Making your classroom paperless

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I’ve found a new tool for the classroom if you want to move to a paperless environment – Showbie.

I’ve been extolling the use of Dropbox for professors and students alike as a way to help classrooms go paperless. Dropbox is a great way to have access to your documents in the cloud. But, what about as a way to have your students get assignments, leave them for you and then access them after you’ve graded them?

Showbie, solves the assignment workload problem for me. I can create a class on their site or in the iOS app, share a code to my students, create an assignment with a due date, students can put their assignments in their own personal folders in each assignment, I can access their work and grade it, return it to their folder and they can view my annotations and grading, all of this for free.

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I utilize iTunesU Course Manager for my Mobile Learning courses extensively. But the one drawback for me has been how to get student assignments without them emailing or submitting them on a flash drive, etc.

Showbie solves my problem in an efficient safe manner. According to them, the site and each individual student folder is protected, allowing me to grade and return easily my student’s work. I can even leave a voice note about the assignment.

The app will even notify me how many assignments have been submitted by my students for each assignment.

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I’m using using it extensively in my photo classes. Student can submit a photo, I can import it to iAnnotate, write or type comments and even draw on the images. Then it’s a simple export back to Showbie and into the student’s individual folder. It provides  a huge potential for giving quality feedback in a simple easy to use format.

Pros:
School accounts are currently free and offer unlimited ‘assignments’ and uploads.
The app is simple to navigate.
Files can be reached via the app, any web browser or from a Mac or PC.
Files from apps such as iAnnotate or Pages can be shared straight into the app.
Teachers can provide feedback on assignments in several different ways.
Professors can add courses and students by providing students a class code.
Voice notes allow for professors and students to comment on assignments
Video tutorials are available on the website showing.
Professor can upload files for the whole class to view on their devices.

Cons:
No simple way to create accounts for all of your students
Feedback is based on the whole ‘assignment’ You can only comment on the assignment, not just a voice note or image.

Quite honestly, this site and app has been a big solution for both my student and I. I feel like I’ve got a completely integrated way for my students to submit their assignments and me to grade their work and give feedback while maintaining confidentiality for the student. I strongly recommend this for educators.

My experience upgrading to iOS 7

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Last night, I made the decision to upgrade my iPad 2 to iOS 7. I did it with a bit of concern, but made sure I followed all my suggestions I posted yesterday: checking compatibility, backing up and housecleaning my apps.

My experience in upgrading was much simpler and less painful than I had planned on. First I made sure all of the apps on iPad were up to date. I downloaded the new version of iTunes and then backed up the iPad. I deleted apps that I was no longer using, then backed it up again. I downloaded the upgrade through iTunes (it took about 50 minutes) and then began the install process.

It went fairly quickly and I began checking my critical apps to make sure they were working correctly. So far I have not found any app I use regularly that is not working correctly. Here is a screenshot of my iPad:

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I did not update my iPhone 5 last night but went to an article at  OSX Daily which gave links to the iOS 7 IPSW Direct Downloads. I found the downloads I would need for my iPhone and my wife’s iPad Mini and iPhone 4s. I started the downloads and went to bed.

This morning I felt braver about upgrading the iPhone5 and backed it up, did housecleaning and backed it up again. On my MacBook Air I simply followed these directions on upgrading using IPSW files from OSX Daily:

You can use IPSW files on Mac or Windows, both require iTunes to work properly.

  • Connect your iPhone or iOS device to your computer
  • Select the device in iTunes
  • On a Mac, hold down the “Option” key and then click on “Update”
  • On a Windows PC, hold down “SHIFT” key and then click on “Update”
  • Select the IPSW file you downloaded and click “Choose”
  • Let the iOS device update as usual

My iPhone upgraded fairly quickly and in under 15 minutes, I was enjoying iOS 7 on both of my iDevices. The new system visually is different, but I must say I am enjoying it and think it has some very nice improvements. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting some tips and tricks.

Updating to iOS 7

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for iOS 7. However, when a new operating system comes out, many people rush to download it and forget to take some necessary precautions.

