a home computer, smartphone, iPad, laptop, or other computing devices. So if you’re typing a word document on your work computer, you can save it to your cloud storage (such as Dropbox) and you will be able to immediately access it from one of your other devices such as your come computer, iPad, or home computer. No longer will you need to keep emailing yourself your resume every time you make an edit. Here is a video that really breaks it down.

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No Calculator on the iPad?! Best Free Calculator Apps

I find it odd that the iPad, clearly one of the most revolutionary computing devices in the consumer market, does not even come with a calculator. The iPhone has a simple calculator when held normally but when held in landscape position stretches to reveal more buttons and becomes a scientific calculator. So clearly Apple understands the need for a calculator. Apple also clearly wants iPads to be used in the classroom so it’s mind-boggling that they left the calculator app out.

The iPhone Calculator:

Well, for whatever the reason, there really is no sense in trying to make sense of it all and if and when they ever do make one then it will be welcomed with open arms by everyone I’m sure but until then we’ll just have to sort through the calculator apps in the App Store. So here are my findings for the best free calculator apps. I stress free because there are good free calculator apps and school budgets need not waste money purchasing calculator apps when that money can go towards other more useful educational apps. I also am quick to disregard any apps that have ads in them so even though there are other free calculator apps that are great, possibly even better, when it comes to ads they can be so distracting and something as simple as that can lose the students’ focus on the task at hand so any apps mentioned here are also ad-free =)

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iOS Tip: How to Take Screenshots

Taking screenshots can be an effective tool for teachers for a number of reasons. Basically, whatever is on your screen can be captured and saved as a picture. For example, a social studies teacher can pull up google maps on the iPad and take a screenshot of a state or country to share with the class as a visual aid. Apple has made it very simple to take a screenshot on the iPad (as well as the iPhone for that matter).

All you have to do is press the home button and the power button at the same time. Done. The screen will flash white (to mimic the idea of a flash) and you can access your screenshot from the Photos app.

Here are some examples:

So there ya go! There are ways to crop, rotate, and edit images which I will cover soon.

-Mr. Mendo

iPad App Review: Nearpod – A Not So Good Presentation App

In my research for ways to integrate iPad use in my curriculum I stumbled upon an app called Nearpod. Similar to creating powerpoint slides a teacher can create a presentation to drive a lesson. The features a teacher can include in their presentation are

  • slides with text and pictures
  • polls to survey his or her class on the spot,
  • ask questions to which students can respond right away and the teacher can review instantly,
  • quizzes to assess student progress,
  • video
  • draw it to have students draw an image, submit to the teacher, and the teacher can select ones to share with the class.

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App Review: Quickoffice and DocsToGo – Replacing Microsoft Office on the iPad

Unfortunately, there is no official Microsoft Office – Word, PowerPoint, and Excel – for the iPad which is what most people, including students, use to write reports, make presentations, and collect data on desktop computers. Here I will discuss replacements for Microsoft Office if your class is using iPads and not desktop computers – Quickoffice Pro HD and Documents To Go.

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iPad Tip: Typing with a Stylus

As mentioned in my previous post about the split keyboard, my preferred method of typing on the iPad is to use a stylus. I find that no matter what position I’m in or how long I have to write for, I am most comfortable typing with a stylus. It doesn’t just stop there though as the stylus replaces your finger’s interaction with the iPad such as clicking on icons, browsing the internet, and are especially helpful with drawing apps such as Paper by FiftyThree. I find using the iPad with a stylus is a lot more comfortable but my point is that typing with a stylus is the most efficient and timely method in my opinion.

I’ve seen a number of different kinds at Best Buy and they range from $10 – $40. I haven’t tried all the different kinds but there really isn’t much to them as long as they are sensitive enough for the iPad anyone will do the trick.

-Mr. Mendo

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iPad Tip: Split Keyboard

First point I’d like to bring up is typing on the iPad. Typing on the iPad is a lot more cumbersome than it is typing on a regular keyboard or on a smartphone. The keyboard is big and typing on a big touch screen keyboard is awkward so if students are expected to write paragraphs, short stories, or multiple-page papers it may take them much longer than just using a computer with a regular keyboard. Some people hold their iPad portrait style and use the pointer finger to type. Others lay their iPad flat on a table and put it in landscape to try to type like on a regular keyboard. Every person has their own preferences which also depends on what mood they’re in or what it is they’re actually typing. Of course in a classroom setting time is always a factor and typing in either way students may get easily frustrated. The experience of typing shouldn’t be the reason why a student cannot get their work done so for the students’ sake it is worth exploring other methods.

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