Tech Tool of Week – Notability

I would like to recommend an app that our middle school students use that improves productivity. The app that stands out for our students is Notability. Here are some reasons why they like using Notability:

“It is a good note taking app. You can draw diagrams, doodle, insert pictures.” -Kyla

“You can put worksheets into it and you can do your homework without printing.” -Kyla

“You can move information back and forth between Google Drive very easily, and then you can turn in work using Google Classroom.” -Cassandra and Cameron

“You can write on (annotate) worksheets and pictures that you insert.” -Cameron

“It has a left handed mode for writing.” -Cameron

“It’s really awesome. You have a lot of options, and it’s really simple. It has a bar at the top that has all of the things you can do and it’s really simple to navigate.”  -Middy

“You can control how you want to organize the information that you put into it.” -Cameron 


Cameron’s organized Notability files

What are some other productivity and note taking apps that you like?

Tech Tuesday 3.18.14 – Backing Up Your Photos

One of the most common questions I get from people is “What is the best way to backup my photos?” There are quite a few options that you can choose from. Not backing up, should not be one of them. Digital photos are great, but if they are only stored in one location, a hard drive failure can destroy years of awesome images and memories. Here are some options for you.

  1. Use an external hard drive. External drives have become cheap. All you have to do is plug in and drag the photos to the hard drive. Many hard drives come with software that will do automated backups, so all you have to do is set it up and plug it in. If you are an Apple user, you have an amazing backup system built into your operating system, it’s called Time Machine. After you set it up the first time, all you have do is plug in and it makes incremental backups of your entire hard drive. An external drive can also fail, but it’s better than keeping everything one place.
  2. Cloud storage. There are a ton of options to choose from. Dropbox,, Google Drive, OneDrive, Mozy, Carbonite…the list is extensive. The prices for all of these will vary but they are all pretty reasonable. A few of them like Dropbox and Google Drive will offer a limited amount of free storage. All of these options are accessible from any device or computer with internet access. The nice part about cloud storage is, you don’t have to worry about hard drive failure. They are safe.
  3. Photo sharing services. This is my favorite option and Flickr is my favorite choice. Flickr now gives all users 1 TB of storage for free! This is amazing. The iOS app also had a nice update that makes it even easier to upload images directly to Flickr. Photo sharing services give you options to upload pictures that can be public or private. Some even have some basic editing features. There are several options when it comes to photo sharing and storage services. This post by The does a great job of breaking down the different providers in this category.

The bottom line, BACK UP your photos! I would highly recommend Flickr as a place to store and share your images. If you have any other ideas or suggestions about backing up, please share them in the comments below.

Essential iPad Apps in our Middle School iPad 1:1 (according to the 7th grade)

After a semester of co-teaching our middle school students in a new class, Digital Literacy, I decided to get some information from the 7th graders. The question: what apps are essential to your life and education at school? Here is the list.


Annonymous 7th graders in action, supervised by Ms. Van Alstyne.

Notability – digital note taking app. (price $2.99)*

Box – access to cloud storage. (free)

Pages – word processing/publishing software for iOS. (free with iOS 7)

iMovie – movie editing software. (free with iOS 7)

Gmail – access to student email accounts via Google app. (free)

Google Drive – access to Google Drive cloud storage for editing, collaborating and sharing work. (free)

Keynote – presentation creation software. (free with iOS 7)

Destiny Quest – our library catalog and book reservations. (free)

QR Reader – for scanning QR codes. (free)

Canvas – access to learning management system by Instructure.Canvas (we are currently piloting this LMS in middle school). (free)

Safari – web browsing and research. (free, built into iOS)

GarageBand – music creation and editing. (free with iOS 7)

Blio – book reading app. (free)

Meraki MDM – our mobile device management app, let’s manage the iPads and distribute apps. (free)

Educreations – a simple white board and screen recording presentation app. (free)

Adobe Ideas – for drawing, mind mapping, note taking, annotating pdfs and doodling. (free)

Free Graphing Calculator – self explanatory. (free)

Facetime – video conference and chatting service. (free, built into iOS)

iBooks – book reading app. (free)

Messages formerly iMessage – instant messaging service built into iOS. (free, built into iOS)

App Store – the place where all of the apps come from. 🙂 (free, built into iOS)

The next question I asked: what are essential iPad skills that you need on a daily basis at school? Check back for the answers.

*Many paid apps are eligible for a discount through Apple’s Volume Purchase Program.

I wrote this post originally for the Allendale Columbia School blog –

12 Days of App-mas Review

In the spirit of the holidays we will bring you 12 Days of App-mas. Each day we will offer an app for education. We will  offer suggestions for how the app can be used in a class. Comment with ways you have used these apps.

Here is a review of all the Apps presented during the 12 Days of App-mas.




Google Drive


CK-12 Study Now


Raising Modern Learners

Explain Everything


12 Days of App-mas: Google Drive

In the spirit of the holidays we will bring you 12 Days of App-mas. Each day we will offer an app for education. We will  offer suggestions for how the app can be used in a class. Comment with ways you have used these apps.

Google Drive – Free

App: Google Drive Download from the App Store Cost: Free Description: Google Drive is one safe place for all your stuff. Upload photos, videos, documents, and other files that are important to you, then access what you need wherever you go, on any device. Get going with up to 15GB of storage.

The app I use the most with my classes is Google Drive. Students are able to upload and share files, photos, presentations, and more. If they take photos using their iPad they are able to upload them to Google Drive and access them on a desktop computer by simply logging in with their Google account. They are able to collaborate within a document that is being updated in real time. No waiting for someone to email you the “most recent version” of a project. Right now art and biology students at AC are using Google Drive to collaborate, share, comment, and create a document describing the scientific accomplishments of Dr. Hitomi Mukaibo. Students are able to turn in homework and assignments paper-less-ly using Google Drive. As an advanced user you can even automate the way students turn in their homework using a Google Script called Doctopus.

How to Embed a Keynote or PowerPoint into a blog

I have been searching the web for the answer to this question, “How can I embed my Keynote in a format that is clickable into my blog?” I want viewers to see and click through my presentation and I don’t want to create a Slideshare account. I finally found a WordPress support document that describes how to embed a Google Presentation into a blog, but there was no video. So, I decided to create a video tutorial that describes how to take a Keynote (Apple’s PowerPoint equivalent) or a PowerPoint, convert it to a Google Presentation and put in a blog.

Let mew know what you think.