iPhoneography: Unleash Creativity

Follow me on Instagram. Username: needleworks

Follow me on Instagram. Username: needleworks

My latest creative interest has been iPhoneography. Last year I purchased a DSLR camera, lenses, cases, accessories, and more. I took a class and I’ve even gotten pretty good at using the manual settings. However, on a recent vacation I found myself reaching for the phone much more often than I did the DSLR. It’s small, it’s fast, and it’s immediate. I would take photos with the iPhone, have them transfer wirelessly via Photostream to my iPad back at the hotel and then edit the photos with the iPad.

The DSLR photos are certainly sharper and the lenses give me much more flexibility than I have with the iPhone. However, I much prefer the editing apps on the iPad than my desktop tools. The tactile nature of touching and swiping make it a breeze to quickly add effects.

My favorite photo editing apps are Photo Wizard HD and Snapseed. Both apps are frequently available for free if you wait long enough. The best app for sharing photos is Instagram. With Instagram, I am able to quickly share photos to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’s built in social network. The feedback, or lack thereof, from other users encourage greater picture taking.

My photos are now so much more dramatic and I feel like I am have photographic success. I am trying to post at least one photo per day. I find that the process of taking pictures is leading to greater creativity overall in my life. Imagine what it could do for your classroom.

Post Conference Personal/Professional Reflection

I’m back from the CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference this weekend in Palm Springs, California.  I had a great time seeing old friends, meeting online friends, and being (re)energized by engaging sessions and words of inspiration.

I’ll write about the conference itself shortly.  However, I woke up today with my head full of ideas about great tech things I want to try in the classroom and in my life.  I’m sometimes frustrated because there are a lot of things I want to try with a limited amount of time.

I created this form to help me prioritize the things I hope to work on over the next months.  I imagine this could be used by anyone engaging in any personal or professional reflection.

What I’m Already Good At

Narrative moviemaking
Video editing
Creating effective presentations
Using HTML 5 to create apps

What I Want to Work on Next

DSLR filmmaking
Creating simple databases attached to HTML pages

What I Might Work on in the Future


What I Don’t Need Yet


What’s on your professional to do list?  Feel free to share whether it’s technology related or not.

Our iPad Apps

When deploying iPads to my schools I chose to place all of the apps in folders so that teachers who were not familiar with the apps would feel comfortable exploring apps based on what they were trying to teach.  Below you’ll see  a screenshot of one of our iPads which gives you an idea of our organizational system.

Here is iPad Apps Installed List.  The location column lists the folder in which I installed the apps.  The apps shown in the picture below may vary slightly since this is a screen shot from the iPad I’m using and some apps aren’t necessarily installed on everyone else’s device.

Not every app is used often or used at all.  I did a lot of downloading of free apps and sent them out to teachers to see if they might find use of them.

How to Add a Favorite Web Page to Home Screen

You may wish to add favorite web sites to home screen.  We do this at our school to have easy access to attendance, DIBELS, and treasuresresources.com.

Here are step by step directions.

1.  Visit favorite web site.

2.  Select share icon to the left of address bar.

3.  Choose “Add to Home Screen”

4.  Confirm that the name makes sense (for web sites with long names, you may have to abbreviate) and click the word “Add.”

5.  Find your favorite web site on your home screen.  By default it will appear at the bottom of one of your pages but feel free to move the app to a folder or another page.  You can also rename it later if you wish.  (Click and hold on any icon until it starts to slightly wiggle  to move the app or rename).



Is There a Place for “Drill and Kill” on the iPad?

Last week, I posted on Twitter when a highly engaging math app went on sale for 60% off.  I didn’t oversell it by any means:

It’s just drill and kill simple math facts with fancy graphics and music but it’s fun.

I’m torn on whether to mention the name of the app here (I will list all the apps we use in a future post).  However, imagine an app with a first class movie soundtrack, mission impossible-like graphics, and an excitement that is not present in many other apps.  Yes, I do consider it “drill and kill” but as an app of this kind, it’s best in class.

I received this self-righteous response from a twitterer I don’t know and won’t mention:

How can anyone consider drill and kill fun?  Lets move onward & stop promoting these kind of apps!

I don’t consider this particular app fun.  My math intervention students do.

