The Dog Ate My iPad

A photo of my iPad

A photo of my iPad

I thought I would do a short post today and maybe change the tone a bit from previous posts for variety’s sake. Over the summer, as I prepared for our school’s implementation of a 1-1 iPad program, I devoted a lot of thought to ways that I could use the iPad in my classroom. As I researched what other teachers were doing with iPads and tried out various apps myself, I didn’t quite prepare for eventuality of students who did not have their iPads with them for class.

I suppose I was too worried about how I was going to use this new tool and keep the kids on task with theirs. It never occurred to me that I was going to adapt to the 21st century versions of “The dog ate my homework…” So, here is a list of the excuses I have heard so far this year–along with my thoughts on them.

The Reasons/Excuses I Hear the Most for Students Not Having Their iPad:

  • I left it at home/in the car: I’ll give people 1 time on this–just because I left mine at home one day.
  • Somebody took it out of my locker: I’m not sure what to make of this one; but it never fails that the students has it within the next 2 class periods.
  • Somebody hid it from me: I usually take this to mean that they forgot where they set it down and just don’t want to admit it.
  • I …can’t find it/lost it/forgot where I put it:
  • A teacher (usually described as unreasonable) confiscated it: This means that teacher caught you playing a game, or texting, or Skyping.
  • It is not working: 99.9% of the time this is solved by turning it off and then back on.
  • It won’t email: This usually means they didn’t do the homework, or they forgot to hit send.
  • It is frozen:The turn off/turn on move usually works on this one too.
  • The screen is broken: I usually cringe at this one because I can just imagine what my parents would have said if I broke something like this when I was a student. The best broken-screen story for the year so far is the student who left it on top of the car, drove off, and didn’t realize what they had done until a neighbor called them and told them they found it in the road.
  • The doctor told me not to use it for a while: This one may be a legitimate reason for students who had concussions. I do have an urge to check up on this.
  • It needs to be charged: I take this to mean that they have been playing games every chance they get during the day. This is usually followed up with “I don’t have a charger/can’t find my charger/no one will lend me a charger” excuse. I haven’t kept a count, but this could be the number 1 excuse I hear.

Usually if a student does not have his/her iPad I let them turn the assignment in on paper (which now irritates me because of my attempt to go paperless), or if it is possible I send them to the computer lab. For repeat offenders I knock off points for late work or give them a zero; it just depends on the situation and the assignment.

What excuses do your students use? What is one that really stands out from the crowd?

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Useful Websites for Yearbook Advisers and Students

Magazines to read

Image by Longzero via Flickr

Websites Every Yearbook Adviser Should Know

My last few posts have been about apps for teachers, my favorite apps, going paperless, and the possibility of the yearbook as an ebook. So, instead of writing more about iPad apps,  I thought I would post a list of websites that I find useful in my role as a yearbook adviser since that is a huge part of my teaching life.  Some of these sites I use regularly, some occasionally. But, no matter the frequency I visit them, they have all helped me at some point or another.

I’ve broken the list into categories in order to give a better sense of where I go when looking for something applicable to a particular need. I’m sure this list is not definitive by any stretch of the imagination. If you know a useful website, let me know about it. Please.

Design Inspiration and Ideas

During my 12 years as a yearbook adviser I have found that I spend a lot of time looking for design ideas for spreads. When trying to find some ideas or inspiration, here are some websites I like to use and send my students to.

Various Publication Types

These are sites I mainly use to look for magazine spreads.

