Who Needs Textbooks When You Can iAuthor Your Own iBooks?

With more and more app developers designing innovative apps like The Elements: A Visual Exploration and Our Choice, it is clear that traditional textbooks are no longer needed as mobile learning devices become common classroom tools. Students can easily have access to updated information in a variety of different ways, whether it is through text, images, audio, or video. There is an incredible amount of content-specific apps, podcasts (have you seen iTunesU?), and eBooks available. And of course we can’t forget the wealth of information available just by having access to the Internet. It is incredibly easy for educators to differentiate instruction based on learning styles and needs with these kind of technology tools in their teaching toolbox. Why not take it a step further and think about individualizing content for students? Or let students individualize their own content? You can create your own textbooks. Create your own novels. Create your own portfolios. Create your own projects. Create your own reports. Create your own books. Create your own incredible multi-media content and call it whatever you want.

It is actually quite simple to become a modern author these days by using an ePub template to create an iBook that can be viewed on an iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad in the free iBooks app. Recently, I was lucky enough to be a guest on a Classroom 2.0 LIVE show where I had the opportunity to demonstrate how quickly and easily you can create your own iBook with embedded audio, images, video, and web links to make a personalized multimedia creation of your choice. The fantastic people at Classroom 2.0 LIVE are kind enough to archive all their shows, so the webinar will be available on their website for any educator, administrator, student, or parent to watch at any time. Once you learn the process, the possibilities for creating your own mobile content are endless. You can also access all of the resources that were discussed and shared throughout the session; there are some excellent links in the LiveBinder about ePubs and iBooks. The summer is the perfect time to play around with technology, have fun, and think about how you could develop some really fun and creative learning experiences.

LiveBinder Resources: Excellent collection of resources shared during the session… all kinds of great links to ePubs, iBooks, and related topics!

Watch the “iAuthor an iBook” show



MacReach Show #18: Great Apps!

It’s an all-app episode this week on the MacReach! Kelly Dumont and I attempt to answer some great questions from new iPad 2 owner and EdGamer, Zack Gilbert. We cover some great apps, well worth taking some time to play with over the summer! Here’s what we covered this week:

  • Question 1: “Do you think iOS 5 will help with Google Docs?”
  • Question 2: “Isn’t there an educational discount for the iWork suite apps?”
  • Question 3: “What are the best Twitter and FaceBook apps for the iPad?
  • Question 4: “What are some general teacher apps that you recommend?”

Great EdApps discussed in this episode:


10 Reasons Education Should Be EDcited About iOS 5!

Mobile learning is a popular topic in education right now, and Apple just took it to a new level with iOS 5, their newest operating system for the iPod touch, the iPhone, and the iPad. A new operating system means new features for iDevice users. Apple’s announcement of their upgraded operating system for iOS devices has started a new discussion with educators using them: how will these new features impact education? We are just beginning to learn about the new upgrades in iOS 5 that could dramatically impact schools, and personally, I am very happy that we have all summer to think about that question. There are of course many questions that will need to be answered for educators as we move forward, yet so far, it appears that iOS 5 will offer some fantastic upgrades for those who are using iPod touches, iPhones, and iPads as mobile learning devices, especially with the addition of the iCloud.

Here’s a quick look at ten features of iOS 5 that both educators and students should be really excited about:

