Getting Jiggy with Ziggi!

As a presenter that is often traveling to and from conferences and events, I am always on the lookout for quality presentation equipment that does what it is supposed to do but is light weight and easy to transport.  This past week, I found something that I really want to add to my gear bag.

The great folks at IPEVO (online at http://www.ipevo.com/ and on Twitter @ipevo) recently sent several items to use as door prizes for EdCampMontgomery coming up on April 2nd. They only had one request- Use the devices during EdCamp so that participants could see them in action.  This is important to note because that means that I would have to open the boxes before the items were given away.  Hmmm, if they have to be opened and used before they are given away then it really doesn’t matter if they are opened now or then, right? Yes, I wanted to give these things a try so I decided that it would be acceptable to do this so long as I shared my experience with you!

The IPEVO team sent a total of four different device types to us.  I’ll try to get reviews of each of them, starting with the Ziggi-HD Plus USB document camera.  At just $99, this document camera seems like you are stealing it from IPEVO, but at that price, I was wondering about the quality.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The Ziggi ships in a sturdy box that could certainly be reused but they also offer a nice carrying case for less than 20 bucks.
Inside the box was everything you need, which isn’t much.  Of course, the document camera is there but IPEVO also includes a slide on anti-glare screen for those fluorescently lit classrooms (how is there always a light directly above where you need the document camera?)  and a quick start guide.  The very capable IPEVO Presenter Software is available for free download for your PC or Mac.  There is no power adapter needed, which is great.  There never seems to be enough outlets so not needing another is helpful.
To get started, I pulled out my Asus Windows 10 laptop and headed to the IPEVO support site to get the software downloaded while I took a look at the device.  By the way, the software downloads and installs quickly and I was ready to go in short order.
The first thing I noticed when taking the Ziggi-HD Plus out of the box was its heft.  It is not heavy (just over a pound and a half) but the base feels very solid.  It would take some serious jarring of the desk or table to move this thing!
The Ziggi feels very well made with lots of nice little touches.  For instance, the USB cable comes directly out of the camera at the top of the device but IPEVO incorporated a nice slot that runs down the length of the arm that the cable tucks into to keep it out of the way.  Leave a little bit of the cable loose at the top, though, because you can swivel the camera head to best handle your setup location.  The multi-jointed stand adjusts easily but then stays in place.

My quick review was done in my living room with no overhead lighting connected to a digital projector projecting the image onto a blank painted wall.  As you can see below, the image for the 8.0 megapixel camera was great and this was even after I took the resolution down significantly.  I reduced the resolution to counteract a bit of stutter that I am convinced was a result of the relatively low power of the Asus chipset in that budget laptop I was using.

Overall, I am in love with this document camera and I haven’t even had time to try out half of its features.  The Ziggi can live stream video and even includes a built-in microphone allowing you to use it to create video demonstrations or even podcasts.  How great would that be in your flipped classroom!  The camera features 12x zoom and autofocus.  The autofocus was quick and smooth, barely noticeable and certainly not distracting.
The Ziggi-HD Plus is a well equipped and completely affordable document camera solution for both a permanent set up or for a frequent traveler.  Add in the live streaming and recording capabilities of the free Presenter software and it becomes a great option.  

The importance of TPACK, SAMR and the Four Cs

As Instructional Technology Coaches, we must always be working with our teachers to ensure that they are effectively integrating technology with their pedagogy and content.  We know that effective integration can have positive results but even experienced teachers often struggle with how to do this.  It should start in their preservice program, but many great teachers make it into the classroom with little background in integrating technology.

The framework that provides the basis for effective integration is TPACK.  First introduced by Punta Mishra and Matthew Koehler in 2006, TPACK attempts to explain how technology fits into the “multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge” (TPACK Explained, http://www.matt-koehler.com/tpack/tpack-explained/).

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

As you can see, the TPACK framework acknowledges the equal importance of content, pedagogy and technology.  This creates areas of effective combinations of two forms of knowledge as well as the sweet spot of TPACK when all three forms of knowledge are effectively utilized.

But even when the sweet spot is hit, there are still levels of effectiveness.  I remember seven to ten years ago when teachers, or even administrators, would brag about the integration of technology that was going on in a particular classroom.  I would eagerly go to visit that room only to find the teacher standing in the front of the room dutifully advancing through a PowerPoint presentation that was being projected on a screen ( or sometime even being projected onto an interactive whiteboard that cost thousands of dollars).  What was being projected?  The same notes that the teacher had been hand writing on the board for the last five years were now being displayed digitally while the students hurriedly scribbled them into their notebooks.  That is not integration.

