#iPad app of the week: Polycom RealPresence Mobile

It’s been a while since I’ve done an iPad app of the week, so I thought it would be prudent to catch up with a doesy!  This week I’m all about the Polycom RealPresence Mobile app for the iPad.  At work we are deploying Polycom HDX video conferencing units in five rural school districts and this app is going to complement that deployment very nicely.  But thinking big picture, if you are a teacher who is looking to connect with other teachers and their students whom are physically distant from yourself, then this app might be just what you need.

You may be asking yourself why you would want to use a Polycom app over say Facetime or the Skype app.  Well, it might very well be that you don’t want to use this over those, but this app does provide a couple extras that might make it all the more useful.  First, this app allows you to video conference at a low bandwidth rates, which means even if you are in a school that has very, very slow Internet, you can still bring in others using your Internet connection.  Beyond that, you don’t need any kind of account to start using the app.  You can give the person you are trying to video conference with your IP (the app will tell you what this is) and presto, you’re video conferencing!  Lastly, the app is very simple.  There isn’t much to it other than a keypad to dial the IP address you want to call.

This app works with any “standards based” video conferencing device, which means you can call both other iPads as well as any other fancy standards based device, like the Polycom HDX 7000.  This expands your pool of potential experts and other educators/students you and your students can learn from.  The app is free and is in the grey zone between content creation and content consumption.  You can easily argue consumption since it is a video conference, but you can also argue creation since the app can lead you to create amazing deliverables.  So, you choose what you want to call it.  I’ll call it exciting and a great resource!

I don’t have time to take original pictures today, but you can see some stock pictures here.  Enjoy!

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#iPad app of the week: iBooks/Pages for Mac

Today I attended a presentation by Apple about using the iPad.  The presentation was nicely done, and while it wasn’t necessarily a hands-on workshop, I still learned a lot about the iPad and using it in education.  One thing I learned more about was creating ePubs using Pages for Mac and then viewing them in the iBooks app.

An ePub is the format for many ebooks, typical to what you would buy in the Kindle Store.  I have dabbled with ePubs in the past and we are using them with the TQP pilot project some, but here’s what struck me today: If I’m in a school with an iPad 1:1 deployment and I’m trying to find ways to have my students create and publish their own content, with their own voice, then using ePubs is a great way to make that possible.

Here’s how ePubs works, and keep in mind this is just one way to do so as well as the only way I know to create one, you need to open the Pages app for Mac.  This app is $10 and can be purchased through the App Store on any newer mac.  Pages at first glance looks like most word processors you’ve seen.  However, the export function is what makes this a crucial tool for creating ePubs, since Pages can export ePub files, which can then be opened in the iBooks app on the iPad.  So to create your ePub, you can type/copy-paste your written content into a new document, but you can also add multimedia files, like video and audio, to the file as well.  You insert these files into the document and make them an inline object with the text.  You can also create links to places both in the document and to websites on the Internet.  Then once you are done creating your document you simply just export the file to an ePub format and make it available to your audience via email, website, or even sync it through iTunes on your computer.  This is the creative process students could go through, but more about that in a minute.

Once the ePub document is on the iPad, you use iBooks to view the book.  Within iBooks you can copy text, highlight text, create notes for a piece of the text, change the font size, bookmark pages, and do general searches.  The app itself isn’t anything too exciting, but it does change the way we think about teaching and content consumption, which is where the power comes into play.

So for example, if I was a teacher and all my students had an iPad, I would structure my course so the students created their own textbooks.  I’d likely use a variety of online tools to facilitate the process, but then once we finished a section or chapter or however the course was organized, the culminating activity might be to bring all this content together and organize it in a way that makes sense for readers, create the ePub, and then distribute that ePub the next time the course is taught.  Then the next year I’d have my students build on that and keep making updates to the course text.j

There are a number of things you could do with ePubs, but the key is that you can consume the content in a different way than just reading.  Students can read about a concept and then watch a video of that concept in action, or they can look up the definition to words they don’t know without changing apps or even getting out the dictionary.  Through the iPad and a variety of other tools we are able to think differently about the things we are doing in the classroom with these tools  Creating and curating your own is much more powerful than reading a traditional textbook.  Both the process of creating the content, as well as how it is consumed is going to change the way students are learning.

So this is both a content creation and content consumption app based on its use.  iBooks is free and Pages for Mac is only $10 so the buy-in is pretty low.  This is the path that I believe teaching and learning is headed and I hope more and more schools, teachers, and students begin to engage in these kinds of projects.  While learning is an activity, there is still a large amount of consumption that takes place that serves as a foundation to build upon and this is one step towards making this happen.

Here are some screenshots from iBooks and here is an ePub on how to use the iPad as a camcorder and sharing that video.  Something I’m actually using in the field with TQP.