  1. PC Free! Mobile really means mobile! Apple recognized the importance of allowing individuals to make an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch their ONLY device. No longer do you have to connect to iTunes in order to start using an iDevice. You can activate and begin using an iOS device without ever looking at a USB cable. For schools, this is a much needed, and appreciated, functional addition. The people who manage hundreds of these devices thank Apple for this welcomed component.
  2. Behind the Scenes Stuff. There are so many incredible behind the scenes features in the iOS 5 update: WiFi sync, over-the-air software updates, delta updates, background sync, and downloaded app access. WiFi sync will wirelessly sync with iTunes on your WiFi network when the iOS device is connected to a power source to charge, and it runs in the background so you can still use the device while it syncs to iTunes. Individuals will have access to music, movies, TV shows, home videos, and photos everywhere they want them. Over-the-air software updates will be wireless, and with delta updates: instead of replacing the entire operating system, the new features are added to the existing operating system. Software updates will be more seamless and significantly shorter, a huge advantage for all of us in education. Another great feature is the ability to access all downloaded apps from within the App Store on any iOS device. You can easily install any app you want from your library at any time. And let’s not forget about all the iCloud integration that has been announced. That’s a whole other blog post! I hope this type of innovation drives Apple to look at schools possibly having the ability to host a school-wide library that all devices can quickly and easily access. I’m sure that all of these behind the scenes features will drive mobile learning in ways we have yet to experience.
  3. Dictionary. An integrated dictionary is a hidden star in the iOS feature lineup. Reference tools are essential in the learning process, and having access to an easy to use dictionary is fantastic. Users will be able to define words in real time, which is an excellent learning tool. The ease of the built-in option will encourage students to discover the meaning of new words quickly.
  4. Notification Center and Reminders. Apple redesigned their notifications process and introduced the Notification Center. Notifications are now practical, informative, and organized. This means fewer distractions during a task, and a more manageable way to access important, customizable notifications; both clearly benefits in the classroom.  Apple is also adding an integrated task management system… that is location sensitive. Schools, businesses, and families will all love how easily they can configure the customizable reminders; they will be an excellent tool for all iOS device users, especially students learning how to manage multiple assignments, tasks, and appointments. The Notification Center and Reminders app will help students acquire crucial 21st century executive functioning skills.
  5. Safari. The Reader and Reading List features for Safari are much needed upgrades for the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad. The Reader is a fantastic feature that allows users to access content in a very clean and organized format, as it removes ads and other website clutter. Students can choose to save articles for access at a later date using the Reading List, or they can choose to share the article via email or Twitter. Tabbed browsing will be available for the iPad, which will make moving between sites on the iPad much more efficient. So much of mobile learning happens on the Internet, it is great to see features that will improve how students can interact with that type of digital content.
  6. Twitter Integration. If you haven’t heard, Twitter is here to stay. Not only is it easy to tweet articles found on the Internet, the iOS 5 update makes it just as easy to tweet photos, locations, and YouTube videos. This feature can make Personal Learning Environments much more accessible to students, educators, and administrators. I even think we will see a rise in students using Twitter, just because the access will be so readily available.
  7. Camera & Photos Apps. I am a big believer that “the best camera is the one you have on you”, and the iOS 5 update offers some great enhancements to the camera and photos apps. The camera app is faster, includes auto exposure, auto focus, and the option to access the camera from the Lock Screen. Not to mention you can take pictures with the volume button. Another excellent upgrade for the new iOS is the ability to do basic photo editing like cropping, rotating, red eye removal, and enhancements. More and more, students are looking to use photo and video to document their learning experiences, and the camera and photo upgrades are very nice additions for that reason alone.
  8. Game Center. The iOS platform has become one of the world’s most popular gaming platforms, and there are some awesome upgrades in iOS 5 for education. The new Game Center encourages turn based games, friend discovery based on skill, game recommendations, and game downloads within the app. With more and more educators proving that gaming has an important place in education, the Game Center upgrades are a welcomed addition for many educators.
  9. Accessibility. New accessibility options will make iPod touches, iPhones, and iPads even more accessible to individuals with visual, hearing, and cognitive disabilities. Features like custom vibrations, VoiceOver improvements, and LED flashing for incoming calls and messages are a few key upgrades for many individuals. iOS 5 also adds customized keyboard shortcut options, allowing individuals to type common phrases quickly and accurately (i.e. “TY” for “thank you” or your initials to sign your full name, title, and other related signature items). For iPad users, the keyboard has been upgraded to allow for a split keyboard design; this allows individuals to type much easier with their thumbs.
  10. Airplay Video Mirroring for iPad 2. Anything you can do on your iPad 2 can be mirrored on an HDTV via Apple TV. You will be able to wirelessly, and securely, stream anything on iPad 2 to a big screen. This includes all apps, rotations, gestures, and video content. Yes, I understand that we as educators don’t have HDTVs in our classrooms right now… but this is a start. What this feature is an offer of hope, hope that we are moving towards having more opportunities to share wirelessly in the classroom, as we know the impact of this in education is huge. Like I said, these are certainly features we can at least get excited about!

MacReach Show #17: Yup, the iCloud is iAwesome.

Apple did not disappoint at this year’s World Wide Developer Conference. EdGamer, Zack Gilbert, joins Kelly Dumont and myself for a special WWDC edition of the MacReach Show as we take a look at the impact of Lion, iOS 5, and the iCloud in education. We all appsolutely agree with Scott Weidig when he says that the upgrades are magical. What a great way to kick off the summer!

App Review: iChromy

Chrome has been my primary browser for nearly three years. I love the omni box, lightening load times, and the tabbed browsing. On my iOS devices, however, I have been forced to use Safari– until now.

