ZooKazam


This is a “must explore” if you’re interested in animals.  But, it goes further than that.

This application is one of the most amazing applications of Artificial Intelligence on a portable device that I think I’ve seen.  Watch this review.

The application is ZooKazam and available for both Android and iOS.  I think that you know you’re in for something special just visiting their website.  By itself, it takes the concept of the web to the next level.

They call it “magical animals” and the name is so true.  You have to experience it to fully understand.  Words just don’t do justice for a good description of the experience you’re about to enjoy.  Download the app and get started just by pointing your camera at a number of the targets provided on their website.  Then, dig in and you won’t be putting it down any time soon.

Experiences can be recorded and shared.

YouTube is a terrific repository of compositions shared.  Of course, the sharing continues on Twitter.

The application is free to download and the Mammals category is free.  That’s plenty to get your virtual zoo started.

It’s not just the virtual reality, either.  You just know that there will be a hook into education.

IMG_1389

I’m posting this on the weekend so you’ll have lots of time to explore and play!

And, lest you think it’s a Macintosh thing since all the captures seem to be done on that platform, here’s my zebra.

IMG_1388

10 Starter iPad Apps, 2014 Version


I started this Christmas list of applications on the iPad in 2010.  It’s interesting to see what’s stayed and what’s gone.  It’s shared here for those of you lucky enough to score an iPad for Christmas.  I’ve had to do some weeding this year and you’ll see some titles with a strike through.  They may be physically gone but I’m glad to have had them for a while and this post will remind me should I need an app for that purpose again.

2010
I thought that perhaps my blog reading friends might have unwrapped an iPad under the tree and were in search of some starter apps.  The list from last Christmas looked like this.

  • Twitter for iPad – stay connected, listen to the Twitter stream, learn, and get advice on future applications;
  • Flipboard – bring all of your reading into one place – if you’re into news, don’t get individual news apps, bring them all into Flipboard;
  • TaskPad HD – we all have to-do lists – you might as well keep track of them on your iPad;
  • VLC Media Player – never be stumped by a file format again;
  • Google Earth – all the functionality of the desktop version but really takes advantaging of the manipulating ability of the iPad;
  • Aweditorium – a totally new way to explore musical artists;
  • Note Hub – if you create projects with resources from all over the place, use this application to bring all of the research components together;
  • Dropbox – this popular application for sharing with your devices and potentially others comes to this device;
  • fotopedia Heritage – explore UNESCO world heritage sites and their beauty comes to life on your iPad;
  • Documents Free – you will need to work on your documents and spreadsheets.  This one is free.

It was a good list at the time and I still stand behind the recommendations.  But, it is dated.  The VLC Media Player, for example, is no longer available for download but if you do a search for VLC there are a number of related applications.  GoodPlayer looks interesting.  I’m glad that I got my copy of VLC while it was available though.

2011
I wrote this post last year.  I’m thinking this Christmas might bring some more people with their new gifts looking for ideas.  Or, this might be the year where you upgrade to an iPad 2 and hand the original iPad down.  Or, maybe you’ll have duelling iPads.  Or, something else.

Anyway, I’ll use the premise to give you 10 more iPad applications that I think are noteworthy and should be on anyone’s list of starter applications to grab.

  • Zite – Create your own personalized news magazine and find all kinds of stories based upon your interests;
  • Evernote – Absolutely the best way to take notes on your iPad and synchronize them to your computer(s) via the cloud;
  • Skitch for iPad – If Evernote is the best way to take notes, then Skitch has to be the best way to capture images and annotate them – and then send them to Evernote!;
  • Popplet Lite – Is it a brainstorming mindmapping tool?  Is it a wall to stick notes?  Is it a hybrid of the two that synchronizes with your desktop?  Yes to all of the above.  Once you use it, you’ll want the paid upgrade version;
  • Splashtop Remote Desktop for iPad – You’ll never regret paying for this application.  No matter how good your iPad is and becomes part of your life, the crucial file is on your desktop.  Remotely access your computer with this and so much more;
  • Garageband – Even I can make music with Garageband and now I can even do it on my iPad;
  • Pearltrees – Pearltrees lets you find and graphically organize resources from the web.  You can even add the Pearler to Safari to cultivate as you go;
  • ScreenChomp – Create your own Screencasts and share them with others.  Great for instructional content or to illustrate thinking visually;
  • Dolphin HD – Safari is great if all you want is a browser.  But, how about a webzine reader with Twitter and Facebook access or a Speed Dial launcher just like your desktop browser;
  • The Guardian Eyewitness – Access to the spectacular photograhy in The Guardian but there’s more – professional photography tips about how to get the same results by yourself.

