Grading Presentations with Noteshelf and the ApplePen

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I have always graded student presentations on my computer using Excel. I have four categories, enter the grade and comments for each category on the computer during the presentation, and Excel does the math for the final grade.

Recently, though, I’ve been using my computer to project the presentations; I seemed to have some trouble with the frequent swapping in and out of multiple (student) computers. But if I use my computer to project, I can’t use it to grade.

This year I figured I would be able to use the iPadPro to grade. So I opened the spreadsheet via Dropbox in Excel and off I went. Except…the iPad told me that it was read-only (in Excel) and I had to convert it to be able to edit it, and the convert button didn’t seem to want to convert.

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So I took a screen shot of the spreadsheet and made it my default page in Noteshelf (see here for Noteshelf and other notetaking apps) and used the ApplePen to grade it.

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I screenshot the completed sheet for each student, uploaded it to Dropbox, and uploaded it to ItsLearning. As usual, the ApplePen made it worthwhile; I wouldn’t have wanted to do that with a regular stylus.

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Expanding My Use of Skitch

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I’ve had Skitch for a few years now and have used it sparingly. When I think about it and/or when I need its prominent and easy-to-draw arrows, it’s been great; it does exactly what I want. But generally it wasn’t in my go to rotation of apps.

I presented today to a group of faculty on Mac Tips and Tricks (under the Mac Training tab above, if you’re desperate to see), so lots of screen shots and lots of annotations. Skitch was perfect. Easy to use; clear; (mostly) editable (more on that below).

A few other factors contributed to my adoption of Skitch:

  1. Microsoft Office’s shapes. At some point, Office took a very functional aspect and made it annoyingly complicated (I might argue that they’ve done this with their entire suite, but that’s another post). I could once easily draw in PowerPoint simple shapes that were easily editable. No longer. The default rectangle is not only this weird gradient light blue, but, when I resize it, the weight of the line resizes accordingly. Because who wouldn’t want a rectangle with a 1/2 inch border that can’t be easily made smaller? I’d been struggling with this for a while, but didn’t have a viable alternative / didn’t realize the extent of Skitch’s usefulness and ease.
  2. Stumbling upon command-shift-control-5. I imagine most of you know the screen shot key combinations (if not, see the Mac Tips and Tricks above). When using them, I mistakenly hit 5 instead of 4. I got the crosshair, but the rest of the screen was greyed out; whatever I highlighted cleared up. I didn’t know what was going on but tried it and it took the screen shot and pasted it directly into Skitch.

Skitch allows easy and editable annotations with…

  • arrows
  • shapes
  • stamps
  • text
  • free annotations / drawing
  • pixelation (i.e. blurring something out)
  • cropping

I’ve included some screen shots below of these different features.

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And once I edit or annotate in Skitch, I use the Mac screen shot function (command-control-shift-4) to copy to the clipboard and paste directly into PowerPoint. Skitch of course saves, but all of these are pretty much one-offs, so no need to preserve them anywhere but the PowerPoint, and the screenshot lets me accomplish in two steps what would be a lot more steps to save and place.

So give Skitch a try. For any heavy screenshot work or annotation work, it’s hard to beat.

My First Use of Swivl

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I first saw Swivl at a conference (I think iNACOL) a few years ago and, while it seemed like an interesting idea, I wasn’t doing enough flipping or taping to warrant it. But I was giving a PD today and thought it might be a good reason to revisit Swivl, and I’m glad I did.

Let me say first and foremost that you’ll notice in the video that it actually doesn’t follow me. That is not Swivl’s fault; it is entirely mine. I was hooked in and ready to go, and realized that I forgot my presentation clicker. When I retrieved the clicker, I went out of range for the Swivl, which de-paired the receiver. I didn’t want to take the time to figure out the re-pairing on the fly since I needed to start the presentation. (It’s only fitting that the way I’m facing and the lighting makes the red light that signals that I’m not paired flare conspicuously throughout the video.)

In any case, the video below is as bad as the Swivl gets, i.e. because it’s stationary rather than following me, and it’s still pretty great.