On May 26 the social bookmarking website Diigo announced that they were launching a Chrome-inspired browser for the iPad. iChromy looks and feels a lot like the Chrome browser including tabbed browsing and an omni box. The announcement by Diigo highlighted some of the key features of iChromy, but did not offer any technical specifications. It is unclear if iChromy simply looks like Chrome or if it is built upon the Chromium open source code. iChromy is a free app available from the iTunes App Store.

Easily see which tabs you have open in iChromy


Social Media Sharing Options on iChromy

One of the neat features of iChromy is the ease with which links can be shared to various social media outlets. After connecting your account, you are ready to share with the click of a button.

Even on an iPad, screen real estate is at a premium therefore iChromy automatically hides the address bar when you begin scrolling down a web page, expanding your reading view just a little bit more. Scroll up to the top and the address bar reappears.

Another neat feature of iChromy is the ability to save a webpage for offline viewing. Simply click on the eyeglass icon and the page is added to your reading list.

iChromy Offline Reading List

Pressing and holding a link will give you the choice of adding the link to your reading list, opening the link in a new tab, or in a background tab (opens the tab, but leaves you on your current page). And, best of all, you can always see what tabs you have open. On the desktop version of Chrome, the more tabs you have open, the smaller the tabs become. This wouldn’t work to well on a mobile device, especially if your fingers are less than slender. In iChromy, once the width of the screen is filled with tabs, new tabs move off the the side and the tab row slides back and forth. Unlike Chrome, the order of the tabs can not be changed in iChromy.

One of the downsides to using a browser other than Safari on an iOS devices is that all non-browser links (in an email for example) automatically launch in Safari. There is currently now way to remove Safari as the default browser, unless you jailbreak your device.

I was very excited about finding iChromy as it brought in many of my favorite features of Chrome to my mobile devices. Today, however, Apple announced an aggressive update to both OS X and iOS including a revamping of mobile Safari which will soon include tabbed browsing, a reading list, and seamless integration with Twitter. It’s almost as if the folks at Diigo knew what the perfect mobile browser should look before Apple told everyone else.

MacReach Show #16: Summer Kicks Off With the iCloud!

Kelly Dumont and I welcome Andy Crozier to talk about the iCloud, iWork, and lots of apps!



App Challenge:

  • We take a look at how the DocScanner app can make you more productive, in and out of your classroom.

Macs for All:

  • The built-in text-to-speech option in Safari, is a great tool for many people… a quick and easy tip from Andy!

EdReach Show #23: Arrive early and (B)ring (Y)our (O)wn (D)evice.

This week we summarize and add our two cents to the Bring Your Own Device conversation started by Judi Epcke and Scott Meech, and highlight some of the interesting comments that came up during those posts. To add on to that, we bring in our new segment, Keynote Review, and discuss how Chris Lehmann’s thoughts from last year’s TEDxNY keynote on a student centered learning environment comment on the BYOD discussion. We ask some really thoughtful questions like: is forcing a 1 to 1 environment on students- student centered or teacher centered? Finally, of course, there’s some great On the Radar tools to check out! Thanks for a great discussion!

Show Host: Daniel Rezac

Show contributors: Judi Epcke and Jay Blackman

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The complete show notes are now on the EdReach Wiki.

Call us on our comment line!

If you’d like to leave some feedback you can call us on our very own EdReach Comment line: That’s: (443) 93REACH.


Summer Development: Creating ePub eBooks for Students

Summer in the United States is almost here! Teachers and student will be basking in the glow of the sun, spending time on the beach, relaxing and resting up, AND getting a head start on preparing for the next school year. (Not to mention summer school). Even outside of summer school, summer vacation provides tremendous opportunities for learning and creating. With the tremendous explosion of eReaders (both inside and outside of schools) there is not a better time to buildout an eBook for your students.

Since the majority of teachers have their curriculum material digitally, a simple bit of massaging and editing (coupled with good planning) can created a fully interactive searchable eBook that a student can highlight, annotate, and even perform dictionary, Google, and Wikipedia searches directly from inside the eBook. Additionally, ePubs have the ability to use hyperlinks AND play embedded audio and video with within the book! What better project for the summer?!