The twitterer went on to tell me that what I was doing was “immoral” and suggested I have students make an iMovie or Doodlecast about how they found their answers instead.

Let me back up and explain a little bit how I used the app.  With our single iPad hooked up to a projector at the beginning of class, my intervention students trickled in from recess, students shouted out answers to questions as they came up on the screen.  I sometimes guided students to count backward 9-2 or count up 9-5.  We discussed adding and subtracting doubles (3+3, 8-4) and near-doubles (3+4, 8-5).  Then as a treat, small groups of students used the iPad individually to complete some of the games.

If we bought the iPads just to do games like these I would say that we’ve wasted a lot of money.  The first PD I lead for teachers on using the iPads (after the one about how to turn the device on) is how to use iMovie.  I begin the PDs discussing both Bloom’s Taxonomy and Needleman’s Technology Taxonomy:

However, to say that we should not use any apps that encourage the memorizing of facts stinks to me of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I wrote a post Are You Smarter Than a Google Search? suggesting that how you collect, synthesize, and apply knowledge is more important than having it memorized.  However, the idea that you don’t need to have any knowledge at all is ridiculous.  While I encourage kindergarten teachers to teach the meaning of numbers (e.g. 3 is 2 and 1 more) in addition to teaching students to count.  However, I also see that students who do not know basic math facts struggle when doing anything else related to math.

“Drill and Kill” is just one of the many things you can do on an iPad.  If it’s the only thing you’re doing then you might as well invest in a good set of flashcards.  I don’t want it to be the toolbox but I do think it has a place in the toolbox.

If you think I’m doing it all wrong.  Let me know in the comments.

Also worth reading is Diane Darrow’s mapping of iOS apps to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

My Guide to iPad Deployment in School

Almost two years ago to the day, I wrote a post, “The iPad:  Why Teachers Should Care.”  Flash forward to today, both of the schools I work at have purchased one iPad for each classroom.  Although I’ve already mastered how to manage all the iDevices in my personal household, learning to manage iPads in an institutional environment involved a bit more learning due to the complexities of software licensing and the necessity to keep institutional accounts separate from personal ones.

School Accounts You’ll Need:

1.  A generic e-mail address.  You can use a school’s generic e-mail address.  However, I would not use any employee’s e-mail address since it’s impossible to guarantee that any employee will be at a particular school forever.  This is part of the not mixing institution and business accounts.  I signed up for a generic e-mail address with gmail.

2.  An Apple ID account associated with the generic e-mail address you set up.  Create this account without associating a credit card with the account (unless your school uses a credit card to make purchases).  This will be your school’s iTunes account for all practical purposes.  It will be used for purchasing free apps and redeeming codes purchased using your Volume Purchase Account (see below).

3.  A Volume Purchase Account (VPP).  This is the account in which you deposit iTunes gift cards and then purchase apps in bulk.  If you’re in a large district, your district likely already has a program manager.  You need to ask that person to set you up as a program facilitator.  If you try to sign up without that person, you’ll get an error through the Apple web site.

To repeat, you deposit gift cards into the VPP account and then redeem the download codes you receive through your school’s Apple ID.  Unlike at home, where you can legally install purchased apps on all your devices after buying them just once, at school you need to purchase the app as many times as there are devices.  However, they are often offered at a 50% discount when you buy 20 or more.

Although you buy 20 codes, you really only redeem one of the codes.  The other 19 codes are saved in case your school is ever audited for legal compliance.

We do not share any of the passwords for these accounts with the teachers at our school.  Teachers will receive updates to school apps and new apps we’ve purchased for the school periodically.

Personal Accounts You Should and Shouldn’t Use

Some schools do not allow teachers to install their own apps on the school iPads.  Teachers at those restrictive schools may come to feel like the iPad is not their own.  I opted to allow teachers at my schools to install apps from their personal accounts on their iPads.  I want them to feel like the iPads belong to them and for them to become experts at using the devices.

Individually Purchased Apps

Teachers can simply log out of the school account and log in to their own account to install apps they’ve previously purchased or purchase new apps.  It’s less expensive for a teacher to purchase a single app than for the school to buy twenty-four copies of it.

FaceTime and iMessages

Teachers should immediately log out of the school’s FaceTime and iMessages account under their respective tabs in settings.  Teachers can either log in using their own accounts or stay logged out.  Otherwise, iMessages sent by a single teacher will automatically appear on everyone’s iPad.