  1. The Society of Publication Designers A great site for looking at layouts from all types of publications. The site also has articles discussing various design topics.
  2. A board someone put together on Pinterest Pinterest is the latest hot, up-and-coming social site that lets it users “pin” images and pieces of websites they like into collections called boards which they organize by interest. I just recently found this board of images showcasing some really good spread designs. One thing to note about Pinterest is that you have to be invited to start your own boards.
  3. A Flickr group devoted to layouts There are several groups on Flickr devoted to layout design. This is just the one I happen to like the most.
  4. issuu.com  Issuu lets people and publishers post their magazines. You can look through and entire issue of the magazines listed on the site to look for design ideas or inspiration. One thing to be cautious about before sending staffers to the site is that some of the magazines may contain images that are inappropriate for your students.
  5. Google’s Image Search Sometimes I like to go  to Google’s Image search and use “flickr magazine layouts” or “great magazine layouts” just to see what pops up.

Yearbook Publishers Showcases

All of the big school yearbook publishers have sections to showcase some of the work in their clients’ books. Some of the sites also make it possible to view issues of the magazines they send to the advisers of their client school.

  1. Herff Jones’ Design Showcase This link will allow you to look at different layouts for some of Herff Jones’ schools.
  2. Walsworth’s Showcase You can look at covers, layouts, and award winners from Walsworth’s schools here.
  3. Josten’s Lookbook, Adviser & Staff Magazine Go here to look at the publications Josten’s makes available to the advisers at its client schools.
  4. Josten’s Yearbook Contests Josten’s runs one of the largest national yearbook contests and you can go here to look at the winners.
  5. Balfour/Taylor Publishing  You can look at the current issue of Taylor  Talk here.

Getting the Word Out and Sharing

I decided to include these sites on the list because of their ability to help yearbook advisers and staff stay connected with the students and parents at their school.

  1. Facebook You can create a page for your yearbook on Facebook. I have used our school’s yearbook page to give hints of spreads, share some photos, and, most importantly, post messages about ordering dates or other information.
  2. Twitter Another way to get important information out to students and parents is by setting up a Twitter account for the yearbook.
  3. Flickr  A popular site for sharing photos. You could set up an account for the yearbook and get students and parents to share their photos through this service.
  4. Picasa  This is Google’s photo sharing site; so, if you already have gmail, all you have to do is activate your Picasa option to start using this service.  The adviser for my school’s elementary yearbook uses photos parents submit through Picasa.

Journalism Associations and Organizations

The following websites are for national press associations and organizations related to high school journalism.  They all have tons of information about journalism, contests, workshops, and other general topics a yearbook adviser or journalism teacher will find helpful.  I tend to go to these sites when I am looking for lesson plan ideas, contest information, or critique services.

  1. Quill and Scroll Society
  2. National Scholastic Press Association
  3. Columbia Scholastic Press Association
  4.  Journalism Education Association
  5.  High School Journalism from ASNE

Well, there is the list such as it is.  If you use a website that you find useful as a yearbook adviser please let me know about it.

13 Apps I Use as a Teacher

iPad 3G and iPad Wi-Fi

Image by Yutaka Tsutano via Flickr

Just the other day I posted a list of the iPad Apps I use in a personal capacity; so, I thought I would make a list of the apps I regularly use as a teacher. These are in no particular order.

