Tag: apple

Write Your Own eTextbook…

…in fact, you may already be doing most of this.

Recently, I had a conversation with a computer science teacher who was bemoaning the fact that there just wasn’t a perfect textbook for her course.  I don’t think that’s unusual.

I never found a computer science textbook that I wanted to use.  The examples in the ones that I looked at were different from the ones that I would use and the exercises often were too simple to reinforce the concepts that I wanted.  Plus, it’s also nice to have a bank of extra problems to pull out as needed – for review, extra practice, ideas for students, and so much more.

Any computer science teacher that I’ve ever met is the ultimate curator.  Filing cabinets just chock full of problems gathered from here and there; I was always a sucker for online programming competitions.  They are always a wonderful source of problems for class solution or for student problems.  Most are now available on the web and moving to a digital storage is only a click away.

Back to my discussion.  She was proud to indicate two things…first, the students were allowed to bring their own devices to classroom which had changed the way that she used computers – no more waiting for the “master image” to have the language and editors that she wanted.  Secondly, she had moved all of her notes and examples to a WordPress blog.  It was a private self-hosted blog and was just perfect for her purposes.  The students could access the current lesson or problem by visiting the blog.  She had learned quickly enough to have a few lessons published in advance so that there always was something ready.  She was using the comments to a post section as a way for students to ask questions or get clarification when students weren’t in class.

It seemed like a perfect scenario with just one gotcha that was looming for a couple of students.  They didn’t have internet access at home.  It was not a huge problem provided the student remember to go to the blog and grab the topic while at school.  She was considering moving her resources to any of the eBook editing programs that are available but was shuddering to think of the work involved.

As we talked, I remembered BlogBooker.  I’ve written about it a few times on this blog.  Do a search or just read this one post.

Long story short, BlogBooker takes your blog and makes it into a PDF file.  That file, then, can be repurposed for any use that you might have for it including distributing copies to your students.  Why not turn your blog into an eTextbook?  BlogBooker has a great selection of options for formatting…

It sounds just like the sort of thing that any editing process would include.  Since the resulting document is a PDF file, images are embedded nicely, and links you make reference to are live!  If you’d been allowing Comments with one class, you could include them or go ahead an exclude them so the textbook is all you!  There’s nothing more universally assessible by devices than PDF.  And, if you need to revise the text book for subsequent years, you already have all your blogging experience at hand to make the changes.

BookBlogger is the perfect tool for saving a year’s worth of blog posts … those posts could your next best textbook!

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French iOS Applications

One person that’s regularly on the Ontario Educators’ list is @sylviaduckworth.  She’s a regular Twitter user and sends out some great content.  Sylvia is definitely someone that you want to follow, particular if teaching French using AIM is of interest to you.  She has a strong passion for this.

I’ve just recently stumbled on her French iOS Applications blog.  It’s bookmarked and now listed in the Ontario Edublogger list.

This has real interest for me.  That little guy that hangs out at our house is soon going to be in a situation where he’s serious about French as a language.

Of course, I’ll want to make his environment as rich in both languages as I can.

That’s where Sylvia’s blog will come handy.  She’s devoted this blog to downloading and evaluating applications that would be appropriate for use in the FSL classroom.  She has a “so far” list…

and a much longer to-do list.  It’s a very ambitious goal!  Those of us who are interested in this will truly benefit from her efforts.

She’ll have plenty of visits from me over the next while as these all roll out.

Bring it on, Sylvia!  This will be a truly unique blog.  I can’t find anything similar and neither can Zemanta which I use for related links.

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Exercise Makes You Grow

Disclaimer right up front.  The title of this blog post is misleading.  Hopefully, it drew you in from curiosity anyway.

I am a supporter at every opportunity to get kids, no matter the size, to go beyond the cursory of tap, click, tap and begin to really understand what’s happening when using an electronic device.  The more that we can do to promote meaningful activities the better.

When do you start students programming?  My answer has always been – as soon as it’s developmentally appropriate.  In the big scheme of things, the sooner the better.  If you wait until secondary school, it’s way too late.  And students shouldn’t stop programming.  Now, not all of them will write the next great Canadian application but the more they understand the logic and the way things work, the better they’ll be.  There’s nothing more frustrating that watching someone just wandering around on their device hoping that they’ll find a solution when you know that a little logic and understanding resolves that instantly.

Off the soapbox and on to exercise.

I recently installed an application on my iPad that has the programmer in me obsessed and the educator in me seeing all kinds of application.

