Tag: ipad

10 Starter iPad Apps, 2013 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.

So now, there are 40 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.

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Word Clouds on the iPad


I can’t ignore a good deal and I like visualizations.  Today, I had a chance to enjoy both!

Cloudart was available for free on Friday – so I downloaded it – I can’t ignore that.  I’ve had some people ask for recommendations for a word cloud generator for the iPad so it seemed natural to put Cloudart through its paces.  There are web based solutions and certainly they work wonderfully on a desktop – not so much on portable.  There are so many good ideas for the use of Word Clouds – here are 108 of them.  I think it’s quite natural to seek out a good iPad solution.  Cloudart looks like it will be a perfect fit.

Downloading was dead simple from the App Store.  Synching drove me nuts – I have so much stored on my iPad that anything new is an exercise in app / music removal so that there is room to perform the function.  But, a little while later, room was made and I’m ready to give it a workout.

Loading the application reveals the sort of regular utility desktop that you would expect.  The help was very interesting.  This is how help should be.  Short and to the point.

Certainly, there’s an assumption that you know what a word cloud is all about.  Who doesn’t in this day and age?

I asked to “Start a new cloud” but didn’t feel like creating from text.  Instead, I opted for the option to create a cloud from a web page.  What great choice is there than to tap into the wisdom of one of my lists of Ontario Educators!

Without any editing for filtering, I could see that this great group was doing a great deal of Twitter things.  As you know, the more frequent the text, the larger the words in the word cloud.  So, it should come as no surprise that there was a large number of replies, favouriting, and retweeting!

From the looks of things, @techieang, @acampbell99, and @rajalingam were pretty active when I took my snapshot.

(I was glad to see that “programming” appear in the list!)

Once created, there were a few options to rearrange the collection, edit a word, change the font, etc.  You know, the good things that you would expect to do with word clouds.  The “Share” option is create to get the production from iPad to anywhere you’d want it to go.

This app is definitely a keeper.  It’s got so much of what I would want for a word visualization tool.  Today, it’s back at its regular price -£0.69, if you’re interested.

 

Little Help Needed


You know that I really like DropBox and the DropItToMe combination.  I think it’s genius when looking at a web-based hand-in folder for students.  I wrote a post about it once and do repeat it as a “post from the past” at the beginning of the school year.  With more students involved with BYOD, it’s important to have their work submitted to the teacher and nobody wants more paper.  Electronic copies make so much sense.

Of course, when a student hands in a file for an assignment submission, they’ll attach their name to the file so that the teacher knows whose file is whose.

Recently, I had a former colleague ask a wide sweeping question about electronic hand-ins to her network on Facebook and I responded with my post above.  I, of course, tried it out again at home to make sure that it would work; she tried it out at her home and it worked and she was ready to go with it.

As her students started to submit their work, she noticed a problem.  Only a few of the submissions were getting to her.  She would download a file from DropBox and look at it; go back and get another submission; etc.  But, in a complete class, she wasn’t getting all of the submissions and was puzzled.  She asked me if there was a problem with Dropbox; I tested it and it sure looked like it worked.

So we did some digging around and got to the bottom of things.

She was using the Pic Collage application with her students.  It’s a nice app that creates a collage from content that you send it.  Once a student is happy with the results, she or he would save it to the camera roll on the iPad and then go through the process of submitting the finished product.  They would appear to be following instructions properly but she wasn’t getting the files.

I was able to replicate her frustration here.  The problem, as I see it, is that each file that was submitted from the camera roll is called “image.jpg”.  No many how many times you upload it, only one appears in Dropbox.  As I’m sure you can see by now, the problem is that subsequent uploads were simply overwriting the one uploaded before it.

No problem, I thought.  I’ve got a number of ideas that might solve the situation.

  1. Configure Dropbox to allow multiple copies of the same file.  It’s a pretty common activity – the application could just call the files image(1).jpg, image(2).jpg, …  or some similar naming convention.  Strike One.
  2. Go into Pic Collage and see if there’s a “Save As” or option to give the file that it creates a unique name.  None found.  Strike Two.
  3. Go into the Camera Roll and rename the file.  The only editing options deal with editing the image itself and not the filename.  Strike Three.

I am out of ideas.

Well, actually, I’m out of my own ideas so I’d like to turn to you for assistance.

I don’t think that what she’s asking from technology is something unreasonable.  Or is it just not possible when taking a consumer, one user product, and attempting to use it in a networked world?

I can see a couple of ways around it but they sure seem like a real jury rig.

  1. Sit at a computer with Dropbox open and have the students send the files one at a time and download them as they appear;
  2. Have the students transfer the file to a regular computer, rename it there and then upload it.

Both of these ideas would work but take all of the elegance and magic out of using a computer.  Surely, there’s a better way.

I’m hoping that I can’t see the forest for the trees and that one of my very talented blog readers has a simple solution.  Well?

