The iPad Adventure Day 2
So last night I worked and worked and worked. First I tackled the notebook app. We really liked PaperDesk and I struggled to find a way to keep it and make it what my educators wanted.(remember that we want all student files for a course to go into a specific Google Drive folder) After messing around with it for an hour or so I had my aha moment (sometimes referred to as my duh moment). We could use PaperDesk and have it automatically back up to DropBox (as much as possible we want files to automatically back up to the cloud for students). We could then use Office HD to move files for us. Since Office HD would communicate with both Google Drive and DropBox we could simply use that to copy files from DropBox into the student/teacher share folder. It could work like this:
Johnny keeps a Science journal for his Science class taught by Mrs. Beaker. Mrs. Beaker says "Class, please send me copies of your journals so I can grade them." In the old days Johnny would have freaked out because he knows that silly journal has to be somewhere. Did he leave it in his locker? Is it at home? Did the dog eat it? That night Mrs. Beaker would carry a stack of journals home, spread them out everywhere so she could go through them and accidentally leaves one behind the next day. In the new way, Johnny turns on his iPad, opens the OfficeHD app and selects his DropBox account (where his automatic backup is stored). He selects the pdf file his journal app created and sends a copy to the folder he shares with Mrs. Beaker. Mrs. Beaker goes home and puts her feet up. She can now explore the journals from her iPad, laptop or any other device she has that can connect to Google Drive (which is just about anything beyond a piece of paper and a pencil, but I hear they are working on it). So, am I a genius or what? Journaling app solved!
Now for the pdf annotator. ugh. As much as I love the app Remarks for my own personal use, it is not going well for our group share situation. But, thanks to my ingenious duh moment with PaperDesk I thought I had our answer. oops... How wrong I was. Fast forward to school where I have just taken the staff through how the students can share the journals. They are relatively happy and content with my resolution to this issue. Next, we decide to use the same method for sharing pdf files out of Remarks. As any good educator would, we tested things just to make sure. We could indeed transfer the pdfs into Google Drive, but not the annotations. Non of the hand writing, typing or drawing we added to the pdf files inside of Remarks would transfer. How frustrating. After an hour or so trying to manipulate this I had another idea. What if the problem isn't with Remarks, what if it is with the iPad? Soooooo, I'm off to my laptop. I open Safari (yes, I'm a mac guy) and I open one of the shared pdf files. Low and behold! There are all of the annotations we couldn't see on the iPad! At least the educators could use their laptops to grade files left for them through remarks. They weren't thrilled, but accepted this and we moved on to other things. (I was not convinced we had to accept this so of course at night....)
After all this stress I felt they needed and deserved a treat so I taught them something new and exciting! I taught them how to make a comic book using Comic Life! There are several comic book creation apps out there, but in my not so humble opinion, none of them provide anything near the quality and experience of Comic Life. I provided an example of a simple comic to the teachers and let them loose for about 30 minutes. I'm not sure I've ever seen teachers so focused when it's not report card time. They then used their iPads and projected their comics through the appleTV and yes, they exported them to DropBox in order to transfer to Google Drive in a pdf format just like students would.
Continuing with the concept of creating presentations without a Power Point type application, I had them create interactive presentations using Explain Everything. There are, like comics, many different and good digital whiteboards out there, but Explain Everything had the features we really liked. It could save to and load from DropBox, you could create videos and share them (using your Google Apps account) on YouTube. (guidelines for sharing to YouTube is another discussion all by itself) or they could create a multiple slide presentation similar to a PowerPoint, but they can write on top of it, use a pointer tool or any of the other interactive whiteboard tools available in the app. Although the interface is less user friendly to younger students, the robust features and powerful potential made it worth taking the time to teach the students(and teachers) how to use it.
And there's the day. My staff had a success, a challenge and some fun while learning something new. Tonight, I finally solve the pdf annotator issue.