Daisy the Dinosaur is a great beginning programming environment.  It’s fun and you stay inside Daisy’s environment to do the sorts of things that Daisy can do.

What can she do?

Well, she can “move”, “turn”, “grow”, “shrink”, “jump”, “roll”, and “spin”.  She can repeat any of the actions and you can press “Play” to start and/or you can control her actions with a tap or a shake of your device.  That’s about it.  Any programmer will tell you that a program is best when you apply some logic and combine actions to get the job done.

When you first start Daisy, you may wish to enter the Challenge Mode to work through a set of challenges devised to teach you everything that Daisy can do.  You and your students will pick it up in a matter of minutes.  Then, it’s off to free-play mode to see what you can do.

In my case, I decided to show Daisy exercising!

The various commands that Daisy is capable of doing appear on the left of the screen – scroll with your fingers to get more of them.  To write your program, just drag the commands onto the program area.

In this case, I did the following:

  • Start when I shake the iPad;
  • For five times, do the following;
    • Move forward;
    • Shrink; (I thought it could simulate rolling up into a little ball)
    • Roll over;
    • Grow; (to get back to the original size)
    • Grow again because we just did some exercise.

To start the program, it’s just a matter of tapping Play.  Daisy appears on the left side of the stage and in this case, she just stands there waiting for me to shake the iPad.  I did and she exercised her way through the above activity.

It’s addictive.  As the program is running, you can follow the steps as the cyan commands turn magenta to let you know what’s being acted upon.  If you’re a fan of Scratch, it’s easy to see this application introducing the concepts.

The application is free and relatively small – 5MB.  It’s well worth the time to download and check out.  You’ll want to see what your students can do with it.


An Interview with Angela Harrison

Angela Harrison (@TechieAng on Twitter) is one of those personalities on Twitter that you come across and immediately want to invite her to be part of your learning.  She shares some of the more consistently interesting and insightful messages that you’ll come across.  You’ll also find that she blogs quite consistently about Literacy and literacy activities at Expanding teaching, exploring technology.

She was one of those people that I “knew” long before I met her!  I did have an opportunity to learn around a table with her last summer and was impressed with her passion for kids and for learning.  She’s currently a kindergarten teacher but has always brought technology into her classrooms at all grades she’s taught so it comes as no surprise when you come across interesting ideas from her blog.

Just before the ECOO (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) Conference, Angie had blogged about a project idea that she wanted to do with her class.  It was called “What can you see?“ and was based upon an experience that she had the previous year when her Grade 3 class Skyped with another in Alaska.   Her kids were intrigued, I’m sure with the class, but more with what they saw behind the class – a volcano!  This led her to put together a project entitled “What can you see?” where she’s hoping to bring other schools to the table sharing what they see from their classroom windows.

I read about it on her blog and thought that it was genius.  There are so many “big projects” that people start and never finish.  It seems to me that you could enter this at any level and scaffold it to anything you want it to be.  As Master of Ceremonies, when I opened the ECOO Conference, I tried to focus on things that were not easily done at the time of the first ECOO Conference 33 years ago, and gave a little shoutout to this project.  I had hoped that Angie would have been in the audience and made some instant connections.

Angie was good enough to sit down for an interview about her class and this project and I hope that this just might reach out to other classrooms looking for some regional, national, or international connections.  Read more here.  What can you see?

Doug:  Thank you for the opportunity to interview you, Angie.  From your bio, you indicate that you are an Apple Distinguished Educator.  What does that mean?  Does it give you a leg up on others when it comes to projects like this?

Angie:  I am honored to be recognized by Apple as a Distinguished Educator. I’m part of the Class of 2011. Through this designation, I continue to be an advocate, an advisor, an author and an ambassador for innovation in technology in education. I am very fortunate to be a part of a global personal learning network of Apple Distinguished Educators. There is a separate secure site for ADEs in which we share our blog posts and interact on projects.

The “What can you see?” project was tweeted out to my own personal learning network on Twitter and I included the hashtags #ECOO12, #kinderyr and #kinderchat. I was hoping to involve kindergarten teachers to join in and share what they see in their school yards. I didn’t actively pursue my ADE colleagues initially.. I reached out to Kindergarten teachers in my board and within my regular learning network. After viewing several books from within our own school board with similar school yards,  I realized I needed to reach out and bring in a global view. I contacted one of my fellow ADEs who I had met this last summer at a Global Institute. I asked Arturo to ask his kinder colleagues if they would participate. He put me in touch with a few teachers in his school and now we have a view of a school yard in Mexico. The Apple Distinguished Educator title certainly helped me expand the project to include Mexico. I will also try to reach out and ask a few more colleagues to assist me. However, most of the connections have been made through my regular interactions on Twitter. Thanks for the suggestion, I will go onto the ADE site and post an invitation. I appreciate how your questions help me see things clearer.