There are many eBook formats, however, one of the most popular is the open standards ePub format used by:

Kobo eReader, Apple’s iBooks app running on iOS devices such as the iPhoneiPod Touch and iPad, Barnes and Noble NookSony ReaderBeBookBookeen Cybook Gen3 (with firmware v. 2 and up),COOL-ER, Adobe Digital EditionsLexcycle Stanza, BookGlutton, AZARDI, Aldiko and WordPlayer on Android, Freda on Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7, and the Mozilla Firefox add-on EPUBReader. Several other reader software programs are currently implementing support for the format, such as dotReaderFBReaderMobipocket, uBook andOkular. Another software .epub reader, Lucidor, is in beta. – Wikipedia

Pros to ePub

  • Open Standard Format for electronic books
  • Reflowable content which is device agnostic, font size and orientation independent.
  • Optimized for mobile devices
  • Support for embedded video and audio
    • Audio and video need to be simply in sequence with the text.
  • When text is most important, use ePub

With the many eReaders available ePubs are a wonderful way to mobilize your curriculum for students. Back in February, Meg Wilson discussed creating ePub eBooks using Pages on her MacReach show here on EdReach. With Pages ’09, Apple built in a native export to the ePub format. While any document can be exported to become an ePub, to really become a usable eBook a very specific set of formatting must be used to allow for the automatic creation of the ePub table of contents. Once again, Apple comes to the rescue by developing an ePub Best Practices Template which users can leverage to learn all about the proper formatting for a ePub eBook.

To learn more about using the ePub format and get a better feel for how a Pages document might appear as a book in iBooks, it’s a good idea to download the “ePub Best Practices” sample document. After reading the guidelines and instructions within the document, you can use it as a template to create your own document. You can also import the styles from the sample document into a new document you create.



Pages Template

Leveraging the template in Pages makes for the easy creation of an ePub. Now for the hard work: Planning and preparing material. Earlier, I had made the statement “a simple bit of massaging and editing” can produce an eBook. This is very true. However, the better the planning, the better the results will be. Handouts, worksheets, and reading materials provide much of the fodder to mold into a book, but without the narrative that is necessary to introduce and support all of that content, the book could turn out to be nothing more than a digital collection of worksheets, handouts, and readings…

Here are a few tips to turn your ideas (and a mountain of content) into a stunning eBook for your students:

  1. Collect all of the content you want to add into the eBook in one place. this should include:
    1. Digital Handouts, worksheets, hyperlinks to resources, hyperlinks to audio and video files, audio and video files themselves, etc.
  2. Take a few minutes to organize the content into appropriate groupings.
    1. Honestly, these will change as you begin to develop your book. While it is often easy to determine how to verbally teach a specific set of content, moving said content into a book format often necessitates a different paradigm as the verbal connections between material is not there.
  3. Begin laying out the planned content into a story board format. Perhaps even write out a set of large index cards that you can stick to a wall.
    1. Using a story board format will allow for you to start with large generalities (Ideas – Theory) as Chapters, then move to topics within the ideas (sub-chapters), and then finally to content.
    2. Being able to quickly move Ideas around to Topics between ideas will help prevent a lot of cutting and pasting that could eventually cause other fighting with the TOC of formatting issues.
  4. Once you have your Chapters and sub-chapters laid out, now begin making a list of the supporting content that you have for those areas by writing that information on the appropriate note cards.
    1. Here is where the “rubber meets the road”… at this point you will begin to understand if you have too much (need to break out the content more), too little (need to find or create more), or if you need to re-group sub-chapters, or even revise chapter ideas… to improve the flow of the eBook.
    2. This stage will also allow you to begin to get a feel for the introduction and connecting or transition material you will have to write.
  5. Look to the end… Take a hard look at the last chapter. While this may seem silly, and for some content it will simply be another chapter to close the material, most authors intend to have a culmination point at the end of the book. If you look closely at this chapter, you will see if all of the material you have, staged in the way you laid it out on the story board “wall”, will lead the students to that point.
    1. Right here you may find yourself revising again to ensure that you make the point you intended.
    2. You actually may want to write the entire last chapter first. This may help with the old adage: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, Tell them, then review what you told them…”
  6. Begin pulling it all together one chapter at a time.
    1. Don’t let yourself get distracted by material that pulls you off topic.
    2. Don’t pull in more that you originally planned on the story board (unless absolutely necessary) – See above.
    3. Layout your content in the appropriate places in the sub-chapters and THEN write the introductions, transitions, and re-format the content you have to get across the desired message and learning.

Formatting Tips

  • All formats of media are available in Pages. However, because of how ePub works to re-flow the text for different screen orientations and sizes, be sure all images and video is set to be “inline” and not “floating”.
  • While shapes and text boxes can be used to build diagrams, it is best to build them and then use a program like “Skitch” to capture everything as a single image and then embed that image where appropriate in the text.
  • Save often, and test on your eReader of choice, iBooks, Good Reader, Nook, etc. as you go. This will help prevent an issue early on from causing formatting to TOC issues for everything beyond.
  • The best thing about ePubs is that you can link to them from a website, email them, provide them on a drive or file to students, even pre-load them to devices.