One commonly referred to framework that can be used to promote effective integration is the SAMR Model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.  SAMR, as shown below, encourages teachers to move past the basic substituting of technology for another, less digital, method to the more effective redefinition of learning using technology.

It is important to note that Dr. Puentedura’s work has come under some scrutiny because there are no significant peer-review studies to validate it as a framework. (See http://www.e-ohagan.com/a-critical-review-of-puenteduras-samr/) however, I consider this criticism in the same vein of that of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the new Digital Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Are they perfect?  Absolutely not.  Do they provide teachers with effective frameworks that should be considered in the planning and implementation of lessons and units?  Absolutely.

This is especially true when you consider how effective technologists have adapted these frameworks for practical application.  One of the best in my mind is the incredible Kathy Schrock‘s interpretation of Bloom’s Digital that highlights the cognitive processes inherent to learning.

This graphic is useful to me because it reminds me that all of the cognitive levels are interconnected. As much as we want to criticize those activities at the lowest levels of Bloom’s (when referring to the traditional, triangular version), this graphic reinforces that when done correctly, all of the levels can work together to drive the creating aspects of real learning.
That is why crosswalking these frameworks to see where and how they relate to one another is important.  Kathy has done this for us as well with this crosswalk of SAMR and the Cognitive Cogs of Bloom’s.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills introduced the P21 Framework and a major component of that are the Learning and Innovation Skills.  These skills are commonly referred to as the Four Cs- Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity.  Helping teachers focus on these skills has become a priority for instructional technology coaches.  A significant impetus for this priority is the findings of the Partnership that employers are looking for these skills in future workers, and are having a hard time finding young people with these skills.

The effective integration of technology, along with other pedagogical methods such project-based learning, can result in an increase in student obtainment of these skills.  This takes a significant shift for traditional teaching methods and is the perfect opportunity for coaches to to work with teachers to help with this transition.
How have you used these frameworks in your work?  Share in the comments below!

Studyo Student Planner App Review

Studyo is an interesting app that I first learned about this week.  It is billed as the modern replacement for the traditional student planner or assignment book.  I have reviewed many different student organizers and student-focused calendar apps, so I thought I had seen just about everything.  (See my collection of High School Scheduling and Organization resources on Participate.com) Studyo, however, is different.  What makes the app really interesting is that while there is a free student only standalone version of the app, Studyo is really designed to be adopted by a school en masse.

At the school level, an administrator, with the help of the Studyo team, will enter all of the course and schedule information.  Studyo will actually build a custom configuration based on the data you export from your Student Management System.  Once the data is configured, each student will receive a join code that they will enter in the app.  The app will automatically populate all of the school schedule and course information.  Students will will build their schedule by simply selecting their specific courses from the displayed master schedule.

Now the power and ease of the app as a planning tool becomes evident.  Students can, of course, manually add an assignment by tapping in a course for that day and entering in the details.  There is a long list of task types including homework, reading, exam and activity but the app also has extracurricular selections such as sport, dance and tutoring.  Once added, the task displays as a small icon inside that course.  This is great, but as every teacher knows, many students do not enter assignments in their planning tool regardless of whether it is a paper or digital.  Studyo, because it is implemented at the school level, solves this problem.  Once the system is set up, teachers are automatically added and they can add assignment reminder and other tasks to the course and these are pushed out to students.  This is an incredible way to make sure students are aware of all assignments.
But what about that activity the teacher has led from the Interactive Whiteboard or even the traditional whiteboard or (gasp) chalkboard?  Studyo has a built in feature that allows students to snap a photo that will be automatically be added as a task in the current course.  
All tasks can be viewed in a number of different ways.  Tasks are visible by course in the daily schedule view, the calendar view, or the tasks view.  The tasks view is particularly helpful be cause each task is visible in a Gantt chart format with the date created and due date as anchors.  This gives students a great picture of how much they actually have going on at the same time. Tasks can be moved or the start/due dates can be edited directly in this view.
Studyo did not forget about the parents either.  Back in my classroom, one of the first interventions  I used with students that were “forgetful” about assignments was to have them get a parent to sign their assignment notebook each night and I signed it each day.  Studyo resolves this with a read only parent version of their child’s planner allowing parents to always be in the loop.
Now, as you would expect, a full review of this system is difficult from my view outside of the classroom, but by carefully reviewing the standalone app and the extensive tutorials available at http://www.studyo.co I am ready to recommend this app, especially if your school is a 1:1 and is looking to ditch those paper planners.
The standalone iPad app is available free, however, the school system requires a license.  Pricing information was not available, presumably because Studyo is customized by school and the enrollment would cause the cost to vary.  A contact form is available on their website.