Doug:  You also indicate that you are also a  Literacy@School Learning Centre Classroom teacher.  What does that mean?

Angie:  In our board we have a team that has selected teachers who are willing to innovate and share their instructional practices. Teachers are part of a network of learners who open their classrooms for observational visits from other teachers and administrators who wish to view a literacy block. Visits are centrally booked and include a specific focus question for the visit. The visit includes a pre visit, a visit and a post visit discussion surrounding literacy instruction. These learning centre classrooms are funded at the board level and provide additional technology for the classrooms. There are also Proof of Concept projects that run in Literacy@School classrooms. I am fortunate that I have been a part of an iPad Proof of Concept project for primary learners. My classroom is rich in resources and therefore I feel I need to make my own learning as transparent as possible.

Doug:  When you started the What Can You See project, did you have any sense as to whether or not it would take off?

Angie:  I felt my personal learning network was strong and I knew there were a few key people that would participate in the project. I anticipated a handful of schools would participate in a creating a story. I had no idea that a few of my colleagues in my own board would welcome this opportunity and document it and expand it to include their school communities. Now, students are making their own booklets at home and bringing them into the school to share. I would love to see families creating books/movies while on vacation and sharing them with the classes. I never thought this project would turn into a parent engagement piece. I also didn’t imagine the way the project has cross pollinated. I imagined classes sharing with me, I didn’t anticipate that all of the classes would then be eager to share with each other. Teachers are showing initiative and organizing their own SKYPE calls with each other. I don’t have to facilitate it, I provide the Twitter contact information, the link to the Dropbox file or the link to the blog and they do the rest. I am so pleased to see how teachers are interacting and using this project as a springboard to lead to other projects and connections. This project has proven to me that teachers want to engage with other schools but they need a spark and a place to share and learn.

Doug:  How did you publicize it?  Just on your blog?

Angie:  I posted on my blog, tweeted out invitations and talked to some colleagues in my board. It wasn’t hard to get people interested. The most difficult part is coordinating the time zones and busy schedules for the sharing of the books.

Doug:  Last night while we were Twittering, Jocelyn Schmidt shared some of the work that her class did towards the project.  http://ljpskindergartenteam.blogspot.ca/2012/12/i-made-my-own-what-can-you-see-book.html
What did you think of that?

Angie:  As I mentioned earlier, I had no idea this would lead to parent engagement. I looked at the project as a way to expand my students’ view of the world. One of the Kindergarten Big Ideas in our Curriculum is “Children are connected to others and contribute to their world.” page 52 The Full-Day Learning-Kindergarten Program.

Doug:  How many classrooms are involved in the project so far?

Angie:  So far seven different schools are involved in the project with a promise of more schools joining us in the new year.

Doug:  What would you say is the most consistent thing that students are seeing?

Angie:  The students have recognized that all schools have a playground structure and play area. They also see trees and soccer fields in each of the school’s books. My students have recently taken notice that many of the books have birds’ nests and they have asked the classes via SKYPE what type of birds they see in their school yard.

Doug:  What would you say is the most bizarre thing that students are reporting?

Angie:   My students were shocked to learn that the school in Mexico had a guard in a structure outside the school. This was not something anyone had anticipated and the students had a hard time understanding why a guard was needed at a school. In our local schools the children are used to seeing crossing-guards but not actual guards who protect schools.

Doug:  Are your students excited about the connections that they’re making?  How are they keeping track of them?  Does it enable them to make connections to their own situation?

Angie:  In our classroom, we have been tracking the similarities and differences between our school and another school. We do one SMART Notebook page comparing the two schools. This simple format has helped the students make direct connections to our community. The repetition has been extremely valuable. Now students are making connections when we read picture books, informational texts and charts. I did not set out to teach ‘making connections’. I set out to widen their world in an authentic manner. This project taught the students to be critical thinkers as they view movies/books and other texts. Now connections are automatically coming out while we discuss new topics and read new information.

Doug:  Now, we know that everything that’s done in the classroom needs to address Curriculum Expectations.  What are you addressing with this project?