Final Thoughts

Take your time and be patient. The more you plan up front the easier the actual “massaging” will be. Use media rich content whenever possible. Remember these devices are (typically) connected to the internet at all times. They are media players as well as eReaders. Hyperlinks in ePub will automatically launch a web browser. Media you embedded into the ePub eBook (audio and video) will play right from inside of the eBook itself. Leverage these resources to deepen your students experience and understanding. That said, please remember to adhere to copyright when leveraging content, images, audio, and video.

Image Credits:

Wikimedia Commons – ePub

EdReach ScreenShot

Two questions that are still outstanding in my research:

  1. Embedding a YouTube video into an ePub – I have read a couple of posts about this and how iBooks DOES recognize HTML5 based content. However, I have not figured out how to make this work in Pages. Yet.
  2. Is there an easy PC-based ePub plugin or tool for Word?

Love to hear your thoughts, comments questions, or concerns in the comments section.

iBroke My iPhone and Lived to Talk About It

Preface to post: I am passionate about using iDevices to improve the learning experience, and I personally consider my iPhone to be my lifeline. To people who know me well, this is common knowledge.


As my iPhone 4 slowly slid off a stack of papers just out of my reach, I had the perfect view as I watched it drop and land face down. I heard gasps escape from every person in the crowded room. My first thought: it’s fine, I’ve dropped it before. My second thought: I have a case for a reason. Even as I got up and leaned over to pick up the iPhone, I assured everyone that, “it was fine, really.” Unfortunately, when I picked my iPhone up I saw that it was not fine: my iPhone’s front screen was severely cracked. It technically still worked, but I had shards of glass in my thumb from swiping. The room full of teachers watched me carefully, waiting for my reaction. I could almost hear everyone thinking about how they were about to console me. I calmly told the shocked crowd that, “it was no big deal, it’s just a phone. It’s replaceable. Anyways, it still works.” And I thought I meant it. I felt sort of numb to the situation. I continued to do exactly what I had been doing prior to The Drop. I could feel the awkward stares, and I knew people were puzzled by my lack of reaction. That was period two.

By the time I walked into period three, the news about The Drop had spread. My students offered hugs and sincere sympathy at my loss. Was it true? How did it happen? I reassured my students that this was not what we were to be concerned about, and began class. Once the students were taking some notes, my co-teacher pulled me aside to ask how I was doing. I told her that life happens, and then added a very sarcastic “I’m sure I will live” before refocusing my attention back on the students.


Things started to change period four. I had the same questions about The Drop from period four’s students, yet my responses were very different this period. How did it happen? “I dropped the stupid phone,” I told one student. Another student overheard my answer and quickly asked me, “Did you just call your iPhone stupid?” I unnecessarily snapped at the student to get back to the classroom task assigned. Later as my students left forth period, I heard murmurs of “she’s just mad because she broke her iPhone.” And I was.


Period five was lunch and the topic of conversation turned to Memorial Day weekend plans. (No one dared to bring up The Drop.) As I listened to others’ plans, I was quickly reminded that I had plans of my own: hosting my baby sister’s bridal shower in a different part of the country. I had to race out of school that day to catch a flight for the celebration. As the matron of honor, it would be my duty to be the contact for eight bridesmaids and many other guests traveling into town. Thinking about this, my thought process about my iPhone started to change again. I left the lunch room and called Apple to see how I could replace my iPhone 4 immediately. After hearing about the obscene cost to replace my iPhone 4 and knowing that iPhone 5 is right around the corner, I started bargaining the with Apple representative. Can you see on my account how many Apple products I’ve bought? Isn’t there ANY way we can work out a better deal? All of a sudden, I felt desperate to replace my iPhone before I had to get on that flight. How could I manage traveling without my iPhone? I hadn’t even printed my airline ticket… it was on my iPhone.


I was late to period six. Halfway through the period, another teacher stopped by to speak to me, “I heard about The Drop. Why don’t I take over here and you can go handle your phone issue. You look really upset about it.” I took her up on the offer without thinking twice. I called store after store in the area, desperately looking for someone to replace my front piece of glass in a hurry. After trying six stores, I hung up my office phone and stared blankly at a wall for about twenty minutes. Why bother at this point? There was no way I could ever get it fixed before I had to leave town. I let out a deep sigh, said ‘whatever’ and went back to class. I was pretty much silent and very moody for the rest of the school day.