Last year, I suggested that a great game to latch onto was the Angry Birds Lite.  You still can’t go wrong with that.  I’m going to add a new one – this year I’ve played many Word with Friends game.  There’s a new game in the Zynga fold called Hanging with Friends.  It’s a simple concept – we’ve all played Hangman as kids – this takes it online and social.

2012
Let me add 10 more applications that caught my attention this year.  The criteria is that they have to be regularly used applications by me.  I look back at the 20 from the past couple of years and they are all still there.  From my view, that’s the test of time.

  • Google Stuff – four applications were released that have become mainstays for me.
  • Google Chrome Browser – the great browser for Mac, Linux, and Windows is now available on the iPad and does all that I do on the desktop except for extensions;
  • Google Gmail – Gmail is my connection to the world and the Gmail application is an awesome application;
  • Google Drive – If you’re using Google Drive, and who isn’t, you’ll dive into this application;
  • Google Maps – Apple Maps had some issues.  OK, quite a few issues.  When Apple replaced Google Maps on iOS, we all were interested to see what it would be like.  That interest didn’t last long.  Google Maps is back and it’s better than ever;
  • OK, I’m a Google fan boy.  I could include YouTube and the Google Plus app but will resist the urge.  Must…keep…the…list…to…10;
  • Matching with Friends – Zynga is a premiere developer for the iPad and the mathematical types will love the visualization required to get top scores;
  • GEMS with Friends – OK, another addictive game from Zynga.  My friend Tina clobbers me regularly but I’m hoping to up my game with practice;
  • Learnist – If you’re reading this post, you know I like to read.  Learnist is all about reading, creating boards, sharing, …;
  • Rockmelt – This used to be my preferred browser under Windows and Macintosh. Reinvented for iOS, the developers claim that it will change the way that you think about browsing the web;
  • War of 1812 – This was big this summer.  We visited many historical sites including visiting those in our back yard.  This was a great planner and helped me learn so much more than what I had learned in school;
  • WordPress – If you’re blogging on WordPress, you’ll want to keep an eye on your blog, reply to comments on the fly, and even write new posts.  Until this app came along, I would have to find a computer to do what I do.  Now it’s a tap away.

2013
For 2013, it’s interesting to take a look at what’s new and what’s gone.  Sadly, Rockmelt is gone.  The product was purchased by Yahoo! and supposedly the product will have impact on their ongoing services.  I hope that it comes out as Yahoo! Rockmelt or something.  I even made reference to it during my presentation at #ECOO13 as a good luck omen.  Still waiting.  For 2013, here are 10 more apps that I’ve added and use regularly.

  • Mailbox – I was inspired by the claim to get your Gmail box down to zero.  It actually does help although it seems to quickly fill up again.
  • HelloSign – I actually needed this application.  I was asked to preview a app under development and needed to sign a non-disclosure form and was recommended this one.
  • Bee-Bot – Ever wonder what a floor robot might look like on an iPad?
  • Hopscotch – Ever wonder what a Scratch-like programming environment might look like on an iPad?
  • Candy Crush Saga – I wondered what all the hubbub was about this application so I downloaded it to investigate.  Now, I’m hooked and have been stuck at level 125 for a couple of weeks now.
  • Cloudart – I wanted to have an application that would allow me to create word clouds on the iPad.  This commercial application became free and I grabbed it and haven’t regretted it.
  • Coast – From the folks at Opera, it’s best described as how a browser for a tablet should be.  It’s quickly become my browser of choice.
  • Quickoffice – For times when you’re not at the traditional keyboard, it’s nice to be able to edit documents.  I like the integration with Google Drive.
  • OfficeHD – Another office productivity suite – this one I paid for and just can’t bring myself to delete it! I waffle between it and Quickoffice.
  • Twittelator – As I write this post, I can’t believe that I’ve never talked about Twittelator.  It was one of the first Twitter browsers that I used on the iPad and I continue to use it daily as my first choice.  For what I do, it’s perfect.

