How do you do, To-Do? – App Of the Week.

I had a funny ‘tweet off’ with a friend this week who couldn’t believe I was using a Microsoft app on my iPhone. MS has had a bad rep with a lot of Apple and Google diehards the last few years and it’s fun to show them how much they’ve improved their game – especially with IOS apps. This morning I counted 146 iPad and iPhone apps from the Microsoft Corporation!

IMG_1188Here’s my app of the week, from MS – To-Do. I know what you’re thinking – “Not ANOTHER list app!” But, if you’re juggling as many balls as I do then they are a must to help you from dropping them all.

Things I love about To-Do.

  • Clean simple interface
  • Easy to link, create and organise your tasks
  • Nice link from my ‘To do list” through to what they call “My Day.” This is a nice way to prioritise my daily tasks from my on-going projects.

Have a look and see for your self and tell me what you use to stay organised. I’d love to see what tools you use to control your chaos.

– leave a comment below or reply to any tweets linked to this post. 

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 12.12.09 PM

Go where the water is – it’s green there!

How is our profession doing? I say ‘our’ knowing full well that I’ve been out of the classroom now for 2 and half years. (That realisation dawned on me only yesterday, in conversation.)

I talked recently with a Principal who reflected that she and other Principals she connects with have noticed a gap appearing in our ranks. It would seem that we have a growing number of brand new teachers, and a stoic group of experienced, older teachers but there seems to be a trend for those teachers in between these groups who are looking for opportunities outside of schools, and outside of the classroom.

Is this actually happening country-wide (I live in NZ) and if it is, why do you think it’s happening? I know that I often read and hear directly from teachers about the challenges they face now; parent dissatisfaction, assessment schedules, workload, student behaviour…the list goes on.

I’m also equally talking with Principals (in some cases, in the same conversation) about how exciting our sector is at the moment. Teachers are discovering new ways to engage their students, to create with and inspire their students that it makes you want to jump out of bed each morning and run to class.

Maybe the answer to coping with the stress and challenge is to embrace the new and exciting. Easy for me to say. And possibly easy for me to share.

What this does make so crucial is the need to connect with others who are excited, creative, engaged – other teachers who are embracing the change and inspiring each other.

Image – Pixaby


Will iPad purchases make a comeback against Chromebooks?

Untitled DesignThere’s been a lot written lately about the losing battle for the hearts and minds of schools between Google and Apple (not to mention Microsoft’s resurgence), mostly evidenced by the sales of Chrome Books beating iPads in the last few years. A lot of that chatter comes down to 2 points.

  • Price – Chrome Books are far cheaper and give schools a higher ratio straight off the bat.
  • Management – iPads are just not as simple to setup and share between students.

But this week there are signs that there could be a change to the status quo. Yesterday’s Apple announcement that they are releasing a new iPad was not super surprising news; this happens every year. What WAS a surprise is the price! The new updated version of the iPad Air 2, called simply ‘iPad’ has been listed on the Apple website in NZ at $539. While not AS cheap, it’s still much closer than it has ever been.

In fact, this article from 9to5mac suggests it may show signs of a change to the pricing of Apple’s products across the board. Time will tell about that.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 8.04.06 AM

What I often suggest to schools is that when taking cost into consideration (and I argue that this is probably the last factor to take into account) they should always not look at just the purchase cost but the cost of the device over time. How long will that device last your students? Anecdotal evidence suggests that iPads last at least 30% longer in a school. If the cost difference is now less than that 30%, does that make the iPad price a little more shiny?

STEM Elements

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 7.06.59 AM.pngOne of our most popular regional events is the “STEM and Digital Technologies” workshop we offer. Teachers have a day to explore both the pedagogy of STEM and get hands on with a range of technologies, from Sphero SPRK+, to low tech gear like popsical sticks and ping pong balls! You can see a Twitter moment here which gives you a small window into the action!

This week I’ve been updating some of the material we share on the day and I’ve adjusted this graphic of the ‘STEM Elements’, based on based on the book, “STEM Lesson Essentials, Grades 3-8” by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider, Michael Comer. STEM ELEMENTS (1)


These elements are a great way to make the important aspects of STEM stand out for teachers and I also encourage them to use these four elements as a planning guide when they’re preparing to engage students in STEM. When we have an empty box it forces us to fill it in! It’s a helpful way to help us engrain this thinking when we are starting out and a good technique to foster new pedagogies into our school culture.

STEM ELEMENTS planning (1).png

Here are some images from the workshop ran last Wednesday. If you’d like to host a regional STEM event at your school, or have me work exclusively with your staff, contact me here on Twitter or use the contact widget on this page.