My Favorite Teacher Apps

  1. Goodreader: This is just an awesome app for reading and annotating PDF files. I can give feedback on student essays, mark up pages from the textbook, present documents with the projector and write on them. I use this every day for something. This has been a big part of my attempt to go paperless in my classroom.
  2. Feeddler Pro: I use this RSS feed aggregator to easily track all of my students’ blogs for my classes. I group them by period and can tell by looking at the list for each period who has posted their assignment. I can then drill down from the app and go to their blog if I need to.
  3. Calculator Pro: I like having a big honkin’ calculator right there whenever I need it. This one is pretty handy. I got the pro version just so I wouldn’t have to look at ads.
  4. Dropbox: This is another app I use everyday. It makes moving files from my laptop to the iPad so easy. Not having this app would seriously diminish what I do everyday. I always have to move something.
  5. Pages: At first I was a little skeptical about a word processor on the iPad, but I find myself using this more and more.
  6. Keynote: I just like the simplicity of this Powerpoint alternative.
  7. Splashtop Whiteboard: I have an interactive whiteboard in my room. So, I hook up the laptop to the board and projector-run the little Splashtop piece of software on the laptop-fire up this app on the iPad and–Boom–I can write or type on the board from anywhere in the room. Plus, I can control my laptop from anywhere in the room.  Definitely one of my favorite apps.
  8. Kindle: I use this for just about all of the additional readings like novels that I assign.
  9. Instapaper: I use this to save articles I find on the web I think about using for class.
  10. PDF Printer: I got this out of necessity. As I mentioned above, I use Goodreader to provide feedback on essays. Well, at the start of the year I found myself in need of this app to convert their submitted files into a PDF just so I could get them into Goodreader and use all of its tools to write on their submissions.
  11. iPad Mail: It may seem a bit silly to include this on the list, but I like being able to see all the folders for my school account and the gmail account I set up for collecting homework at the same time. It also makes it very easy to move things into different folders, or even to the other account.
  12. Safari: I like the built-in browser Apple has on the iPad. So far I haven’t felt the need to use another browser app.
  13. Notes Plus: I am constantly jotting down things and this app fills the bill. I can sort things into different notebooks and I really like the handwriting ability.

Well, there it is: my list of favorite apps as a teacher.  There are some others I use, and I am always trying out new ones, but these are the ones I use regularly, if not daily.

Let me know which apps you like to use. I am always looking for the next great app.

The Journey into the (Almost) Paperless Year

Photo of paper and books from my desk

Paper and books on my desk

The Challenge of Going Paperless

So, we are a little past the halfway point of the school year and my jump into trying to go paperless in my classroom. When I set up this blog back in the summer, one of the things I said I wanted to do was go paperless–at least as much as I could. I thought now would be a pretty good time to take an assessment of where I stand on that journey.

During the summer I knew that I needed about key areas and come up with some kind of plan before school started. The more I had in place and ready to roll on day 1, the easier my life would be in those first days and weeks of school. I felt that with all the students coming into class with an iPad for the first time they were going to expect some differences while they were learning to use the new device in their hands–why not change the way they receive, complete, and turn in assignments. Just about all of the planning I did centered around my English classes because my journalism students did most of their work on computers anyway and computer class speaks for itself.

So, with my English classes in mind, I thought about the following:

  1. Reading assignments/textbooks
  2. Distributing and receiving assignments
  3. How to handle big projects
  4. What to do about quizzes and tests
  5. How to give feedback

I thought that if I could come up with a plan that required the students to use only their iPads in regards to those areas I had a pretty good chance of going paperless in my classroom.

The Plan

1. Reading assignments/textbooks: I knew this was going to be a problem area pretty quick. Our school was adopting new literature textbooks; and while I hoped for an accompanying etext or online version, I knew chances were slim. Most of the online version of high school literature books required flash–and we all know the iPad doesn’t do flash. Shortly after school started I discovered that our new textbooks did have PDFs available of almost every page in the hard copy. So, students didn’t have to lug home the heavy textbook if they didn’t want to. I am also able to email copies of the reading assignment to students who were absent.

For my college credit English class I knew from the start that their textbook was not available. So, I just accepted that the best I could do was to provide additional reading materials in an electronic form, usually through email.

For any outside readers like novels, the students have the choice to either buy a hardcopy or an ebook.

2. Distributing and receiving assignments: This was probably the easiest area to plan. I decided that anything that would have been given to students as a handout would now be emailed to them. As far as turning in homework, the students wold just email them in to me. I set up a gmail account just for sending and receiving assignments. On the first day of school I had the students send an email to the account so that I had all the email addresses and could sort their addresses into groups by class period. I also set up folders for each class period to hold their assignments. This has worked pretty well so far.

