Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sharing a Google document as a web page

OK, trying to get back on track a little as my last couple of posts haven't really been that education orientated so I thought I would share this little trick with you. As an introduction, the last Ofsted report for my school concluded (amounts other things) that our students weren't very good at communicating (no real surprise there then) and didn't talk to one another about their learning. Now, I may not be the greatest teacher in the world but I do know that children learn best when they discuss their learning, ideally with one another (the technical term is metacognition, the student become aware of their own learning) so it makes sense that if we really want to see improvement in learning, we need to get the students talking about what they are doing. Now, we have a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE-Fronter) and this has the ability to set up forums but it is a little clunky to use and it also shows user names (which you may want) but I wanted an anonymous forum so I thought I would investigate using Google Docs so below is a step by step guide to setting up a shared document:

Step 1-create a Google Document.

Create a document in Google Docs or Apps as normal.

Step 2-share your document with everyone.

Click on share (right hand side) to bring up share settings.

Click change in the dialogue box and select public on the web. Make sure you tick allow anyone to edit (no sign in required) box.

Step 3-get the URL for the web page you have created.

Click save and another dialogue box will open with a URL to your shared document web page.

Copy and save this URL as you will need to give it to your students.

Step 4-Make the URL smaller!

There is no way students will be able to type in correctly a standard Google URL so use bitly or tinyurl to shorten your address.

Step 5-give out the URL.

We use Exchange as our E-Mail server so we can easily E-Mail a link to students, otherwise, write the bitly or tinyurl on the board and off you go,

Check out my finished example:


Please feel free to leave a comment on the document (please, keep it clean and respectful, there may be children watching!).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reasons why the iPad rocks-#4 watching TV

So the Christmas holidays are upon us and the UK TV channels begin their "imaginative" holiday scheduling, what is one to do? Mrs RNG is engrossed in the Celebrity Dogs on Ice 4 hour Christmas special, Five US has the whole of CSI series 1 - 10 running back to back, hmmm. I suppose I could always retire to the bedroom and switch on the portable TV but it's a tad anti-social. Enter the iPad, or more accurately, Internet TV. This is 2010, you don't even need to have a TV arial anymore (OK, I'm showing my age a bit here, I can still remember the days of 3 channels!), just an Internet connection, brilliant. I can sit next to Mrs RNG, fein interest in whatever she is watching whilst really, I'm engrossed in Gil and the lab rats being all clever, way to go!

So, for the uninitiated, the iEduc8 guide to TV on the iPad:

1. BBC iPlayer

Quite simple really, if you are in the UK, go to the BBC website and hit the iPlayer link on the right hand side of the site. You will be taken to the iPlayer page where you get access to the content for all the BBC channels. Click on what you want and it will open up as a QuickTime movie and play. Streaming is pretty solid and quality is excellent.

2. iPlayer Downloader

Strictly, not TV on the iPad as such, this cool program (available for Mac, Linux and Windows) fools the iPlayer into thinking the computer is an iPhone and then streams the movie to a local cache where it is saved as an MP4 movie (with apologies is this isn't technically correct but you get the idea). The movie can be played on the host computer or dropped into iTunes and then synced with the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch where the downloaded movies will appear in the Movies app. I tend to scour BBC 2 and 4 for documentaries and series like Reggie Perrin and download them, then add a block of stuff for holidays etc. A brilliant program and it's free from here. (read the whole page for links to various GUI's for the program).

4. TVcatchup.com

Go to tvcatchup, make yourself an account, watch live UK TV on your computer or IOS device, simple as that. There is a part of the site that is optimised for iPhone/iPod Touch and will work passably well over 3G and another part for iPad. It streams reasonably well (strangely, the Five channels tend to be the worst and stutter as they buffer, just as they did on On Digital if you remember that!) and has access to all the channels currently on

5. Elgato Eye TV.

This requires you to spend money (around 30 UK pounds) for a box that plugs into your Mac or PC (don't think there is Linux support but I haven't looked too hard so may be wrong) and picks up Free to view TV via either a built in arial or your ordinary TV arial. So far so good but the best bit is there is a free app that allows you to stream the TV from elgato to your iDevice. An added bonus is that the elgato desktop software also allows you to record TV ( and watch a different channel at the same time) onto your computer. More info can be found here.

So there we have it, TV on your iDevice. Now, I do realise that whilst Britain was once a great and mighty power (or oppressive force depending on your viewpoint/nationality), the UK is now just a small island in the North Atlantic and as such, not really representative of the rest of the world. As such, I would like to apologise for this rather UK centric review. If any non-UK readers (I know you are out there, I watch the stats on blogger dashboard, sad I know) would like to add international or country specific site, please add a comment or e-mail me and I will add to the post.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reasons why the iPad rocks-#3 it annoys IT departments

Oh yes, tip up to work with your iPad, see the envious glances from your colleagues who all want a go, even the boss thinks it's the future and wants one, hell, she even promotes you there and then. Nip down to the basement to speak to corporate IT about hooking it up to the wireless network though and oh boy!

"What on Earth did you buy one of those for?"
"Sorry, can't hook that up the network, doesn't support .......protocol"
"Can't do any real work on those thought, can you?"
"They're rubbish, I'm waiting for the Windows Slates to be released"

And so on.