The school day ended, and I headed up to the airport. Once I was in my car, the tears came. How could I do something like this on a day like today? I knew it was silly to cry over a phone, but I was stressed about how I was going to make it through a very busy weekend without my iPhone. It felt good to shed a few tears over The Drop. By the time I went through security, I was finally able to offer a smile to the security person as she commented and joked about my phone’s cracked screen.

Once at the gate, I didn’t have to worry about finding a seat near a plug. As I sat and looked around at all the other people using their smart phones, I realized that this was the longest I had gone without checking my iPhone. I remembered the days when I didn’t have a cell phone at all, and I had survived just fine. I had travelled many times in my life without an iPhone, and I could do it again. About 5:00 p.m. that evening, I had finally accepted that I broke my iPhone and could even attempt to make light of it: I sent out a tweet about how I had been sucker-punched by gravity. It was good progress for me after a very trying day.

Some Thoughts.

It is true that we live in a digital world, and that we heavily rely on technology. But when did I become so unbelievably dependent on technology? How had a broken electronic caused me to go through the five stages of grief? I know I am not alone. So many people are stricken with grief when they lose, break, or have their technology devices stolen. Was I upset because I love to use technology and couldn’t? Or was I upset that I didn’t have the tools that I needed for the weekend? I know that I enjoy technology, but have I gone overboard? I’m truly left wondering, am I too dependent on technology? And more importantly, are our students?



MacReach Show #15: APPsolutely Comical!

Kelly Dumont and I cover the good and the bad this week in the world of Apple… and have a few laughs along the way!



  • It is APPsolutely comical! We take a close look at using Comic Life and PhotoComic on the iPad… does price really matter for similar apps?
  • App Comparison: Comic Life vs. PhotoComic

App Challenge:

  • With a range of comic creation apps available to choose from, we had a lot of fun coming up with at least 9 ways to use these apps with students. We left the tenth spot open to hear what you have to say… how can your students use a comic creation app like Comic Life?

Macs for All:

  • Kelly shares a great tip for organizing windows and workspaces on your Mac: Spaces

Education Can Rock Too

After having lunch at a Hard Rock Cafe recently, I am more hopeful than ever about how technology can be used in education in the very near future. I am an avid supporter of allowing students to use touch screen devices to enhance the learning process, so I was absolutely delighted when my party was seated directly next to something that resembled an 18 by 4 foot iPad hanging on the wall. While waiting for our lunch, we were invited to explore the popular attraction known as the RockWall.

The RockWall allows visitors to access the Hard Rock Cafe’s extensive and impressive collection of more than 70,000 authentic Rock ‘n Roll memorabilia items that can be found throughout their many restaurants and hotels around the world. For many years, people were only able to view the museum quality items behind glass cases and expensive frames in select locations (for good reasons, of course). Now, the RockWall offers an innovative way for people to access items located around the world while learning about the music and artists behind the items and how they helped shape history. The RockWall acts as an interactive, virtual museum where you can zoom into things like John Lennon’s hand written lyrics or Jimi Hendrix’s custom guitars for a more personalized learning experience than you could ever have if you were just viewing the items through a glass display case.

I have not been able to stop thinking about how much I want this kind of touch screen  technology in my classroom since playing with the RockWall. How fantastic would it be if each of those floating pieces of data was an application available on my iPhone or iPad? Can you imagine running multiple iOS apps at the same time, with multiple people interacting simultaneously? Say goodbye to whiteboards, and make Interactive White Boards really interactive and magical. Educators could take learning to new places with that kind of technology.

If we can start to combine the technology we already love and depend on in education with the technology that Hard Rock Cafe is using for entertainment value, we could create a whole new learning atmosphere for students. People are already starting to think about creating more types of virtual museums so more individuals can have access the the valuable information that sits in museums around the world. Apps like Art Authority for the iPad give people access to some of the world’s best artwork from anywhere. Even more interesting, watch Amit Sood discuss his work with building a museum of museums on the web in this TED Talk:

(Click here to watch TED Talk)

This inspiring technology reminds me of a blog post by Scott Weidig, “Inspiration: Do you have effusive passion?” where Scott introduced me to another glimpse of how touch screen technology might be used in the future: A Day Made of Glass

It is an exciting time to be an educator right now, as we have access to tools that can dramatically change our students’ learning experiences. Technology is changing quickly, improving daily, and becoming more affordable for schools to purchase. The iPad is only a little over a year old and already I can’t imagine having to teach without it. Web 2.0 tools are making it easier than ever for students to create and collaborate, and the popularity of using electronic games to facilitate students’ learning is growing rapidly. I am excited for the technology that is headed toward our classrooms and students’ pockets… What kind of opportunities will technology offer students next?






