Google Earth update for iPad: kmz & kml files

Google Earth has long been one of my favorite desktop applications. When studying current events, students can “see” the part of the world that we are discussing and make connections to familial history, previous vacations and proximity to Seattle. Layers can transform Google Earth into a tool to support any lesson from climate & weather to history & innovation to language arts & culture.

Google Earth for the iPad isn’t as robust as it is for laptops/desktops, but the March 2012 release does offer a step forward with the ability to overlay .kml and .kmz files. This means a teacher or student can create custom content and then share this media with other iPad users via email or web links. So far it doesn’t seem that embedded video will play. I put together a quick demo of the new features:

Easily move iPad songs from Garageband to iMovie

Until the upgrade to iOS 5.1, the process of getting a song from Garageband to iMovie on an iPad was convoluted and involved syncing with a laptop or desktop.

iPad content creators rejoice – there is a new solution. While we can’t yet get Garageband compositions into iTunes, we can now drop them straight into iMovie creations.

A step-by-step walk-through of the process demonstrating how to get songs from Garageband into iMovie:

Easy iPad screencasting with Reflection

Educators have been looking for a way to screen-capture iPad tutorials ever since Airplay technology was announced.  Until now, people have been using complicated set-ups that might include mirrors, televisions, capture cards, converters and more.

With the release of Reflection (, none of these convoluted solutions are necessary – assuming you have a computer running OSX 10.6*, an iPad2 or an iPhone 4S. [*ed. update June 2012 – Reflection now works on Windows XP and beyond.]

For $15, you can now mirror your iPad onto a computer. This means you can use the full power of desktop screen-capture software to record, narrate, and annotate your iPad tutorials or simulations!

Education & politics in Maine: is it the iPad?

Kudos to the Auburn School Department:

  • for searching out potential solutions to increase student literacy.
  • for designing a comprehensive roll-out plan & feedback-system beyond the purchase of iPads.
  • for sharing research and findings with the world.


Articles and blog posts around the web have headlines that suggest that the iPad is improving Maine’s literacy scores. These articles reference a Feb 15, 2012 Press Release from the Auburn School Department titled Kindergarten iPad Program sees Positive Results. This press release, in turn, references a Research Summary titled Emerging Results From The Nation’s First Kindergarten Implementation of iPad.

The Research Summary presents some early findings from a 1-to-1 Kindergarten iPad implementation. Out of 10 literacy tests, one shows a statistical increase in the literacy scores of iPad-equipped classes as compared to non-iPad-equipped classes. The press release, referencing the Research Summary, refers to initial findings as emerging positive and suggests that the 9 tests showing no statistical increase should be read as positive.


What changed?

Researchers note “improvement on the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (HRSIW) assessment, which measures a child’s level of phonemic awareness and ability to represent sounds with letters.”

This data suggests that there is a correlation between doing SOMETHING (providing iPads) is better than doing nothing (control group) for improving literacy scores. In this case, the ‘something’ is an expensive ongoing investment in hardware and technical support.

In his book “Too Simple to Fail: A Case for Educational Change,” Dr. Bausell’s research and study analysis concludes that increasing relevant time-on-task is the only way to increase learning. Applying Bausell’s conclusion to Auburn’s study, what other ways of increasing time-on-task can be tested to determine if the benefits are iPad-specific?

  • Watch 1 episode of Sesame Street per day for 9-weeks.
  • 10 minutes individual phonemic tutoring, 3 times a week for 9-weeks.
  • Use a document camera daily to project book pages during read-aloud and ask student to identify letters.

What didn’t change?

For the other 9 assessments completed in this 9-week study, there was no statistical significance reported. My understanding of “statistical significance” is that any results recorded are different enough as to suggest they weren’t caused by chance. Justin Reich reviews the study results and offers his perspective on the conclusions in his article, Are iPads making a significant difference? Findings from Auburn Maine.

iPad distribution was randomized, and I believe that this study was conducted in such a way that the only difference between the test group and the control group was device presence. The positive results referenced by Auburn’s press release all trend positive, but at this time the data doesn’t see enough of a change to consider it definitive. What other uncontrolled variables might be present in the study?

  • Does dropping $20,000+ worth of electronics into a classroom have an impact on teacher motivation?
  • Does providing teacher support to re-imagine curriculum have a positive impact on teacher-student engagement in the first 2 months of school?
  • Do shiny moving objects capture the attention of 5 year-olds?


What does it all mean?

Initial findings focus on literacy. If the iPad is to be an (r)evolutionary tool in education, subsequent Auburn studies should follow the positive trend lines and cause the iPad-using group of students to widen their achievement gap with the non-iPad group. It will be interesting to see the math data captured by Auburn and find out if similar gains are seen there.

Dr. Mike Muir (Auburn’s study lead) succinctly states a fact that researchers and district officials can likely agree on, “our study studied the impact of the iPad as we implemented them, which is to say, systemically, including professional development and other components.” I concur with Dr. Muir, and I’m sticking to my initial hypothesis from previous postings:

Ultimately, the ongoing success of an iPad deployment has very little to do with the iPad itself, and can be attributed to the concerted efforts from teachers, curriculum designers, IT support, administrators, parents and students. A common ground for all stakeholders is a position from which great things can happen.

As a classroom educator and 1-to-1 iPad manager, I can report that my students are engaged in more multi-media projects and are being challenged/assessed in more computer-centric ways than in the majority of non-1-to-1 learning environments I’ve witnessed. As a practitioner, I can also confirm that the instant-on feature of the iPad results in an average of 5-15 minutes of extra work time per period since there is no waiting for devices to fire up or log in. Multiply this by 3 classes a day and that is more than 75 minutes of extra time-on-task per week, or 45+ hours a year. I have to believe this time will have a positive impact on learning.

