Sep 182013

A colleague of mine has been asked to help a school out with writing on the iPad, and asked if I had any suggestions for great writing apps. It’s a good question, and there are MANY options to consider. It all depends on your budget, what features you need, and what sort of experience you are looking for.

As far as any apps that will help with the mechanics of writing, I don’t really have any suggestions. I would be interested to see if anyone knows of any apps out there that would help with that.

Evernote is a first obvious choice. It’s not just a note taking app, and it has a lot of great features that students can utilize for research and writing in general. I’ve written about it on my blog – check it out for more info. Evernote and an Evernote account are free. There may be an issue if the writers are under 13 years old…

The next obvious choice is Pages, Apple’s word processing and page layout app. This one is expensive ($9.99, $4.99 for 20+ copies through Apple’s Volume Purchasing Program) but it is the best thing out there for writing on the iPad, hands down.

Google Drive is a fantastic (and free) solution if the district/school you are working with has adopted the Google Apps Domain for teacher/student email and all of the other great additions that come along. If not, this will work if students can create and access a regular GMail account as well. You can do some amazing collaborative things with Google Drive. The one big drawback for Drive right now is that you can not create or edit a presentation on an iPad. I’m sure that ability is coming soon.

I’ve not used it, but many are suggesting PlainText for a free, stripped down, bare bones writing app on the iPad. Sometimes a simple bare bones app is a good thing. I think many times teachers and students get hung up and focus too much on what the document looks like, and less on the content and ideas. It’s much easier to fuss with fonts than to perfectly phrase a thought, and so that’s what they spend time, focus and energy on. PlainText also saves/syncs with Dropbox, so that’s nice.

CloudOn would not be my first choice, but it’s certainly worth mentioning. It’s basically Microsoft Office on the iPad for free. You can save documents directly on the iPad, or you can connect to other Cloud storage systems (Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, & SkyDrive). The drawback is that you must have an Internet connection to use it – you are basically connecting to a virtual server running the desktop version of Office somewhere in the cloud. I personally don’t like the clutter of Word/Office, but many people love and want Office on the iPad.

I’ve really been enjoying Drafts lately for it’s ease of use and flexibility, but it costs as well ($3.99). When you launch Drafts, you are presented with a blank document and a blinking cursor – no hoops to jump through to start writing. Each ‘draft’ is saved, listed in the left sidebar, accessed by a swipe. Then, when you are ready to do something with your draft, swipe from right to left to show the myriad of sharing/saving options.

The last one I’ll mention is Quip. This is relatively new and I have not had much of a chance to put it through it’s paces. It comes from some very smart people (developed by ex Facebook CTO) and has been built from the ground up to work with mobile devices. It’s a little quirky with some new gestures and such, but looks like a really good tool.

Apr 222013

What you’ll need:

  • A backup of your Posterous site. Instructions for this are below the video.
  • A Dropbox account: If you don’t have one, create one here.
  • A Google Site: Instructions to create a Google Site are below the video as well.

Note: This process will not import individual posts from your Posterous site. I’m only showing the steps to embed the content of your Posterous site as an accessible archive. If you’d like to have each post imported, use WordPress.

All you need to know about archiving your Posterous blog/site/space in a Google Site:

If you have not done so already, you’ll need to request a backup of your Posterous site if you do not want to loose the posts, media and content you’ve uploaded to it. The steps to do this are:

  1. Go to
  2. Click to request a backup of your Space by clicking “Request Backup” next to your Space name.
  3. When your backup is ready, you’ll receive an email. Each time I’ve done this and everyone I’ve talked to have never received an email notification. Just move on to #4 after a few hours.
  4. Return to to download a .zip file.

Creating a new Google Site is easy. If you do not have a Gmail account, you can sign up for one here. Once you have a Gmail account and are signed in, follow the steps below:

  1. In Gmail, look for a black bar of links near the top of the page. Click Sites in this bar.
  2. Click the red Create button.
  3. The Blank template option is chosen by default, and I would recommend sticking with that.
  4. Name your site – this will become the site title or banner text.
  5. Google will automatically give you a Site location, but this can be altered or shortened if you’d prefer (for example, as well as an optional description of the site. The URL you choose can’t be changed after you create your site, or used again if the site is deleted.
  6. Pick a theme for your site.
  7. Explore the More options choices and include this information if you wish.
  8. Click the red Create button near the top of the window.
  9. Now that you’ve created your site, you can create a new page by clicking the Create page button.