2014
In 2014, I think I’ve slowed down my downloading and testing of applications.  I’m not sure if that means that I’ve lost interest or that I’ve zeroed in on the applications that I truly use on a regular basis.  It’s interesting as I look up at the list.  There are some apps that really have stood the test of time.  I hope these, added to the list, are still around next year.

  • Inbox – Google’s new approach to handling your email.  iPad, Android, and web, providing you’re using the Chrome browser
  • Friendly – an application to use with Facebook. It doesn’t require a separate application for private messages (and you don’t have to use Facebook blue…)
  • Theneeds – A great news gatherer and reader application
  • Google News – I can never get enough news for my morning reading
  • Candy Crush Saga  – I’m weak.  What can I say?  A year later and now I’m stuck at level 213
  • Hangouts – when Google offered this as a stand alone application, I had to try it.  It’s amazing how more focused on Google Hangouts I am on the iPad.  On the desktop, I was forever multi-tasking…
  • Diigo Browser – Opera Coast remains my go-to browser but the Diigo web browser is a nice Chrome variation with all the features you’re used to with Diigo
  • Penultimate – For my birthday, my daughter gave me an Adonit Jot Pro stylus.  It was a bit odd at first but it’s now my best friend.  I can actually take quick notes on the iPad without tapping on the glass keyboard and then dealing with auto-suggest later.
  • Sketchbook Express for iPad – I actually have the Pro version.  I’m not an artist but with my new stylus, I’m trying.
  • ScratchJr – What computer sciencey type of person didn’t run out and grab the iPad version of this programming language the moment it became available?

So now, there are 50 starter apps in this series.  I hope that it helps and, please, if you have another idea about an application that should be installed, add it via reply.  I’m sure that others will appreciate it and I’m always on the hunt for something new and inspiring.

How To Manage Free And Not Free Stuff


As is part of my early morning learning routine, I’m flipping through stories in my Zite news browser.  Yes, I know that Zite was acquired by Flipboard and I do flip my way through there as well but, at this point, Zite is like a set of comfortable shoes, nicely broken in and very comfortable.  I know that I’m living on borrowed time but I am enjoying it as long as I can.

I ran into three stories in a row.  In no particular order, they are:

 What’s disconcerting is that Zite customizes the news feed based upon your habits.  So, is the internet doing its spying on me and knows that I’m cheap?  Or, living on a budget?  Or, just trying everything in sight?  Or, I’m an Android user?  Or, I’m a Linux user?

So like the good old days of Kmart blue-light specials, I immediately open the articles and start reading.  There are some intriguing pieces of software there.  I’m interested in a piece of software that mirrors between a PC and an iPad.  Why?  I really don’t know since if I wasn’t so lazy I could just plug in this monitor that’s sitting behind my computer…

The range and variety of applications is exciting.  The computing geek in me wants to try them all.  

Herein lies the rub.

Where do I put them?  

On my computer, it’s not a problem.  I have a big hard drive with a huge amount of potential.  On the iPad, I keep it with about 1GB free thinking that apps might need a bit of elbow room to run.  In order to install anything new, I have to remove something.  Unfortunately, the “somethings” are there because I use them regularly.  I’d be at a loss to remove them.

It’s a real problem and something that I do struggle with.  I like the fact that many things are web-based so that local storage isn’t necessary.

And yet, there’s just something that rips at me to want to try new things.  Of course, I could solve the problem by just not reading stories like these…

Or, I’m sure that you have wise advice.  How do you handle this?