As someone interested in best classroom practice, research design and analysis, I have a few questions/concerns:

  • Will other districts use the press release as supporting documentation to make a major purchase and funnel funds away from professional development and towards device purchases? Study authors do not support this proposition.
  • If research ends up suggesting that a device can positively impact literacy, then many will assume more screen time will equal better results, increasing device-centric teaching.
  • Will outsourcing components of learning to Apps result in a decrease in instruction differentiation based on student needs?
  • Is there policy-level or political pressure on study authors & teachers to demonstrate success after such a large purchase? The current study shows some small correlations, for which there may be pressure to present findings as causation.
  • How can edtech journalists champion successes and report accurately without bashing those who are committing their lives to help children learn? I’m excited to learn more about this balance at the upcoming SXSWedu panel discussion, “Edtech Reporting: Why It Sucks and How to Fix It,” presented by Audrey Watters, Frank Catalano, Lisa Wolfe & Betsy Corcoran.

I’m cautious about the Auburn results but wish the best for Dr. Muir, his team, and the students.

iPad screencasting Apps comparison chart

Back in September, I reviewed 4 screencasting Apps for the iPad along with demo video and a comparison chart. Since then there have been a few App updates and EduCreations launched a free App.

I’m still using a desktop solution for creating time-shifted content for my students, but I’ve updated the comparison chart to reflect new iPad screencasting App features.

iBook Author: 30 minute challenge

After reading articles and watching screencasts about the iBook Author announcement today, I decided to spend 30 minutes to find out how easy the new authoring tool is to use.

Click here to download my “30 minute challenge” iBook for free (if you have an iPad).

In 30 minutes, I was able to:

  • paste in content from a previously written article
  • create a simple image slideshow
  • create a simple interactive quiz
  • record and embed an introductory video
  • create and then delete a couple of charts (display issues in the final version)
  • test via the Share>email as iPad option

I was excited to find out that you can freely distribute iBook Author creations beyond the iBookstore as long as you don’t charge for the content. This at least means that I can create classroom materials and sync, send, or download them to student devices. The downside of personal distribution is that when you update the book you will have to manually push the new version to all devices.  An iBookstore distribution allows the new content to push to iPads automatically.

Apple’s e-textbook announcement critiqued

This morning Apple released an e-textbook authoring tool & distribution system, and in a single announcement may have shifted many of the purchasing conversations that occur annually at educational institutions.

On first glance, this seems to be a rebrand of the iTunes U bookstore focused on schools of all levels – an evolution of existing technology, not a revolution. iBookstore already allows authors to distribute books. The ‘new’ e-textbooks appear to be ePub3, a standard that already is in production and has the potential to work on more than just an iPad. Apple’s iWork Pages application already has the ability to “Export as an ePub”, although the new authoring tool should have a more robust feature set. Furthermore, an ePub can already be opened in iBooks without going through the iBookstore distribution channel, via email. However, Apple’s marketing strategy, as always, is fascinating and potentially extremely effective:


  • Allow consumers to assume hardware purchase as a logical step in an implementation plan, rather than advertise to that decision – By getting teachers, administrators, parents and students excited about the potential of using digital textbooks in the classroom, Apple brings its audience to vision. If people buy into the vision, then the purchasing decision to equip students with iPads (and teachers with laptops) is just a step on the path.
  • Focuses on action verbs – Apple’s marketing team has always focused on what people do with their products, rather than device specs. The vast majority of device buyers don’t know one processor from another and are interested in whether or not they can surf the web from their phone rather than what version of Android is installed. Engaged students (collaborating with each other and accessing dynamic content) are one of the cornerstones of successful education.
  • Convince administrators to reallocate scarce budgets – At a time of year where many schools are solidifying next year’s budgets, Apple has presented a neatly packaged authoring & delivery system for digital textbooks that may mean a cost savings in book purchases in exchange for an increase in technology purchases (namely iPads).
  • Align new offering with largest potential competition – Rather than battle traditional printed textbook publishers, Apple has convinced Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton to partner with the new Apple distribution system. These three companies represent 90% of the textbook industry. No doubt reminding these CEOs about Apple iTunes effect on the music industry was influential. It has not been announced yet how these existing publishers will leverage Apple’s distribution system.


This new authoring and distribution system for e-textbooks goes a long way towards providing students a more versatile classroom reference. However, it is still a one-way delivery system. As an educator, I can qualitatively estimate student engagement and use assessments to judge whether it has an impact on learning – this is certainly the hope outlined in Apple’s advertisement (embedded below).

As a content creator and possible e-textbook author, I’d really like this advancement to include two-way communication. I’d like to know which chapters students spend the most time with, where the most notes are taken, if there are sections that students skip, etc. There are already some social learning networks out there (I’m familiar with Better.At) that provide plan authors with feedback that allows for content adjustments based on data. Technology already allows us the ability to auto-collect and aggregate this data, and test scores are at least one step removed from the feedback cycle.


Critique aside, I’m excited to play around and see how I can use it in my own classrooms.

Goodnight iPad

Over winter break, our family received Goodnight iPad, a humorous children’s book that pokes fun of our tech-obsessed culture while giving a nod to the humble book. I enjoyed the read, and my 2-year-old has it in heavy rotation right now.


Of course, there is a digital version as well:

Free tablet stylus hack

My students are always misplacing their styluses (styli?). Meredith Swallow, assistant for the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont, explains how to use the conductive power of foil food wrappers to make a quick stylus.

Make sure your iPad has a screen protector on it before attempting.