Looking for a way to create a classroom app? Yapp might be the answer!

For the past two or three years I have been making my own apps for several activities and programs with which I am involved.  Please don’t roll your eyes and move on to another post because I am not a programmer and I am going to share with you how easy it was.

I do not program the apps.  In fact, calling them apps is a bit of a misnomer.  I take advantage of an incredible application and service called Yapp.  Yapp was designed to democratize app creation.  It is a web-based service that lets anyone create an app.  The apps that you create don’t really exist on their own, however.  They reside within the Yapp app on your phone and it doesn’t matter which brand of smartphone you carry, Yapp works with them all.  Take a look at these screenshots from my iPhone:

As you can see, I currently have nine apps in my Yapp app. These include a youth gymnastics team, the upcoming EdCamp that I am on the planning team for, kids soccer, Cub Scouts, and a school volleyball team,  In the lower left is the app for an EdCamp that I was only an attendee but it was where I first learned about Yapp.  You’ll also see some examples of the types of pages Yapps can include.
Yapp apps are so easy to create I think every teacher should have one for their classroom.  Yapp has recently changed their pricing structure so if you head over to http://www.yapp.us you’ll likely get a bit of sticker shock when you check out the pricing.  Remember, they are a business and are looking for users that are companies planning large events.  Because I signed up for Yapp so long ago, I have been grandfathered in and I continue to receive access to Yapp Basic.  Underneath those big pricing plans is a button to click to contact them for special limited plans for schools and educators.  
Following an email I sent inquiring about this, Maria Seidman, the Yapp CEO and Co-founder, contacted me and we spoke for about an hour about how I was using Yapp and how I felt there should be limited plans that include basic features for free for educators and non profits.  A few days later I emailed Ms. Seidman a few additional notes about how I felt basic apps could be provide free with small subscription charges for additional, premium features.  The Yapp team is small and I haven’t heard back, but I am hopeful that at least some of these basic features remain available and free for teachers and community organizations.  Send them a request.  Request access to Yapp Basic (you won’t find it listed, but it is what my account has been migrated to).  Hopefully Ms. Seidman understands that for small Yapps, like a single classroom or a youth soccer team, there isn’t $200-$300 available for an app.  But allowing use of the basic features for free will make us remember Yapp when we finds ourself on a State Conference Planning Team.  The conference will pay for the additional features.  And don’t forget the soccer mom or Boy Scout dad that is introduced to Yapp through the coach or volunteer leader use of it for the group.  I’m sure that there are many influential leaders that could turn to Yapp because they learned about it in this way.
Make a request for Yapp Basic and let me know what you hear from them.  It’s a great product and the easiest way to create a classroom app.

Microsoft is taking over the Apple App Store

In my last post, I reflected on how I had realized that I was dependent upon a couple of apps by Microsoft on my iPhone/iPad.  No, that is not a typo.  Most of my frequently used apps on iOS for me are indeed Microsoft products.  Microsoft Outlook for mail, Sunrise (now owned by Microsoft ) for calendar, Word for documents, Excel for spreadsheets, PowerPoint for presentations, and OneNote for notetaking.

I also use a few other specialty apps from Microsoft and a few weeks ago I began to wonder just how many apps are there by the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” apple protagonist. Off to the app store I went.  I knew that the reliable way to determine the number would be to go to a known Microsoft app and click the developer name to see all apps by that developer.  Of course, the app store makes me select iPad or iPhone first.  I went to iPhone and searched for Word.  I clicked Microsoft Corporation in the developer field and waited.  The results came up and a quick bit of math gave me a total of 73.  An iPad only search came to 48.  Of course, many of these are the same app with iPad and iPhone versions but we are still talking about over 125 apps by a software company that was once viewed as Apple’s biggest rival.

Nine of the apps are games, a couple more are entertainment apps and another handful are iOS versions of not so popular Microsoft apps or services such as the Groove player for music, Bing for search or even the Cortana voice controlled personal assistant.

But most of the Microsoft apps in the iOS App Store are quality apps that are must have apps for today’s teachers.  Let’s take the big four out of the discussion- Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook are must haves (and if you haven’t tried Outlook on the iPhone recently, please check out my last post!).  That brings us to OneNote.  The multitude of uses for OneNote aside, this is a handy app for creating and organizing notes.  From quick notes with check boxes to hand drawn notes in the iPad version, a wide variety of information can be stored in individual, searchable notebooks.

