What’s you Fav iPad App?

Do you get asked this at all? Every digital trainer who works with iPads gets this a lot and the answer is usually, “It depends what you want to do.” It’s like asking someone about their favourite device. You couldn’t get by with just one of them. It’s the ‘right tool for the right job’ right?

screenshot-2016-10-21-at-10-27-32-amWell – if you asking me about my favourite iPad app to encourage teachers to do more than CONSUME and move to a CREATIVE use, then you can’t beat Book Creator! It wins hands down for me on multiple levels.

Here’s a post I’ve written for that explains my 5 reasons why it’s my favourite app in the classroom. You can see me explain it’s

  • versatility,
  • simplicity,
  • accessibility
  • development and
  • smashability.


I’m also about to experiment with the Playstore version so I can access the app on my new touch screen Chromebook. It could get even better!





3 Ways to get the most out of your Sphero robots in the classroom!

Last week I was helping the Macgear team demonstrate the Sphero SPRK (Schools, Parent, Robots and Kids) robots to educators at the NZ Ulearn Conference in Rotorua. Here’s a short vid I made that shows some of the snippets of what we were up to for the 2 days.

We use these robots in our STEM workshops with teachers and they’re one of my favourite STEM tools to use; I’ll explain why in a later post. Here’s a link to our upcoming events page where you can see the dates and venues of some STEM workshop days coming up. (Let me know if your schools would be interested in hosting!)

Here are 3 ways to make sure you’re getting ‘learning bang’ for your buck with your Sphero.

1.The teacher is ALWAYS key!

Just like every learning situation, the role of the teacher is paramount. And not in a central, dominant way but as a facilitator, driver, connector and coach. The learning that happens is always best done in discover mode, where the learners are working things out, solving their own problems and making their own ‘cognitive links.’ It’s the teacher, however, who has a crucial part to play to;

a) Frame the activity – create the motivating problem or scenario,

b) Help redirect and scaffold the learner towards some learning outcomes,

c) Provide the framework for reflection and to help students make connections with what they’ve learned – and the space to share those with others.

2. Use a great learning app, like The Lightning Lab

This app – The Lightning Lab, is a great app to use with the Sphero SPRK, partly because of the community you can connect with. Students can download other people’s programmes and build on top, or alternatively, create their own programme and become Sphero authors by uploading to the community themselves!

SPRK Lightning Lab App – IOS Android, Chrome OS.

The community section also has activities and lessons that teachers and students have written and shared within the app – it’s a great way to share learning experiences and get ideas for your next activity. An even better idea is to have students create a learning experience (around a concept such as angles, gravity, friction etc) and share with others through the app!

3. Combine the digital with the material world…like a boss!

I love seeing the digital world interact with the material – afterall, that’s reality! When we scaffold experiences like the one in the video, where we make a craft that will move across the water, and include a coded programme for the Sphero to automate the craft, we are connecting so many areas of the curriculum and AMPLIFYING the learning. Who doesn’t like getting hands on with things!


Those are my three tips! Do you have any other ideas or things you know work with your Spheros? Leave a comment below or retweet this link in Twitter with an idea to share.


How to make a GIF on a Mac

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-6-59-48-amGIFs are huge right now – a GIF is a ‘graphical interface format’ and a great way to get a quick message across. It’s something I want to start using more in instructional blog posts.
Here’s a cool GIF making app that you can download (in beta mode) that works pretty well on your Mac. It’s called Gifrocket and the UI (user interface – it’s an acronym morning!) is brilliant. Just drag, drop and enjoy. Love it.

Here’s a GIF I’ve made that will be on an upcoming post. Oooo, the suspense.


Chromebooks on a Macbook?

Most NZ Primary teachers have Macbooks as their main teaching tool under the Ministry’s leasing scheme, but their student have Chromebooks. This isn’t a bog deal as most of what they do with their students is in the cloud on platforms such as Google.

screen_shot_2016-09-15_at_11_05_42_amBut – every now and again it’s helpful to be able to model things using the same OS (operation system) as the students, especially in the early days of setting classrooms and accounts up. So what to do? A teacher ‘could’ just use a Chromebook  in those situation but that would be much too easy and no where near as cool as using Parallels!

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-11-10-06-amThis software (comes with a free trial for 14 days and costs $79 after that) runs a different OS inside your MacOS in a seperate window. Simply download, install and choose the Chromium OS system download to get going. And then you are away!

You can also run Windows 10, even an Android phone’s OS if you really wanted to…I did and it was totally nerdy fun!




Book Creator Comic Tips

This week I’ve been making some comics with a class in the Book photoCreator app. It’s part of a bigger ‘app-smash’ we’re working on by combining the comic with the Explain Everything app to make an animated video.

Here are some tips to creating a comic with backgrounds, characters, and layered objects to give your comics a super professional look!


1. Insert a background into each panel.

The new updated Book Creator has a great comic layout with loads of comic like features. Elements such as stickers, comic looking fonts and text functions and PANELS! These are one of my ‘go-tos’ for students adding photos into a page. When they click the photo or camera icon within a panel the app fits the photo perfectly inside it.

