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App Review: Skitch

It was INSET yesterday and I did some sample lessons for my colleagues which were designed to put them back in the classroom as well as introducing them to some of the apps I have been using. The principle one I worked with was Skitch, one of a range of image annotating apps that are available on the appstore. Most of the videos on youtube suggest that a principle reasons for liking Skitch is because of it’s links with Evernote. However what Skitch gives you is a quick and easy image mark up tool for looking at portraits on cartoons, obviously these can then be saved and emailed to students with ease (or Chirped!). Perhaps more powerfully it allows you to take a picture of a students work and annotate it live on the screen for the benefit of others, perfect for differentiating work, rewarding students who do a good job and highlighting good practice. Skitch has quickly become the app I use most in the clasroom.

App Review: Printer Pro

Free in the appstore today (the iphone version at least) Printer Pro is an excellent app that links to any wireless printer. Quick and easy to set up and use it will really come into it’s own for teachers now that the office suite for ipad has been released. The desktop is looking more and more arcane as each day passes.

App Review: Simplemind+

Today’s app deals with mind-mapping and has been so effective in my teaching I haven’t done a single mindmap by hand since I came across it. Simplemind+ has its flaws of course. I don’t like the fact that I can’t export from it nor can I save my mindmaps online without taking a photo of them on the ipad, but for sheer speedy usability it is the best that I’ve come across. The advantages over the board are manifold. Firstly the mindmap can be saved as a gif and sent to students who are missing. It can be reopened and built on again, used the following year. Plus it forces brevity, gone are the long-winded bullet points I was infamous for, short form rules. Take a look at the video and see what you think, oh and it’s free!

Sources for Courses

My students seem to have become obsessed with tumblr as a means of blogging. In some ways I’m pleased about this as it means they are contributing and getting online, but tumblr does seem to have reduced the possibilities of sharing written thoughts and replaced it with just the reblogging of pictures. While that might be a problem for them it actually made for a simple decision for me. In my teaching I come across huge number of great images across the disciplines, particularly great history material and usually I tweet these and they disappear into the ether, now I’ve set up my own tumblr, http://staceymblog.tumblr.com/ and installed the excellent ‘Post to Tumblr’ extension in chrome meaning as soon as I come across a useful image it can be posted to my tumblr with one click and have appropriate tags put on it, both course tags eg. #gcse or even ones that I think would make interesting starter images. The ease and speed with which this can be done means that I can call things up quickly in a lesson, share with others and take things with me when I leave my current school. And my favourite current picture? This one of Vladimir Putin, disguised as a humble tourist during Reagan’s visit to Moscow.

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RSA becomes more extroverted by celebrating introversion

Susan Cain’s book on introversion has struck a chord with many educators and reminded us to look more deeply at those students who don’t always catch the eye. In this lovely RSA animation one of her examples is nicely celebrated.

App Review: OCR (not the exam board)

For those of us that still have photocopied sheets lying around that we always keep meaning to type up then this is a godsend. OCR or Optical Character Recognition has been steadily improving and there were some good online sites and software out there before the app revolution. Now however the process is so much easier. A quick picture of the requisite page taken with your ipad then run the image through Textgrabber or something similar and suddenly you have an easily manipulable block of text. Great for typed student essays too. However where I find myself most using it is when there is a terrific bit of text on the kindle app that I would love to cut and paste, suddenly, nearly as quickly, it can be clipped and put into a document for my students. I’m sure there are legal ramifications but it is so much easier than photocopying then photoshopping to develop a new resource.

App review: Chirp at half the price

The latest app that I’d like to highlight for school use is the very wonderful Chirp. Chirp bills itself as an audio QR code which makes a lot of sense. I see it as a hugely useful tool for sharing links and notes with large audiences, think parent’s meetings, whole school assemblies, lectures or staff meetings where the presentation will be wanted by some in the audience. The video below shows it in use.


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