 

Investigating Opera Coast


I’ve always been a sucker for trying out new things.  One of my curiosities has always been the web browser.  I have a good collection on my desktop computer.  I seem to always be looking for the perfect solution.  Even on my iPad, I have a collection of browsers.  In fact, I have a folder full of browsers that I’ve accumulated.  There’s also Google Chrome which sits on my main screen.

It’s not necessarily a negative but there’s one thing that all of these browsers have in common.  They’re modelled after desktop browsers.  Think of your favourite desktop browser.  Traditionally, you’d find a tool bar with navigation arrows, tabs, addresses, etc.  In keeping with tradition, you might be moving your cursor around to click here and there.  Advanced skills make this easier if you program your mouse to do some of the common tasks.  Or, learn the short cut keys on your keyboard.  A similar sort of navigation is common for all of these tablet browsers, except Coast.

Coast is a new browser for the iPad from Opera.  I’ve been experimenting with it lately and I’ll admit…it’s not going terribly well.  My mind seems to be programmed to think of the traditional browser and how it works.  I keep wanting to reach for things that aren’t there.

Coast advertises itself as “the browser that should have come with the iPad” and it just does things differently.

Take a look at the screen capture of this insightful blog.

You’ll notice that there are no navigation arrows.  No address bar.  No tabs.  It’s just the web.

Coast is built for gestures.  No more reaching to the top corner for an arrow, just swipe to go forward or backward.  Need to go to a different tab?  Just tap on the icon in the bottom right corner and you swipe your way through what’s open until you get what you want.

Your bookmarks?  Just tap the grid icon in the bottom middle and you’re “home” to your pages of bookmarks.  Need to go to one, just tap on the appropriate icon and away you go.

Do you want to go somewhere new?  You’ll notice that Coast has its own version of an unified search/URL bar.  Type an address or a search term and you’re all set.  Visited websites get stored in a holding tank at the bottom of the screen.  You may then just drag them up to bookmark them for the future or drag to the top of  the screen to erase them.  It most certainly is a different way to use a browser but then a tablet is a different computing device than a desktop.  I’ve seen references made to Coast as a “stripped down” or “minimalist” browser but perhaps its feature set is all that is needed.

There a minimal number of settings available to configure Coast if you want.

Rather than a browser that is a tablet version of a desktop browser, this is a completely different animal.  Forget you what think you know about using a browser.  This will get you thinking differently; I’m still learning but I can see this becoming a favourite.  I’m not too proud to admit though; I’ve got to unlearn a great deal of old browsing habits!

Programming with Bee-Bot


Computer Studies teachers have known for a long time that there’s something very unique and engaging about assembling instructions to make a computing device do something.  As simple a statement as that is, I think that sums up my entire philosophy of Computer Studies.  The art and craft of the Computer Studies teacher is knowing the curriculum, knowing the students, knowing where to get resources, and then matching all of them to make the best possible learning experience.  My bookshelves are full of books that I’ve bought over the years to build my own library of resources.  By today’s standards, this collection seems quite quaint but, I think like most teachers, it’s just not in my DNA to throw away any book.  Like most teachers, my spouse is forever asking “When was the last time you read this book?”  “Why don’t you get rid of these?”  I just can’t.

I do think “quaint” describes the collection because there is so much readily online anymore.  It’s definitely better and much more modern – whether it be resources, lessons, languages, applications, etc.

At the recent CSTA Conference, I had a chance to meet up with some other CS teachers and solve all of the world’s CS ills in the lounge.  One of the things that we agreed upon was that the greatest of all books remains Oh! Pascal!  In fact, one of the group indicated that it was the standard upon which most modern books are modelled.  It’s difficult to argue with that logic.  But things have changed dramatically since Oh! Pascal! came on the scene.

So, back to making a computing device do something.  I really got into the sessions dealing with programming robots at the conference.  While I’d worked with a number of robots here in Ontario at various grade levels, Finch and Hummingbird were new to me.  I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and can’t imagine any inquisitive youth not rolling up sleeves and digging in.

How do you introduce the notion of instructions making an object move and do something?  With the current fascination with purchasing iPads for education, I think that it makes a great deal of sense to look for an application that teaches the concepts and yet has an entry point that works for the youngest of programmers.

To that end, I started looking about and found the application Bee-Bot from TTS.  There’s a free version for the iPad to introduce the programming concepts that presumably would be prep for the use of the actual floor robot.

2013-07-27 10.22.11

Playing with the Bee-Bot, involves solving problems of increasing difficulty.  Here’s Level 5.

2013-07-27 10.12.41

I had a whale of a time playing around solving the various levels.  It’s a free download and you’re up to speed in minutes.  Your kids will be up to speed in seconds.  All the while, they’re learning how to create a program or sequence of instructions to make a computing device do something.  I wouldn’t suggest that you describe it like that…that sounds too much like academia.