Google Sites for Teachers

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Apr 182013

Take a look at my Demo Site which shows and describes the types of pages you can create in your Google Site. Be sure to check out the Google Sites Help Center to help make your site great!

We will also take a look at a wonderfully visual bookmarking site called Symbaloo. It’s free to sign up, and you can create custom ‘Webmixes’ with tiles linking to your students favorite and most used sites. Here’s my Webmix of my recommended educational iPad apps.

Apr 152011

How to Use Cell Phones as Learning ToolsRegardless of your school’s cell phone policy, the reality in most schools is that students have phones in their pockets, purses, or hoodies. Why not get these tools out in plain sight and use them for good and not evil?

Here are some easy to use strategies to use cell phones in the classrooms.

Why Use Cell Phones as Learning Tools

Cell phones are different from a computer lab filled with computers or a cart of netbooks because the cell phone is personal technology. Most students have invested a great deal of time learning about the features of the cell phone, how to navigate and the limitations of the phone. The other reason to really rethink the cell phone debate is because learning on the cell phone can extend beyond the walls of the school or the confines of a class period.

Some people may want to ban cell phones from classrooms, but I disagree. We didn’t ban pens in our schools because students can pass notes during class. The pencils have also survived even though you could poke someone in the eye. And the amount of paper that is generated in most schools is almost criminal. This is a new time in education and with dwindling budgets , so we need to rethink possibilities, stretching every dollar. These mini computers are walking through the doors each day, let’s put them to work.

Before you consider trying any of these ideas, make sure you understand the policies that are in place and your have checked with your administrator.

Cell Phone Learning Strategies

Recording Lectures: The “Flipped Classroom

Many teachers are structuring their lessons in what is being coined “Flipped Classroom”. These teachers are recording their “lectures” using video or audio and students are listening to that outside of class as the homework and in class they are completing the practice and the teacher serves as a guide, re-teaching as needed. On most cell phones with a data plan students can watch a video of a previous lesson of an appropriate clip on You Tube.

Use Cell Phones as Your Student Response System

Using and your students’ cell phones, you can track instant answers from all your students. It’s free for classrooms of 30 people or less.

Gina Hartman an eMINTS Instructional Specialist at Francis Howell School District in Missouri shared a fantastic new Web 2.0 site named The teacher creates a wiffiti screen and students can text in their opinions.

One teacher used this to summarize Act 1, Scene 1 from Romeo and Juliet. They texted in the short summary and it showed up on the screen. In another classroom the students had think about the time period that Andrew Johnson was in office and text something into the wiffiti screen that would have been something he would have tweeted back then. I love this example, talk about engaging students.

Delivering Materials

As more curriculum materials are delivered digitally creative teachers are delivering materials directly to students on their personal cell phones. One such platform is School Town. This learning platform makes it possible for teachers and students to collaborate in discussion areas and chat with each other making blended learning a real possibility.

Awesome Teacher Apps

Dropbox: One of my most beloved apps is dropbox. Dropbox allows all my computers and my phone to interact together. So the photo I take on my cell phone can be put in my Dropbox app and now it is available on all my devices, love it!

Evernote: Next in line of cool apps for the classroom is Evernote. This handy app lets you type a text note, or clip a web page. If your phone has a camera you can snap a photo, and now you can also grab a screenshot. Like dropbox it doesn’t matter what device you are on, they all sync together.

Solving Common Problems Using Cell Phones in Class

Students without Cell Phones / Smart Phones
Other issues arise because not every student has a cell phone. The easiest way to work around this is to have students working in groups, collaborating and solving problems together. Now we only need one cell phone to report out the group work. If we get creative, any problem can be solved.

Wireless Access
Wireless access might be another problem. Smart phone users will usually try and find a wireless network instead of going through the provider signal. With all these added devices your network may be burdened. Also cell phone reception is an issue in many schools. If this is the case, you may want to focus more of the group work or homework-related cell phone strategies.

Keeping Cell Phone Use Appropriate
Thinking about using cell phone in the classroom we need to make sure we involve our students in the conversation. Let them teach us about how to reduce the fear of theft or inappropriate use. Every student should be reminded every day about appropriate technology use, and what to do if the rules are broken. We need to help students understand the ramifications of things like cyberbullying , sexting and posting things to social networking sites.

Where do you stand on the cell phone in class debate? Share your thoughts or your creative ways to use cell phones in school in the comments section!


Great article – I present many of these same strategies in my “Cell Phones Are NOT Evil” presentation. With planning and cooperation, along with some good classroom management, these amazing tools – that students are providing – can be leveraged affectively in the classroom.