I’m encouraging most users to make sure they have backed up their iPad or iPhones before updating the iOS. You can either backup to iCloud or to your computer. In the past, I’ve used iCloud, but recently have found I run out of space because of all the iDevices my family owns. I have begun backing up to my MacBook to make sure I have all of my critical files, photos and music protected.

Christina Bonnington has a great article How to Prep Your iDevice for iOS 7, on Wired. She makes three very important suggestions on preparing to upgrade your iPad or iPhone.

  • Check compatibility – Not every iPad can be upgraded. Only iPad 2, 3, 4, and iPad mini will be able to support iOS 7.
  • Back it up – Not only back up your iPad, but also all your photos and videos. Plug your iPad into your computer, and use Image Capture or Preview to Import them. On Windows, use Windows Explorer to import them.
  • House clean - Before you upgrade, consider cleaning up your apps. Delete apps you never use. Make sure you have updated and current apps before upgrading to iOS 7. You’ll want to sync and backup to iTunes and iCloud after doing this step.

By taking these simple steps, your transition to iOS 7 should be much more painless and enjoyable.

 

iAnnotate on Sale!

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iAnnotate, my favorite PDF editor is on sale today for $1.99. It is normally $9.99, so this is a great price. If you haven’t purchased this app for your iPad, you need to do it TODAY! It is perhaps the best app for working with PDF’s on the iPad.

Branchfire, the developer has had a great social media campaign announcing the sale, and this is one you don’t want to miss. iAnnotate allows you to use your iPad as a world-class productivity tool for reading, marking up, and sharing PDF documents, Word/PowerPoint files, and images.

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Reference Software for students

ReferenceMe

ReferenceME is the easiest way to do your references, saving you marks and time! With the ability to create projects, you can keep track of the books you have read, and complete an entire bibliography in a fraction of the time. And of course, all the references generated can be sent to your essay via email or Facebook.

Three simple steps:

  • Scan the barcode of a Book or Journal using your mobile phone camera.
  • Choose your referencing style.
  • and export

ReferenceME creates your bibliography and citations in seconds. If there is no barcode you can simply enter the books ISBN/ISSN or you can enter the details yourself, and turn them into references in any of the major styles used by universities and libraries.

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ReferenceME creates Bibliographies and Citations/Footnotes for Harvard, Chicago, Vancouver, MHRA, MLA, Oxford and APA.

Review: Tom Bihn Ristretto for 11″ MacBook Air

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I recently added a Tom Bihn Ristretto for 11″ MacBook Air to my bag collection (ok, I admit I have an obsession with bags). I recently changed my computer to an 11″ MacBook Air from a 15″ MacBook Pro. I opted for the small computer as I’m doing more with Mobile Learning and wanted to stay as lightweight as possible.

That said, I knew I wanted a bag designed to hold the 11″MBA and an iPad Mini. Having owned a Tom Bihn bag in the past, I knew it would be quality and well-designed. I looked at the Ristretto and ordered one and several organizer pouches to help keep track of power cords, hard drives and cables. It was fun unpacking the box.

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My Tom Bihn Ristretto for 11″ MacBook Air and the accessories for keeping track of power cords, hard drives and cables.

I’ve had the bag for three weeks and I’ve got to say, it is a perfect bag to grab and go on a daily basis. It’s going to hold everything I need to help professors get up to speed using Mobile Learning, and my everyday back and forth to work. I use my iPad Mini quite a bit, but there are a lot of times I need to use the MBA.

The Bag has a nice padded compartment which cradles the MBA while protecting it. The top has a fold over pad to keep it secure while traveling. The compartment is roomy and in fact there is enough room in it to slide my iPad Mini behind it. I’ve got a Zagg invisibleShield Full Body on the Mini to protect against scratches.

