When Things Go Wrong, As They Sometimes Will…

It took 2 hours to get my iPad updated to iOS5, and 2 more hours to get Nic’s updated last Friday. It took about 5 unsuccessful attempts each before that, and no small amount of swearing. Both my work and home computers would dismissively tell me that they’d “timed out.” Guess they needed a break from all that work. Guess they were bored from updating taking so long.

Thank heaven for people who know more than me coming to my rescue, specifically my peeps David and Rosie.

Things I learned:

  1. Don’t update iTunes with the iPad plugged into the computer (this is obvious to most people)
  2. Turn off the virus protection and firewall
  3. Remember to turn the virus and firewall back on when you’re done
  4. iCloud is a godsend.
    1. After updating my work iPad to iOS5, I lost “Teacher Pal.” Gone, just gone. Not on the iPad screen, not in iTunes. All that information and all those photos, my substitute short-term memory, gone. But I know people. My peep Rosie told me to go back to the app store and look for the apps I’d installed. The “TeacherPal” app had a little cloud beside it. When I clicked on it, “Teacher Pal” fell from the cloud – or something like that.

What is iCloud, anyway?


Meet My New Pal

This semester I have been blessed with 3 really nice classes to teach; 2 undergrad, 1 graduate. There are almost 50 students between the three groups, and it seems they are almost all named Kate. Well, Kate, Kathryn, Kaitlin or Katie/Katy to be more specific. Lovely young women all!

This proliferation of Kates should make it pretty easy to remember names, but  I have to grade each student individually, so  that’s where I need more. I need to differentiate Kate Smith from Kate Jones from Kate Hepburn. Usually I have my students create name tags and I make a seating chart at the beginning of a course. I use the name tags for a week or two, then try to wing it. This usually starts with me calling someone by the wrong name (unless it’s a Kate). The seating chart is only as reliable as the territorial types make it – some sudents like to roam in search of that perfect seat for a session or two, so one week Kate is second row third seat, but the next she gets replaced by Rob, the guy who got to class first and took her spot. I’ve been humbled by my poor memory for names in a too many situations. Enough already.

A colleague at work showed me an app called TeacherPal on her iPad last week. I realized this could be the short term memory pill I needed. TeacherPal is a personal organizer I can use to track attendance, grades and personal notes about each student — and it’s free! But the best part  about TeacherPal is that the information on each student can include their photo! I can even put the photos on a seating chart! So last week the iPad went around each classroom as students took one other’s pictures to add to my TeacherPal file.

The undergrads took my request for photos well. The grads took it like I would, with a grimace and some eye rolling. Some asked if I could wait until the next session so they could look better, but in the end, after I promised not to post their shots on Facebook, they too sent my iPad around the room for Picture Day.

After my initial explanation of TeacherPal, one of my students called out, “Be careful! Apps crash!”

Should I have backup? There’s a lot riding on this, but the format is so cool!

Is this iCloud territory? Is my record keeping safe in a cloud?


This App or That App? More from Kathy Schrock

Here are the remaining 6 of Kathy Schrock’s 10 criteria for a worthwhile educational app, again with my comments in parentheses.  Good stuff to keep in mind:

6. Student motivation: are students motivated to use the app and select to use it often?    (Nic can find his SkeeBall app no matter how deeply I bury it, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. I find that for Nic it helps for me to preview and mess with the app so that I can anticipate problems before they occur and get him so frustrated that he begs off and bolts for the TV.)

7. Reporting: is assessment/summary data available electronically to the student/teacher? (The TeachMe series that Nic keeps track graphically with checks and Xs that we both can look at to see how he is doing in the language arts and math it features. He loves these apps, but their full titles, TeachMe Toddler and TeachMe Kindergarten make me wish the app developers knew how well their software worked for kids like Nic, even though they are older. They have their market with the little ones, for sure, but I have another market for them if they ever wanna talk!)

8. Sound: Does the music/sound in the app add to the educational aspects of the content? (Or do they make your teacher/parent dive into their desk drawer for headphones?)

