Monday, December 24, 2012

RTC Session 4 - SEN and iPads

Thank you for those that attended our Apple Regional Training Centre Event for iPads and SEN

If you missed it why not register to the website and get automatic updates or just to check when the next session is

Sometimes it's not always about the Apps, the iPad has some fantastic built in and underrated features. The most important for SEN students are the accessibility features...

Accessibility Features

Guided Access -  is only available if you have updated to iOS6 (highly recommended anyway). It allows for apps to be locked and disables the home button. VERY USEFUL if you share your iPad with students as it stops them from browsing your personal files. Also great for students who are 'easily distracted' by the temptation of other apps.

Voice Over - For students that have poor sight Voice Over speaks the options available

Zoom - This is one of the most useful features used by our students. When switched on you can triple tap with three fingers and choose the zoom level of the screen.

Inverted Colours - For students who do not like white backgrounds with black text his allows for easier reading.

Speak Selection - A fantastic tool for students that struggle with reading. You can select a word or page and have the iPad read it back to you at whatever pace you want with whatever dialect you want. This is not restricted to iBooks but works in most apps.

My example how to use the features

Don't trust me however, one of our students has made their own website describing the features. As a student that is at the 'coal face' of these issues I think she understands it better than I ever could.!for-the-visually-impaired/cm95

Why not have a look at her whole website

Reading Assistance

Camera Magnification - Using the inbuilt camera you can pinch and zoom to see greater detail. Students no longer have to be dragged to the front of every class to see the board. Very liberating for the students involved. Often staff ask for the images to be emailed to them for their own records or for sharing on VLE's, Blogs or Wiki's

Scan to PDF - Storing key information is not always great in the photo album. You can convert images (including photos of text) into PDF documents that can be saved into collection in iBooks for better organisation.

Cam Scanner (Free) - There is a paid version but it is basically the same as the free except you don't have to put up with small ads. I use the free version

Speaking in iBooks - As mentioned above you can select whole sections of text and have the iPad read it back to you. It can also be set to highlight the text as it reads, when you slow the speed down this can be a great reading aid

iAnnotate £6.99
I use this to write on PDF documents but it has a zoom feature that allows students to complete worksheets (convert to PDF and email ir leave on VLE) at their own scale 

Auto Stitch £1.49
This allows for multiple images to be stiched together producing one higher quality image with greater detail. This can be used for great scenery or more practically in the classroom a board or display

360 Panorama £0.69
This is a bit of fun but allows students or teachers to take 360 degree views of special places of interest that students that can not access can view in a fun way

Click on the image for the 360 view

Kindle (Free)
This allows students to read eBooks with their own choice of text size and I invert the background to black with white text for an easier read

Writing Assistance 

Recorder £1.49
I use this to recorder to record voice notes for my students coursework. I start the recording and go to their current work in a shared Dropbox account and as I read the CW I dictate my feedback. It can also be used to record lessons for later review

Using Dictation on the iPad
I find that I can use dictation for large essays or reports on the iPad. I can record my thoughts while looking at work or notes. The dictation is good but needs wifi and a proof read afterwards. The icon can be found every time the keyboard is viewable. Great for students with writing issues. 

Wireless Keyboard or Dock - For students that do not like the inbuilt keyboard you can use a wireless keyboard for a greater tactile experience or for faster typing. I like these all in one cases:
You can get these or the official keyboard docks online or at your local retailer. 

Story telling apps - These can be used instead of essays. Creative writing in the form of video, cartoon or collage can be a great way of allowing students that struggle with reading or writing to get their ideas down in their own way.

Toontastic Free
This app allows students to get really creative. Even though is is aimed at younger students (pre loaded with cartoons) you can import pictures and more secondary orientated material. 

Morfo booth
£0.69 (free version available)
So many ways in which this could be used. Story telling will never be the same.

Hearing Assistance 

Making Video Intros
As discussed it can be a great change of pace to start with a video....

Today Voice Notes£1.49I use this tool to give feedback to students on essay work as it is quicker to give more thorough notes than typed. The students have said that they like this as it is easier to follow. The students can be emailed directly from the app and listened to on any computer. 

