The first Web2.0, comprehensive iPhone education app?

By Jonathan Nalder, and Shane Roberts

One common problem for educators seeking to use the iPhone or iPod touch in their learning environment is the fact that the most common uses of the devices for things such as taking attendance, voice recording or interfacing with learning management systems (such as Moodle) require constant exiting and switching between several different apps. All this switching has the potential to keep teacher eyes off students for the precious seconds it takes for them to go off-task.  Excessive app-switching will also increase the number of applications accessing the device memory, resulting in a slower operational and response time.

Helping to solve this problem is a new app from iKonstrukt thats simply titled ‘Educate’. Unlike many other education apps released so far for the platform, ‘Educate’ groups several common functions into one program, meaning that running a lesson requires less app-switching. These multiple functions include an inbuilt calendar with welcome widescreen mode, an attendance and grade marking database, a stopwatch, voice recorder, photo tool (take images and add text to them), reference area (with numerous teaching strategy tips) and link to online learning system Moodle (apparently integration with the other main LMS Blackboard is being looked at for a future release).

So can this app live up to its ambitious name of providing everything needed to educate a student? Bearing in mind that this is a 1.0 release, and still has a few quirks (that running the ‘free memory’ app first often helps with), it has in our 3 days of testing proved to be a great start at accomplishing just this lofty goal. It does need the ability to import student names as well as calendar data before time-poor teachers may really start to use all of its planner and tracker features to the full.

What may really convince some Teachers to purchase Educate is its Moodle integration, but I haven’t been able to test this, with my school being Blackboard-based. The app does however seem at this point to only allow the posting of content to Moodle; I’m not sure if …

Another unique Educate feature that should be noted is its in-built link to the app’s Facebook support page where help forums and the growing number of other educators using the app can be directly accessed, again all without closing the app itself.

So is it worth its price of US$6.99 ($8.99 in Australian store)? The answer to this question may depend on how much your school could benefit from mobile access to Moodle, but for those doing the math (one function which you do still have to switch out of Educate for – think I’ll make a calculator a feature request), Educate’s price is cheaper by quite a bit than buying separate apps to get the same functionality.

On the other hand: Why I won’t purchase Educate (personal opinion of shanetechteach);
1. Lesson planning is “trapped” within the device.  I can’t access it from my other devices, or share it with others.  How can my students see my planning?
2. Doesn’t integrate with BlackBoard.
3. Grade and attendance data seems to be trapped within the application.

I will stick to the use of multiple and free applications until it has a process to copy data from the iPhone or iPod Touch to your laptop or desktop.  Where recording of grades and attendance is completed in one program, export is required for school specific processes so that teacher work is not increased by double input. For example, my school uses IDAttend for attendance and OneSchool for reporting. Cohort grades are centrally recorded on a network spreadsheet. As a Head of Department it would not be in my interests to have each of my teacher’s grades stored separately, and only on their device.

So I personally will stick with Google calandar (synced to the iPod Touch calendar) for my lesson planning; iTalk and Evernote for images, notes and voice recording.  BlackBoard will still require me to use my computer so no advantage there.

In summary, its great to see a specific education application developed for teachers, however it does not offer the services that would convince me to purchase it - yet?

By the way readers, there’s an active feature request page HERE:

Full details:
Educate: iPhone & iTouch App for Teachers

Educate is an iPhone/iTouch application designed to support teaching professionals in schools, universities and colleges. Featuring inbuilt lesson planning, student tracking, teaching strategies and eLearning tools, Educate provides teachers with a holistic approach to engaging students in 21st century learning environments.

Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWzPFgZKY9w

Key Features:

Plan lessons: Educate’s inbuilt weekly planner allows teachers to personalise their timetable and plan lessons all from a single interface.

Monitor student attendance and progress: Quickly and easily track student attendance or performance in classes via ready made scales.

Engage students at a deeper level: Access easy to follow strategies for engaging students during individual or collaborative activities.

Implement eLearning: Post real time content to Moodle learning spaces, anywhere, anytime. Also, access critical tools such as a voice recorder for anecdotal notes, a camera that allows you to label images and a stopwatch for time-critical tasks.

Collaborate with other Educate users: Connect online through Facebook with other Educate users to discuss pedagogical practice, suggest application features and seek support.

Price: $6.99 US

Itunes Link: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=313379802&mt=8

6 Queensland Educators talk about the iPod Touch

This new paper describes how Australian teachers are using the iPhone and iPod Touch to A. assist them as Educators, and B. to enhance learning. As such, it presents a vital survey of apps and ideas to be shared with other teachers also beginning to use this platform. Thanks to the included Teachers for their keen responses.

