3 reasons why the iPad mini is the iPad for Education

Back in January 2012 Apple hosted an educational event in New York that made a real push for the iPad to be the computing device of choice for the classroom.

With improved iBooks for text books, iTunes U and the fact that it deliberately kept the old reliable 16gb iPad 2 on the market for so long specifically for schools it made a strong case.

Today Apple released it's iPad mini a 7.9 inch iPad mini and it almost seems to have been designed with students and readers in mind. 

Firstly this thing is small enough to comfortably fit into a school bag or a large set of cargo pants.  And that reduction in size coupled with Apple's excellent design standards mean this device is the hardiest iPad on the market which is great for the classroom and should result in a lot less cracked screens. 

Darren Murph from Engadget went hands on with it and points out however that it is not too small for typing.    "It's still not "small," though. While a fully outstretched adult hand can generally grasp it without help from the other, you'll still want both for typing and using apps."

Secondly it has the best battery life of any iPad. Due to it's slightly older processor and lower resolution screen of it's big brothers the iPad mini you can comfortably squeeze out 10 hours of non stop use of this little fella.

Finally it is cheap.  At $70 less than the lowest 'BIG' iPad this is a huge saving for schools who like mine will be buying hundreds at a time.  That either means more of them for your students or budget savings for other needs.  Students tend to have smaller hands, and public school districts tend to have even tinier budgets; it's really not a matter of "if" digital devices will take the place of more traditional teaching methods, but "when."

So if you like me are looking at iPads for the classroom, then surely the iPad mini will be a must consider. 

It is by no means the most technically advanced member of the family, as it essentially a shrunken iPad 2 with a 2012 overhaul,

But with Apple's track record with these devices and the reduction in size and price for little hands and budgets it appears to be a winner.

Looking at it from another perspective.  Apple also released the iPad 4 today which is surely the least impressive update of any of their iOS devices with literally no wow factor over it's predecessor. And this gives me confidence in the knowledge that these devices have reached maturation and the iPad mini my school buys today will be not too unlike the iPad mini of two years down the track.

 

 

What does Windows 8 mean for schools?

I have been testing Windows 8 on a PC at home for nearly a year and as an experienced windows fan let me say to anyone that has never seen it,  Windows 8 is different.  Real different.  Like I still don't know what I am totally doing different.  Like my wife and family refuse to use it different.

It is the massive sidestep Windows had to take to continue to be the the operating system that is everything to everyone.  A luxury that Apple has avoided as it makes  operating systems exclusively for their limited but massively successful hardware range.

The reason it is so different is because Microsoft wants to create a seamless experience from desktop PC to Tablet to Smartphone.  In that sense it delivers in spades and is already the number two mobile OS way ahead of Android but just lacking some of the polish of Apple's iOS.

It does all this at the sacrifice of of it's 1.7 billion Windows desktop users around the globe and this is the problem that could plague businesses and schools for the next three years if you jump without looking. 

What does this mean for schools I hear you ask, well it basically means three things.

 

1:  Windows 7 will and should remain your premium desktop operating system for at least the next three years.  It works beautifully in a server based environment, and will only improve further as the vast majority of enterprise and education users will rely on it to get them through the transformational change in computers from PC's to tablets.  Any Windows XP users still out there still?  This is your time to step up Windows 7 without any fear.

2:  Windows 8 will be the best tablet based solution for education bar none.  I love my iPad, but I hate the fact it's not a windows PC with Office, Photoshop and Flash and can print and save to my school network without worrying about iCrap. 

I love my Windows 7 laptop and desktop but hate the fact it's not a super cool tablet with 100,000 apps and heaps of cool gadgets and 10 hours battery life. 

The next generation of Windows 8 based tablets tick all these boxes.  But expect to pay a premium of at least $1000 for an iPad quality tablet initially and $500 for a cheapy.

3:  Your students will inevitably demand that you switch to tablets and the iPad might be a great stop gap for now.  There is no shadow of a doubt that touch based tablet computing is the future of educational I.T for a multitude of reason,s and students will at some point see no purpose in laptop and desktop computers.  But right now, the iPad is the best example of this model and at under $400 per unit it is very appealing to schools and this will be the case for a while yet whilst Windows 8 finds it's feet.