3. How to handle big projects: When I say “big projects” I mostly mean things like research papers, or assignments that are a collection of smaller, linked assignments. For this I decided that I would set up a blog for each student using Edublogs with the intent of having them use the blog as an alternative to a 3-ring binder or portfolio. My classes are just about to begin their big projects for the year, so I can’t come to any conclusions on the project aspect yet. The students do use the blogs regularly to complete various assignments that have them respond to what we are reading and each other’s ideas. To keep track of the blogs, and to speed up assessing them, I used Google’s reader service on the account I set up for receiving homework. I then installed Feeddler Pro on my iPad and have it linked to that gmail account. The blogs are listed in groups according to class period so that I can tell at one glance who has completed their blog assignment.

4. What to do about quizzes and tests: During the summer I worried that this was going to be the area that kept me from completely gong paperless. I wanted a system that allowed students to take quizzes and tests on their iPads but minimized any temptation to cheat. I found some apps and software systems that would work, but they all meant the administration would have to spend some more money. So, I am still in a holding pattern on this one. My students take quizzes and tests in the traditional paper form.

5. How to give feedback: This turned out easier than I thought. For ordinary homework assignments I reply in an email to the assignment the student emailed me. For blog posting I leave a comment on their post. For longer assignments like formal essays, I use the Goodreader app on my iPad to annotate a PDF of their essay and then email that back to them. I absolutely love Goodreader because I can circle, highlight, and write comments on the essay like it was a printed version.

The Results Thus Far

At this point in the school year, I think the move towards a paperless classroom has gone pretty well. On the few occasions that there are stacks of paper on my desk from students, it is far, far smaller than in previous years; it also means that the stack consists of quizzes,tests, or a homework assignment from a student whose iPad is out of the picture for some reason.

At some point in the future, I may have to do a post about some of the challenges involving some students having their iPads–and some general challenges that pop up from time-to-time.

As always any comments, questions,  or suggestions are welcome.

Favorite iPad Apps

My iPhone apps as of February 2010

Image by dougbelshaw via Flickr

Since I got my iPad2 back in May I have used it more than I ever thought I possibly would. I thought I would list some of the apps I frequently use, or at least like a great deal. I hope to do more of these lists, so I will start with a list of apps that I use in a personal capacity.

My Favorite iPad Apps

  1. Zite  I recently got this app and I use it everyday to read about things that interest me.  What I really, really like about it is that it provides a great deal of customization in terms of the articles it gathers. I also like that I can tell it which articles I like and Zite will list more articles similar to that one.
  2. Flipboard  This was the first personal magazine app that I got. I still use it regularly–especially for the Facebook and Twitter integration.
  3. Smugmug  I got this app just so I can look at the photos in my Smugmug account on the iPad. Why?  Because they look AMAZING on the iPad–a lot more amazing than they actually are. We all need something to make us feel better about ourselves.
  4. iTunes Movie Trailers  As a bit of a movie junkie, I find that being able to easily and quickly view trailers for upcoming movies is almost a necessity. Yeah, I admit I will probably wait for them to come out on DVD or Bluray before I watch them, but just because I find the current ticket prices at theaters just stupid.
  5. Kindle  Helloooo–I’m an English teacher. This is almost a job requirement. I confess that I never really saw myself as becoming an ebook reader–but boy I am now thanks in large part to this app. I now understand why brick-and-mortar bookstores are going away.
  6. Notes Plus  This is my current favorite note taking app.  Check back with me later–this one changes fairly frequently.
  7. EW Magazine/EW’s Must List  I am going to count these as 1 since they both come from the same place.  At first I just had the must list, but when I found out that I can get copies of the magazine on the iPad because I have a subscription I got that app too. I must say they iPad version of an issue looks better than the printed version.
  8. Reeder  Pretty handy for keeping up with some of the blogs I follow.
  9. Ask Mr. Robot  Geeky confession time I guess. This handy-dandy little app lets me keep my World of Warcraft characters optimized for maximum killing efficiency.  I also confess that I don’t use this as much as I did at one time since I don’t play WoW that much recently.
  10. Instapaper  For reasons I don’t fully understand, I find that I sometimes like to read articles from web pages when I am offline.