Beyond the defining technical aspects of the Swivl (i.e. that it follows you), here are some other benefits to the Swivl:

  • auto-upload: the Swivl automatically uploads any videos to your account on their server
  • auto-delete: the Swivl doesn’t store videos locally, so your device stays unencumbered by all the video it’s taking
  • auto-awake: the Swivl keeps the device awake during the upload so, as long as you don’t interrupt the upload, it continues until it’s done (this can of course be a power drain, but I’d rather have to turn it off to save power than to turn it back on every few minutes after it puts itself to sleep)
  • (all of these are in contrast to Dropbox; I have the Dropbox camera uploads active and it is slower, needs to be turned back on constantly (especially for video) and requires me to manage the storage on my device)

So here’s the video. Again, it could be a lot better. But it’s still pretty great. Thanks, Swivl.

[Wordpress is being a bit finicky with the embed code, i.e. I can see the embedded video below in this edit page and the code worked in an online compiler, but when I view the post itself the video doesn’t show up. In case that happens, here’s a link for the video.]


Notetaking Apps for the iPad

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With the advent of the Apple Pen, notetaking apps become even more versatile and provide even more potential. I’ve been using them for a while, but sparingly because they’re somewhat cumbersome with a stylus and, to be honest, I’m not in the position to take notes in that way much anymore.

I’m at a coaching conference, however, where I am taking notes in that way (with the Apple Pen; amazing) and so I thought I’d revisit notetaking apps.

Here are the ones I (re)looked at (and I didn’t include pretty standard ones like Evernote, (Apple’s) Notes, and OneNote):

What I was looking for was something that would let me integrate images and text / notes. I have a handout for the conference workshops that I wanted to include, reference, and annotate in my notes.

I’ll start with Concepts and, to be fair, it is not strictly speaking a notetaking app. It is more a drawing / design app. With that said, its interface is complex, one that I suspect would be more familiar to a designer but complex enough that I couldn’t figure out how to change the color to one that I wanted.

SuperNote seems to have potential. It is along the lines of Noteshelf. But it was difficult to integrate the image; it added it as an attachment rather than having it be part of the note itself.

Noteshelf had changed its icon so when I opened it I realized that I had used it before. Noteshelf’s strength is creating notebooks of similarly formatted notes. I remembered that I used its photo feature to take a picture of a scrabble score card so I could keep score on the iPad and repeat its use (without having to worry about running out of scorecards). 

Similarly, I’m trying to find a good app to take notes during a game. I had thought about how I would design a template and then transfer it somewhere, and I’m thinking that I will use Noteshelf to keep those game notes, i.e. I will create the template, import it into Noteshelf, and keep my game notes there.

But for versatility and functionaliy and simplicity of use, really Notability is hard to beat. It has just the right number of and flexibility with tools, it can integrate images well (I’ve used it plenty for home improvement projects where I photograph something and then use Notability to add the dimensions / measurements), and it exports to a .pdf.

So in the end, Notability is my recommendation for a notetaking app, though Noteshelf is a close second for a different kind of taking and organizing notes.

Can’t Say Enough About the ApplePen and the Smart Connector

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I recently posted about accessorizing the iPadPro and how I rolled the dice with the smart connector when choosing a keyboard, and how pleased I was with that decision. That decision has been further confirmed.

I’m at a soccer coaches conference. They provide the handout with drills and notes-spaces as a .pdf, and I’ve always taken notes digitally. In previous years, that was on an iPad Mini with a stylus; the notes were predictably messy. With the Apple Pen, however, the notes are clear, tighter, and easier both to produce and consume.

The smart connector, however, lets me swap out the keyboard effortlessly. I can’t really use the keyboard to take notes; much of the time I’m standing (ok, because I’m on the short side and have to see over people; don’t worry: I sit at the back so I don’t block anyone by standing), so, with the iPad in my hand, the pen is ideal. My hand can rest on the screen and I can write naturally. It is no different in my mind from writing on paper. 

When I sit, however, and want to type (like I’m doing right now), the keyboard is a simple snap on and go proposition, and I can’t emphasize how much easier that makes life, that I can just effortlessly swap between laptop-mode and tablet-mode with no difficulty and, really, no time.

So, kudos again to Apple for both the pen and the smart connector. They both distinguish the Pro from its iPad brethren in a way that is impossible to replicate.

Here are what notes look like on the Pro:

Compare to what they look like on the mini:

Lego and Structuring Design

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Saw this article on and was pleasantly surprised by it. Did a good job framing some thoughts about implementing such an approach in the classroom, with potential for our school-within-a-school. I particularly liked the before, during, and after diagram.


Focused Video Questions Using GoogleForms

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Was emailed this article about using embedded videos in GoogleForms to ask directed questions with efficient access to the videos (for rewind / review). Seems like a good approach, one I might have to try.

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