Teachers may wish to log-in to iCloud and choose which services they wish to use (e-mail, iTunes match, photo stream, contacts, calendar, etc.)  They don’t have to enable all of them but will likely want to use some of them.

Find My iPhone

Since we expect each teacher to take responsibility for not losing their iPads, I strongly encourage teachers to install the Find My iPhone app and use it to track the iPad should it ever be lost.

Setting Up the iPads

I purchased approximately 40 free apps and installed them on an iPad (more on what those are later), organizing the apps in folders by subject matter so that teachers feel more comfortable exploring even if they don’t know what the apps are.  I then set up each subsequent iPad to restore from the original iPad’s backup.  This ensures that each iPad begins with some structure and organization even if future apps will not necessarily end up in the correct folders automatically.

iPad Apps in Folders

What’s in a Name?

At my science magnet, we named the iPads after famous scientists and at the arts magnet we named them after famous painters.  Naming the iPads allows us to keep track of them easily.  Naming them after teachers or room numbers would be a mistake since both of those things can/will change over time.

I then connected each iPad to the school’s wireless network.

On a sign-out sheet, teachers sign their names next to their iPads name and serial number.

Teachers put their own Smart Covers on their iPads.

Further Reading

I’m very grateful for the following two posts which helped me immensely in the process:

Langwitches: iPad Deployment and Teacher PD

LAUSD iPad Deployment Worksheet (do not e-mail the people linked to from this worksheet unless you’re in LAUSD)


Once teachers have added their own apps to an iPad and you go to sync it with the school computer you will see a notice asking you if you want to authorize the computer for the new apps.  Don’t authorize!  You will get a scary warning that appears to indicate that the “unauthorized” apps will be removed from the iPad.  However, they will not actually be removed.  Go ahead and hit continue.  Don’t be afraid.

Update #2

Apple has released a white paper on iPad deployment that’s worth reading.


Parent Better and Change the World in 2012



On a recent journey to Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to reflect on good parenting.  Due to a brief layover, we had to switch planes mid-way and on each leg of the journey, we found ourselves sitting in front of children (yes, the same people we left our classrooms to get a break from).

I’m not (yet) a parent.  However, I believe the principles that I’ve laid out previously about classroom management apply to parenting as well.  Specifically, when you can help it, never expose children to a new situation without first letting them know what to expect from that situation and what appropriate behavior is in that situation.  Naturally, life presents unexpected situations all the time.  However, taking your students to the library, the computer lab, or a performance and taking your sons and daughters on airplanes are not unexpected events.

We teach children about individual upcoming events ahead of time for two reasons:

  1. Once we’re in a situation, it’s too late to teach the special rules (you can’t stop a performance, or halt takeoff and landing to discipline).
  2. Most importantly, misbehavior results from children being anxious.  When we explain to them what to expect they are less anxious and less likely to act up.


In the classroom, if you’re taking your students to the library, you first discuss what’s going to happen in the library and the special rules there (use a marker to find a book, whisper when you talk, etc.).  I do not take my students to the library until I’m confident that they know how to behave there.

Rafe Esquith talks about having his students sit through the entire sound recording of a symphony in his classroom before taking the students to see the real symphony.   By listening to a CD beforehand, he taught them when to clap, how to listen, and what to listen for so they were not bored when they got there.

Living Room

At home, if you know you’re going on an airplane, into a toy store, or to the post office, you need to explain the special behaviors expected in each of those places.

How This Plays Out “In the Wild”

On the first leg of our journey, as the plane was taking off, the child screamed at the top of his lungs and yelled out, “I’m scared.”  His mom laughed.  Perhaps she didn’t care that her child was screaming—but that’s for another blog post.  He spent the flight kicking my wife’s seat.  When we landed, his mom asked him to be responsible for his own jacket and told him he had to walk.  He said no, started crying, and his grandmother ended up carrying him.

During the break, I discussed with my wife how we’re going to parent differently and then on the second leg of our journey, another family provided a perfect example.

On the final flight, another child sat down behind us with his mom.  Before the flight took off, she discussed with him the popping he’d feel soon in his ears when the flight took off.  She explained that he would need to keep his seatbelt on.  She reviewed with him what they were going to be seeing in Costa Rica.  That child was a dream to sit in front of.  Nothing was a surprise to him and he knew how to behave.