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Neoprene pad covering the MBA compartment and the area in front of it which will hold organizers and a small camera

This bag has enough room to allow me to carry the accessories that I need in just about any situation. By having the the extra pouches and organizers, I’m able to keep everything compartmentalized and secure. I don’t need to worry about something falling out of the bag. In front of the MBA compartment is another area that holds several organizers. In this area I have a 3D Clear Organizer Cube which I keep my power supply, cables, adapters and flash drive in and a small Padded Organizer Pouch for my external SSD hard drive. Just this past week, I started carrying my new Fujifilm X100s in this area. there is plenty of room left over. i am amazed at how everything is so compact.

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The Tom Bihn 3D Clear Organizer Cube.

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The Tom Bihn small padded organizer which holds my external SSD hard drive.

 

Additionally, all of their bags utilize an ‘O” ring inside the pockets. This allows you to attach straps that will hold your keys, flashlight, or even the pouches and organizers.  I have really used this feature to keep track of my office keys which I have had a tendency to misplace during the day. Now, when I come into the office, I unzip the front pocket and pull out the Key Strap and unlock my door. During the day, I always know where my keys are. I also have a clear Organizer Wallet for some cash. This bag has gone through a couple of revisions, and Tom Bihn is known for listening to his customers and making improvements. One of the best new improvements is putting a zipper on the front pocket which allows you to keep small items even more secure when you open the main flap.

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Contents of the from pocket attached using a key and utility strap

Overall, I’m very happy with the bag. it has made it easy to grab and go in the mornings. If there is one thing I would change, it is the handle on top of the bag. I don’t have large hands, but it is tight to get a good grip. I think it would be great to widen the strap about 3/4 of an inch. This is my EDC bag now and I’m extremely happy with it.

 

 

15 Essential Apps For Mobile Learning Educators

Here are 15 apps that will help educators using Mobile Learning.

  1. DropboxThis is probably the single most important app for professors. It crosses platforms and can be used for both filing of important documents and as a way to exchange files with students.
  2. EvernoteThis is a great way to clip notes, web pages, photos, etc. and have them go from devoice to device. The major concern with Evernote is security. If that is a concern for you and you use a Mac and an iDevice, consider NoteSuite. Notesuite will provide the same services, but keep it on your computer.
  3. AttendanceAs an Educator who needs to take attendance for my classes this app does exactly what the name says it does – One of my first purchases from the App Store and still using it..
  4. Twitter Twitter has established itself as an essential tool for the 21st century classroom. Use it either as a backchannel for your students, or as an integrated piece of instruction.
  5. Blackboard Mobile LearnA relatively cheap app that will allow both you and your students toaccess the Blackboard LMS easily on your iDevice.
  6. KeynoteKeynote allows you to produce multimedia presentations for lectures and conferences on your iDevice.
  7. TEDWhat a great way to get inspiration – either for your next lecture or for your students. These are open source lectures available through TED.
  8. WikipediaYes, it’s an open source edited, but Wikipedia generally is the most accurate available information at a glance and accessible.
  9. iAnnotateA great app to make notes, bookmark, and highlight on PDF files. If your students sumit their work in PDF format, you can use this app to grade assignments and projects.
  10. eClicker Polling SystemMost students are reluctant to respond to questions in class. With this, they can stay anonymous and give feedback to your Keynote presentations. Engage your students.
  11. Documents To GoAvailable for nearly all smartphone and PDA platforms, Documents To Go offers up the full suite of Microsoft Office programs, and saving a file on one device makes changes to all connected ones as well!
  12. QuickOffice ProFor $14.99, iDevice and Android owners enjoy access to the full Microsoft Office suite, where they can create, edit, and share documents while out and about.
  13. BoxAnother dazzlingly popular cloud application allowing for file retrieval from any computer hosting it, with ramped-up privacy for anyone concerned about losing important documents.
  14. EdmodoIf social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter don’t provide enough privacy for discussions and sharing classroom materials, Edmodo might fill that gap because it specifically targets teachers hoping to work closely with their students online.
  15. PoppletMind map out those presentations and papers with Popplet, a quick and easy tool for visualizing how everything could fit together for the most effective and memorable lectures imaginable.