Forget Android:  Honestly what will it offer or do better than the iPad or a Windows 8 Tablet?  You will be holding the Beta max or Ubuntu tablet in two years time if you buy one now.  It is already sub par in comparison and I can't see it catching up.

Windows 8 is still a little bit behind the iPad and iOS currently if you are looking at it through a students eyes and you would not be foolish to wait 2 years when the big guns of computing in HP, Dell and now Samsung have some really aggressive windows tablets in the education market space.

In short, don't even contemplate switching your network over to windows 8 until you have a large number of Windows tablets in teachers and students hands to soften the transition period.  At this time I am sure Apple will have created the next big thing that may make all of this look so 2012.

Top 5 Free iPad Education Apps

I know we regularly take a look at great educational apps at Edgalaxy but the vast majority of those apps do come at some expense. Se here is our list of the top 5 free educational apps. These apps may be particularly helpful for those pursue a degree

1.   Google Earth:  Hold the world in the palm of your hand. With Google Earth for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, you can fly to far corners of the planet with just the swipe of a finger. Explore the same global satellite and aerial imagery available in the desktop version of Google Earth, including high-resolution imagery for over half of the world's population and a third of the world's land mass.

2.  iBooks:  iBooks is an amazing way to download and read books. iBooks includes the iBookstore, where you can download the latest bestselling books or your favorite classics – day or night. Browse your library on a beautiful bookshelf, tap a book to open it, flip through pages with a swipe or a tap, and bookmark or add notes to your favorite passages.

3.  Image Searcher: (Free)  Image Searcher is a Google/Bing Image searching tool for iPad. Simply type in any keywords and you will see the thumbnails of images. You can view the original images, save them to your Photo Albums, email them to your friends, or open the original web pages.

4.  National Film Board:  As featured in a nation-wide marketing campaign by Apple, the NFB Films app allows you to watch over 2000 movies - documentaries, animations and feature films - free on your iPad.

5:  ToonTastic:  Toontastic teaches key storytelling principles that help to promote Creativity at a young age. Its drawing tools bring kids’ wildest ideas to life alongside virtual playsets chock full of pirates, princesses, far away galaxies, and many other characters and settings to spark the imagination. Cartoons can be shared online via ToonTube, Toontastic’s Global Storytelling Network, to help children connect to friends and family and learn about other cultures, customs, and lifestyles through stories created by their peers around the world.

Career advice for Teachers seeking work outside the classroom.

First off let me just say that I love my job as a teacher.   But I am also very glad that I have had the opportunity to work in over 20 unique positions before settling on teaching over ten years ago as it gave me an excellent sense of perspective and skills which still apply in my career.

I also acknowledge that it is highly unlikely that in 20 years I'll still be teaching as I am just not the type of person who sets up shop and settles in for life.

So if you are considering leaving teaching be it for a couple of years or permanently what are your genuine alternatives, especially if you still want to use your trained teaching skills?

Below are some tips that may help you with this process and I know both you and your students will be better for this experience if your heart is no longer in teaching or you simply need a change of environment to appreciate how much you actually do love your current job.

Identify industries that have a need for individuals with education and training backgrounds.   This is a huge corporate area today as companies know that if they invest in quality professional development staff are happy and stay longer in their role.  Don’t feel as though you should be confined to educational publishing companies, test and measurement service providers and educational assessment specialists.

Submit your resume to both education and non-education related companies. Any boss worth a pinch of salt knows a teacher is a highly organised and creative individual and upsell this in your resume.

Be honest - It is the 21st century and most people will change career paths approximately three times during their working lives.  Don't hide the reasons you are looking for a new career but play on all those strengths and talents that you brought to every class, meeting and report you wrote.

Focus your sights on your skill specialization. English and Language Arts certifications can lead to jobs in writing, editing and copywriting. Science certified individuals may consider working in a lab.  But then you just might want to be the most organised Starbucks employee in history too.  The worst mistake you could make is to do the same job for half the pay, no holidays and little respect from workmates and clients.

Search the web for both education-related jobs by all means but get out amongst that local community you have been contributing too all along.  Chances are if you were a quality teacher then people will be aware of the skills and background you bring to a job.

Finally - never undersell yourself, Teachers are incredibly diverse and multi skilled professionals working with some of the best and worst 'clients' in society.   Don't be afraid to spruke your skill base and enthusiasm to give anything a try that might interest you.