Good for taking notes at meetings. The typed notes are highlighted in time with the recorded audio. It was also mentioned that it would be useful for observations. 

When taking recordings microphone placement is key. If you can't get close buy some cheap microphones and extensions to help. Here are some I bought on Amazon (The microphone extension is specific as it needs 4 poles)

Microphone -
Extension -


Routines - The iPad is great for keeping students organised and there are various apps to keep you in line

Timers - Use the inbuilt clocks app to set timers and alarms throughout the day

Simple Mind
For those that like using mind maps this is a great tool. If you want to share the notes you can either pay for the upgrade or use the iPads screen capture (home button and power at the same time) to add the page to your photo album 

Calendars - Used to set your schedule for the week, including homework deadlines. You can set up to two reminders for the in built calendar events. A great way to keep on track. It is also possible to share a calendar with a student so that you can check or add events that have been forgotten.

Note Taking - There is a note taking app built in or more advanced options in the app store. Storing notes in the cloud is a great way of backing them up

I simply don't know how/why this app is free. It is the only note taking app (and I've tried a few!) that incorporates TEXT, AUDIO, PICTURES & VIDEO. Easy to use and has a calendar for homeworks. Great app.

eBooks - You can request a PDF version of textbooks for some students or look in the iBooks library for some great alternatives

Scanning Books - With the permission of the publisher there are circumstances where you are allowed to scan the book for a student.

Foundation Stage Profiles

In the primary sector Photos, Audio, Video can be great ways to collect evidence

Great tool for gathering evidence of students work. I take photos of students work and make notes so that I have evidence of progress without having to take book back in. Also great for when students lose books.

Also the InClass app above does a similar job but is the only one to store video. It is free so may trump aNote

I hope this helps with an idea how to use the iPad for SEN 

Thanks for taking your valuable time to read this.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

What tech Should Santa Bring?

I have had a few requests for advice for what tech to buy for students for Christmas.

If it's not a surprise please discuss it with your daughter. The first decision is whether you are going to bring the tech in to school? The second is price! So I have split the answers into these subheadings.....


It would be a shame not to bring the tech into our new super fast wifi at school but if you are sure then:

Larger budget (£800+)

Mac Mac Mac.... Either the iMac (Desktop machine) or the more favourable Macbook Pro or Air. Young geeks like to move their devices around so the laptop range is usually a winner. If they want more power (but more weight) then the pro is the option. For me I would say go for the Macbook Air. Easily portable and gorgeous.

Smaller budget (£300-500)
For me I have always had good experiences with Dell and Acer for a cheaper Alternative. I'm not a fan of the Netbooks. A nice idea but not good enough really. Have a look at the range of Dell's the Inspiron is a tried and tested classic If you ring up you can ask for the VAT off rather than trying to claim it back.


Larger Budget 

Well this comes down to the big question, to iPad or not to iPad. If you really want a laptop then see the above choices but for me laptops do not hold enough charge and are a pain to carry around. So iPad choices are fairly easy. Go for the maximum storage you can afford, 3G is a luxury and prices start at around £350. At Beaulieu you can do all your homework and submit them using the free apps available. 

Smaller budget

I have titled this smaller budget but the iPad mini has really thrown in a big decision. An iPad mini is really a better iPad2. You can do all you need to on an iPad2 and the mini is so small (and cheaper, starting at £240). Again go for the max storage you can afford. The mini fits into a blazer pocket and is amazing. If you can't deal with the smaller size go for the big brother. I would say though, we as adults think the mini is to small but the kids don't.

also you have the option of the new iPod touch. Fits into all pockets and does pretty much all the iPad can do. But for the price difference go for the mini.


For me its all about the iPad mini if you can get hold of one before Christmas, if you're not convinced then the iPad. I have made the switch to the mini so that says it all. It's the only device I carry to school. Hopefully it will be for all the students too. 


Insurance - Check your household insurance covers its loss 
Get a protective cover that encloses the whole device 

Thanks for taking the time to read
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Friday, August 31, 2012


While infographics are not that new they have grown quickly and are now pretty standard in posters and while you may not be aware of the term you have certainly seen them (Fantastic Example at the bottom of the post)

Not sure what an infographic is - watch this

I think they offer a great way into subjects and are a good Literacy and Numeracy task rolled into one. I am using them as starter activities for subjects. "Make an infographic on iOS v Android" or "I bet my Twitter account is better than yours..." leave the research to the students and see what happens. You will get great diversity and some great posters for your wall at the beginning of term.

