Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend Apple Education’s “Everyone Can Code” event, highlighting Apple’s Swift Playgrounds. Swift is the coding language used to create iOS apps for iPhones and iPads. What was most surprising, given Apple’s history of closed/proprietary systems, is that Swift now plays well with Microsoft, Android, Raspberry Pi, and other platforms, greatly expanding the possibilities for our students who learn Swift.
Swift Playgrounds for the iPad allows users to learn to code through lessons that progress from beginner through complex, including the ability for the learner to create their own playgrounds. Designed for students beginning in sixth grade, I can see the app being used by students as early as fourth grade who are strong readers and/or who have adult assistance. Through the use of the shortcut bar which provides tap-and-add commands, the app bridges the gap between block coding (where the user selects symbols but may have no understanding of the underlying commands and syntax) and free-typing which often results in typos and syntax errors. This is especially helpful in the early stages of learning to code. There’s no need to compile Swift code so once you type a line of code, you can see the results immediately. Playgrounds also identifies errors as you type, simplifying the debugging process.
Swift Playgrounds includes curriculum materials designed to be accessible to teachers who have never coded before, providing educational materials so that the teacher can learn along with their students. Lessons include activities, reflection questions, and journal prompts. You can check out the free course in iTunesU and guides in iBooks.
Finally, Evernote and Google Drive are working together. Often, users find themselves torn between using Google Apps for everything in order to have all their files in one place and easily shared with co-workers or Evernote with its host of features that make it a better note-taking/productivity tool. Oh, and Evernote just looks better, too, if that’s something you care about. (I do!)
Now, you can search Google Drive directly from Evernote. Instead of copying and inserting a link, you now insert the file into Evernote. (You do need to be online to see the file, however, as it doesn’t store the file locally in Evernote.)
Check out the Evernote blog post linked here and then give the beta a spin in Chrome or Android. Hopefully, we will see the same feature rolled out in iOS soon.
Finding multimedia to use in your teaching without copyright infringement concerns can be a challenge.
One source to check out for Social Studies/History, is the National Park Service media collection.
With over 26,000 photos, 2,100 videos, and 600 audio files the National Park Service media collection provides a wealth of material, most of which is in the public domain. A copyright symbol © indicates that the creator may retain some rights to the work, but in all of the searches I’ve done for materials to use in classroom projects, I have not yet run into that situation.
You can even access one of the more than 110 webcams that NPS has set up around the country, including this one of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.
Burlington Public Schools faculty looking for help in integrating these or any other digital resources into your teaching and learning, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a time using the online service linked in the sidebar.
Storyline Online is a free service by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation which provides videos of actors reading children’s books. The selection includes a wide array of popular books, many of which are currently used in BPS classrooms today. They even include one of my personal favorites, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, read by West Wing actor, Bradley Whitford.
Each book and video is accompanied by an Activity Guide which includes lessons, activities, and lists of cross-disciplinary resources.
The issue is this: While we are a 1:1 iPad district for students, educators currently receive two devices, an iPad and either a laptop or Chromebook. From a device management and financial perspective, two devices per education may quickly become an unsustainable arrangement. Pedagogically, the vision is to have teachers teaching and students learning on the same platform. Practically, most teachers struggle with doing a number of teaching and administrative tasks on the smaller iPad screen. Inputting grades and report card comments are two tasks that come to mind as being borderline torturous using Safari or Chrome on the iPad.
Unsurprisingly, as an unrepentant early adopter, I have lusted after the iPad Pro since the day it arrived in the EdTech Department. Borrowing the iPad Pro for a weekend, I was impressed by the ability to split-screen multitask, the clarity and size of the screen, and the feel and accuracy of the “Pencil.” I was practically in tears when I had to return the Pro to factory settings so others could test it out and have nudged Director of Technology Integration, Dennis Villano, for the chance to explore the Pro’s potential further ever since.
Finally, Dennis issued a challenge – give up all of my other devices and see if an iPad Pro could serve as the one and only device for educators at BPS. I actually have to hand them over to be locked up for the duration. Usually, as a device hoarder, I would have been hesitant. This time, however, I’m ready to jump in and go for broke with nothing but an iPad Pro.
Check back here over the next few months to see how I make out.
On my list of abilities to test out:
- Accessing and using our learning/student management systems;
- Creating and teaching lessons, including accompanying materials;
- Managing workflow (student assignments, feedback);
- Screencasting and other “flipped classroom” techniques;
- Collaborative work across different applications;
- Professional Development (providing and partaking) within different applications/settings;
- Document annotation;
- Specialized needs for math and science (notations, simulations, etc.);
- Living without/finding alternatives for some of my “go-to” Mac and Chrome apps;
- Keeping just about everything in the cloud without the availability of major hard-disk space.
What am I missing?
Recently, a teacher reported that the Google Docs app on student iPads was not conforming to the expected iOS typing conventions such as automatically capitalizing the first letter of a sentence and inserting a period when the spacebar is pressed twice.
If you are experiencing similar issues, start by checking the keyboard settings on the students’ iPads. To make sure these options are turned on, go to Settings > General > Keyboard and turn on the relevant options.
I am available to work with you to integrate technology resources into any project, lesson, or unit. Email me at email@example.com or use the Book Now link in the sidebar to the right to set up an appointment.