Just pass the device over and watch the trial, error,  hypothesis, testing, revising, and ultimate success that will happen.

I would introduce this very early.  Grade 3 or 4?  It’s going to work best with students in teams solving the challenges.  (Don’t get lured into it being “easy” by the first couple of levels.)  Treat the levels and the success per level as badges.  And, provide lots of scratch paper, encourage drawing/doodling to solve the problems and be amazed when the students are able to solve the challenges on “the farm”.

Who knows?  You may be inspiring the next batch of programmers.  If not, you’ll be inspiring them to take control of their device to make it do something.

Either way, you’ll bring a smile to your favourite Computer Studies educator.

A TouchDevelop Tip


Lately, Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo) has been sharing a great deal about his experiences with TouchDevelop.  His latest post is actually a story around a video showing how to use Turtle Graphic in TouchDevelop.  That did it.  If anyone can program and create a video at the same time, I’ve got to give it a shot.

Of course, you need an idea.  So, in tribute to Alfred’s Tip Calculator presentation at the CSTA Conference last summer, I thought I’d write a little tip program, all the while learning the language and user interface.

I head on over to the TouchDevelop site where you log in with your Microsoft, Facebook, or Google account.  I log in with my live.ca account and I’m ready to explore.  I took a look at one other program and decided to just forage ahead.  Kids, don’t do this at home.  I had no planning, no layout, (quite frankly no idea of what the syntax of the language was going to be…).

When you create your first script, you actually don’t get plopped into a blank workspace unless you want…

scripts

There’s going to be lots to explore in the future.  For my simple program, I have no need for any bells or whistles…

blank

Hopefully, I can change that!

Within a few minutes, I had learned enough of the environment and the language to create a first program.

touchdevelop

And run it, I did…

Photo 2013-06-11 7 58 13 AM

Wait a minute.  Careful observers will note that I created the program in Windows but ran it on my iPad!

Therein lies the excitement of this application.  It’s not just a development tool for the desktop.  Because it’s all online and carefully crafted, it will run on many devices!

Photo 2013-06-11 10 28 52 AM

Whoops.  OK, just about anything.  Looks like Google Chrome for the iPad isn’t on the list!

But it certainly worked well on my Android Phone.

Screenshot_2013-06-11-08-12-51

In fact, the nice clean interface seems to play well just about anywhere.

But, writing and running on your device is only part of the story.  There is an option to compile and share your work.

export

I don’t have a Windows Phone or Windows 8 but I certainly do have devices that could run the HTML 5 WebApplication.  Even running it locally is interesting when you view the source and see all that’s going on to make it work.

If I’m a Computer Science teacher, I would be very excited to see this land in my classroom.  It’s web based so you’re already accessing the latest, greatest version.  It works on a variety of devices so BYOD is a real possibility.  Students don’t need the school computers; they could be coding on their own device both at home and at school.  What’s not to like?

I would encourage anyone who is interested in coding at any level to take a look at TouchDevelop to see if it has a home in your classroom.  I’m betting that it well.

In addition to your own work, make sure that you explore the home page for TouchDevelop to see the showcase applications that are being development.  There’s some amazing things and if the author allows you, you can grab a copy of her/his code and make it uniquely yours.

A printed manual and free to download manuals are available here.  Finally, stay in touch on Facebook!

 

Hopscotch for iPad


I will admit to a certain level of geekyness.  I’m not apologetic about it either.  Sometimes, I just like to sit down and write a program for the fun of it.  It’ll never go anywhere and I don’t share it with others.  I find it just something enjoyable to do.

One of the playthings that I’ve been poking about with is Hopscotch for the iPad.  You’re not going to mistake this for another productivity language and that’s not its goal.  The goal is to bring a programming environment for the younger, beginning programmer to the iPad.  I think it does it nicely.  There are some enhancements that are coming and you can read about them on the developer blog.  It definitely looks like the developers are listening to users.  That’s great.

At present, this is what you have.  You’ve got a development environment for the iPad, not dissimilar to Daisy the Dinosaur which had previously been reviewed on this blog.

If you’ve used the Scratch programming language, you’ll recognize the concepts immediately.  From the left menu, you have actions categorized by type – Movement, Lines, Controls, Looks, and Operators.  Just drag and drop onto the workspace and enter any required parameters.  You’ll recognized the concepts of sequencing, repetition, modifying parameters, etc.

The steps and presentation are well designed for the intended programming audience.  The cool thing is that it brings these concepts to students at an early age, on a device that they’re infatuated with, and in a context that is just fun.

What I find particularly interesting is that Hopscotch lets you program primitive actions or gestures your product.  It’s done easily and adds just another helpful dimension to the program.

If you’re looking for a creative environment for students or your children to break away from gaming or other activities, Hopscotch is definitely worth a look.  Just like the original Lego, they’ll soon be seduced into drawing and actions on their screen.  Dare we suggest they might learn a little mathematics while at it?

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