So what is it with IT, why don't they like iPads? Well, they would like you to think it is because they have such a high level of understanding of technology and they just understand these things and want to pass their wisdom. They don't want you wasting your money on an iToy when, in a few months time, lots of lovely Windows 7 slates will hit the Market rendering the iPad obsolete and you will feel like an idiot. The truth, however, is somewhat darker. Knowledge is power, for years, IT managers not only held the purse strings, they also held the knowledge and therefore the power. They knew how to fix Windows when it went wrong (note:Macs never really made it mainstream in office environments and creative industry IT managers are a tad more enlightened than your average MSCE tech) and boy did they make you pay for this knowledge. They make you work the way they want, want to access the Internet? Any browser as long as it's IE. Software? You can have Office, anything else, lots of sucking through teeth and long techno babble filled reasons as to why you either (a) can't run it on the system (b) you could technically run it but the security isn't up to much or (c) you can run it, but it's going to cost you! They could say anything, the average person didn't understand so just nodded their heads in agreement, then wandered off ever so slightly disappointed. The iPad changes all of this, you don't even need to hook it up the network as you can get a 3G enabled device so you are truly free. Hence we a need a few pearls of wisdom to sway you from your purchase or make you feel stupid if you've already bought one.

So, a quick translation from IT tech speak to English:

1. "That thing is so gimped, you can't do any proper work on it" - it can't run MS Office so that big spreadsheet of registry error codes I have won't work on it or I don't understand anything but Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP so don't even bother.

2. "Wireless security isn't up to much so I can't put it on the network" - I don't understand the OS so couldn't hook it up if I wanted, which I don't. Also, I've never updated the security profile on the access points so the encryption from the mid 1990's that we use isn't supported.

3. "It's rubbish, it doesn't have a stylus" - I have fat fingers so wouldn't be able to use it.

4. "Apple lock you in to their way of working, I want freedom to do what I want on a device I've bought" - Apple make sure its idiot proof, they check and approve apps so malicious code is more difficult (but not impossible) to introduce to an IOS device. It's also really easy to use and the app store makes buying and installing software a simple one click process. As a result, my services are not really needed, boo-hoo!

5. "I would wait until the next generation of Windows 7 slates appear, they can do loads more than that toy" - I don't understand anything except Windows, I realise that it's a bit limiting for an IT expert to admit that so I will try to hide the fact by rubbishing other OS's. Hopefully no one will realise Windows slates have been on the market for 10 years and have hardly set the world alight. I would have brought mine in to show you but the lid snapped off and anyway, the battery only lasts like an hour and it weighs more than my car.

6. "Browsing the Internet is rubbish, no Flash support" - I can't play games, watch videos or listen to music on the Internet.

OK, I don't want to get into an argument about Flash, battery life and processor hogging. Instead, lets look at internet use, I have had an iPad for 6 months and haven't really felt limited by the lack of Flash. But then, when I work, I don't play games, watch videos or play music. Point 1 states you can't do any real work but we've already debunked that myth so what these people really mean is I can't play games etc. I would love a job where I got in, opened up a big spreadsheet then spent the rest of the day playing Pac-man online or watching WWE videos. Sweet!

7. "Can't use that on our network, security isn't up to scratch" - my certificate in Windows server 2003 didn't cover IOS so I wouldn't know where to start.

Now, on this last point I realise that security should be taken seriously, however, I also know that you are only as secure as the dumbest person in your workforce and that all manner of security measures can be overcome by stupidity. Witness the number of printed address lists left in bars (or indeed, prototype iPhones) or laptops (running Windows, so ultra secure as far as IT are concerned) left on the back seat of a car or on a train! And don't even get me started on Wiki leaks! The most secure IT system in the world (probably, I don't really know) circumvented by necessity (flaky network links on the frontline), slack security (not checking the Lady Gaga disc was in fact just that) and mental deficiency on the part of the perpetrator. And for what? The world now knows that the US military think Prince Andrew is a bit of an idiot (along with 65 million Brits, probably include PA and his Mum and Dad)!

8. "You could have bought a Toshiba Companionada 3000 N31D for half the price of that, it would have Windows XP Semi-Professional Student or Intern edition And is a proper laptop with a 10Ghz Intel Celeron processor, 15 Gb of RAM and 25 USB ports. You could edit spreadsheets on it no problem"- damn, I wasted £200 on this stupid Toshiba (with a dumb name) thats got a 10 year old chip in it and so much crapware installed it wont even load up my big spreadsheet of Windows DLL's and their associated applications. It's also really heavy, takes 3 days to boot up due to the 2 anti virus scanners I have running and the battery blows!

No, the iPad rocks because it annoys the IT department. More so than an iPhone or iPod Touch as that big screen means you can get work done on it. Real work, just the way you want to do it, not dictated to my a man (or women) working in the basement. Welcome to knowledge, welcome to power, welcome to the future.

The iPod rocks!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reasons why the iPad rocks-#2 iWork

As I said in my previous post, I am a bit of a fan of iWork for the iPad. Sure, it has limitations, some of which are infuriating (lack of subscript/superscript for one) but when you consider the price, iWork really is excellent value. OK, it doesn't have the power of Microsoft Office but then it doesn't cost the best part of a hundred pounds and up and it runs on IOS which MS Office doesn't do (yet).

For me, the best part of iWork isn't what it does (basic office document production) but how it does it. It was Pages that convinced me to buy an iPad, I loved the way it worked with the touch interface. Keynote and Numbers are the same. The apps are very tactile, I never thought I would actually enjoy producing a spreadsheet but Numbers is really nice to use, it might not be the mighty Excel but it is fun. Ditto Keynote, it doesn't have half the functionality of PowerPoint but it is enjoyable to use and this is all down to the tactile nature of the touch interface. Don't get me wrong, MS Office is a superb package and very powerful and I certainly couldn't survive without access to either full iWork or Office but then the iPad isn't about replacing your computer, it's about complimenting it and iWork does a superb job of complimenting your full Office software. Most of the productivity work I do is simple documents. Worksheets, Presentations and the odd spreadsheet. Most can be fully accomplished in iWork for iPad, occasionally I start a document in iWork on the iPad and have to finish it elsewhere (usually hyperlinked presentations and more complex spreadsheets) and very occasionally, I can only do the document in a full office program (usually spreadsheets as I use conditional formatting a lot).