Angie: As I mentioned previously, the big idea for Social Development is “Children are connected to others and contribute to their world.” An overall expectation in social development is “demonstrate an understanding of the diversity in individuals, families, schools and the wider community.” This project ties all of those things together. Today one of my students ask if any of the students in Vancouver, British Columbia celebrated Hanukkah because we were reading books about Hanukkah. Earlier in the week, a grade one french immersion class read aloud their school yard book in French. The students were able to gain an appreciation for another language and gain exposure about the possibility of attending french immersion in grade one. Last week, they learned that the students in Mexico spoke both spanish and english. I definitely see a respect for diversity developing in my students. Children are also working on their communication skills. Page 72 of our program states the big idea is “Children are effective communicators.” This project has helped us begin to understand the difference between a question and a comment. The students practice their questions and have learned they need to speak clearly and effectively during a SKYPE call. They also have learned how to give compliments to the classes they talk to via SKYPE. It is truly amazing to see these young children stand confidently and ask their important questions.

Doug:  If someone is just finding out about it now, is it too late to join?  How long will the project run?  You’ve posted an update here:  What can you see- Part Two

Angie:  It’s never too late to join in. I would love to see ‘What can you see?” over the course of the different seasons. I also hope we have more schools with greater diversity participate in the coming months. I am also hoping we have families and educators join in and share what they see. Doug, perhaps, you could do a “What can you see?” book about a walk with your dog?

Doug:  That just might happen.  Great idea.

Doug: What can you share about Colin Harris’ participation in the project?

Angie:  Colin was my initial springboard for the idea. We spoke in late August about ways to connect our classes and this idea formed. He is a great listener and I also learn from my conversations with him. He often helps me germinate ideas.

I’m still waiting for his class to jump in with their book.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share some insights about the project, Angie.  Hopefully, people have a better understanding of what it was all about.  You might even get some more participants!  

I am so impressed how you and your students are going far beyond the original premise.  What a great opportunity for the students.

All the best to you and your family for the Holidays.

Who do you follow – Apple or Google?

There has been much written about the new Apple Maps that comes with iOS6.  While there have been a few that are fans of it, the majority of the press has been negative.  I decided to take a look myself and see how it might impact my little world.  Mapping for the consumer is a fairly mature process.  It’s on your smart phone, the web, your portable GPS and an option in new vehicles.  Not only do I use it personally when going on trips to new places, it’s helped me find quicker ways to get around places that I already know about.

My first steps weren’t off to a great start.  I asked it to plot where I was – and it turned out to be half a concession away.  That’s not a great start but at least the concession road was right.  But, I know where I live so I guess that’s pretty much irrelevant.  Let’s try something more serious.

Like dog walking.  One of our favourite places to go for a walk is in the heart of town and we’ll often stroll down Fort Malden Drive to see the sights.  Uh oh.

Don’t you hate it when OCR goes wrong?  That would probably explain Collison Sideroad too…

Cute little finds and I didn’t have to look too hard.  Maybe not deal breakers but when you can’t find an entire town?  I decided to take a look around Huron County.  There are five major towns there – Goderich, Clinton, Wingham, Seaforth, and Exeter.  Sadly, only Goderich was found in the right place.

This was an attempt to find Exeter, ON.

When I did zoom out, I discovered I80 and further zooming out reveals this to be in Pennsylvania in a place that appears to be called West Pittston.

Not even close.  I can’t even comment on whether that’s up to date or recent.

So, while it may find Goderich, ON, it struck out with Exeter, ON.  Let’s spell it out… Exeter, Ontario.  This search does drop a pin in the right spot.  However, I’m not so sure about their phone number or website.

But, I can tell you this.  The town of Harrow, ON’s main intersection is County Road 11 and County Road 20.  This map has it labelled King’s Highway 18.  This was true – years ago until the province of Ontario gave up maintenance of highways!  The article dates it as 1997.  To the map’s defense, if you zoom in far enough, the road carries a double label of Highway 18 and County Road 20.  That’s not too confusing.

Sadly, all of this refers to places that I actually know about and wouldn’t be using a map application for anyway.  The same tests using Google or Bing Maps provide the right content.

Mapping problems have spawned all kinds of news stories of problems.  There is even a Tumblr page devoted to people identifying problems.  And, there are all kinds of alternatives.  Fortunately, I had already bookmarked the Google Maps Web Application and it was maps as usual for me.  If you are concerned, there are some good suggestions.