Well, there it is: my list of apps I use a lot for entertainment or when I am winding down/killing time.  I hope to do a list of apps that I use in my classroom pretty soon. Stay tuned.

Also: Because I am always on the lookout for the latest and greatest App, what are your favorite apps?

Can a School’s Yearbook Work as an EBook?

English: The iPad on a table in the Apple case

Image via Wikipedia

Apple Rumors and Revelations

Last week’s announcement from Apple about iBooks 2, textbooks, and iBooks Author immediately grabbed my attention. This was mainly because I had been reading rumors for a couple of weeks that Apple might be doing something with textbooks; and since my school had implemented a 1 to 1 iPad program this year, I was pretty excited that the possibility of our students having their textbooks available in a iPad friendly format sooner than I had expected. I didn’t expect e-textbooks for my subjects to be available now, but the thought of that day moving closer had me pretty pumped.

So, when I got the email from Apple, I downloaded iBooks 2 and iPad U and did a little bit of exploring.  But this post really isn’t about that. It is about what was at the bottom of the email: the almost inconsequential blurb about iBooks Author.  I read the blurb about the program for Macs that lets you publish an iBook and then moved on because I don’t have a Mac. Didn’t really apply to me.

But maybe it could–or should…

Is It Time to Change?

Over the weekend I started thinking about iBooks Author and what it might mean for yearbooks.  This line of thinking is largely due to the fact that as a yearbook adviser in the middle of a push for a major deadline, everything seems to lead back to the yearbook at some point. It also comes from the fact that yearbook advisers spend a lot of time worrying about their yearbook budget and hoping that they will come up with enough money to cover it.

Could iBooks Author offer a viable alternative to the traditional yearbook?  If a school could use this to make the yearbook it might be a way to eliminate all those budget headaches yearbook advisers share every year.  A lot of schools have done away with yearbooks because of the cost associated with them.  I find myself wondering if that day may come for my school; I actually find myself wondering that more and more as the years pass.

We have all read, heard, or seen the effect of ereaders on magazines, newspapers, and bookstores. As more and more publishers move their products to digital formats, I now find myself asking if the traditional, hard copy yearbook should make a jump into the digital realm before it goes the way of the T-Rex.

The idea of basically self-publishing a school yearbook with iBooks Author and having people download it from the iBooks store is pretty enticing.  Yeah, Apple keeps 30%, but I am willing to bet that is drastically better than any rate any school gets from one of the traditional school yearbook companies–even if the school is lucky enough to actually make money from its yearbook.

With the elimination of printing costs (which are the biggest portion of a yearbook’s cost) books that lose money could shift to making money almost immediately. A yearbook budget would be reduced to hardware and software needs.

Of course, all of this would depend on the answer to one question…

Will People Go for It?

Are people open to the idea of buying their yearbook in an ebook format? Or could this be one of those ideas that end up of the list of dead yearbook trends like cd or video supplements? Would people want integrated video, links, slide shows, and other multimedia goodies if it meant giving up the experience of having their best friend sign their yearbook? Even if we decided to do this, should we use iBooks Author or something else?

These are some of the nagging questions I have now. I need to do more research and thinking before I come to any definitive answer.

What do you think?

I’ve Been a Bad Blogger

Okay. I admit it. I have been a bad blogger.  I haven’t posted anything since I first set up this particular blog. The only excuse I can offer is that I got caught up in the day-to-day stuff I have to do–especially once school started back and I found myself with the heaviest schedule I have had in dozen or so years of teaching.

I am going to try to do better.  I don’t know that I would categorize that as a New Year’s resolution, and even if I did, it sounds pretty weak. But, at this point it is the best I can do.

Time will tell.