I love the way the iWork apps work and I love the iPad work flow. You start a blank document (I never use the templates, they look really good but I always start with a blank one, I don't really know why, I just do), click, type, click, hold, select, format. All very tactile. You want to add a picture, click the home button or double click for fast app switching, click on Safari, search for your picture, find it, click on it (all steps you would take on a normal PC/Mac) then hold and select save picture. Done! Non of that tedious right click (or ctl click if you are a Mac user and still have a 1 button mouse!), Save As, select your folder by clicking a couple of times etc. Then you have to get your picture into your document, insert, picture from file, navigate to folder etc. Nah, click on media, select saved photos and select your photo, brilliant (now, I know you can copy and paste from the web but I'm assuming you work like I do and always save pictures to your hard drive in case you want to use them again). This may seem trivial to an experienced ICT user but remember, I spend all day teaching kids how to use ICT and they can never get file structure. I have seen 16 year olds download a game every time they want to play it as they cannot remember where they originally saved it to! Try getting them to find a picture they just downloaded to add into a piece of work they don't really want to do. Kids live in a world where everything is stored on the web, they don't really want copies of stuff on their computers like adults do they don't get saving and file structure. iPads lack of file structure is actually useful in this situation and for me, I just copy stuff i want to keep to Dropbox and then delete it off the iPad.

Anyway, below are a couple of example of document I have produced on the iPad. The first is a worksheet I used with year 7 as a starter to them setting up and using their MiniBooks. The sheet uses a picture I got off the web, blanked out using iDraw and then exported back to photos, and a table. Not very inspiring but it did the job and got year 7 talking and searching which was the intention. This sheet was done completely in Pages on the iPad and has never seen a full OS.

The spreadsheet is just an example I did too get used to Numbers. I wanted to see how easy it was to format (limited but very easy) and how good the chart function was (again, limited but probably good enough for most users).

As I have said before, if your answer to this post is "I could do all that and more on my Dell ZX 75000 Extreme Turbo 4950 slimline running Windows 7 (Home User Premier Professional Edition with additional multi-media add on and special error message package)" then this post is not for you. The average person in the street doesn't care about folders, file structure, the number of USB ports and IF THEN statement. They want to surf the net, write stuff on Facebook and send a type the odd letter. iPad is for these people. I want a light, fast, instant on computer that allows me to make worksheets and presentations, research, read books, play music and videos, make music and not have to worry about constantly fixing/servicing a full OS, where I save files to etc and a machine I can fit in my saddle bag. The iPad is for me. Enjoy.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reasons why the iPad rocks-#1 music

When I first heard Steve Jobs' keynote introducing the iPad, I was, to be honest, quite underwhelmed. It looked like a big iPod Touch and I was so wanting a fully figured Mac in tablet form. As I read the tech blogs, I became convinced that the iPad was going to be a massive fail, after all, it was so restricted as to what it could do, who on their right mind would buy such an expensive toy? Fast forward a couple of weeks and I'm in the Apple store in Newcastle having a play within one and I can completely agree with the tech experts, this a gimped toy. A nice toy but a toy nonetheless. There are a couple of cool games and browsing the web is nice but there's not a lot else you can do on it and its such a shame. And then I opened up Pages. A couple of minutes later, I had knocked up a worksheet combining some text and images and was sold. I now understood what this device was about, it was all about the touch interface. I have use iPhones and iPod touches and really like the IOS interface but its not until you have used an iPad with its larger screen that you fully appreciate how elegant the OS is. I have used lots of touch enabled devices, IOS, Palm, Windows CE, Windows Mobile and even Windows XP Touch (tablet and touch screen Eee PC desktop) but nothing even touches the iPad. It is accurate ( unlike Windows XP), it has all the gestures, it doesn't need a stylus and it is responsive. Two weeks later I bought one.

OK so I'm a big fan of iWork on the iPad, I spend a lot of time in these apps and much prefer them to the full versions on my Mac or Office on the PC's at work, despite their limitations (like no subscript/superscript) I would much prefer to work in these apps. Why? It's the touch interface, it is so elegant and ergonomic. So, I bought an iPad on the strength of Pages, what I wasn't quite prepared for was the music apps.

Finally, something about music on the iPad

Ah, yes. This is supposed to be a post about music on the iPad, just thought a bit of history might be apt, sort of set the scene as it where. Anyway, onto the apps.
I freely admit that my taste in music is appalling, I also admit that my musical ability is limited to say the least but I do like music and enjoy making a racket. I also have an unhealthy obsession with electronic music (blame an early Human League gig in the 1970's) so I was quiet excited when I saw Rebirth for the iPad. I have used Propellerhead software on a proper PC (Reason and Rebirth) and know that it is usually pretty high quality but I didn't expect much for £8.99 on my expensive, severely gimped toy. What you get is a brilliant software recreation of a Roland 303 bass synth (well, two actually), a Roland 909 rhythm box and a Roland 808 drum machine. Each unit is sequenced using a simple step sequencer, knobs can be turned, patterns can be recorded and saved and making music is really easy.

Patterns an be swapped on the fly and changes recorded in realtime to create a song which can then be shared on the web via Soundcloud. Best of all though is the touch interface, unlike using a mouse where you a detached from the device, this is like playing a real instrument. You put your finger on the knobs And they turn and you hear the sound change. The software looks complicated but in reality, you can make music pretty easily and you don't even need much of an understanding on musical theory in order to knock a tune together. This app is fantastic.

Korg iMS 20

If someone had said at the aforementioned Human League gig that in 30 years time you would be able to buy an analogue synth for £8.49 and run it on a £430 computer I would have laughed. Yet here I am, just about to blog about possibly the most awesome piece of software I have ever seen! And the cost? I always wanted an analogue synth but I could never justify buying one (my keyboard playing skills are pretty non-existent) so had to make do with VSTi recreations (a MiniMoog and a Prophet 5) and whilst these are pretty good, they are not like playing the real thing. The Korg iMS 20 is. You can play the keys, draw patch leads to link up the various oscillators, turn the knobs all with your hands (ok, fingers) anyway, its very tactile. You get a two oscillator mono synth, an analogue sequencer, a drum machine and a pattern sequencer. Routing via virtual cables is virtually
infinite and the range of sounds you can make is phenomenal.