Listen to the Learning Chatter

If you’re like me then you love using technology to engage and motivate learning in your classroom. One of the ‘hits’ you often have to take when you do this is being labelled as a ‘teacher into toys.’ It’s frustrating to hear since you know and have seen the difference they can make for your learners.

img_2650One of the ways you can show others the benefits of these ‘toys’ is to record some of the conversations that your students are having during activities. I’ve started to call this;

  • LEARNING CHATTER = the language and conversations of learning in action.

Here’s a video of some sound bites I captured with one group at a recent Sphero SPRK+ demo hour I took at a local Primary School. Listen for the subject based vocab, the design thinking and collaboration here.


Coding Resources Hyperdoc

There will be a load of teachers in Australia and New Zealand starting to think about planning for the year ahead with a new class and a new group of students. One of the things we are always hoping to do is to inspire and motivate them in those first few weeks.

What better way to do this than to launch them into the world of coding! If you’re after a resource to help you get started, here’s a poster with some clickable links to take you straight to the app or website you’ll need.


There are resources for anyone just starting out, through to more advanced users who are looking to develop their understanding of syntax coding. I’ve also written about this in more depth here, on our website at Using Technology Better. Click the links below to see the online versions and download your own copy if needed using the links at the top of the PDF.

Google Drive – Coding Resources Download

Microsoft OneDrive  – Coding Resources Download

Being ‘Tech Multi-Lingual’

For the last 2 years I’ve been a full time digital learning specialist. That’s a long winded way of saying I’m a technology coach in schools. It’s the culmination of having a growing interest in technology while I was a teacher, that expanded from being the school IT lead teacher, to facilitating a cluster of schools, then being full time in an itinerant role in my local city and finally, now, working full time for Using Technology Better, an international training company.

teh-1For most of this journey, especially while working in schools, you are usually locked into one technology ecosystem. Schools either adopt one platform or another and mostly since teachers (on the whole) struggle to keep up with technology as it is and the last thing we need is people on different devices confusing things. It’s also easier for the IT department or person to manage. (Let’s be honest…that’s usually the reason.)

tech pic.jpgSo I’ve spent most of my time in the Apple world, using Google and later on, Chrome Books. I dabled with Samsung phones (I loved my first S4 and the camera it had at the time) but have mostly used iPhones and Macbooks for the last 8 years. But if you saw my desk at moment – it’s a range of Apple, Microsoft and Chrome Books. And I would use most of this gear on a daily basis!

I remember a conversation with a colleague of mine, about 3 years ago. She was starting to work as a digital learning consultant and I asked which platform she used. Her reply took me back. She said they had to be ‘device agnostic.’ It just sounded plain weird! In those days you were either a PC or a Mac person. And you still hear comments like that now. I know people who won’t go near a kind of device cause it’s not from ‘their tribe’ regardless of whether it might have merit or value for what they’re trying to do.

So now, my role is to help schools learn to get the most out of whatever platform they are using. I’m currently preparing to train teachers in the Office 365 environment with Onenote and Microsoft Classroom – and these tools are amazing! I’m super impressed with the way that OneNote structures their notebooks and tabs, and connects with digital ink (the stylus and the drawing function) in a way that is so familiar to every teacher, for marking and editing student work for example.snip_20170107114317

I think, my main point here is that schools and teachers would benefit so much if the people making the decisions about what tech they use had an open mind to the range of options out there! And maybe, in the next few years we will see schools being open to having ‘the right tool for the right job’ with a range of different devices being used across the school. The days of, ‘We’re a Mac school’ or ‘We’re a Google school’ could be a thing of the past as we become ‘Tech Multi-Lingual.’

BUT –  I think I know the reasons why schools go in one direction or the other. BYOD programmes that let students bring any kind of device into classrooms with teachers who aren’t prepared for the range of tech is a recipe for disaster. What I’m advocating and talking about is a shifting world where we increasingly live and work in a shared tech space. Not most but many of us are realising the benefits of it and I think schools will shortly follow suit.

Are you seeing this in your schools?


Google Calendar Goal Update

Google Calendar has been my default calendar for over 10 years now! That’s a long time in anyone’s books and it keeps getting better. Last year (2016 – getting my head around that still) I got really used to using the IOS Google Calendar app – especially for the integration with reminders and the Keep app.

Today Google released an update for the ‘goals’ feature that lets you set some goals around fitness, building a skill, friends and family time etc. The app takes you through some questions that set when, how long and what you’re hoping to do and then synchs that info with your calendar and sends you reminders. You can also tell the app when you’ve completed the goal and it keeps track of your progress for the week.