News and Weather


There was a great deal of hubbub yesterday when word got out that Google had released a copy of its News and Weather Application for iOS.  It had been previously available for those who use the Android system.  I gave it a download to see what it looked like on iOS.

I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised when, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, … but other than the default dark display install of the familiar white of the Android, it looks and functions exactly the same way.  In fact, the first thing I did was go to the menu and add “Education” as a category.  Now both versions should pick up the same content.

But other than that I was off to the races.  Of course, location is important when you’re looking for the weather and there was no issue quickly picking up me at home.  A quick change of location and you’re pulling in the weather from wherever you want.

Like good news reading applications, a collection of “Top Stories” occupies the home for the application.

Tapping the now familiar hamburger menu lets you see the default news categories.  There is a nice selection to get started – World, Canada, Business, Technology, Entertainment, Sports, Science, Health, and of course the local stories from Amherstburg and Windsor.  Amherstburg just doesn’t have a whole lot to report so the application appears to pull in stories from around the country to fill.

With each story, a down arrow exposes related stories which is a very nice feature.  Once you’re done with the top stories, swipe left and right to work your way through your defined categories.

Clicking on a story takes you directly to the story.  There’s a navigation bar at top that will bring you back to the application.  Therein lies a problem for sharers.  Unlike other reading/sharing programs that connect directly to Twitter or Facebook, News and Weather doesn’t.  Fortunately, in this day and age, most sources have a way to use social media on their website.  The problem is that there’s no consistent way to access it.  It would be nice to have a native sharing button.

The layout is clean and you know that with Google who is already indexing things anyway, you’ll get relevant and fresh content.  For those on the iOS platform looking for a reader, I’d suggest downloading it and seeing if it has a home on your device.

Android Download

iOS Download

Q&A – Jeopardy Style


One of the favourite tools that was shared during my university class was a Flash based version of the popular game show, Jeopardy.  We talked about using it as a diagnostic tool or as a way to have students challenge their classmates during the research of a particular topic.  It certainly isn’t something that you base an entire course on, but it’s nice to shake things up a bit.  Paired with a SMARTBoard, it also helps students with their presentation skills.

These days, not all devices effectively use Flash anymore and so that opportunity is lost.  Plus, if you created a game at home, you had to remember to bring the questions to school in order to use it!  If there was an application that screamed for a web-based solution, this was it.

Enter Flipquiz.

Like so many things these days, there’s a free and a paid (pro) version. The free version has the features that you need to give it a fair shakedown.

Visit the site and try out the demo quiz that’s online.  Six categories with five questions in each category.

If you’ve watched early evening television in the last 50 years, the presentation is so familiar.

Choose a category and a value…

I’ll take NBA Teams for 400…

I’ll buzz in with the answer “Utah”.  A reveal shows the answer is true.

Selecting student responses can be done a number of ways – hands, call on a student, or I used to use those “That was easy” devices from Staples.

That’s about it! 

You’re not going to use it daily – it would lose its lustre – but add it to your arsenal.

At OTF Teaching, Learning & Technology Conference – Hopscotch, Sphero, Social Reading


It was a terrific three days in Toronto working with a wonderful group of Ontario educator professionals. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation throws a great event.  The attendees were asked to self-identify as early users of technology.  I think that many left with their heads spinning, full of great ideas.  They were invited to learn where their interests lay because they certainly couldn’t take in everything that was offered.

What was offered was very quickly scaffolded and everyone was encouraged to learn, create, and push themselves to new levels.

Those that joined me got to experience from the following.

Hopscotch

We had a ball learning how to code on the iPad.  We started simply by controlling movement on the screen but very quickly added the elements of sequencing and repetition to our efforts.  By the time we were done, everyone was programming like pros and had learned how to branch programs from the Hopscotch website and modify them to do great things!

Here is the link to the resources shared are on my PD Wiki.

Sphero

Speaking of having a ball, it was only natural that we took the opportunity to learn a bit about programming a robot with the iPad. Many schools are adopting iPads instead of desktops or laptops. How can you continue to work with robots? Sphero fits the bill nicely.  I had a great conversation with Jeff Pelich from Waterloo and we both agreed that the Macrolab and OrbBasic are required downloads to support the programming.

