iTunesU adds features

I’ve been using iTunesU for several years in my courses at gardner-Webb University. I love the simplicity  and the fact that it just seems to work. However, I’ve been waiting on a few features to really make it my complete education portal for classes.


This summer, Apple has upgraded iTunesU and has added three areas that i considered lacking for the portal – student submissions of assignments, grading, and import apps to use within the portal. WOW!

With the new version of iTunesU, students will be able to turn in assignments from their iPads with a timestamp which will record when the student submits their work. Additionally, Apple has added an integrated grade book alerting professors when a student’s work is submitted or if it’s late and the professor needs to send a reminder.

ITunesU also allows professors to insert educational apps from Apple or third-party developers into the course materials. That means I’ll be able to utilize apps such as Explain Everything or Stop Motion Studio inside iTunesU.

There are also discussion boards available to increase student engagement and allow students who may not normally speak up in a regular classroom setting the ability to express their thoughts and questions on the discussion boards.

For me, this allows me to not need Blackboard for anything and gives the monster portal maker a run for their money if you are using iPads in the classroom. My students dislike Blackboard and I’m sure are going to be ecstatic about the changes to iTunesU.

New semester around the corner


Fall semester is about to start and I’m always looking for new apps to share with students. I found a great article on some very good apps that a school in Connecticut has gathered from recommendations by educators from around the country. You’ll see several of my favorites on the list and some others I haven’t played with yet. This is a great article and a wonderful place to look for new apps to use this school year.

These apps are free today – who doesn’t want free?

These apps are free today according to BGR. You might want to check them out and download them. Here are just a few I found and have downloaded.

Full a Goal Tracker

Discovr – find new artists and music

Lumen Trails Time+ – Track everything in one app (very cool)

Recur – remember all the cool things you’ve already done in life

Scanio – scan documents on your iPhone/iPad

Animation Desk on sale


According to Applesliced, Annimation Desk is normally $4.99 and currently is free for download from the App Store. Applesliced describes the app as:

Animation Desk for iPad allows users to create hand-drawn animations on iPad. The drawing interface provided by the app resembles the real working environment of a professional animator who completes each frame of an animation on a specially-designed desk, the animation desk. 

If you are looking for a cool animation app, this may be your answer.

Making your classroom paperless


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.


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.


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.

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.

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


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:


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.