Open the app, bottom right corner click the ‘plus.’
Calendar selects the best time for your goal. You can change this, though.

I’ve set a goal for this month to run every day, for at least 30 minutes each morning. We’ll see how that goes!

There’s also a feature that stores your info from your fitness tracker which I’m still working out…haven’t managed it yet for my Apple Watch but will record how when I do.


STEM is not a supplement, it’s critical! 

I’m facilitating another STEM workshop today with some teachers where we explore the pedagogy and principles of the STEM learning approach. We also get to play with a great range of tech, from low tech ping pong balls and rubber bands through to high tech robotics and drones.

But my main objective for these action packed days is to instil in the attendees the purpose and ‘why’ of STEM education. As an off shoot of this, what I’ve come to realise as one of my driving passions; to demonstrate that learning can be an active, social and exciting process! It doesn’t need to be dry and systematic as it often can become.

But my other drive, and the main purpose of STEM learning theory, is the real need to see our children “equipped and enabled for a highly technological world.” This is taken from “STEM Lessons Essentials, Grade 3 to 8” by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider and Michael Comer. It’s the ‘why’ that gives STEM its fuel and nothing says more about this than an article I saw this morning.

Amazon in the US has announced that they are about to introduce some new technology to the supermarket industry that will enable shoppers to select their food items and walk out of the shop without the need to cue or see an assistant. The tech in the trolley will scan your items and you can pay through an app on your phone.

The reality of many shop assistants and support staff, 75% by some estimates, loosing their jobs is very real. This is an example of meneal task employment being overtaken by technology. The only comforting thing about this is that the tech will need designers, coders, technicians and so on.

Are our children being prepared for this world? The tech will always develop and the only constant will be change. Do we still need convincing that STEM is the way forward? I’d advocate that it’s not a supplementary approach any more. It’s a critical part of their development!

Find my iPhone! Arghhh

Have you ever had to use this feature? I hope you never do… It’s been one of the most stressful hours of my year! Here’s a brief summary of my trauma.

Yesterday morning I drove into Auckland with my dad to see the All Blacks play Ireland, at a sports bar. We were going to meet my brother who lives in town and on the way I realised I’d left my iPhone at home (or so I’d thought), which is unusual for me as I carry it EVERYWHERE! I then spent the entire game experiencing what life can be like without a phone to fill in all those little spare moments; browsing Twitter, reading the news etc.

When we got home I turned the lounge upside down looking for the phone in the place I ‘thought’ it was. It wasn’t! Enter, increased heart rate and an impending insurance claim and panic! This is when you realise you can ‘ping’ your phone on your Apple Watch. Lots of listening later and we still can’t find it.

So the next step is to launch into where you can search for your phone on the ‘Find my iPhone’ app. This needs to be activated in your phone settings and uses location setting to show you where your phone is. I’ve used this years ago when we discovered my phone was done the back of the couch in my old classroom.

When we saw where my iPhone was pinging, we realised why we couldn’t hear the pinging; it was showing up exactly where we had parked earlier that morning! Worse than that, it looked like someone had it in an apartment block across the road.

Now this is where all the worse case scenarios go racing through your mind. Some ratbag has my phone, they’ve hacked into it (I have the finger scanner enabled but the worse number passcode ever imagined to let the kids get into it if they need to) and are looking through my photos, accessing my information and who knows what else!

The ‘Find my iPhone’ app online lets you put the phone into ‘lost mode’ which puts a message on the screen with a contact phone number. That obviously assumes that you’re dealing with a first class citizen who doesn’t consider finding a $1300 phone a stroke of luck and decides to do the right thing. I always hope there are people like that out there, but when it’s your phone on the line then the likely hood of that happening is 1000 to 1.

So what to do next? Frantically on your brother to race down there and ask anyone who would listen if they’ve seen or found a phone. While he was doing this the phone location seemed to move across the road, to a car rental lot. Someone was walking around with it! Or so I thought. Actually, it turned out that the signal was just updating and relocating the exact position.

How did this end up? It turns out that my brother was the hero on the day and found it sitting in the gutter, on its side so making it very hard for anyone to see. And it had no scratches! What are the chances.

So here’s the moral of the story:

  1. Enable the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature in your iPhone settings. The process can be seen here.
  2. Make sure you have a secure password!
  3. Look the phone up on as soon as you suspect it’s missing and enable the ‘lost mode’ asap. This locks it down and displays a message that you choose to display.
  4. Notify the police as soon as you can. If you think that the phone is not going to be returned or found you should select the ‘erase my phone’ option.
  5. Don’t loose your phone in the first place. It’s too important… and not worth the stress!