Synth and oscillators

Step pattern drum machine (drum tracks can be assigned to synth patches)

Song pattern sequencer

To really explain what this app can do will take more than a few paragraphs on a blog so trust me, this is an awesome piece of software. Buy it, you will not be disappointed. If you ever have to teach synthesiser programming (BTEC Music Technology for example), then buy this app.

Tab Toolkit

Ok, so not everyone is a budding Martin Ware (one of the main creative forces behind the Human League and later Heaven 17) and not everyone reads sheet music (erm, I can't) or can play by ear (guess what!) so wouldn't it be nice if we had an app for carrying all our guitar tabs with us? Step forward Tab Toolkit, this excellent little app not only allows us to keep all our Tabs together, it has a bult in browser for finding and downloading tabs as well so you don't even have to leave the app.

But it gets even better as the app not only supports text tabs but also Guitar Tab Pro tabs. These are great, they have all the instruments tabbed so you can select the part you want. They play along (cheesy MIDI sounds but hey ho) and give you the fingerings. You can also mute out or lower the volume of selected parts and speed up/slow down the tricky bits.

A fantastic app for budding guitarists and a steal at £5.99


So you've got your tabs, practised quietly to yourself by slowing down the tab until you are note perfect. Now its time to turn it up to 11 and rock out. Enter Amplitube, an amp simulation for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. It costs £11 and you will need some way of connecting your guitar (I use iRig for £29) but for fourty quid you get a superb sounding guitar/bass rig with a good range of tones (unlike my £300 Ashdown combi which is fantastic but has one tone-it sounds like an Ashdown amp!) and through a PA it really does sound good. It looks the business too.

You get a couple of Amp presets, 8 effects pedals (you can use 4 at a time), 4 cabinet presets and 2 mic positions. Even better, the iPhone version and the imminent iPad version 2 allow 4 track recording (you can import songs from iPod to play along to or drum tracks etc) and exporting to Soundcloud or audio copy Paste to other music apps.

Edit: Amplitube 2 is now available, you can purchase an 8 track recorder for £8.99. This turns your iPad into a superb, on the go, recording device for a little over £50. An absolute give away given the amount of functionality this adds and the quality and ease of use. I can remember when a basic Tascam 4 track recorder was £100 and they didn't have half the functionality of Amplitube and iRig.

8 Track recorder for Amplitube 2, available as an in App purchase.

Also, IK Multimedia just introduced the iRig Microphone priced at around £40-50.

Multitrack DAW

So you made an acid house floor filler in Rebirth or on the Korg, played some killer guitar riffs and now you want to add some vocals and combine the tracks (or just sketch out some quick ideas), MultiTrack DAW is your answer. This is a simple 4 track recorder that can import from the iPod app, use audio copy/paste or record using the built in mic or an adapter like iRig. Its a bit limited but it does the job and only costs a fiver.

Admittedly getting music in can be a bit fiddly but a bit of pre-preparation and its pretty useful, especially if you are an acoustic musician or a singer-songwriter. Bearing in mind the cost of this (and indeed, all these apps) I think its pretty good and more features are in the pipeline.


So there we have it, my longest post to date but I think music apps really show off what the iPad can really do. Think about this (especially if you are a music teacher), for the price of a decent starter guitar/amp package you can have a couple of dance music/synthesiser work stations, a guitar amp and a simple 4 track recorder (and a decent tab organiser). Sure, techno weenies and then ICT experts would rather lug around a 40lb Windows Slate behemoth as it can do real work as well (I think they mean big spreadsheets-yawn) and then spend 20 minutes trying to find the stylus (there is no holder as it gets in the way of the 8 USB ports and card reader slot) whilst simultaneously telling you how gimped your iToy is but think about this. The iPad costs the same as a service on a medium sized car, weights very little, fits in a rucksack, lasts all day on a charge and fits nicely on your lap whilst you make your music. Oh, and in the 6 months I've had mine, it hasn't crashed once and neither have any of the apps. The touch interface is a near as you can get to a playing a real instrument but without the expense so if it means more people can make music, then brilliant. Also, all the apps encourage sharing of your work and its easy to do so no more lost masterpieces languishing in the depths of your hard drive never to be heard. But don't take my word for it, listen to these guys:

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, December 13, 2010

Yet another PowerPoint on IOS-SlideRocket

Apologies for yet another "here's how to embed PowerPoint's for IOS" post but I am on a roll with this at the moment. Anyway, whilst I was researching ways to share presentations, I came across SlideRocket, an online presentation making and sharing site with a difference. Whilst sites like Google Docs and Zoho mimic to a greater or lesser degree the basic functions of PowerPoint, SlideRocket takes this a stage further, allowing you to create "rich content" with embedded sound, video, graphic builds and the like and allows you to share via embed code. It doesn't allow authoring on IOS but it does also allow content to be viewed on IOS. Below is probably the worst presentation I have ever made (it may be the worst presentation anyone has ever made!), I threw it together in a couple of minutes to test SlideRocket so please be gentle.

This definitely has potential, OK, so the links are a bit flaky and the video doesn't play (haven't had time to look into that) but it is a nice system and allows you to do a couple of things you can't do in Zoho.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Producing content for IOS devices

As promised, the stuff with PowerPoint was actually going somewhere and here it is. I really wanted to look at authoring content for IOS devices and how to get that content out to the devices. Now, of course I could just write an app or two however, there are a couple of caveats to this. (a) I can't actually code in Cocoa. (b) Even if I could code in Cocoa, I haven't really got the time to write apps (c) I wanted to use tools that either educators where familiar with or where similar to tools they may already use. I am equally useless at HTML so it kind of precluded me hand coding a site as well. I also wanted to try and avoid expensive software and solutions that would make content inaccessible to IOS device (Flash for example). I also wanted to look at ways of delivering content that was more in keeping with that way we use IOS devices (hence wanting to make presentations that where a little interactive).