MacReach Show #14: Can an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

James O’Hagan joins Kelly Dumont and I for an episode focused on health… Can mobile devices help us? Can they harm us?

Mac News:


Click here to see the graphic up close and get more info about it.

Ed Mac: A healthy discussion of a few healthy apps and resources for students, and teachers!

App Challenge: 9 VERY interesting ways to use the App of the Week, Singing Fingers, with students ~ what could you do with your students?

Macs for All: James and Kelly share some great tips about iPads and Internet access… planning helps!

MacReach Show #13: Apple is Taking Over!

WOW… Apple apparently knows what they are doing! Scott Meech and Kelly Dumont join me for a conversation about how Apple is taking over in the world of tech…

Mac News:


App Challenge: We find 9 ways to use the App of the Week with students! Check out the #iear community to hear more ways to use it :)

Macs for All: Screenshots!

MacReach Show #12: Summer’s Coming & the iCloud is Right Around the Corner

Judi Epcke and Kelly Dumont join in this week to share their thoughts on Apple’s possible iCloud, summer tech plans, and some great ideas about using iPads with students.

Mac News:

EdMac: A about storing and/or utilizing school technology during the summer…

App Challenge: This week Judi recommends an awesome App of the Week. It was super easy to come up with some fantastic ways to use the app with students… and this week, YOU have a chance to win the app by telling us how you would use the app with students!

To enter, you can do one (or both!) of the following:

1. Share here! Post a comment below about how your students would use the app.

2. Join the conversation on Twitter! Send a tweet about how your students would use the app and tag the tweet with #MacReach #IEAR

One lucky winner will be drawn randomly on next week’s episode! For even more information about the app, you can find a great review on IEAR.org.

Macs for All: A quick spotlight on the Spotlight Search function… one more great tip from Judi!


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Teacher StratEdgy: More on QR codes

We have talked quite a bit about QR codes on the EdCeptional Podcast and the crew and I thought it would be good to elaborate more on them.  Quick Response (QR codes) were developed originally for the car industry as a high speed way to track inventory.  They’ve taken off recently for many reasons (easier to read by camera phones & their free!).  Think of them as a way to connect the physical world with the digital.

There are 4 types of QR Codes, a code can contain one of the following – a URL, a block of text, a phone number, or a SMS message.  Any QR Code reader on a smartphone can read and display the text embedded in a QR code.  Some of the most popular QR code readers are Red Laser or i-nigma.  Both of these are available for iOS devices and Andoid devices.

It’s also easy to create QR codes.  There are many sites that you can use to create them.  One of the easiest is Kaywa.  Just pick the type of code you want to make, fill in the boxes and click generate.  The code is created and you can save it to your computer.  If you are looking just to have a QR code for a URL you can use a shortener like Bit.ly or Goo.gl.  After you shorten a link they create the QR code for you that you can save.

So how can you use QR codes?  Why would you want to?  One reason is that it removes the keyboard from the equation.  Allowing students with difficulty typing to gain access to the computer.  Here are just a few ideas for using QR codes:

  • Sam Fecich shared how she created a QR Code easter egg hunt.  Kids scanned codes and followed the clues embedded in them to find an easter egg hidden in the school.
  • I’ve been creating QR codes that link to specific YouTube playlists so students can access them during leisure time.  You can read QR codes using any laptop/computer webcam using a free program called Desktop QR Code Reader
  • Have kids read books into the computer, post those files on a school website, then create a QR code linking to the file, and when a student checks out the book, they can use the QR code to hear the book read to them.
  • Instead of assigning homework, assign the students to check out a code which leads them to a YouTube video about a topic being studied
  • Chris Bugaj shared a great idea for students/adults working in job sites.  Create videos about a job including directions and safety information, then students can scan the code and see the information before they start working on the job
  • Many students have difficulty or are unable to give their vital information in an emergency.  Instead of expecting them to be able to share, they could be taught to share a card with a QR code on it.  One side would read “Please help me, use your smartphone and a QR reader, like Red Laser, to scan this code and it will text my parents”.  Create a QR Code (using Kaywa) with a parent cell phone number and simple message.  This way student information is not just on them, but they can still get help.

These are just a few ways to use QR codes, and I know there are more.  Take a moment and share your ideas for using QR Codes in your classroom.


