Thursday, February 21, 2013


First in the list of apps I am going to look at is AirPresenter.

As I am just pulling these from a list, I had no sweet clue what this app was supposed to do.  I opened it up and was greeted with this screen:

It just appeared to be a black screen with some icons on the side.  Even more baffling, I had no idea what most of them did.  There was a camera icon, a grid, what looked like a piece of paper, a pen, a paint roller, and the box with the down pointing arrow.

I got in trouble right away.

The camera button seemed to flip between the front ipad camera, and a black screen.  Thats when I realized that my case was covering the back camera and the default view of the app was whatever the back camera was seeing.  Once I straightened that out I realized that I could use the pen to draw on whatever the ipad was looking at.  

In this case I was looking at my leg.

This seemed incredibly useless.  Who wants to draw on what the camera is seeing?  It wasn't a still image, and as soon as the ipad moved my drawings made no sense at all.  The grid button just took me to a blank page with a plus icon in the top right and a cancel button in the top right.  Clicking on either of them just took me back to the main video drawing screen.

So far, useless.

I moved on to the Paint Roller icon and realized that you can use it to set a background, either a solid color, or an image from the ipad, or you could take a picture with the ipad.  Inexplicably, one of the buttons did nothing but focus the ipad camera.  I still have no idea what that was for.  However, once I found out how to set a background the tool became marginally more useful. 

For some reason I had a picture of Mark Tewksbury saved on my ipad, so I set that as the background and played around with the app a little more.  You can set the size and color of the pen using the pen icon:
Nothing too exciting, just a lot of colours and some size changes.
It turned out the paper button was for wiping the screen free of ink.  It looks like plastic cling wrap being pulled off the screen.

And the box button on the bottom of the screen was the export button, letting you save your images in your camera roll, email them, or save it in the AirPresenter app itself.  It turns out that when you save the photos you can access them later under the grid button present in the menu.

Even after playing with the app for a couple of minutes I could barely see the point of it.  It seemed like a drawing app, but one that wasn't particularly great, and one that I had found confusing to use.  I figured I better actually check the description in the App Store to see what the developers wanted you to use it for.  According to them, the app is supposed to be used via airplay as a presentation tool.

I guess.  I mean, I can barely see it being functional in that way.  It would be a bit of a pain to use and I imagine there are more than a couple of apps that work that way.  Though, maybe not, I can't think of any off the top of my head.  I suppose you could use Penultimate or Skitch or something via airplay to draw on an image.  There menus are easier to use.  I just don't see any real advantages of using AirPresenter.

I am going to say give it a pass for now.  Unless you can think of some specific uses for it, and there could be, I just don't see any reason to not delete it from my ipad right now.

Listing of Apps

Recently the my school district started grade level sharing sessions.  Some subsection of the district will meet at grade level, such as all the Grade 6 teachers in one area, and for the day they will just share ideas and work with each other.  I am not a grade anything teacher, but from what I hear from those who have participated they sound pretty great, and the overall feeling from those attending has been very positive. Teachers feel like they are getting something real and tangible from co-workers who have been dealing with the exact same ideas as them, plus gives them a chance to share their own ideas or just bounce them off others.

At the last set of sessions on of the major topics was a sharing of Ipad apps. In theory it was a great idea, but when I saw the way the apps were presented, I wasn't particularly excited.  It was just a big list, with nothing to tell you what any of the apps did. It might have been ok for the those who were actually there but for anyone else it was just a big list of apps and a second note after it denoting if it was free, or if it had a cost, how much it was.

I am going to take these giant lists of apps and check through each of the free ones, and try and figure out if I personally find them useful.  I can then at least share what they do with some of my collegues so they have more information to go on then just the name of the app. And while I know you could search for the app on the App Store, honestly, I find that one of the worst places to find information about apps as it usually ends up being nothing more than an advertisement created by the developer to make you want to buy your app. Reviews sometimes help, but I find quite often that some educational apps have few, if any reviews associated with them.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Expectations of Privacy as a teen

The vast majority of students I teach don't have cell phones, which is to be expected in a K-6 school.  Today though, I was at the dentist and saw something that I thought was a little odd, and somewhat disquieting.

When I was sitting in the waiting room the only other people present were a mother and her two teenaged daughters, one being between 13-14 and the older 15-16 years old.  They were chatting about something when I sat down, homework that had to be done, and an upcoming dance.  The older girl was called in to the office for her work, and left her purse and other objects sitting in the chair between her mother and her sister.  Within moments of the girl going beyond the doors her mother casually popped open her purse and pulled out her cell phone and prepared to start looking through it.

The younger sister let out a startled, "MOM!" and immediately told her mother to stop.  Her mother said she was just looking at it for a moment, and then asked for help unlocking it.  The youngest daughter replied that she wasn't helping her and politely, and firmly, asked her mother for the phone.  She was quite insistent persistent, and within a minute or two she had the phone from her mother and placed in her own purse.

I had never even considered the idea that some of these students might have issues of privacy like that.  As far as I know I had never had anything like this happen to me when I was that young, but when I was that young there was no digital footprint or tracks to leave.  Everything was over the phone, and unless someone was listening in to your phone conversation there was nothing to see.  For these kids, text messages, facebook, twitter, instagram, emails, all leave a trail that almost impossible to hide from it.

I don't know what the educational implications of this are, I just hadn't really considered it before.

Me at the Dentist

Monday, February 11, 2013

Google Earth in Grade 5

I have always been a big fan of Google Earth.  It has so much information, and presents it such an interesting manner.  I have used it before for a couple of lessons, in particular for a Grade 4 scavenger virtual scavenger hunt where they had to tour the city looking for the answers to the clues.  It was fun, but just involved looking at information that was already present in Google.

On Friday a Grade 5 teacher wanted to an activity involving Google Earth where the students would search around the Nile River for a variety of landforms.  They would mostly rely on the pictures found on Google Earth as well the natural features you can see there.  I told her it sound alright, and made the arrangements to do it with the students.

Looking closer at Google Earth though, I remembered a recent post I had seen detailing the fact that more tours had been added to Google Earth.  I checked them out, and they were pretty interesting, but I had no idea that it was so easy to actually create your own tours!

After the students did their search of the Nile I just had them do a quick tour of their favourite places in the city.  They found it quite an easy task, and that means in the future I will be trying this with another group of students.  Best part?  The tours can be saved as KML files that when opened open Google Earth and start the tour right away.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Back to Glogster

After a bit of a hiatus with Glogster we are using it with a Grade 6 class tomorrow.  I really like the concept of Glogster, but I had in the recent past found it slightly difficult to work with.  The interface was slightly kludgy, and occasionally it was also really slow.  It did sometimes take too long to upload images as well, which made it essentially unusable too.

Much seems to have changed though.  The interface appears to have undergone a facelift, with the focus being on speed and usability, and just as important the overall stability of the site seems to be doing a lot better too.  When the site was free, this was forgivable  but now that the site is one that needs to be paid for, it is only fitting that it do a better job of being functional.  

Regardless, the Grade 6 class was doing countries, and have already finished their research, all that is left is for them to present their work.  The teacher had previously done the presentation via poster board, so doing it digitally is a big departure.  Using the also new project settings I am hoping this will be easier for the teacher to manage the finished product and assess them.