Grading Presentations with Noteshelf and the ApplePen

Leave a comment

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.

2017-03-28 12.29.42

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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 9.59.17 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.00.12 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.02.18 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 8.59.11 AM

Expanding My Use of Skitch

Leave a comment

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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.50.55 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.51.15 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.52.31 PM

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

Leave a comment

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

1 Comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.

An iPad (Pro) Typing Question?

Leave a comment

A question out there for anyone listening. When I type expressions that involve a period (e.g. E.g.), as you can see in the parenthetical there, the letter after the g. Is (again) automatically capitalized. With an onscreen keyboard, I can unshift the keyboard to type a lowercase letter, but on the Apple Keyboard the shift key does not work in reverse that way, I.e. When I try to correct that uppercase E (or I or W), it automatically capitalizes; depressing the shift key only keeps it capital (rather than, in effect, reversing the process. I can, and have, used the copy – paste approach, I.e. Finding a corresponding lowercase letter elsewhere, copying it, and pasting it over the capital letter, but that is of course cumbersome, especially when needed more than once.

Any thoughts out there? Is there a workaround, either simple or complex that I could do? I suppose I could turn off autocorrect? Not sure I want to entirely disable it (depending on the day…).

I appreciate any help, I.e. Thanks. 

An iOS Email Client I Actually Like

Leave a comment

I have never been a fan of Apple’s Mail, either on the Mac or especially on iOS devices. I used it early on when, in OS X, it was the only (obvious) option, but, once I shifted to Gmail, I used (and liked) the Gmail interface. It’s not particularly slick, but it’s functional and easy. I especially like Gmail’s columns / categories (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums). I have more email addresses than I care to admit forwarding to one Gmail address, so those columns provide a good baseline of organization.

I avoided Apple’s Mail on my phone and iPad from when I first got them. I was on Gmail, liked its web interface, and so just used it via iOS Safari. I would see on the App Store, in MacWorld, through various promotions, different mail clients that tout greater efficiency and organization over Mail. I tried a number of them but found them too slick, e.g. swipe slowly to archive and quickly to trash (I archived a lot more things than I wanted). I did like some of the organizational tricks (at least a couple had a feature that would redeliver a message at a future date, say the agenda for a meeting that isn’t for another week, and CloudMagic has a version of this (see below)) but not enough to override my familiarity with Gmail.

I heard about CloudMagic (can’t remember where) and, as I’ve done with similar email clients, gave it a shot, figuring that I would not take to it any more than I did the other clients I tried. But, a month or so later, I have conferred on CloudMagic the ultimate compliment: I have replaced Safari with it in the dock on my phone; it is now, with Messages, Phone, and Calendar, among the Big Four.

CloudMagic presents a relatively straightforward interface (and I will say at this point that it does not maintain Google’s columns / categories, even in a sidebar-way like Gmail presents on iOS Safari; the linearization of my inbox isn’t great but, since I don’t use any phone client for hard core emailing, I can get past it). Messages appear with a search bar above, the account name / label above that, a compose button at upper right, and a menu button at upper left: clean and straightforward.

2016-03-24 11.51.56

The menu button brings up a list of folders / storage that mimics whatever your account has. The settings button is at the bottom right of this menu.

2016-03-24 11.54.46

There is one swipe available: trash, archive, and mark read/unread (whichever it is not). I do wish (and I have looked, though might have missed it) that there is a preference or setting that could customize these choices; I’d much rather a file option than a mark read/unread option, but I can live with that. I appreciate the simplicity of the approach, rather than the perhaps more common and more heralded fast swipe / slow swipe for different options.

The star function is a common one and you can of course isolate based on your starred messages (as well as your inbox, which I use, and your unread messages. Tapping and holding the star, on the other hand, brings up a delay option whereby you can hold a message for a fixed period of time. I would like to see a few more options here but this is a handy feature for organizing email (if a bit unintuitive being hidden behind the star).