There is a wide range of free online tools, many of them try to get you to pay for extras but you can get away with the free versions. The main contenders are: - iPad compatible 

Offers great custom charts with a spreadsheet built in
Interactive online versions as well as 2D
6 free templates - iPad incompatible 

5 free templates
Easy to use layout - iPad compatible 

Social networking integration for auto 
info graphics
Repository of other fantastic infographics to save you time - iPad incompatible 

Not for making infographics on its own but great for the images
Take a while to play with the settings for better outcomes (HTML5) - iPad compatible 

Again not directly for infographics but great for flow diagrams
With a bit of creativity you can make complex diagrams

Again thanks for the time to read this post and hope you found it useful
Why not follow me


Great example of an infographic for Geography

The difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England

Browse more infographics.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Nikon D7000 & iPad a match made in heaven

Learn how I use my DSLR and iPad wirelessly on location to edit and upload photos or video. Leave the laptop at home...

I was torn in my decision between a Canon 60D and a Nikon D7000 for filming.

After a great deal of research and a number of Pros and Cons it came down to the last 2, The Canon's 720p 60fps v the Nikon's better low light Video. There are of course many other decisions but these became the deal breakers. As the title suggests I went for the Nikon and am very happy due to an unforeseen benefit....

The Nikon has 2 SD card slots and you have a few options:
  • Use slot 2 as overflow
  • Use slot 2 as backup 
  • Use slot 1 for RAW and slot 2 for jpeg
The last option has a very useful feature. I have an 'old' Eye-Fi Card and for those of you that don't know this is an SD card with wifi built in. Every time you are near a wifi hotspot it will upload the images to your online account. So why is this useful? Did I not mention that there is an accompanying app.....

So I set up the card to access my school and home wifi networks (as well as my iPhone Hotspot, more on that later) so that when I get to either destinations the photos on my Wifi Card start to upload automatically (I can add another post for those interested in the Eye-Fi).

I had to think carefully at this point as I do a lot of filming and didn't want my iPad to fill up in a few days with Film so I set up my Nikon in the following way:

Images: Slot1 RAW - Slot2 Fine jpeg 
Video: Manually set to Slot1 only

This meant that all my large files, RAW images and 1080p video was stored on my large SD card and only the jpeg's were on my Eye-Fi card and loaded onto my iPad via Eye-Fi. Allowing for a much higher quality of image beyond the built in one. Adding depth of field and could be used with older iPad 1's as a wireless camera.

However I did want the ability to upload my video to iPad as well. No worries the Nikon D7000 has another great feature, copying between cards on the camera!

So any video that I want to use on the iPad via iMovie or the like I simply copy to the Eye-Fi Card. Just so I can keep track of the video I created another folder on the Eye-Fi card as demonstrated below (again I can expand this process for those interested). 

Now using the iPhone (or 3G iPad) Hotspot feature I can tether both my iPad and Eye-Fi card meaning that I no longer need to take a laptop to do simple edits and publish to the internet when on location. A great space saver! This small but freeing step can not be underestimated!

Hope you like it and if you're after a mid to high range DSLR for filming you might consider a 2 slot DSLR with similar features or just go for the Nikon D7000 

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. 
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Apple Distinguished Educators Institute 2012

Apple in Cork 

It has taken me a while to gather all my thoughts, ideas and inspirations from the best professional development I have ever been on. Apple is clearly the world leader for a reason and this institute highlighted why. Every detail was considered and every opportunity to develop taken. The worlds best educational innovators in awe at world class presentations from exceptional leaders. A nice fun start was a personalised 'Passport' to get to know all the different people from the global community that attended.

This was also the most trusting event I've been on and there were a few 'non-disclosure' talks, but needless to say there are some exciting times ahead.

The biggest thought to strike me during this last week was the fact that Apple have now become a world leading educational training centre, if not THE leader, could you say the same from its competitors? 