I get increasingly frustrated with teachers who produce worksheets that are just instructions and put them onto the web/VLE/Intranet as Word Documents when a PDF would be better (opens up in a browser rather than a viewer that loses the formatting or worse, needs to be downloaded) or presentations that are linear, instructional and again need downloading. We need to really think about what we are producing documents for and how we interact with them! Anyway, rant over.

I have already looked at producing podcasts/sound recordings and how these could be delivered (using Soundcloud) and thought it would be a nice idea too look at using PowerPoint as this is a tool that most educators are familiar with. Now, I was less interested in doing this on an IOS device as being able to access the finished content on an IOS device so I make no apologies for using PowerPoint (2008, Mac version and 2010 Windows version) to produce my initial presentations.

So, here's what I did:

1. Produce basic layout of presentation in PowerPoint (Master slides and any text).

2. Produce any additional graphics (such as the ring binder graphic) as a PNG.

3. Test out PNG's to make sure it has a transparent background.

4. Load up PowerPoint and graphics to Zoho Show.

5. Sort out and formatting errors, add graphics and finish of presentation in Zoho.

6. Add hyperlinks to slides in Zoho (where possible on Master Slide).

7. Check links are set to open in same frame!

8. Test presentation in Zoho to make sure it works as expected.

9. Remember to publish presentation in Zoho.

10. Generate embed code.

11. Copy and past embed code into blog post.

12. Recheck that everything works as expected.

13. Sit back with smug look on face and await criticism!

I like the idea that students could go to a web page (or page on a VLE), view a PDF (that opens in a new window?), interact with a presentation (without having to download it, maybe view an embedded video, contribute to a forum, fill in an assessment (via a Google form?) all from a single page. You could even e-mail the link to them prior to the lesson if you don't use a VLE. As I said earlier, we need to think about the purpose of the content and how we want students to access it and interact with it. I feel we are still stuck in a previous age when it comes to using ICT in schools.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More testing of PowerPoints

OK, further to yesterday's post about embedding PowerPoint presentations I thought I would take the idea a little further and give an example of how I plan to use embedded presentations. This year I get to teach PSHE to year 9. We have also decided to combine PSHE with the ASDAN award so that on completion of the course, the students can get a GCSE. My module is Economic and Financial Wellbeing and the idea is that students are set a series of tasks to complete that they use to build up a portfolio for assessment. Now, our year 9's have MiniBooks and are used to this sort of work but still need a little help to get started, so we usually produce a PowerPoint to talk them through the task and get them started. Last term, I did just that and you can see my (very dull) presentation below:

This term, I decided to do something different so today I converted my presentation that you see above into this:

It's a little slow as it is a bit graphic heavy so maybe I will re-do it in greyscale to try and speed things up a little.

I will now either (a) produce a web page with the tasks and presentations embedded or (b) embed the presentations in a page on our VLE (which has been down since yesterday hence I can't actually test it) along with a few other links and resources.

Anyway, I am liking the fact you can now get presentations embedded along with the links without having to resort to Flash. Let me know what you think.

Edit:thought I would have a go at re-doing the BankAccounts presentation to see if I could make it run faster. have a look and see what you think:

Oh, and I promise, all this talk about PowerPoints is going somewhere, and is is to do with IOS devices, honest.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Embedding PowerPoints

OK, so this isn't really about IOS devices and certainly not about my iPad but it's still a neat trick so please read on. As you know, I work in a school and teachers love their PowerPoint presentations, for heavens sake, our VLE is full of them! Death by turgid text and bullet points, I really pity school kids these days. Anyway, I have always been a big fan of the interactive PowerPoint presentation, using hyperlinks to allow the viewer to navigate to where they want to go rather than just advance the slides manually. I have quit a large bank of these now but have always had difficulty sharing them with the students. Often, they don't have PowerPoint (our MiniBooks run Open Office) so the shows never behave themselves. Embedding shows using sites like Zoho, Scribd or even Google Docs is OK but the hyperlinks never work. So, today, I set myself the task of finding a way of embedding a PowerPoint show whilst still retaining the interactive element (remember, you can use the sites suggested above if you just want to embed a normal show). I tried quiet a few sites before coming across Slideboom, this site allows you to upload a presentation, gives you the embed code and most importantly, preserves the interactivity of the show. Go ahead, try the example below (it won't work on IOS unfortunately):

OK, so it's not the greatest PowerPoint the world has ever seen and if you click in the wrong place, it still advances to the next slide but the hyperlinks still work which is what I wanted.

This opens up lots of possibilities for getting work to students in a more interactive way. I will check if the embed code works on our VLE (Fronter) and post back my findings.

Today I am happy! Although I would be happier still if it worked with IOS.

Right, I really must try harder! I've used Zoho a lot and just assumed (wrongly) that it didn't allow hyperlinks to other slides, but it does (in Zoho, click Insert > Link and see Link to slide) so my problems are solved. Upload PowerPoint to Zoho, re-insert the links, grab the embed code, paste into blog and voila! you can see your presentation, links and all.

check out my example:

and another:

Great. I must recheck Google Docs and see if that allows links as that would be a good solution as you can edit using IOS. Still, I am now definitely happy.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Apps

Probably the best thing about using an IOS device is the great range of apps you can get. lots of technology "experts" dismiss the iPad as a toy because you cannot get any proper work done on them due to Apple deliberately "gimping" the iPad. Well, I disagree with those sort of statements. I think Apple have thought quite long and hard about their audience and decided that a device that is simple to use and difficult to break is the key. The iPad seems locked and closed but this is ideal for non-tech savvy users. Those of us who want the additional features can spend a minute or two on the Internet and usually find a way to do what we want, usually with an app.

