Monday, August 27, 2012

Fun with iPad: tech tools for teachers

Profgrrrl's post  about wanting to buy (but not really needing) school supplies like paper and pens hit home for me. I want to buy some, but I don't need them. I already have more ink than it would take to write War and Peace, and I went a little crazy and bought too many PaperBlanks journals a few months back, presumably so that I can admire their blank pages since they're too pretty to write in. 

But tech tools are fun, too, and here are a few that I'm trying out this semester. 

  • Strict Pomodoro for Chrome (free) is the, well, strict version of the little red apple app. The Pomodoro app tries to keep you going with its 25-minute intervals, but Strict Pomodoro, like a good Puritan, knows that on some days the flesh is weak. It prevents you from going to your favorite distraction sites during the 25 minutes, so you have to keep going. 
  • (free) I am still hooked on this; I've been getting up at 5 and logging in to this app. Even if the words for that day are all brainstorming or book notes rather than writing, it feels good to get something written before you even start the day, and whatever you write after that is gravy.
  • Scrivener looks as though it will be good if I can ever get through the tutorial.  So far it's tougher to learn than Dreamweaver, but I think it will pay off eventually, especially when I get to figure out how to use those cool little index cards on the corkboard. 
  • Kindle. (free) I still like the Kindle app best for reading, because if it says it downloaded something, it really did download it so you can read it even if you don't have internet access. Also, Kindle lets you mark up the text and saves your notes and quotations to a web site that only you can access. 
  • Google Books (free), I'm sorry to say, has been more sketchy with this: I'll think I have a book downloaded and try to access it somewhere without internet, and the app says, in effect, "Hold on just a sec--need to get a few more files--." Google, I love you for most things, but I don't trust you to keep my books on the iPad where they belong.
  • IAnnotate: still the best way to mark up a public domain book as well as to grade papers. Instead of downloading the version into GooglePlayBooks, I save the .pdf to Dropbox and open it in iAnnotate so that I can mark it up. 
  • Goodreads and Librarything both have a way now to let you scan the ISBN barcode and add a book to your library.  Use the (free) Redlaser app for iPhone or Android to scan the barcodes; send the list to yourself and upload it to Librarything. Julie Duffy explains the process here. Goodreads has an app for this, making the process even easier. 
Grading/Writing/Notes for iPad

I keep collecting notes apps and welcome any advice about which ones you've found most useful. Some have handwriting recognition, some include the ability to record your voice as well as write, and all include a function for typing. Most can import .pdf files so that you can mark them up. 
  • Writepad. This note-taking app has handwriting recognition.
  • Noterize. Another note-taking app, with a yellow notepad-like look to it.
  • Noteshelf. This puts your work into an iBooks-like bookshelf with notebooks. 
  • NotetakerHD. This is a little easier to use than some because its tools are ranged along the bottom of the screen. 
  • Penultimate, which is simple to use and inexpensive. 
  • NotesPlus, which looks really promising. The handwriting recognition feature costs a few dollars extra but will probably be worth it. 
To be honest, I actually end up taking notes by typing on the keyboard and using the following:
  • Docs-to-Go, which syncs with Dropbox and is seamless with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. This is a free-standing app on the iPad and doesn't require internet access. It's a little faster than CloudOn. 
  • CloudOn, a new (free) app that lets you use Word, etc. and works with Dropbox and Box. Since it works by syncing, you'll need internet access. 
  • PlainText, (free) which is good for taking notes in meetings and sending them to yourself. It's very simple to use. 
And, as recommended in Profhacker,  Attendance2, which will let you take attendance on the iPad and email reports to you or your students. There was a learning curve with this one, but I think it looks promising.

[My self-imposed ban on writing about MOOCs is still in effect, so I'm writing about everything but; if your MOOC cravings get too strong, try Historiann and Jonathan Rees. Or maybe Audrey Watters, who talks about some issues with the way that grading actually works in one.]


Stacey said...

Thank you!! Just got a new ipad so this is very useful;-)

undine said...

Thanks, Stacey! I hope it does help. I am still working with the notetaking apps and will update once I have something to contribute. I'd like to hear what you decide.

Bavardess said...

I've been using iAnnotate on the iPad and find I'm having to print out far fewer articles. I probably have a wacky inefficient process, but I email them to myself when I'm done then store the marked up versions using Zotero on my desktop Mac. I like that it works offline, so I can store a bunch of articles to read on the bus etc. I started using Scrivener a few months ago and am finding it really suits my non-linear (a.k.a. chaotic) writing process, especially in the early drafting phases when I'm not yet sure about structure or where stuff will go. Thanks for the tips on the writing apps - I've been looking for something but there are so many to choose from!

undine said...

Bavardess, I like iAnnotate and am going to investigate Zotero; thanks for the tip. I'm going to follow up on the writing apps once I've tried them out a little more.