Good Luck.  Lifelong education doesn't have to happen within the walls of a classroom for all of us.

10 WAYS IPADS ARE USED IN SCHOOLS

The power and portability of Apple’s iPad line have been catching the attention of progressive educators; some schools have actually begun distributing the devices to students and making them a major part of the curriculum. Here are ten of the ways that the iPad is making waves in the modern classroom.

  1. To Replace Textbooks – The lightweight iPad not only eliminates the need for heavy, bulky book bags; there are also apps that allow teachers to design and distribute their own textbooks to their students.
  2. As a Collaborative Project Aid – Group projects and collaborations are made significantly easier by utilizing the iPad. Students can work together from home or while in the same room. Easy sharing and editing can help to foster a sense of teamwork.
  3. Collecting and Storing Student Information – One of the iconic pieces of teacher’s equipment is the grade-book; the often leatherette-covered volume required manual entry of grading information. With the iPad, teachers can manage all required student data quickly and efficiently.
  4. Bringing the Computer Lab into Every Classroom – Instead of a trek down the hall to a dedicated computer lab, kids that attend a school with an iPad program have the power of the computer lab at their fingertips.
  5. “Go-Green” Paper Saving Programs – Eliminating grade books, text books and many other paper-based products by distributing iPads to every student is a powerful “go-green” initiative, and has been one of the greatest sticking points for proponents.
  6. Interactive Learning – Instead of simply reading about a subject, students can use their iPads to locate pictures, diagrams and even to watch related video content. This interactive approach to learning may help disinterested kids become more excited about learning.
  7. Homework Planners and Scheduling – Teachers can create a syllabus, share homework assignments and classroom schedules with their students and coordinate projects, all from their iPads. This organized approach can often prove beneficial for kids that crave structure, as well as helping less orderly children keep everything in one place. Instead of several notebooks filled with information dedicated to each class, students can store all of their information in one place.
  8. Creating a Digital Portfolio – Creating a portfolio of classroom work has never been easier than it is for kids with access to iPads. The ability to carry their work with them and to transfer it from one digital device to another is another way that the iPad is making inroads into the education system.
  9. Taking the Classroom Home – Students participating in an iPad-based curriculum are no longer dependent on the classroom for all of their needs; even situations such as collecting homework during an illness are a snap when the work can be sent directly to the student’s iPad.
  10. Virtual Field Trips – An actual field trip to the pyramids may not be feasible for most school kids, but the iPad can often serve as the next best thing. Students can immerse themselves in these virtual field trips, which all take place from the safety of the classroom.

This article was written as a guest post from Christine Kane at internetserviceproviders.org

3 Great Android Apps for Teachers

Earlier in the week we looked at three apps for the iPad for busy teachers so we thought it only fair that the largest mobile platform get their dues to.  So here are three Android apps that will make your teaching job a little easier and more efficient.

DataViz  - Documents to Go

Now you can get your work done no matter where you are by using Documents To Go to view, edit and create  Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files as well as view Adobe PDF files on your Android-powered device. And since it is full featured yet easy to use, Documents To Go is one mobile office suite that makes good sense for teachers.  Take a look at it here.

Dropbox for Android

This one is an absolute no-brainer for anyone that uses a computer or mobile device of any type.  Synchronise and access any of your files and documents anywhere anytime.  Never use a USB Key again.  Oh yeah and it's free too.  Access Dropbox Here

Evernote for Android

Evernote has really changed it's mobile use dramatically over the last few years to switch to a true mobile app.  Evernote is a great tool for taking notes, photos, etc. in meetings conferences and now the option is available to share them with teachers and students with ease. Access Evernote here.

Students, Mobile phones and Potential Cancer Risks???

Today the World Health Organisation released an interesting press release about the Potential risks of mobile phones and links to brain cancer.  Let me repeat that I am not saying these devices cause cancer but they have officially been given the 'maybe' status by the worlds most recognised health Advisory Centre.

Many teenagers spend hours on these devices every day and this could be an issue they might like to know more about.

For years as a teacher in health classes we have discussed the risks of smoking, drugs, bad diet and so on... So should we make an issue of this or are we just scaremongering...