9. Instructions: Are the instructions included in the app helpful to the student(Do students read the instructions? Do you? Or do we just start tapping around until something happens? Oh, dear, now I’m giving myself away.)

10. Support page: Does the app’s supporting Web page provide additional useful information? (Not just sales pitches for other apps!)

More Kathy Schrock iPad links can be found at www.kathyschrock.net/ipadblooms and on www.kathyschrocksguidetoeverything.com.

Wow, Kathy Schrock has a guide to everything? Can she help me lose 10 lbs.?

Wait, there are apps for that, too. But they’re on my iPad.

Everyone’s a Critic! The App Evaluation According to Kathy

According to ed tech guru Kathy Schrock, there are several things to look for in an education app that’s worth your while. Here are the first 5 of her 10 criteria. My comments are in parentheses:

1. Curriculum connection: Are the skills reinforced connected to the targeted skill or concept? (Sounds like a given, right? Not always.)

2. Authenticity: Are the skills practiced in an authentic format/problem-based environment? (I want these skills to have life beyond the app. Kids like my Nic often have trouble generalizing.)

3. Feedback: Is the feedback  specific and result in improved student performance? (Have you ever noticed that sometimes the feedback for getting something incorrect on an app is more exciting than what happens when you are correct?)

4. Differentiation: does the app offer flexibility to alter settings to meet student needs? (I love it when an app can grow with its user, and offers increasing levels of challenge as targeted skills are mastered)

5. User friendliness: can students launch and navigate within the app independently? (I am old and often a little clueless when an app isn’t immediately accessible because of the assumptions the designers make about what the user understands about its navigation. Do not make me feel older and more clueless or have to call one of my kids to explain it to me. And do NOT frustrate a child so that they refuse to try after too many unsuccessful attempts to get the app going.)

More to follow! Comments welcome. And special thanks to Kathy Schrock for all her work in ed tech through the years. She continues to be a teacher’s pal, and a parent’s too.

My Coke is diet, my apps are lite

I was thinking of calling this entry, “Hey, this app is crap!” but I felt a little skittish about being crude in the title — okay, so I’ll just be crude in the first line.

My friend Helen inspired today’s post because she was disappointed in an app she had found. As a reading specialist, she did not see the app as having a viable purpose — simple vocab but complicated activities…I respect her knowledge of reading enough to know that there was something to this. I forgot to ask her whether she bought the app outright or had just grown to hate the lite version.

I love lite versions of apps. They give me the opportunity to kick an apps tires before committing what are sometimes big enough bucks to its purchase. But no cost, low cost or high, what keeps an app from being crap?

According to tech guru Kathy Schrock, there are several criteria.

1. Curriculum connection

2. Authenticity

3. Feedback

4. Differentiation

5. User friendliness

6. Student motivation

7. Reporting

8. Sound

9. Instructions

10. Support page

I will describe these in future blog posts. In the meantime, send along your favorites — and if you find any crappy ones, let us know those too!

I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it…

If anyone’s wondering, I went with Chore Pad. Both apps were great for the purpose, but Chore Pad was more visual. Nic needs visual.

Anyway, I am so excited! My little blog will soon be linked to the website of the Delaware County Down Syndrome Interest Group.  I look forward to meeting other parents of children with Down syndrome and sharing iPad ideas and experiences.

Meanwhile, Nic and I spent a big hunk o’time today working with new apps that I found. Nic is not the sit-compliantly-and-let-Mom-try-stuff type, and not all apps are SkeeBall or Angry Birds, so we alternated some more seriously themed learning apps with fun apps and YouTube videos from the circus. Stretched the young man’s attention span considerably, and I got to see which new apps I might want to keep and which will be gonners. (New favorite: “SmartyPants School”)

How about you? How do you keep your children on the more serious academic apps when they know “SkeeBall” is just a click away?

Can I Get a Little Help Around Here?

Hope you had a nice holiday: we did, and the house looks it. I am in search of novel ways to get everyone on board with the cleanup thing. Dare I go tech on Nic? Trying out a couple of apps: “Chore Pad” and “Chore Hero”. I used to just make Nic a checklist: so 2005 of me. Have you seen any apps to make chores a little more fun?