To effectively use the Microsoft family of productivity apps, you’ll definitely want to sign up for a free OneDrive account.  You can manage all of the files you’ll save in this free account using the OneDrive

Office Lens is a great little app to turn your iPhone into a portable scanner.  Scan documents or whiteboards and they will be digitalized and trimmed.  Easily export them to Word, OneNote or just as pictures to your Photo Library.

Office Sway is a new way to share ideas using text, pictures and video.  Create a Sway by adding different elements and share it to anyone across the web.

If your school or district utilizes Microsoft exchange or Office 365, there are some apps just for you!.  Sharepoint users can get SharePoint Newsfeed to keep up with what is going on.  Office Delve can do the same for Office 365 users.  Outlook Groups gives Office 365 users access to their existing groups.  Microsoft Send for Office 365 lets you text anyone with an email address with the messages going to the users email account as well as too the app.

You can even improve the selfie with intelligent enhancement and noise reduction using Microsoft Selfie or translate live speech with Microsoft Translator.

It is obvious that Microsoft has realized that it is a software company and it should create software for all of its users regardless of what hardware they use.  There are a handful of Microsoft apps in the Mac apps store and Microsoft Office for the Mac is even sol in the Apple store.  Even on Android, Microsoft is making their presence known.  A quick check of the Google Play store found over eighty apps from Microsoft.  In fact, an International Business Times article just last week stated that the Office Apps have been downloaded over 340 million times on iOS and Android devices.  This is significantly more than the 200 million Windows 10 devices.  The article’s author, Mike Brown, concludes that this effort to bring apps to all platforms “is paying off” as Microsoft surpassed analysts earnings expectations by almost a half a billion dollars in their most recent earnings call.

Microsoft Makes Mail Work on iOS

Over the past several months I have been noticing something odd.  More and more on my iPad I have been turning to apps made by Microsoft.  You might suspect that the most frequent culprits are Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  You would be correct that these are among my most frequently used apps.  After all, the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint file formats are the de facto standard for document, spreadsheets and presentations.  But, as it turns out, the apps that I find myself using the most are the incredible calendar app Sunrise, which Microsoft bought in February, 2015 for just over $100 million, and Microsoft Outlook.

My primary employer is a Microsoft Exchange user, so I had to find a mail app that handled Exchange accounts, however, two of the universities to which I connect were Google Gmail users.  In addition, I have three or four personal Gmail accounts along with a Google Apps for Education account.  But of foremost concern from the productivity side was my dependence on Google calendar.  Actually, multiple Google calendars.  At last count, I managed or subscribed to about 20 Google Calendars.  The Gmail app did great with the Google accounts but never handled the Exchange accounts.  The built-in Apple Mail app could not handle the Gmail accounts.  The same went for the Google Calendar app.  I struggled for a solution.

I must have purchased a dozen mail apps until I saw that Microsoft had released Outlook for iOS.  I have to admit, I was dubious but I installed it.  It is a free app so there was no downside other than a bit of time to set it up.  So I did and within a few hours I was impressed.  Within a few days, I had moved it to my dock.  Within a couple of weeks, I had completely removed my accounts from Apple Mail.  The Outlook interface is slick and easy to use. The mail handling is quick and reliable.  It is so good that I oftentimes pick up my iPhone to triage email even while I am sitting in front of my laptop.

As for the calendar, I still rely on Sunrise.  From the beginning Microsoft had announced that the purpose behind the purchase was to make calendaring better in the Outlook app.  In October of 2015, Microsoft officially announced that once Sunrise was completely integrated into Outlook, Sunrise would be discontinued.  No timetable was provided, however, and both apps have been updated regularly.  If Microsoft is true to their word and completely integrates Sunrise, I will probably go to Outlook as my all in one Personal Information Manager (PIM), however, there are some conditions.  Microsoft, you must include the incredible month view that I use on my iPad.  I live with the month view on the iPhone because I realize the space is not there, but on the iPad I want that nice big month at a glance view I have become accustomed to having.  Make sure that Exchange integration works perfectly for the calendar.  Currently, even Sunrise doesn’t love Exchange calendars.  I don’t even use my Exchange calendar in the office because it just doesn’t sync well.  I want to put an event on my personal Google Calendar and have it sync to my Exchange calendar and vice versa.  Have never been able to see this happen.  Make Sunrise continue to support the Google calendars as well as it does now and add smooth Exchange calendar syncing and I’ll never use anything else!  Oh, and I’d pay for the app then too!

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