Social Reading

One of things that I strongly believe is that when we read and share, we can all become smarter.  That was the basic message in the social reading station at Minds on Media.  This messy diagram shows the workflow, er, reading flow that I use.

We talked about a number of absolutely terrific sources for professional reading on a daily basis.

and, of course, Ontario Edubloggers.

But the message here was more than just reading.  It’s about sharing.  We identified the sharing links on any of these sources and learned how to send them to Twitter, Facebook, or Instapaper.

Again, the message was more than just sending it to these sources.  We talked about using Packrati.us.  The moment (or shortly thereafter) you send a link to Twitter, we talked about how Packrati.us would send the link to a Diigo account.  I love to use the analogy of a set of dominos tumbling over!  But, when it all works, the links are shared with others and they’re permanently bookmarked in your Diigo account.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  We talked about collecting the good stuff and having it all in one place.  Remember that great article you read last year?  Why retrace you steps to find the article by doing an internet search and hoping that you’re able to find it again?  Tuck it away in Diigo.

Once it’s there, you can do some amazing things other than just bookmarking.

  • Install the Diigo extension so that you’re one click away
  • Create a blog post with the links you’ve shared
  • Save your Diigo links to Delicious so that you’ve got a backup
  • Make Diigo the default search engine for your browser
  • Set up Diigo groups and use Diigo network
  • Get a Diigo Educator account

Yes, it can be messy but are the benefits worth it.  And, people seemed to buy in at their own personal level.  It doesn’t get better than that.  I met a secondary school teacher-librarian who was planning to set up Diigo groups for the various departments in her school; a lady who is planning to cultivate recipes; another lady looking to build a knowledge network about running; and a gentleman going to pull together resources for bass fishing.  How’s that for personalized?

I know that there were a lot of exhausted people who returned home Friday night, but it was a good exhausted.  You can’t beat a event of learning, sharing, and making connections.

I’m 5 Again


One of the things that I used to tell my computer science students was that every program that they create was actually a story. 

You tell the story to the computer and the computer retells parts (or all) of the story back to the user.  I suppose in the kindest of ways, it was a way from deterring from programming as an academic affair from the very beginning.

As we witness programming languages evolve, it’s increasingly appropriate.  Instead of writing programs like tax calculators, we now introduce programming by a more formal approach to story telling.  We manipulate screen objects, set backgrounds, add interactions, etc.  Programming languages like Hopscotch, Alice, Daisy the Dinosaur, Scratch, and Tynker make story telling the heart of programming.  The logic is to introduce students to programming concepts in a fun, easy to manipulate environment.  From there, the level of sophistication, and choice of languages develops a culture of programming. 

With classrooms across the world moving to tablet based programming, it’s so good to see introductory programming languages embracing that environment.  Frequent readers to this blog know that I’ve tried (played) with many of them.  The combination of a familiar environment and a well crafted developmental environment is a formula for success.

This morning, into the mix, comes ScratchJr.

With ScratchJr, young children (ages 5-7) can program their own interactive stories and games. – ScratchJr website

If you’ve used the Scratch Programming language on a PC, the iPad implementation is a breeze.  Download it, load it, give permission for it to use your microphone, and you’re ready to program.

Hit the ? to get an introduction to ScratchJr, learn about the environment, visit a few examples and you’re off to the races!  If you’re a Scratch programmer, you’re so familiar with dragging, modifying, locking, embedding objects to get the job done.  The same concepts apply here.  There was such a flat learning curve for me.  It’s like programming in Scratch – only easier! 

Normally, there would be concerns about a program being “late for the party” but I suspect that won’t be a problem in the case of ScratchJr.  There’s a huge collection of folks who have been using Scratch for years that I’m sure will become big advocates of the program.  I can just imagine copies flying out of the app store.

Scratch has developed such a large online community of users.  The same will happen with ScratchJr.  There will be all kinds of ideas and support available once this happens.  At present, you can follow the discussion on Twitter here.

You can download ScratchJr here.