The lock screen and out-of-app functionality of the app is adequate, if not perfect. Messages of course appear on your lock screen if notifications are enabled and a swipe to the left allows archiving or deletion (a swipe to the right takes you to the app). The only potential annoyance to this (which might, I admit, not be unique to CloudMagic) is that messages will not actually archive or delete without inputting your passcode or fingerprint (if enabled), which makes the process a bit less efficient. Other messages in the same group of notifications, however, can be deleted without reauthenticating.

More useful is the functionality of notifications when using the phone. They appear at the top of the screen and a swipe down allows for archiving and deleting.

2016-04-04 16.14.10

I think I’ve covered the range of at least basic functionality of CloudMagic. I’ve been using it consistently for at least a month now, which is about three weeks and six days longer than I used any other iOS mail client. And I no longer use Gmail via Safari on my iOS devices. I still do (via Firefox or Chrome) on my Mac; there is a CloudMagic app in the app store, but I’m not sure it’s $20 better than the web-based Gmail interface. But I recommend the iOS app, especially if you are a dissatisfied (Apple)Mail user.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.23.00 PM

IPad Pro (Logitech) Keyboard (Redux)

Leave a comment

If you read my intro post to the iPad Pro, you read about my struggles with the Logitech keyboard that came with it (mostly having to do with lag time and capricious auto-correct). One of the Genius Bar kids at my school emailed me the following: “There is an update for your iPad Pro, which fixes compatibility with the Logitech CREATE Keyboard (the one with the back-light keyboard). There was an issues in 9.2 and 9.2.1 that caused the keyboard to be laggy and miss keypresses; however, in 9.3 this issues has been addressed. If you would like to try the keyboard out again after you update your iPad please let us know. If you need help updating your iPad Pro please let us know.”

I had already swapped out the Logitech keyboard for the Apple keyboard (which I’m using now; more on this below) before I got the email (and the update), so I can’t attest to the correctness of the email or the improved performance of the keyboard. But it was comforting to hear that I was not the only one having trouble with the keyboard. And I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the email / the suggestion. (I also found the lagginess inconsistent, almost as if it was app-to-app, such that with some apps the keyboard worked fine, while with others it barely functioned.)

So I’m now using the Apple keyboard and, to be frank, loving it. It took a few seconds to pair, that is for the first minute or two the on-screen keyboard kept appearing and the Apple keyboard didn’t work. It was such even that I Googled it to see how it pairs (not realizing the existence of the Smart Connector nor how it worked / what it did). But now that it’s in place, it’s great. The keys are responsive and intuitive; low profile, high performance. And, more important, the shortcuts are in place. I can highlight letter by letter (shift-arrow keys), which is one of my favorites. And there are arrows. One of the great mysteries of the iOS keyboard / the tyranny of Steve’s design standards, is the persistent absence of arrows from the iOS keyboard. I love tapping a screen five times just to get the cursor where I want it to be (really I do). Having arrows (which is not unique to the Apple keyboard, of course) makes life countless times easier.

At the risk of revealing too much about myself, I will say that I find the zigzaggy nature of the Apple keyboard somewhat labyrinthine to navigate. The first time I got it, it took me a good few tries to find the right combination of folds to transform from minimalist cover to functioning keyboard and stand. Likewise refolding it / putting it away. I was reading a bit (like here) about how the Smart Connector can be limiting in that it forces the iPad Pro to be oriented in only the landscape direction. On the one hand, I get this and don’t disagree; I found that frustrating about previous iPad keyboards. On the other hand, one of my complaints about the Pro is that it is so laptop-like and so screams out for a keyboard that I’ve not really used it like an iPad. I’d like to spend more time with it out of its keyboard so that it functions more like a tablet rather than an iOS version of a laptop. The Apple keyboard, however, perhaps allows the best compromise on this front. With its foldability, I can fold it relatively easily behind the iPad to use it as a straight iPad (with little added bulk) or go back to it being a performance machine with the keyboard back in place. I will add too that the keyboard with the Pro seems best suited to landscape. While I would like to use the Pro in portrait mode, I can’t see a lot of keyboard uses for portrait mode, which is why the flexibility (literally and figuratively) of the Apple keyboard works well.

Older Entries