Tag Archives: ipad

Tablets in your music lab?

Whilst waiting for a repair authorisation on a Macbook the other day (bad Apple, naughty Apple), I caught sight of this – the Akai Synthstation.  This, at last, appears to be an answer to a problem:

For some time now, there’s been lots of talk about tablet hardware in class however such discussion often stems from an eagerness to find uses for new technology as opposed to trying to solve pre-existing issues via deployment of alternatives.  The Synthstation is a distillation of why I think Apple (and those affiliate manufacturers who play nice with them) have really ‘got’ it – true integration of the hardware with the tablet – even those of us that are somewhat technolgy-averse can see the potential benefits.  For certain tasks, it’s possible to remove the need for a ‘host pc’ entirely, gaining desk space, reducing power consumption, licensing costs and classroom clutter.  Instead, using a Synthstation (or similar) to work with the iPad allows music to be created, edited and shared in class with greater ease than ever before.

Before anyone suggests it – this isn’t an advert!  I’m going to petition my place of work to get one and trial it and will post the findings (both positive AND negative) on here, in case anyone else is interested.


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FAO: iPad and iPhone users – Free Storage!

Just a head’s up, I have no connection with the company, but it strikes me as quite a nifty offer!  50GB of free online storage for iPhone and iPad users!


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All the gear and no idea?

So, I’ve been doing a lot of research recently into mobile learning, but perhaps more specifically iPads in the classroom.  One of the issues that seems to be common is that, just like Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) were in the early day, some schools seem to have the technology thrust on them without much in the way of strategy or plan for how to actually use them.   The schools that seem to be flying with the implementation of the iPads are the ones that (outwardly at least) seem to have the clearest idea of what they want to achieve at a teaching level.

The difficult thing with any educator and tech support relationship is balancing the practical with the ‘visionary’ – teachers should, indeed must, have the time to think big when it comes to the technology available to them – to buy a ‘suite’ of iPads is not enough, unless we’re all about box-ticking.  Instead, just like IWBs, mobile laptop banks and other technological onslaughts before them, the product is only as good as its implementation!  Encouraging teaching staff to find the time to get to grips with the technology is a difficult process for any school, after all, how many teachers would admit to having time (even if they did!) to be able to ‘play’ with new devices?  We need to remove the stigma that comes with the use certain technology in classrooms as somehow being gimmicky or unmanagable – it’s only gimmicky if you let it be – if lessons are taking place using iPads where previously held in an ICT Suite, that’s great but where’s the actual benefit?  Has anyone in the school actually had the time, help and support to discuss the potential benefits, or is it just assumed that newer = better and that because the equipment is actually being used then the box is ticked?  Are we simply installing equipment as a knee-jerk reaction to claims of out-dated-ness (eek) or as part of a ‘me too’ mentality?

What has become clear from the schools that are flying with the implementation of new technology is not that they necessarily have huge budgets, willing Senior Leadership teams or even that the ‘vision’ is there – of course all of these play a part, but the teacher-led implementations are the ones that seem to be succeeding.   After all, who could be better equipped to counter the ‘tablet sceptics’ (although it the term could apply to ANY technology really…) than teaching staff that can both see first hand and demonstrate the potential benefit to teaching and learning.

The point of this post?  I guess it’s a call to arms – if you’re a teacher and you WANT the chance to be able to experiment technology then make a noise about it and have a think about what you want to achieve, then bug the heck out of your line managers, ICT support team and colleagues to try and make it happen!

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Now THIS looks good! VoiceThread


Now this looks really interesting!  VoiceThread seems to offer itself as a ‘Group Conversation’ tool, but to me it looks like it could be an amazing lesson extension tool and much more besides.  It could even be the future of homework!

Available as an App, or via a web login for those without iPhones too, so a far better bet than some iOS-only tools, as access is less restricted based on the technology being used to access it.

Some really neat features include the ability to embed results into a webpage (are you listening @Frogtrade, crying out for a Widget!) and a whole heap more.  This one is going to have to be experimented with – watch for any updates after I try to get some feedback from some teaching staff!

This is what the Apple App Store has to say about VoiceThread:

“Create and share dynamic conversations around documents, snapshots, diagrams and videos — basically anything there is to talk about. You can talk, type, and draw right on the screen. VoiceThread takes your conversations to the next level, capturing your presence, not just your comments. Anyone can join the discussion from their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC — anytime, anywhere.

Stunningly simple and accessible, VoiceThread is already in use by architects, executives, kindergartners, professors, and engineers around the world. More than 25% of the top Universities in the U.S. use VoiceThread to connect and communicate around digital media.

* Add images from your camera or photo library.
* Flip through pages and annotate them while you narrate.
* Sharing is as easy as sending an email.
* Use your VT account if you have one — just sign in and all your threads will be there.
* Access the extensive catalog of content created on voicethread.com.”

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The transparency of technology…?

Why do I get angry with technology?  When it gets in the way.  The whole point of to deploying technology in the classroom SHOULD be to make people’s lives easier.  So why is the case that so often it doesn’t seem to happen?   There’s a few issues at play:

1). Unreliability.   For me, technology has to be reliable.  Therefore, if equipment cannot be trusted and staff have no confidence in it, it is destined to fail.  What can be done?  Repair/replace/retrain!  In many cases, if the system is genuinely faulty then pull it!  But is it the case that the users’ expectations don’t match what it was intended to do?  In that case retraining is the answer – what better chance to get genuine, real-world feedback than from talking to your users about their exact requirements and see how close the system is to serving them?

2). Inflexibility.  Technology should be flexible.  Humans behave in mostly predictable patterns, but one of the most fascinating thing about working with children is their ability to think with unclouded vision and mis-use (NOT often in a negative way) equipment.  If it’s a students’ instinct to use a system in a particular way, and it supports the educational goals, should we not consider how we can adapt to make this possible?

3). Transparency.  The best technology is the kit that you don’t realise you’re using.  When electric kettles were introduced, I’m willing to bet it was a big deal!  But I’m also willing to be that they didn’t require intensive training sessions.  Technology SHOULD be the same, and it’s heading there – look at the Nintendo Wii.  It’s the first games console to make controls intuitive, utilizing real-world motor skills to achieve tasks that would have required arbitrary button-presses via ‘traditional’ control methods.  Of course, using these skills to decapitate zombies is one thing and hopefully unlikely to have any real world benefit, but the Wii is also teaching people to cook, stay fit, even the basics of improving their mental agility with titles such as Big Brain Academy.

So, where does technology go from here?  The answer is ‘anywhere we want it to’.  As those tasked with supporting teaching and learning, technical and support staff need to spend time talking to students, teachers and each other and try to understand what people want to achieve.  Could the lesson take place without technology in the classroom?  In most cases, to a degree yes, but can technology be deployed to engage and enthrall students without the destabilising nature of intensive training all round?

Time will of course tell but technology is already moving in the right direction – it’s up to everyone involved to help deliver a future where its use becomes more transparent.  The next time you use a kettle, consider how neatly the technology suits the purpose!

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Apps in Education!

A lot of talk about Apps in our Industry at the moment.  Something has shifted and Apps have made the transition from fun little diversions and time-wasting gadgets to being extremely useful and genuinely inspiring tools!

I’ll be covering some particular favourites here soon, but for now here’s another blog that attempts to list some of the best out there by subject area:


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