Below is a list of the main apps I use. These apps are used on a daily basis and have been chosen to be reviewed here because they are the apps I think (a) are best for the job I need to do (b) work well and offer value for money and (c) show off the iPad interface/OS at its best.

So, here is my list of top apps that I use:

These are just short reviews as lots of these apps are talked about on the web so in depth reviews are plenty. The basic idea here was to give you an insight into how I use my iPad for work (remember, according to the "experts", the iPad is just a toy and you cant do proper work on one) on a daily basis. All worksheets, present ions and audio visual work I do for school are now produced on my iPad with the one exception of videos (which I do rarely anyway).

I do have other apps but they either don't work that nicely or I don't use them on a daily basis so haven't included them. They will be mentioned elsewhere in this blog if I use them.I

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Using Fronter on an iPad

My school uses Fronter as our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and whilst IOS devices have always been able to display content held in Fronter, they have never been able to download files (such as PowerPoints, Word documents etc). That is until today! OK, you might have been able to do this for a while but I just discovered it today.

We have been having a few "issues" regarding our Managed Learning Environment (MLE)/VLE integration and today, our Director of E-Learning sent me a link to a way of accessing Fronter without having to go through the MLE part first. I was asked to try it with some students and though I would give it a go with the iPad (logging in through the MLE was always a torturous affair, always slow and often unsuccessful) so anything would probably be an improvement. So, I logged in. Whilst in Fronter, I thought I would look up a document and one thing led to another and a minute or too later, I had a spreadsheet downloaded and open in Numbers. Result!

So how do we download from Fronter?

1. Log into Fronter and go to the room the file is in.

2. Click and hold on the link to the file you want to download.

3. A dialogue box opens up, select Open in a New Page.

4. The document will open and you can click open in.... In the right hand corner.

5. Your document will open in the appropriate app.

And that is that, now all we need to be able to do is send files to Fronter.

I'm not sure whether this is a new feature in Fronter 10, OS4.2 or I just missed it previously but it does mean one less excuse not to consider iPads for use in the classroom.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mind Mapping on an iPad

I am a big fan of Mind Mapping as a planning and organisational tool and I am always trying to get my Year 7 students to create a Mind Map before they begin to produce a piece of written work such as a presentation or leaflet so it is vital that I have a decent Mind Mapping app on my iPad. I have always used Mind42 as it free, available online, supports importing and exporting in a variety of formats and allows collaboration on Mind Maps. However, it is a bit slow and cumbersome on the iPad and I was really looking for a decent app that would work on the iPad, allow me to export to other Mind Mapping programs, export to PDF or JPEG/PNG and work with an online storage system. Having looked at a couple of apps, I finally settled on iThoughtsHD.
This app is amazing, the way it works with the touch screen interface is brilliant and so quick, making your Mind Map is a speedy process.
I have always used a mouse and keyboard to draw a Mind Map but using the iPad is a real revelation, it almost makes me want to create new Mind Maps just for the fun of using the app, I kid you not!

An example Mind Map from iThoughtsHD:

This app is very elegant, it is very intuitive to use but is also incredibly powerful. Most of the tools you will want are in the app so it shouldn't leave you wanting and it offers a wide range of export options should you want to either share your Mind Map with others or work on it inn another application. Best of all though, iThoughtsHD can save and export direct to Dropbox so there is no messing around with e-mailing to yourself (although direct E-mail is supported) or other messy systems for getting your Mind Maps on nor off the iPad.

All in all, a brilliant app and the best bit is the price, £5.99 form the app store. This is probably the best app I have bought to date and certainly one of the most useful.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Using Google forms for data collection

As I previously mentioned, I am a user of Google Docs (hence this blog being hosted on blogspot) and I am a massive fan of Google Forms and use them all the time to gather data. For those who haven't used this feature, I strongly suggest you give it a try. It is similar to Survey Monkey etc. in that you set up a form with a series of questions (these can be text, drop down and choose, ratings and many more) and then send a link to the URL the form can be accessed from. As the form is filled in, a spreadsheet is automatically generated with the responses from anyone who has filled in your form. Brilliant. You can download the spreadsheet as an MS Excel file for further analysis or use Google Docs to do this and because it is already in your Google account, you don't have to download it or move it if you don't want to. I recently used one with year 7 to do a Student assessment of how well they thought they where doing in ICT. The results where very illuminating to say the least, most year 7's have no idea what the various levels in ICT actually look like (no idea what the level descriptors are or what they mean) and wrote stuff like "I am working at level 5 because I do all my work in ICT. Hmmm, methinks I need to do some work on what level we are at and what we need to do to move on a level. Anyway, my form that I created is here if you want to have a look:

Student Assessment Form

Doing this got me thinking, wouldn't an IOS device be a great way of collecting data "in the field"? Teachers could set up a Google form that asks a series of questions that the students answer as they walk around. For example, a series of Maths challenges or problems could be set up around the school (measuring, answering questions, solving problems) and the answers could be recorded in a google form that can then be submitted. By the time the students arrive back at the classroom, the teacher can have all the students answers in the spreadsheet displayed on a whiteboard ready for discussion or for downloading (see previous posts for solutions) and further analysis. Students doing questionnaires for Product Design, Business or Food Tech could set up their own forms, then take an IOS device with them as they gather the data. Much better than the usual paper versions they do at the moment and no need to write up the results as this is already done by Google. Sorted!

You could then use your spreadsheet to generate a Bento Database and sync to Bento on your IOS device but that is for another post.

Edit: Just discovered you can actually set up forms on an IOS device, just log onto Google Docs as normal:

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Desktop:

Click on Continue to desktop version:

Then select create new and choose form, just like you would using a normal browser:

Brilliant, now you can set up forms on your IOS device, then take it out into the field to gather your data. Sweet! You can even view and edit your spreadsheet when you have finished.