I would probably err on the side of caution and tell students the potential risks and let them make their own minds up but I would strongly recommend the following use of a mobile phone until we know a little more facts.

Try to limit talk time on mobile phones - text MSG or landline where possible.

Try and carry your phone in a bag - not in pockets etc.

If you are going to play games for extended periods - Switch to Airplane mode - This will turn off all radios in the phone

I often look at the wireless points plastered around our schools and wonder what the deal is with those too.  We all have a right to ask questions when it comes to our health.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic as both a student or a teacher.

 

5 things you can do to make your school Greener, Cleaner and Smarter in 2010

It is obvious from last month’s Environmental summit in Copenhagen that we cannot leave it up to the leaders and the great minds of the world to do great deal about our impending environmental doom and gloom.  But thankfully you and your students can and best of all along the way we can all learn a great deal from undertaking some very practical and simple tasks.  They are guaranteed to save your school thousands of dollars over the course of the year really engage your students.  Many of you may be doing this already and have more great ideas as well which I would love to hear about.

Update your OS and set up your Power saving settings on your network.

I have just ordered 250 new computers to replace the aging fleet of classroom computers and laptops which were running windows XP.  After doing a little research I found the single greatest thing I could do to help our budget in 2010 was to upgrade the operating system.  Why?  Both Windows 7, Snow Leopard and even Windows Vista have the capability to shut down various parts of the computer as they are not being used whilst still running perfectly windows XP does not.  Just before you doze off to sleep with my boring tech talk you might want to check this out and share it with your bursar and principal. 

Recent test results on the exact same computers have shown that windows Vista will cost you $33.54 less per year to run than Windows XP.  The great news is that Windows 7 is even more efficient.  So in my case alone we will be saving over $8000 off our annual power bill and getting the latest and greatest OS for staff and students to use.

I know for a fact Snow leopard is also greener than its predecessor also. Although it’s savings are not as dramatic.

Furthermore make sure you optimise your screen savers and Data Projectors to shut down when they are not being used for even greater power savings.

Set up an Environmental Police Force

I am doing this with a team of my senior students this year.  Essentially we assigned a team of students to do three simple tasks and gave them the power to enforce it to students AND STAFF.  Each month we will reward individuals and classes who have abided by our environmental rules.

  1. Ensure Air Conditioners and Heaters are set to a suitable temperature at all times and are not left on unnecessarily.  Many Teachers simply walk in the door and turn everything up to 11 without any real consideration.  Let your students determine the optimal environmental settings through research and give them the power to change it.

 

  1. Nude Food Days:  At least one day of the week encourage your kids to bring food to school that is not wrapped in unnecessary packing.  Fruit is always a winner. We allow reusable lunch boxes, drink bottles and tolerate brown paper bags when necessary.  Your environmental police will put a bin in each class and the one with the least rubbish is declared the winner.

 

  1. Collect water from the drinking taps to use on your gardens.   Very self explanatory but useful.

 

We will obviously expand this role as the year progresses.

Go Paperless where possible.

If you are sending out piles of useless drivel via paper to your parents and students pop it up on a website or Wiki as a PDF were everyone can access homework, canteen lists newsletters etc.  Better still set up an RSS feed for your school newsletters and homework etc so as soon as they go up parents and students and students will be emailed a copy of the information. You can even get a text message alert sent to a phone if you want to ensure nothing is missed.

Yes you will probably always need a few hard copies to send home but make these optional and let students collect them from the office instead of mandatory handout for every student.

 

Install a Rainwater Tank and start a Veggie Garden.

This is real winner and may not be for everyone but we had massive support from parents, and students when we set aside an area for growing some veggies from seedlings ensured they were watered weeded and given plenty of TLC. 

When fully grown the produce was split three ways. Some was sent to the canteen to be included in school meals.  Some was sold to parents after school and we let the kids actually cook with the remaining share. 

Ironically from the canteen and parent sales it actually made a decent amount of money for us to install a rainwater tank collecting water from the gym roof.

This article is a great starting point for schools who want to grow a veggie garden.

Plant Trees:

Whether it’s 1 or 1000.  This is the single most productive thing you can do today to negate global warming.  Plant natives to your region and make a big deal about it to your students and greater school community.  The kids will love getting their hands dirty and your school will be more beautiful for it. 

I would love to hear what you are doing at your school.