We have a great new intro to use at our own ADE courses and I can't wait. 


Fota Island in Cork was to host this event and the venue was inline with the quality of the event. We were given the opportunity to see the beauty of Ireland in what we were told was an unusually long sunny period, coincidence? But seriously I was never happier to work with colleagues long in to the night and early in the morning. 

Maybe it's because I come from a small island but I was also struck with the pace of change, many schools are finding themselves the wrong side of a new digital divide. I saw videos of many schools and districts from around the world who have already fully integrated the technology and are now looking to change the way they deliver courses. The word 'facilitator' rather than teacher was banded around many a time. We are no longer the experts, Google can easily out perform our factual recall but thankfully for all our jobs we are still (for the moment) better at linking, understanding and organising our specialisms, this is what we should be teaching not mindless content.

Without boring you with the geekier details there were a couple of big themes that emerged and I will share my experiences and personal projects. 


Now this is not a new concept but the real power of what iBooks can deliver was discussed and demonstrated. Even my beloved Moodle was given a potential death sentence.

We were shown new techniques to employ more creative and engaging content in our books. Abdul from Essa in the UK showed how his teachers use iBooks for their content saving considerable amounts in text books and printing. Open University showed us how linking pages together can produce large panoramic photos that have expectational video hotspot. Also they demonstrated how YouTube can be embedded to reduce file sizes. Now we know webpages can be embedded within the books automated assessment becomes exciting. Previously assessment widgets were kept inside the books and therefore of little use to the progressive teacher. Now with ether FileMaker or GoogleDocs you could embed recordable assessment to servers. Other widgets allowed for live polls and various exciting opportunities. I will investigate these an post the results.


For me this has the potential to change things in a big way.  iTunesU isn't as high quality as iBooks but allows teachers to use existing materials and publish them to the world, this can be done via iTunesU (pending approval) or by direct links. You can link Youtube (or other video), PDF's, Presentations, basically any content. Students can complete their own learning at their own pace with exciting content. Schools that do not allow Youtube and the like are going to face some serious questions in the future. Assessment is still not quite there yet on iTunesU but I would think that is about to change...

The main projects that I will be completing are both based around iTunesU. Firstly I will be making (with the help of my team, 4E) a starter guide for teachers who want/need to use the iPad. The series will start from extreme beginner to expert (eventually) and will be called 'Stepping Stones'. Teachers will find their natural starting point and can download as many or as little as they need depending on their needs. I will post a demo version as quickly as possible, so download iTunesU App now

Secondly I will be preparing my own A-Level ICT and Art & Design course for students to use. I have not told them yet but I will be posting some reading material online for them before the start of term as a trial to help students to start courses running and gain teaching/facilitating time.


There was much discussions on the last day between a few of us but before I go further I must state the following is total conjecture and we were not privy to any unique insight.  At the end of a long course we all like to predict the future and the following musing was banded around....

With added assessment iTunesU could potentially have the ability to record progress on the iTunes server. With enough quality material and correct assessment online students could access FREE courses that have certain credits associated, build up enough credits and you could gain an Apple Degree! Maybe this would not be recognised by anyone expect Apple but they employ enough people that they could get staff to train themselves for free before applying for jobs! Free access to training for all, that would quickly be a model employed by many large scale companies. We will see....


There was a lot of love in the room when Bill Rankin, ADE Class of 2009, presented his theories on education. His presentation was the slickest I've ever seen and only used Keynote for an array of special effects that many of us had never seen or thought possible. A few of us collared him afterwards and I will be demonstrating a few of these over the coming months. 

Some of the more crazy runners decided to join a nice little 5k fun run in Carrigtwohill. It's worth mentioning that we ran an extra 3k home after. Can you spot the GoPro trial video?

My worst/best experience was presenting in front of 270 Apple experts was a little daunting but I got through it on adrenaline and auto pilot, the blinding light helped a little too. 

The high quality of Film and especially audio was of an exceptional level and I will endevour to emulate the professonal experince I saw when I return. To help you with your own video join your first iTunesU course with this great example on how to produce quality film content:

Once again thanks for giving up your valuable time to read my less than perfect grammar, I hope it interested you. 

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I could resist the cheesy unofficial Apple Photo