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. 

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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!

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.


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!