When adding a background image for your comic strip, use this approach to give each panel the right backdrop. You can use the same image and zoom in or out for each panel using the 2 finger pinch and stretch.


transparent2. Use the ‘transparent’ option when searching for character images.

Students can search and save the right character images on a Google search by finding and using a ‘long press’ on the image to ‘Save image.’ This will appear in their camera roll for use later.

BUT, if you want to use images that can be layered without a background attached to the actual image (it will look like the character is cut out) then use the ‘Search tools > Color > Transparent’ function to search for PNG files. These will have a grey and white checkered background when opened and these save as PNGs for you to add to your comics.


3. Add your characters with the + icon.character

When you’re adding the characters you will need to use the + button at the top right of the screen, rather than the camera and photo function inside the panel. If you use that function then the character will replace the background of the panel. The + button process will let you move the character over top or inside the panel as needed.


layering4. Layer the objects using the ‘move forward and back’ section.

The last step is to work on getting your characters, stickers, speech bubbles and other elements to be layered in the right way. The default order is that the last thing added will go to the top…but to change this order simply select the element, click on the ‘I’ (or inspector) and use the ‘Move forward and back’ function. This lets you order the elements how YOU want them.


And here’s the finished product of all of these tweeks. It’s incredible what students can create using a few techniques and the greatest thing is seeing the sense of accomplishment and pride at what they’ve achieved – as well as the chance to consolidate and deepen their understanding of new learning.



Camels and Pokemon – VLOG #005

This is the fifth Vlog of a travel series I’ve started – this one is from a day off in Sydney. I’m loving the learning process that comes from discovering how to construct a story, film the clips and the combine them with the soundtracks.

Very fun!

fav 1

My Favourite Video Site = Youtube

fav 1.pngThis is the first of a series of ‘My Favourites’ posts. There are loads of different options for things when it comes to tools and resources but sometimes it pays to have a favourite. One tool that you commit to, develop a real depth of understanding about and build up a profile of bookmarks and links within it.

This first ‘Favourite’ is one of my favouritist favourites. Here are 5 reasons why Youtube is the video platform to rule them all!

1. Shear volume of content – Youtube hasvideo a remarkable 500 hours of video upload every minute! That’s a LOT of watching, but the upside is that you are just about guaranteed to find what you are looking for. As a teacher (or if you want to learn about or fix anything) this is a gold mine of a resource.

2. Removal of visual distractions – one of the problems with video platforms are the distracting ‘suggested videos’ that they display and Youtube is no different. When you use a Chrome Browser, however, you can download extensions (like the DF Youtube extension) that will only show the video you want to show!

Screen_Shot_2016-09-06_at_6_22_39_AM3. Subscriptions and Playlists – when you have a Google account and have signed into Youtube, you can subscribe to a channel and receive notifications whenever they have new content or uploads. This is a great way of keeping up with developments from apps and tools you already use. As well as following your favourite up-loaders – here are some of my favourite channels.

4. Filtering Options – If you’re a GAFE school you now have the option of restricting videos to those approved by Google for Education, or even only those approved by teachers at your school. These settings can be found in the Admin Console and clicking on ‘Other Google Apps.’


5. HIGH Definition – Youtube has different settings for your device to get the best stream rate for your screen or wifi connection. You can leave the settings on automatic and it will set the stream rate to be best for your connection. Otherwise, choose the higher settings such as 1080 or 4K(if you have a screen that rates that high) and watch the video the way nature intended!

Screen_Shot_2016-09-06_at_6_29_25_AM6. Baked in Video Editing! – I’m not sure of any other video streaming platform that has an editing suite built into it. The Youtube Video Editor lets you upload video, add audio, captions, photos and transitions. It even has some free licensed music to add as soundtracks which has a huge range of tunes to choose from. Just go to My Channel > Manage Subscriptions > Create.


I’m such a Youtube Fan that I’ve subscribed to Youtube Red. This gives you no ads, save videos off-line and play videos in the background – perfect for screening to a Chrome Cast. It’s totally my fav!


Tech Tips Video – How to import codes from VPP to Meraki

Here’s a quick ‘Tech Tips’ video on a question I was recently asked, and one that comes up often. It can be a bit of a rabbit warren to navigate around the Meraki site but hopefully this helps to give some direction.

Remember that when pushing the apps to iPads you could have iPads in tags and select those instead of ‘select all’ if you wish.

Check out the Youtube link for links to Meraki and the VPP.


#Eduinfopics – Posters that say a whole lot

Here’s the latest of my #eduinfopics. Today I worked with some Year 2 children on an eBook project we’re putting together to learn about time and clocks. The students are working in pairs – something that I’m finding is the best ratio for learning on iPads – without a doubt. Here’s why;

  • working in 3s leaves 1 person left out,
  • 2s always has someone to ask first when the other forgets,
  • it enables students to work on their collaborative skills – listening, sharing, co-operating etc