If you want to get the sheet from Google docs to your iPad, click on download, select Excel and it will open in a new window. In the top left hand corner you get the option to open in Numbers. Now, who said you cant do any real work on an iPad?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Presentations without PowerPoint-QR Codes

As I mentioned previously, all we ever seem to do in ICT is teach Windows and Office and PowerPoint features rather heavily in our curriculum. Last week our year 7’s had to do yet another presentation, this time on a festival or celebration so time to fire up PowerPoint right?

One of my groups is a special group, a mixture of behaviour and confidence problems, so I thought I would try something new. I decided that we would research our festival/celebration but instead of making a PowerPoint document, we would generate some QR codes and display these. Students could then either download a reader to their mobile phone (most have some sort of smartphone, can't afford pens and pencils but all have a decent phone) and scan them or use my iPhone (it's a small group).

Students researched the festival/celebration and found out what, when and why and found a website that explained more. They then went to www.qrstuff.com and generated the qr codes, downloaded them, put them in a document, made it look nice and then E-mailed it to me to print (students don't have access to printers on their Netbooks). These where then displayed, scanned and judged. An example is shown below (click on it to make it bigger if you want to scan):

One student didn't have his laptop (broken screen) so used my iPad to produce his document (the one shown above).

Much fun was had, students learnt about a bit of technology used in the real world and we didn't have to use PowerPoint. I call that a win.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thoughts on IOS 4.2 (and a solution for printing!)

IOS 4.2 officially became available from iTunes last night so I duly set about downloading the update. To be honest, it might have been quicker for me to code up my own OS, talk about slow, I suppose a good percentage of IOS users are in the USA and 7.00pm UK time is probably not a great time to access an update on a server in the USA! Ah well, we live and learn.

Still, up with the larks this morning (Mrs RNG gets up really early) and behold, 10 minutes or so later, we have IOS 4.2 installed and ready to go.

My initial thoughts where, well at least nothing is broken (there where reports on Macrumors and ZDnet last night about empty iPod folders) and it runs as quick as before (unlike IOS 4.0 that reduced my iPhone 3g to a crawl and nearly prompted me to get an Android phone) but it all looks familiar. Mail now has a unified inbox, just like the iPhone, which is excellent news, it has folders which is nice but the lack of these was never a deal breaker for me and it has multi tasking. Now, I was never that bothered about this not being a feature as (a) my iPhone hasn't got it (b) IOS apps quit and start pretty quickly anyway (c) most ICT experts make such a big play about lack of multi tasking and how superior platform have it that I decided to be awkward and say it didn't matter! Now, lack of multi tasking was never a big issue but now I have it, well, Apple have got a nice solution (I am reliably informed that is is in fact fast app switching), it is easy, work fast and speeds up workflow no end so to all the Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile/Windows Phone 7 users who I previously argued the toss with, I truly apologise!
Safari now can search for text in a Webpage, which might be useful and it seems to render pages a little quicker and doesn't have to reload if you use the app switcher. I haven't got an Apple TV or an Airport express so can't comment on AirPlay.

So there we have it, IOS 4.2 is a useful upgrade, it is well executed and makes life nicer. It isn't earth shattering and it doesn't introduce any radical new features but it does improve the user experience. Most of my apps that I have tested work well and all support app switching/multitasking.

Oh, did I forget something? Oh yes, AirPrint. This allows you to print, over WiFi, to AirPrint enabled printers. Brilliant, I never really missed printing myself but in a school! Unfortunately, only certain printers work and of course, I don't have one. Enter Printopia, a $7.99 application from ecamm.com for the Mac that allows AirPrint enabled apps to see any shared printer on your network. It also allows printing to Dropbox as well so if my previous now to on WebDAV didn't work.....

Printing from pages using Printopia:

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a similar solution for Windows. The nearest I can get is e-print I will continue to search but let me know if you find anything yourselves.

So there we are, a review of IOS 4.2 and print solution for Macs.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Use WebDAV with Dropbox (or other shares)

One of the things that really frustrated me at first was the clunky way you had to use iTunes to get files (such as Pages documents) on and off the iPad, having to put files into iTunes file sharing or drag them out was a very un-Apple like way of doing things. I don't use Mobile Me or iDisk so I had no easy way of sending files from my iPad to my computer or to the cloud.

This didn't last too long as I came across the brilliant Dropbox app for IOS devices. This lets you download files stored on Dropbox to supported apps on the IOS device (either from the app or using the website) as well as syncing Dropbox folders on multiple machines, and it's free! However, Dropbox doesn't support apps uploading to it. Then I discovered Habilis, this is a service that gives you an E-mail address linked to your Dropbox folder that allows you to e-mail files tomDropbox from apps that support E-mail sharing. This is good but still clunky and it can take a while for files to appear. Also, they go into a folder called From Habilis and you then have to move them to an appropriate folder using a "proper computer".

With the last update of iWork for iPad, Apple allowed these apps to send and receive from WebDAV. Brilliant, except that Dropbox doesn't support webDAV! Step forward years of playing with (and breaking) Linux and the wonders of the Internet. Behold, a way to set up your Dropbox folder on you Mac, PC or Linux box as webDAV share that can be accessed over your local WiFi network (or remotely if you are into port forwarding and DNS) by your IOS iWork apps. I shan't go into huge detail about how to set this up here as I have produced a PDF that you can view online that shows how to do this.

How to set up Dropbox with WebDAV

The basics are, you switch on websharing (Apache, included with Mac OS X), turn on the WebDAV modules in a config file, set up an alias to a folder you want to share (I used Dropbox but you should be able to set any folder you like), use terminal to create a password file, create a directory for the alias, set permissions and then set Apache to work with WebDAV.

It works really well and gives a level of usefulness to the iPad that Apple really should provide with Mobile Me or their huge data centre they are building. Below are some screen shots of it working on my iPad.