The unfortunate part of all this is that the implementation may also reflect badly on the partners that provide the content.  If you turn the leaf at the bottom right corner of the screen, you can see them.

It’s too bad that the original Google Maps application was removed.  It had been a good actor.  iOS6 could even have left it alone, installed the Apple Maps application and let the end user decide which one they would ultimately use.

For me, though, if I can’t trust the reliability of maps for places that I know, how can I rely on it to take me to new places?  The programmer in me really does hope that there’s a fix on the way.

But, for now, I’m going to stick to my Google Maps Web Application.

A Photography Revelation…

…at least for me…

Often, I’m the last to know these things so if I should have know this a long time ago, please rub it in my face.  If it’s something that I’ve added to my iPad that brings out this feature, please let me know too.

I don’t take a lot of pictures with my iPad.  I feel kind of goofy holding up a tablet to take a picture but there are times when it’s the only tool at hand and so I use it.  Here’s a picture of Lee and Sachi LeFever from an RCAC Symposium.

I happened to be in their breakout session and wanted a picture to remember the moment and the iPad was the only tool at hand.  So, you hold on to it carefully on the left edge and tap the shutter button on the screen to take the picture.  It’s a tenuous balance and you have to tap lightly to avoid moving the iPad and blurring the image.  More importantly, I have to remind myself to hold onto the iPad with both hands for safety.

I’ve often wondered how picture taking goes in the hands of the youngest of students.  I can see how easily it could be dropped.

So, there are times when the iPad is at hand and makes a great tool for that quick image.  More often than not, my picture taking is limited to that of the dog in the rec room doing something silly that I want to share with the family.

The other day, he was doing something photo-worthy so I grabbed the iPad to take a picture.  I don’t know if I had been laughing or had too little coffee, but the iPad slipped from my hands as I was about to take the picture.  Fortunately, I was able to grab it before it hit the floor but, in so doing, my right hand grabbed the volume button on the right side of the screen and I heard the camera picture taking sound.  Whaaaa?

It took a picture.  I had to confirm this so I aimed at the dog again and pressed the volume up button and sure enough it took the picture again.  Again, again, and again.  Like it was planned.  I had no idea.

Was this something that I should have known?  Please let me know?

Other than it being a far less shaky way to take a picture because both hands firmly hold the device in place, it makes so much sense for students taking pictures.  You get a really solid grip on the iPad while taking the picture.

I wonder how many pictures I missed taking because I didn’t know this!


On my Wiki, I have a link that I used when talking about media literacy.  I call it Sites That Should Make You Go Hmmm.  It’s devoted to the notion and, for some, the awakening to the fact that not everything you read online is true.  (no kidding, you mean the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus is endangered?)

I know that many people have used the page as part of a web literacy unit with students.  That’s what it’s there for and you’re welcome to it.

Whenever I’m reading online anymore, I find that it’s more important than ever to have your BS filter locked and loaded.  Such a story hopped to my reading today.

It seems like more and more people are looking for and expecting the outrageous, the new, the exciting and they want to be on top of it.  I guess a particularly easy target are the “Apple Fanboys“.  They hand on every hint of a new product from Apple and just have this desire to be the first to break the news.  Even if they have never seen or heard of it, they’re quick to blog or vlog about how great and awesome it is and how it’s the newest and greatest thing going.  And, to their defence, Apple is noted for some incredibly innovative types of things.  I mean – roll back the clock a few years and who could imagine a telephone slash media player slash computer slash PDA?  Well, except Star Trek.

It was with great interest that I read the story “Swedish firm’s Apple hoax shows gullibility of online readers” in the Los Angeles Times.  I had to read it a couple of times just to be sure that I was reading what I thought I was reading…  Then, to verify, I had to track back to the original blog post from this Swedish Company.  “How we screwed (almost) the whole Apple community” and then to the Reddit link.  What’s unique about this is the explanation of how it was done.  To my knowledge, this was the first time such a thing was documented.

Ah, it was done in good fun and I’m sure that there was some joking around a water cooler somewhere.

The real gem from this whole story is the graphic at the bottom of the post where they plot “Perceived Level of Truth” versus “Distance from Source”.  I could see that being a very valuable discussion piece in the classroom when talking about media literacy.

Other than the use of the story for literacy terms, the whole incident did have a bit of value for the company from me.  I backed off the URL to the root to discover just what this company was and what it does.  Thankfully, Google Chrome has built-in translation features.