#iPad app of the week: Camera App

Today was the first TQP Technology Support Group meeting and we talked about the camera app for the iPad.  This app is one that comes with the iPad and is just what it sounds like.  It is the interface for taking pictures and video on the iPad.  The App is pretty easy to use.  There are just a few features to know.

Switch from the front camera to the back

The first thing to know is which camera you are using.  In the top right there is this icon  (above) that allows you to switch between the front and back cameras.  Just press the button and the camera will change views.  If you are planning to use the camera app to record a testimonial or something where you really want to be able to hear the audio as clear as possible, make sure the camera is set to the front of the iPad since that is where the microphone is located.

Slide to switch from the camer to the video camera

In the bottom right is where you switch between still pictures and video.  Just slide the slider to the appropriate format and you are ready to take pictures.

Press to take a picture
Push to record

To take pictures, press the button in the bottom middle of the screen.  For stills, it will be a small camera, and for video it will be a red dot.  When making a video, simply press the red dot button again to stop recording.

Tap and then slide to zoom

If you want to use the digital zoom, just tap the screen and slide the zoom slider.  To focus on a certain area, tap the screen where you want to focus and then take a picture.

Press to see pictures and videos you have taken

To review the pictures and video you have taken, press the icon in the bottom left and it will let you review everything you have done.

Where the power of this app will emerge will be in the uses of the pictures and video that you create.  Looking at the role video and images may have in a future teacher performance assessment, this app could be the most powerful app on the iPad.  To be able to show teachers and student teachers footage of their teaching they can then use to improve upon, that lays the foundation for making real change in the way teachers teach.  This footage could also be taken, with the right permissions from people in the video, and shown to other teachers and pre-service teachers about model practices.  Too often great teachers are left to operate in isolation, so why not share their knowledge and skills with others so we can all improve.

This app is clearly a content creation app, but it also allows other users to consume the content that is created, especially if used with other teachers to help them improve their practice.  There is no cost to this app since it is included with the iPad.

#iPad app of the week: Add to Home Screen

This is a quasi-app but is valuable nonetheless.  For many things I do and access there aren’t apps.  I could bookmark these places in Safari and just open the Safari app everytime I wanted to go to those locations, but that seems to be very cumbersome, well at least to me.  I don’t like taking extra steps to get to a location, so for me, I like to create an “app-style” button for my home screen for all the places I go that don’t have apps associated with them.  An example of this would be the Iowa Core.  There isn’t an app for the Iowa Core, but I need to access it often.

Here’s how you do it:

Find a website or page you want to create a app for

First begin by opening Safari and going to a place you frequent.

Press the share button and choose Add to Home Screen

Next touch the share button left of the URL bar and choose Add to Home Screen from the list.

Give it a name and touch Add

Now give your “App” a name and touch Add.  Also notice that a tumbnail of the site is created.  I’ve found that if the site has a favicon that it will use that, but if not it just uses a screen shot of the site.

App square shows up on your Home Screen and functions just like an app

Once you touch Add, you will be taken to the “App” on your Home Screen where you can move it, say into a folder.  I do this for common things, like the Core and UNI websites.

I really do prefer using the Add to Home Screen feature since it saves me time.  I learned about this trick when I first started using my iPad and have since made it habit.  However, this doesn’t mean what you are doing will be any less efficient.  If you already have something in place for those sites that don’t have an app, then keep doing what you’re doing.  I however, prefer to use this method since it works for me, which should be the goal and purpose of any tech you use.  It should work for you.

So this “app” is free and works for any website you access.  I consider this a content consumption app and highly recommend it to anyone that is looking for ways to save some time when accessing sites that don’t have an app associated with them.

#iPad app of the week: Flipboard

I’ve started out a little slow with my blog series so I’m going to try and catch up over the next few days. Today I’m highlighting the app Flipboard. I wasn’t sure what to think when I first downloaded Flipboard. It seemed like an okay app, but I was used to reading my news and blogs via other methods, let’s say very PC like. However, as I played with it more I discovered that the app connects to both Facebook and Twitter, so I went ahead and activated those settings and this was where the power came through for this app. The way Flipboard displays linked content from a tweet has changed how I consume content. Before I had to click on the link in tweet deck to see the website,but now there is a preview of the site within Flipboard and I can load the full site from within Flipboard, which makes it easier to return back to my Twitter feed once I’m done with the article. Other useful features are the ability to follow both Twitter searches and Twitter users, read blogs from Google Reader, and the ability to share with other social networks.

Of all the apps I use on a consistent basis, this is the app I use the most. It is a content consumption app, but a very good app that has changed my PLN for the better. It has made me more productive and informed. The app is free and I would recommend it to anyone. Below are some screen shots.

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