Where is YOUR classroom?

Every day, I am an active participant in an amazing classroom that is filled with engaging and unique learning opportunities. I learn all kinds of information about a variety of different topics; it all depends on what I find interesting or necessary at the moment. I have access to an incredible wealth of credible resources, and I am given as much time as I need to synthesize information and determine how to best leverage it. I have opportunities to collaborate and learn with, and from, experts all over the world. I have the chance to participate in challenge based learning projects where I work to find solutions to a variety of real world problems, and I do it with individuals in locations that I have never been to. I work hard to publish content that I feel is important to share. I am allowed to be curious, and I am encouraged to be creative. Most importantly, the classroom is always changing and morphing into an even better, more efficient and personalized classroom.

You may be wondering where this amazing classroom is, and my response is unique given the time of day: at home, the gym, my car, the gas station, a school, a picnic table, a friend’s house, my back deck, a restaurant… and that is just a few of today’s locations. With the help of my iPhone and iPad, my classroom can be completely mobile, it can go wherever I go. That means that whenever I want, I can find information, validate it, synthesize it, communicate it, and use it to solve problems collaboratively. Since my classroom is not located within the confines of four walls in a specific building, I am able to learn more simply because I have more opportunities to do so.

So… if I can recognize that my own classroom is mobile, why am I still demanding that my students come and sit in a room to learn? Isn’t it time that educators start discussing how mobile learning devices can really change the educational experience for our students?

I am certainly not saying that mobile learning is not being discussed. In fact, it is currently one of the hottest topics with educators, including myself. Educators can’t seem to stop talking about how to use mobile learning devices in the classroom. But that is part of the problem, we keep talking about using mobile devices IN the classroom. It is a bit absurd to talk about mobile learning taking place in a classroom… unless your definition of a classroom has changed. Thanks to the many types of mobile technologies available today, I can now consider a classroom to be anywhere I can learn or gain experience. I am a huge advocate for using mobile learning devices because I get to experience their educational value on a daily basis in my own mobile classroom. Technology has without a doubt changed how I learn, what I learn, how much I learn, and of course, where I learn. And I am not alone.

I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the Mobile Learning Experience conference, where it was refreshing to talk with a variety of educators who are using technology to transform students’ learning experiences. There is a definite shift happening in education right now, or a ‘disruption’ as some might say. Graham Brown-Martin set the perfect tone for the Mobile Learning Experience with his keynote about disruption, innovation, and learning. His thought-provoking discussion about how disruptive technologies like social media, video games, the Internet, and mobile devices have changed every industry but education was eye-opening for many at the conference. Educators were either inspired or enraged as they thought about how to best answer Graham’s bold question: what would the “napsterfication of learning” look like? I know that I personally left the conference feeling like these disruptive technologies are not only great tools for students, but they are essential tools for students’ future success: disruption will drive student innovation, foster creativity, and offer new learning opportunities.

As educators, we need to embrace and encourage disruption in and out of our classrooms. We need to listen to students like Dan Brown and Travis Allen speak about how institutionalized education has failed them. We need to question what it really means to be educated in a world where facts are free. We need to rethink the location of our classrooms, and recognize the impact mobile devices actually have on the roles of school buildings and educators. We need to understand that the goal is to use technology to empower students so that they will change the world for the better.

Educators need to think about how we can give students the right tools, strategies, and experiences so that they can be the best students possible in their own classrooms, wherever those classrooms may be.

MacReach Show #11: iPhone Madness! …and Great Apple Resources

Kelly Dumont and Scott Meech join me for an episode filled with iPhone talk, Apple education resources, and tons of fun!

Mac News

Is Apple tracking you?

The white iPhone is finally here! ….does anyone care?

Tough Covers: How to protect your iPad from a 500ft drop out of a plane.


There are so many great Apple education resources out there, we wanted to highlight a few of them:

Hottest Apps Used by Apple Distinguished Educators: App Reviews by ADEs

Apple Education Seminars and Events: seminars, webinars, and all kinds of other professional development (and most are free to attend!)

Apptivities: a website dedicated to the “Application of Apps!”

App Challenge

It was easy to come up with lots of ideas for our App of the Week! Here’s a hint… it’s quick, easy, and fun to use for many ages!

Macs for All

Quick access to Zoom on your iOS devices through the programmable triple-click home button… good stuff.

MacReach Show #10: Kids and Macs

Jonathan Furst and James Crawford join me this week to discuss how their students are using Apple technologies to make movies and create digital stories. Other topics discussed include: