GarageBand iOS Quick Start Guide

GarageBand Quick Guide.jpg


Tour Art Galleries and Ancient Monuments with Google Cultural Institute

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 7.51.32 AMGoogle’s new “Cultural Institute” allows you to take virtual tours of art galleries, view curated collections of art, explore historic moments, and visit wonders of the world.

The site is highly interactive, and is a great resource for student-centered activities across the curriculum.  The collections have been curated by well-known museums, galleries, and national institutions, and the interface and user experience is very slick.

The site also allows you to create your own curated galleries of art works, historic documents and images, and interactive presentations.  It provides a terrific opportunity also for evidence-based learning through access to thousands of historic primary documents.

Some of my favorites in a brief tour of the site included:


Google’s Easy-to-use and Dramatic Photo Editor: Snapseed


Clew Bay, Ireland, enhanced with the Snapseed Drama effect

While there are a lot of great options for editing photographs, there are few that are as intuitive, as aesthetically-pleasing, and produce more dramatic effects than Google’s Snapseed for iPhone and iPad.  You can take pictures right from the app, or edit pictures from your photo library.  Once you have made all desired enhancements, there are a multitude of options for sharing and saving your images.

The app offers straightforward tweaks such as brightness, contrast, and cropping, and effects such as desaturation (black and white), Tilt-Shift (a blurring effect), and the ability to add frames to your photos.

Snapseed Grunge

Snapseed Grunge Filter

Snapseed Vintage

Snapseed Vintage Filter

However, the most dramatic features are the filters that Snapseed provides: these features provide several enhancements to the picture at one time.  Filters in include the Instagram-like Grunge (top image of the bird on feeder) and Vintage (second bird image) options.

Snapseed Drama

Snapseed Drama filter with added frame

However, my favorite is the slightly subtler, though perhaps less hip filter, Drama (third bird image, with added frame).  This filter appears to enhance the image with ambiance effects as well as adjustments to the contrast.  It quickly transforms pictures into visually arresting images, and is particularly effective with clouds (see mountains image at the top of this page).

Snapseed home

Effects and filters options

Snapseed choices

Scroll up and down to choose between effects.

Snapseed is easy to use: choose from the list of options on the left side of the screen, then once in a particular option, scroll up and down with your finger to toggle between between different effects, and swipe left or right to reduce/ increase the amount of the effect applied.  At any time, you can tap the compare button to gauge the change you have made (it instantly shows the previous version of the image.)  Once you have saved the effect, you can compare all the changes you have made to the original image once again by pressing the compare button.  You can also revert to the original image at any time.

Snapseed Open With

“Open with” options (page 1 of 2)

Once you are happy with the enhancements you have made to an image, you can share your image on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or by email from within the app itself.  You can also print the image, save it to your Camera roll, or open it with a multitude of other apps on your iPad/ iPhone (see bottom image).

Clearly, you can take the raw pictures from your iPad/ iPhone to begin with some decent quality photographs (particularly if you are shooting outdoors).  However, using the iPad camera connection kit (a card reader that plugs into the iPad’s charging port), you can take pictures on your DSLR, edit them in Snapseed, then save them to Dropbox, Google Drive, or send them to a external hard drive.

Lesson planning using Google Calendar

Google Calendar can be a useful tool in preparing lesson plans, particularly if you like to limit the number of places that you keep your information: by using Calendar to plan lessons, the details of your lessons are housed in the same place as all your other events.  Moreover, individual lesson plans or your whole “Lesson Plan” calendar can be shared with others (this can be useful for sharing a lesson plan with a substitute teacher.)Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 9.10.52 PM

To create a “Lesson Plan” calendar, use the drop down menu in My Calendars in the left bar.  Then for your lesson, you can either create one event and in Edit event> Description, describe the activities for the whole class.  However, you can create a clearer lesson plan by creating events for each discreet activity and describing the details of the activities in the ‘Description’ section.

To view your lesson plans, first choose to view only the lesson plan events by clicking  on the drop down menu on the calendar’s name in the left bar, and selecting “Display only this calendar.”

Then, use the agenda view to see the lesson plan.  This view shows the activities for the lesson in a list (see screenshot above).  To access the agenda view, see the button to the right of the Day, Week, Month buttons.  The detailed description of the activities can be found by clicking on “Edit event.”

10 Hidden Features of Google Calendars for Teachers

Google Calendars in the Google Apps for Educators suite is pretty easy to use, but under the hood, there are many ‘hidden’ features that can be very useful for teachers with our hectic schedules!  Here are ten power uses for educators:

  1. Color code not only your different calendars, but also events within these calendars. Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 3.42.10 PM(e.g., if you want to highlight which class meetings are associated with homework assignments):  Go to the event details/ edit event, and look down to event color.  This option is also available directly in the event pop up in Calendar view.
  2. Receive reminders of events by text message, email, or a pop up in your web browser: Go to edit event, and scroll down to reminders> add reminder. You will need to set up your SMS text notifications in Settings> Mobile Set Up.
  3. Set up appointment slots on your calendar that students or parents can sign up for (e.g., for parent/teacher Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 3.30.04 PMconferences or office hours): click on the calendar to create an event, and you will see an “Appointment Slots” option.  Once you have set up the event, you will be given a URL to send to appointees for them to claim time slots.  Note, this feature is only available in Google Apps for Education and not through your personal Gmail calendar.
  4. Edit events in different calendars (e.g., if you have calendars for different classes): In edit event, go to Calendars and choose from the drop down menu.
  5. Change the default ‘meeting’ length to a time closer to the length of your class period (e.g., if you class period is 30 minutes or 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes): Go to settings, then scroll down to “default meeting length” and choose from the drop down menu.  Unfortunately, this function currently only works in units of 15 minutes.
  6. Create a repeating event (such a a regularly scheduled class): go to edit event, click on the Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 3.17.59 PMrepeat box just below the date and time, and choose from the options.  You can repeat by day, week, or even by particular days.  Unfortunately, this feature does not accommodate rotating/ modular schedules!
  7. Set up multiple day events (such as “Model UN trip to NY): Make an all day calendar event by clicking in the area above the list of times or by “create event,” then edit the days the event covers.)
  8. When viewing your calendar, click Q to “Quick Add” an entry.  Type, for example, “MeetScreen Shot 2013-04-02 at 3.03.20 PM with Mr. Smith at 1pm on Friday in my classroom” and the event will appear in your calendar.  Google Calendar will recognize the information in your text and apply the event to your calendar.  If you don’t assign the event a day, it will assign the event to today, or tomorrow if the event time has already passed.
  9. Change the time zone of events (e.g., if you Skype with Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 3.34.24 PMa class in a different time zone): go to edit event, then click on the Time Zone button to the right of date and time.  The event will appear on your calendar at the correct time for your time zone.  If you create the event in one time zone, and then travel to another, the event will again appear in the correct time for that time zone.
  10.  Copy events from other people’s calendars on to your own (e.g., an all-school calendar Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 3.49.11 PMevent): click on the event, and you will see a “Copy to my calendar” option.

Five Brilliant iPap Apps for Teaching and Blogging

iPad homescreen

Twitter is not only a great source of news and reading links, but also a place to learn about new apps.  Since I am constantly trying out new digital tools, friends and colleagues regularly ask me about my favorite iPad apps (see my home screen on the right.)  However, instead of emailing each of them screenshots and descriptions, I have followed the advice of computer professor and productivity blogger Matt Might: when you are regularly asked the same question or have information to share with several people, write a blog post that you can save and share at any time.  So, here are my top five iPad apps for teaching and blogging:

1. Blogsy (blogging) $4.99Blogsy

I have blogs on both Blogger (a beer blog) and WordPress (educational technology, running, my English course) but found the iPad apps offered by both these services to be either lacking in features or a little buggy.  Following the advice of Lifehacker, I now use Blogsy and have really enjoyed the experience.  Blogsy allows you to drag and drop photos from both photos on your iPad but also from those posted on social media services.  You can connect with blogs on Blogger, WordPress, Tumbler and other major blogging services.  Even within these services, you can post to your various blogs.

2. Remind 101 (anonymous group texting) freeRemind101 Screenshot

Sometimes posting homework and reminders on the course website just isn’t direct enough: when I really want to get a message to my students, I use Remind101. This service, designed specifically for educators, is a free and anonymous group texting service: after you sign up and create a group, you share an anonymous phone number assigned to you and a password that you create with your students.  Students then subscribe to the group, and receive all group texts.  The key here is that you do not know their cell phone numbers, they do not know yours.  I have used Remind101 to remind my choir of rehearsals and performances, my cross country meets about events and practices, and my classes about assignments.  The students really like this service as they don’t have to do anything: the reminders and even links simply appear on their home screens.  The final killer feature is that you can schedule texts for any time so you can write them during school hours, but the students can receive the texts when they are supposed to be doing their homework!

3. Snapseed (photo editor) $4.99

I bought this photo editor several months ago on the recommendation of a professional photographer. While it is no Photoshop, it is a lightweight and highly interactive photo editor: IMG_5379swipe up and down to switch between filters, adjustments, and enhancement effects.  Swipe left and right to increase/decrease the effects.  Filters include the dramatic ‘Drama’ as seen in this photo of mountains in Ireland.

4. Evernote (digital notebook) free or $5/month Evernote St. Louis

Evernote currently has 34 million users and has recently been emulated by Google with it’s new app Keep.  However, every review I have read has said that while Google Keep is a handy app, it is no rival to the rich spectrum of features offered by Evernote.  (Ironically, since the introduction of Keep, Evernote has got even more popular).  In short, Evernote is a digital notebook: type in notes, take voice memos, or take photos.  The web clipper (save content directly from websites to a note) is a great feature, and it is even possible to clip content from a iPad using the bookmark function.  Notes are organized into folders that can be shared and even references offline (premium feature).  Here are two uses I have recently made of Evernote:

  • My family is relocating to St. Louis, and on a recent visit out there I went both house and school shopping.  As I saw houses and visited schools, I began a new note in  the St. Louis folder, took a picture, then added notes.  As I had shared this folder with my wife, she was able to stay up-to-date with houses and schools as I toured.
  • My kids are of the age when they are making lots of art and notes. For each memorable piece, I open a new note in my “Kids’ Art” folder, and take a photo of the art, sometimes with them holding it so I can remember how big/small they were!

The above examples relate to my personal life, but it is easy to see how students can use Evernote in similar ways on field trips, working on projects, or in building a digital portfolio.

5. Toon Camera $0.99IMG_7523

OK, this one’s just for fun, but it has a great number of fun filters for cartoon and drawing effects.  When you have chosen your filter, you can then share by email, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, or Instagram.

Best of the rest:

I recently found Readdle Calendar and have really enjoyed it’s clean interface and easy linking with my various Gmail calendars.  Wunderlist is a nice to-do app that now has a Chrome extension and buttons built into Gmail and some other services such as Amazon.  Tweetbot is a great Twitter service that allows you to easily switch between your Twitter accounts.

Handy Chrome Extensions for Productivity and Workflow

Extensions are handy extra features that can enhance the functionality of your browser without leaving a webpage.  The extensions in Chrome and most other browsers can eliminate many workflow steps for a variety of activities.  The picture right describes some useful extensions for productivity, and specifically for:

Chrome Productivity Extensions

  • Adding or clipping to to-do lists (Google Tasks, Wunderlist)
  • Eliminating the clutter from webpages for easy reading (Evernote Clearly)
  • Shortening web addresses ( URL shortener)
  • Clipping content to a notebook (Evernote Web Clipper)
  • Saving content directly to cloud applications (Google Drive, Drop Box)
  • Adding items to a shopping wish list (Amazon Wish List)
  • Article notification counter for favorite websites (Lifehacker Notifier)

All of these extensions can be found on this page, or accessed by clicking on the button (with the three lines at the far right corner of the Chrome extensions:

Accessing Chrome Extensions