17 iPad apps for teachers #RGCdevicetrial

Tomorrow I hand over the iPad to a colleague, so I’m signing out of all linked accounts and removing whatever personal data I can.

I’ve also purged the apps installed and categorised them so the next person using the iPad isn’t overwhelmed with pages upon pages of apps to investigate. Here are the apps that survived the three weeks:

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When designing the timescale for each part of the device trial I thought three weeks would be enough. Judging by the feedback received from my colleagues it can either be too long (for example if they don’t like the device) or not long enough!

Some highlights:

  • Being able to create documents with the Pages (£6.99, link) app has been great although I do agree with reviews about its value for money. See my previous blog post about how I used it with my Higher Computing class.
  • I had really hoped to make better use of Explain Everything (£1.99, link) but, most annoyingly, I found it wasn’t able to record browser screens that contain HTML5. My planned walkthrough of Snap! on the iPad for the blog is still on the to-do list…
  • …Synchronised to-do list app Remember the Milk (free, link) to be exact. I use it as I’m still not 100% happy with my Evernote workflow (especially using the web version we access at work) as the searches suggested by The Secret Weapon do not always work. Remember the Milk is on my Android phone, in the Chrome browser on my laptop and I’ve made good use of it on the iPad too.
  • That said, Evernote (free, link) has been fantastic for helping me carry less paper around. Using the iPad to quickly scan documents (from my notebook) into an Evernote note has been a real eye-opener. At the moment I don’t have a notebook at all, but I feel I still need a small amount of paper to jot ideas down quickly.
  • Being able to create Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents is still necessary and given that it’s a three week trial I’m not going to throw away years of knowledge in an attempt to break away from Microsoft Office. I’ve used CloudOn (free, link) quite a bit although you have to be online to use it so I’ve made best use from home. It is fairly fast, allows quick sharing of files (great for discussing prelim marks over the weekend with your boss! Sorry…) and keeps documents compatible with the desktop at work.
  • Marking music has been essential and I’ve enjoyed the Podcasts (free, link) app. However apart from that I didn’t use it nearly as much as I had envisaged. I realised that I listen to most of my podcasts on the train or walk home and the form factor of the iPad doesn’t suit. Time to transfer what I’ve downloaded onto the Samsung Galaxy Y…
  • I never thought I would type this but my other half has made good use of the Kindle (free, link) app. Strongly against eReaders in the past, she was convinced to try reading on the iPad as her book group choice was 20p on Amazon and out of stock in the local libraries. Her feedback was that the iPad felt cold and it was a bit tricky to hold while in bed, so she would choose to have a suitable case to protect it if dropped and to make it more enjoyable for the reader to hold.
  • For image editing, Aviary (free, link), Luminance (free at the moment, link) and Snapseed (free, link) have been great. I hated the Photoshop app – everything seemed to require an in-app purchase – and it was quickly deleted.
  • iDownloads+ (free, link) allows iPad users to manage downloads and extract compressed files. I found this especially useful when looking at the Computing At School site, with email and also to access my zip files on Dropbox (free, link) which has always been a favourite app of mine since the days of the iPod Touch 2G!
  • Programming on the iPad was covered in an earlier blog post, but I still want to recommend Pythonista (£2.99, link), A.L.E.X (first 25 levels free, link), TouchDevelop (web link) and Snap! (web link). Textastic (£5.99, link) looks great for creating code but I haven’t yet had time to use it fully. Something else for the to-do list!
  • GoSkyWatch Planetarium for iPad (free, link) is such an amazing app to use. I downloaded this for my three year old son and he found it really easy to use. I don’t think I could use it to enhance my teaching, but it definitely enhanced our learning!
  • Flipboard (free, link) is such a beautiful app, full of interesting stories to inspire and inform your lessons, that I’ve just spent ten minutes reading it instead of finishing this blog post! Oops…

Keeping it simple to keep your sanity

I’m writing this blog post using the Notes app in my iPod. Last week I spent a few hours with WordPress’ Quick Post and lost the entire blog entry when I attempted to add an image. Usually I use the full Post function which allows saving of drafts as you go but I wanted to create a quick blog post (always good intentions but it rarely happens) and get back to other matters. Live and learn I suppose but at the time I was not best pleased! So until I find a better and more reliable way of composing blog posts (again!) it’s back to using a word processor and copy & paste.

There are a couple of things on my mind today. How best to compose blogs safely is one and the other is how to protect your data when technology fails completely.

For example, my iPod battery is beginning to fail after two years of heavy use and as a result I’ve lost a lot of data due to unexpected shutdowns and the factory restore. Its always the same, you think you’ve covered all the apps and transferred the important files and then you start the restore process and realise you missed an app like iFile (which stores all of my PDFs and office documents). Some are saved because they have to be uploaded from a desktop / laptop but most were downloaded using the inbuilt browser. Ach. Sometimes working offline in the ‘dead time’ between home and work isn’t a great idea.

So as I wait to see if I can get the battery replaced on my itouch 2g I’m keeping the digital content stored on it to a minimum. Even after it is fixed I want to ensure I don’t lose work in progress as easily again, so what are my options? I’m going to try using the Notes app to store blog posts in progress then email them out to my GMail account before logging into wordpress. If this works I might try the post-by-email option. Either way, I intend to keep a back up stage in my workflow and make it as simple as possible.

And what about files I’ve downloaded onto the iPod? Cloud services like GoogleDocs, Dropbox, Box.net are fine as they are quickly uploaded to a data farm somewhere else but they need wifi connectivity to operate. This will be an option with work in the future but at the moment cannot be considered especially because of these sites being blocked at work. There is free public access a few hundred metres away at the local library which while slow might provide a chance to backup or transfer.

Another alternative is to use Tumblr to record web links. The great thing is I can email links to my Tumblr blog at work. The only downside (except work access to view these links) is that post by email adds in the school disclaimer and I can’t see a way of preventing this from appearing in the post at the moment. Also, files have to be hosted elsewhere so this is not practical as an all-in-one solution. However I am a fan of Tumblr and feel it is slightly easier to post content quickly than, say, Posterous.

So in summary keeping it simple but safe is the best way to protect your data and sanity when using devices which require Wifi to transfer files. I need to keep that at the forefront of my mind when working and learning using my mobile device in 2012.