6 Educators Talk About iPhone Use High Qual

Challenge Based Learning w’ Marco Torres

I had the great pleasure this week of attending a colloqium with well-known ADE Marco Torres. At this event, we got to hear in a conversational atmosphere from Marco’s substantial international perspective on how technology can engage learners and transform learning. The man himself teachers at a large (5000+) highschool in California, where he has just been named Educator of the year. He is also a member of Barack Obama’s education team, and has worked with Apple, George Lucas and the Mythbusters.

The topics of the day were digital storytelling and challenge-based learning. Marco spoke about how the big challenge for the US in coming out of the financial crisis is to sove its problems in three areas: sustainability, health care, and education. One of Marco’s contribution to the education area has been to point out that the number one way that year 9 students define school is ‘boring’. Solution? Challenge students and teachers to both become co-learners through challenge-based activities that inspire deeper engagement than set tasks where student-input is low.

Marco used the Mythbusters approach as a great example of this – where the interest of the challenge (myth or not?) and the learning it inspires makes the process itself the main focus, exactly the thing that all good teachers strive for. So, without further ado, let me summarise his presentation (as tweeted):

  • year9s number 1 problem is ‘school is boring’
  • Marco T makes the point he’s not a computa T’er, he’s a social science T’er who sees the power of tech
  • what is an educated person? Someone who is resourceful. Sum1 who has a good PLN
  • “quit, complain, or innovate” the 3 options 4 teachers struggling with the system (ie sites blocked, tech not work etc. )
  • Distance no longer = distance. Distance now = bandwidth. We need to use global networks PLN
  • People spend 3 billion minutes a day on facebook- ‘distance/time = bandwidth’
  • Mythbusters celebrates learning- result dusnt matter, but the process of finding out/ the challenge is the attraction
  • What makes you an expert? The processes u’v been thru, not wot products you’ve produced
  • Marco Torres has workd with George Lucas ‘he knows nothing about tech. But he has friends who do’ power of PLN
  • ‘A computa is no longa a computa: it’s a studio,stage & community
  • ‘never debate someone with an iPhone’ facts don’t matter in an age of ubiquitous info acces
  • How do u assess problem/challenge based learning? Where the process is the main thing & students & T’ers r learning together…
  • Challenge based learning is a practical method of how 2 enact Connectivism in classrooms NOW

Preparing to present pt3- collaboration & interaction

I’m now heavily down the track of preparing my workshop. The overall plan and sequence of content is set. But I don’t want to just be preaching for two hours do I? 21st century education demands collaboration and interactivity after all…

So this stage is about connecting with peers for feedback and ideas. Rather than just going in cold, I talk to other ADE’s and educators using iPod Touch’s. I post questions on twitter, and scour blogs of other practitioners for ideas. In particular, in this stage I’ve been able to network with Megan Iemma who is doing a similarly themed workshop at the Melbourne ITSC09.

Out of this I am able to begin incorporating not just content into my presentation, but interactive learning experiences (such as an app scavenger hunt, thanks Megan!) that will see all of us at the workshop learning together.

Digital Learning project – grassroots ICT adoption

I’ve been challenged to write more about what’s actually happening in my own school recently, and so would like to share the very exciting ‘Digital Play’ sessions we are currently running. The idea of these sessions is simple: they must by run by staff, for staff, and be play-based, fun, informal, bit-sized etc. We have found that busy teachers don’t always have the head space for longer formal PD sessions, so what we are attempting to do is 1. make the sessions inspiring but focused on one idea or skill, and 2. tie the PD directly into pedagogy so it can be adopted quickly.

We’ll see how the sessions go! But even getting to this place of having several staff able and ready to run such a program, and the resources and spaces available has been an achievement. And if you’re in the area, feel free to come along!

Preparing to present pt2.

evernote notebook

My next step after setting up the graphical elements of my presentation is to gather all my resources in one place and make them available as a resource for the day. I do this with evernote.com, which allows me to put every piece of relevant info I find, be it web pages, pdf files, even handwritten notes into a notebook that I can search and access from the web, my desktop or my phone. This is a great example of the power of cloud computing. Imagine having a joint class notebook where students could post almost any kind of content from any kind of device?!

For the purposes of the workshop, once I’ve used these resources to construct my workshop, I can use evernote to publish the notebook to a web address so they are all accessible for workshop attendees also! I can’t rate evernote highly enough in this regard. Attendees can even rss/bookmark the site so that when I add new resources to the notebook, they are notified.