When the flight landed, another passenger asked this dream child what he was looking forward to seeing.  “A volcano,” he said, “I want to see the lava coming out it of it.”  As a bonus, talking to your child develops language and verbal ability.  I didn’t hear the annoying kid say anything other than screams and grunts on the first flight.  It seems obvious, but talk to your child if you want them the learn to talk.

The Future

I’m worried.  I’m worried about what I see as a complete breakdown of expected behavior in public.  Mild-mannered me has been getting in fights with people at movies and plays about them texting during the show.  I’m not sure how we address a growing self-centeredness that puts one’s own needs ahead of anyone else.  However, I believe it’s those parents who are not setting behavioral expectations who are contributing to this general breakdown.  If you really don’t care about others, then I’m not sure I can help you.  However, if you want a better world, I think I’m laying out for you one way we can get there.

It’s a Hoax! Teach Critical Thinking and Analysis Through Online Hoaxes

What follows are three of my favorite hoax links, shared in a Google Workshop for Educators.  Use these to teach students that not everything posted on the internet is true.

All About Explorers
An attractive site looking site chock full of information about famous explorers, except all the information is false.

RYT Hospital
Men can now have babies, this high tech web site shows you how.

Museum of Hoaxes
Find tons more in the Museum of Hoaxes.


The iPad as RTI Intervention Toolkit

While waiting for the iPad to arrive in my reading intervention classroom, I’ve had a lot of time to think and plan how I will use the device.

Ground Rules

I don’t want hundreds of apps.  I’m looking for a few favorites.

I don’t want more drill and kill.  The reading intervention programs I teach do their fair share of drilling and killing (to great success) so I don’t need more of the same.

I want the iPad to help me run my intervention program like a gifted enrichment program, providing the spark that interests students in learning and helps them apply skills that they should not be learning in isolation.

My Favorites and How I Will Use Them

Dragon Dictation

While the iPhone 4S eliminates the need for Dragon Dictation because it integrates dictation whenever the keyboard appears, the iPad becomes magical with the addition of the free Dragon Dictation app.  Dragon allows students to compose their writing orally by speaking into the iPad or to type of their writing by reading it aloud.  Students can even add punctuation by speaking the name of the proper mark e.g. “Go to the store, exclamation point” will type “Go to the store!”

This is of great use for students for whom the process of writing or typing is too much of a chore to allow for the creative expression of their ideas and those whose spelling gets in the way of their completing sentences.


Students can create movies about anything.  They can illustrate their writing, tell a personal story, present the results of their research, or create instructional videos reinforcing what you’ve been teaching them in class.


You need a word processor and Pages surely does the trick.  I consistently find it easier to use than Microsoft Word on the desktop and the iPad version works just as well with the added bonus of being able to store documents in the cloud for backup.


This is not optimized for the iPad, it’s a phone app but it’s still incredibly simple to use to create books with images (photos or drawings) and captions.  For primary grade students, this is a great way to make books that can easily be shared, e-mailed, and printed.


While not instructional, I don’t know how anyone can live without Dropbox which provides Cloud storage for documents meaning anything you put there is backed up and made available on all of your computers and mobile devices.

Need more Apps?

Here are some great places to look:

Apps for all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy by Diane Darrow

Apps to Support Literacy Instruction by Scholastic Magazine

Find and share great lists of apps with Appolicious, the social network for app sharing

iRead Program, Escondido, Kathy Shirley and friends have been at it since before the iPad and iPhone were invented, using the original iPods to increase reading fluency with English Learners.

iEAR Educational Apps Reviews from real teachers.

AppShopper.com, create a wish list of apps and receive notification when prices drop.

Have your own favorites?  Leave a comment below.




Creating Your First iPhone App with HTML Flowchart

I led a workshop this past weekend for Computer Using Educators:  Los Angeles on how to create your first iPhone app based on my previous post, “How to Create Your First iPhone App.”

In order to further simplify things, here is a flow chart of steps to take in order to begin the process of designing an app using HTML, here is a flow chart to illustrate the process.  Please click on the image for a larger, downloadable PDF.

Flow Chart on How to Create Your First iPhone App Using HTML

Please post any questions down below.