So there you have it, an elegant way of transferring documents between your iPad and your computer. The advantage of Dropbox being that you can access said files anywhere you have Internet access via the Web or the Dropbox app.

Many thanks to the two sites below which I used to gain information to write this how to:

The Cheep Geek

Manas Tungare

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 22, 2010

Producing a Podcast on an iPad

Today's task was to produce a podcast using apps on the iPad. This was partly inspired by our year 7's who have been using their Netbooks and Audacity to record podcasts on e-safety.

A couple of years ago we took a decision to give all our new year 7 students Windows Netbooks. These are used by students to produce a variety of Office documents, search the Internet, and occasionally produce an audio recording or a movie. The scheme has been reasonably successful and certainly negates a lot of the problems associated with booking ICT suites and not having the necessary software or equipment to hand. However, the quality of the hardware leaves a lot to be desired ( I suppose it's what you expect for £250) and audio recording can be awful so I decided to see if I could achieve a similar task on the iPad.

My first task was to produce a piece of music to play over the top of the voice recording. This is partly to hide any background noise picked up by the microphone, partly to make it sound a bit more professional and "interesting" and mainly to disguise my awful Midlands accent! Anyway, the music bit was fun. I used an app called a Rebirth from Propellerhead software (makers of the superb Reason), this is a reconstruction of a couple of Roland TRB 303 synths and a 909 rhythm box and an 808 drum machine.

Half an hour of knob twiddling later and I had my backing track!

Now I had to get the track out of Rebirth (easy: you can export it and share it to a web site set up for Rebirth users and e-mail it to yourself) and get it into my multi track recorder (not so easy, I had to download the mp3 from the Rebirth site, then import it via a website into my next app!).

Once the backing track was sorted, it was time to open my next app, MultiTrack DAW.

This is another awesome app, it lets you do multi track recording using either an instrument adapter (like the iRig, which I will talk about in another post) or using the iPad's built in mic. I was using the built in mic on the iPad.

A quick read of my script (OK, 3 shaky takes as I ad-lib my podcast) and I'm ready. MultiTrack doesn't allow you to fade audio in or out so I played around with the volume of my backing track, then recorded my voice over the top on the track below. Did a quick bit of cropping and hey presto! A Podcast.
MultiTrack connects straight to Soundcloud (an offshoot of Dropbox), a site that allows you to upload and share music tracks so this is where my podcast was sent. I will see if I can work out a link later.

Ah ha, here we go! (Edit, had to cheat and do this on a Mac) oh, and it doesn't seem to work on an iPad! so try this link
Podcast.wav by Randomnoisegenerator
On reflection, its probably just as easy (hard?) to do this on a regular computer. The problem is, non of the audio apps link to the ipod app so music cannot be easily transferred between apps. Having said that, the iPad isn't really designed for tis sort of work so I suppose the fact you can do it at all is pretty good. As a tool for getting quick ideas jotted down (a quick riff in Rebirth, a quick recording in MultiTrack), the iPad is brilliant and ideas can always be finished off later on a "proper" computer.

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blogging on an iPad

As I mentioned in my previous post, I intend to use my iPad to do as much of my work as possible and that includes setting up and producing this blog. I am using Blogspot for the blog as (a) its free and (b) I use Google Docs a lot so it made sense to stick with a Google service so I needed to find an app that would work with Blogspot. Step forward Blogpress, £1.79 from the app store, 2 minutes to set up and we're off!

Having set up a Blogspot account, chosen my blog name and layout (all done on the iPad), it was now time to make a graphic for my header. Firstly, I searched the Internet for the images I wanted to use in my header, these where saved to my Photos folder. Then I used the superb iDraw app to draw my text and combine it with the IOS device pictures to make my header graphic. This was then sent to my Photos.

Next, I used Photopad to crop the header to the size I wanted and again it was saved to photos. Next, I went into photos and e-mailed the header graphic to my Dropbox account using Habilis.

Now I cheated and used my Mac to access the header graphic from Dropbox and upload it to Blogspot to set as my header.

This particular post was created entirely on an iPad including the graphic showing the apps I used. I used a similar process to setting up the header except I didn't have to send the graphic to Dropbox as Blogpress can pick up pictures straight from the photos folder on the iPad.

So there we go, my first piece of blogging done completely on an iPad. Oh, didn't I tell you, you can't do any serious work on those things.....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

What do I think of the iPad?

So, what do you think of the the iPad? Seems to be the most popular question at the moment, whenever I pull out the iPad, I get a that question, usually followed by "yeah, but you can't actually do anything with them can you?"

Anyway, let me introduced myself, I am a teacher in a large secondary school in Bristol, UK. I am trained as a Science teacher but now teach mainly ICT and I am fed up! I am fed up teaching students how to use Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. There is nothing wrong with either of these two programs per say but it's all we ever teach. Look up information (using MS Explorer) and then produce a PowerPoint presentation or Word document. There has got to be more to ICT than this, surely? So I decided to buy an iPad and set up a blog to talk about all things iPad, education and IOS. It's probably fair to say now that if you don't like IOS devices, this blog is not for you.

So what do I think of the iPad? Well, actually, I am very impressed. I really do think Apple have created a new category of device here.
A lot of people criticise the device stating it can't do this or it can't do that but I think they are missing the point. This is not a PC (or Mac) but a new type of device and a new way of doing things. The iPad is designed for people who don't like technology, they just want it to work. They aren't bothered about file structure or changing the way the OS looks, they just want to access information, check e-mails and type up the odd document. To this end, the iPad works exceedingly well and is probably all most people need, these people are not power users, just people who need to use a computer for real life tasks.

Of course, the iPad is capable of much more and I shall be looking at how it can be used in an education environment in subsequent posts.

Oh, by the way, this blog is being produced almost entirely using an iPad.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad