Using An RSS News Reader and Blogs To Give Students Feedback on Assignments

 

Mr Reader Header

Mr Reader largeI have to say that one of the most used apps on my iPad is my RSS news feed app. It is through my RSS news feeds that I can follow an absurd number of websites, blogs, news updates and almost anything on the web that I am interested in. I used to go visit a small handful of sites every day hoping for the latest exciting news about various topics. That list grew too large and RSS is my answer to saving time!

I have settled on using MrReader Small IconMr. Reader (the best $3.99 you will spend in the app store!) finally after trying out about every one that is out there. To the right you see a screenshot of what that looks like when a student has posted their assignment.

Mr Reader ScreenIf you are note familiar with RSS News Feeds let me explain a bit – IF you have a website that is frequently updated then you simply add the address to that website into your RSS news feed. Then whenever there is an update they will show up in your news feed – no need to go check, no need to check to find no update and it when it does show up you will only see a small portion of the article allowing you to quickly skim over things you are not that interested in!

The really exciting part of using RSS news feeds as a teacher is using them to help me teach better! I now have all my 8th-12th grade students posting assignments to WordPress Blogs. We don’t do anything huge usually but as all students are required to write in ALL classes at our school, the blogs help me fulfill that requirement. More importantly it allows me to give immediate feedback as students do their work all without ever touching a pile of papers!

Mr Reader AnnotatedHere is the process…

1)Students create a blog at wordpress.com (free and easy!) They then email the link to their blog and I copy it, then paste it into the Mr. Reader iPad app. I also give it a better name so I know which blog goes with which student and ALSO assign it to the Student Folder. (I made you a nifty little video below so you can see that process as sometimes it is easier to see these things so go watch the video!)

2)I then give them an assignment like – write a reflection on our last concert/rehearsal/guest clinician.

3)They then write the reflection as a blog post on their own time OUTSIDE of rehearsal! I’ve found that most of my students can do it on their own devices – a huge advantage of using WordPress because their are mobile apps kids can download or the blogs can be accessed through most any device that has a web browser.

4)As soon as they post their blog entry I start seeing them show up in Mr. Reader.

5)I then leave comments giving them feedback about their work. Students can choose to post those comments so anyone can see what I have said or they can choose to keep my comments hidden.

6)Last step – enter grade in school grade book. I hardly ever make these worth a ton of points but if they are not in the grade book students don’t have the incentive to get them done usually.

CONCLUSION:
If you want your students to write more, have a place to turn in compositions (they take picture and upload to their blog) or a place where it is easy to pass on feedback to them then this is a no-brainer! The process of getting students signed up for a WordPress takes one day in the computer lab. The process is simple and even 8th grade kids have no trouble doing this with your help of stepping them through it.

Even without having students writing blogs – I can not imagine not using an RSS News Reader to keep up on the days events! Seriously, this app allows me to work through 180 or more website updates every day. Because of the nature of the RSS feed coming through as a summary, it is so easy to skim over what I need to skip and focus on the important news!

VIDEO:

Here is the video I promised…. and as always, if you have questions, please leave me a comment below! (which will then show up in my Mr. Reader news feeds and I will get back to you soon as I can!)

Save Time In Front Of Class With LaunchCenter Pro for iPad

Teachers all understand the importance of saving even a few keystrokes, a few seconds, in front of a class of middle students! The more that technology takes a back seat in a lesson plan the better off we all are. If the tech isn't bringing attention to itself but the students learning is front and center then the tech is in the right place.

That means that we must become very comfortable with the tech we are using, we can not be stumbling and fumbling to make things happen. It also means that any shortcut we can use to get technology working faster and smoother is a good idea.

Launch Center Pro for iPad and iPhone has a simple mission statement that fits the above criteria…. “Launch actions, not just apps!” Think about it…. Why do we launch an app in the first place? We launch apps to do things. That means that once the app launches we then start tapping more buttons to do that “thing”.

I message parents frequently but I usually wait until after class…. What if I could speed that task up and send a message faster? Would I communicate even more?

I like to tweet about exciting learning taking place in class but opening the camera, then taking a picture, then opening Twitter to send the tweet is quite a few steps. What if I could do all of that in one step? Would I spread more news about the learning going on in class?

What about taking attendance…. Open Safari, open bookmarks then finally tap the website for school attendance. How about jumping right there?

Well if those sort of thoughts entice you to rethink your use of tech then you need to take a look at Launch Center Pro… There is the iPad version and then the iPhone version.

Here is the first line from their website…., “It’s like speed dial for everyday tasks. Launch Center Pro saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.”

 

 

iPad and Cloud Issues with photo uploading…. Got any ideas? (UPDATE)

So I’ve run into a weird issue that I did not expect to have and I can not find the answer. Let me tell you what is going on and maybe someone out there can help me figure out what I am doing wrong!

I have taken photos of student compositions using my iPad. I then went into iPhoto and edited them – just basic stuff like cropping and rotating a few where I did not catch the fact that the camera had not automatically rotated. Then I wanted to upload those photos to the cloud – I started with Box because I have a ton more space there. First of all, I was amazed at how quick the photo’s uploaded AND they uploaded in the background which allowed me to do other things on my iPad while that was processing. So I was pretty happy UNTIL I went to my laptop to rename the photos with the student names. Upon looking at the photos I realized that the unedited versions had uploaded! EVEN THOUGH I COULD CLEARLY SEE THAT I WAS SELECTING EDITED VERSIONS TO UPLOAD!

I thought maybe that it was an issue with the Box app so I repeated the process with DropBox and THE SAME THING HAPPENED!

After thinking about things for a while I thought that maybe the edited versions were only in iPhoto and that I had uploaded from the camera roll  (even though I could clearly see that the pictures I was selecting were the edited versions) So I checked in iPhoto and found that I could select the edited photos then tap on the “Open In” button and there was a “Save To Camera Roll” option – Of course I still can not figure out WHY I had to do this from iPhoto because upon viewing my Camera Roll (from the camera app) I could see that all the edited versions were sitting there!

UPDATE….. Finally at 1:30 in the morning I gave in and hooked up a cable (gasp… I know, I know!) Seriously though, I hardly ever hook my iPad up to my laptop with a cable! BUT it did solve this issue – In iPhoto on the iPad, I selected all 90 something pictures and used the “Share To iTunes” option. Then I went into iTunes on my laptop, found the apps tab for my iPad, scrolled down to the iPhoto app and downloaded the folder of shared pictures from iTunes. Wa, La… there were all the edited versions of my photos!

Here is a video to show you the problem I’m talking about!

Using My iPad as a Teacher for Scheduling – Vital Tool!

Calendars 5 Promo Screen

 

One of the reasons we buy an iPad is to make our life easier and more efficient…. Ok, you got me…. that’s what we tell our pocket book!

 

No seriously though, the iPad should be used to make our life better! One of the areas we music teachers have to deal with is scheduling, our personal calendar, our work calendar and our performing group’s calendar. There are several apps to take care of those details. I’m sure we all started with Apple’s Calendar app, it’s right there when we buy the iPad and it’s free! I’m here to tell you though that if you are still using that app alone you need to make a change!

Calendars 5Readdle’s Calendar 5 is an awesome replacement. Here’s one of the reasons why…

As I was talking with my student teacher and trying to come up with words of wisdom, one topic that popped to mind was that we should discuss how I have started scheduling events for work. The biggest one part of that is the trick of using repeating events to my advantage. Many of the events we music teachers do are things that happen year after year or month after month. I started putting these events into my laptop years ago to automatically pop up next year. This way I don’t forget and I don’t even have to take MORE time out of my personal life to think about this stuff. The reminder pops up next year and I take care of it. Simple.

THE PROBLEM

Repeating events are not as easy to handle on the iPad though and I hate having to grab my laptop to create them. Thankfully Readdle’s Calendar 5 came along and made my life easier! I’ve been using that app since it came out as the replacement for Apple’s Calendar – better looking interface, integrated task manager, it has natural language input, plus it easily syncs with Apple’s Reminders/Calendar apps or to my iPhone/Laptop.

The problem I came across this weekend though was that I wanted to schedule an event the last monday of every April. I could not find a way to make it happen! In frustration I used Twitter and tweeted to Tim Cook, Readdle and Flxibits (makers of another fantastic calendar app – Fantastical 2). Out of the three companies I actually received a response back from Readdle! This is another reason I love using the iPad – many of the developers of these apps will contact you personally and help you figure things out. Plus, if the capability is not currently there, many will find a way to integrate in future updates of the app!

So after sending four tweets back and forth – The nice lady helped me realize that there is indeed a way to schedule such an event that occurs on the last monday of April every year! I am so very excited! In fact, so excited that I even made a YouTube video of how to do this….. (See below!)

TO WRAP UP

Use your calendar to your advantage! Don’t continue to “try” to remember what has to be done – use repeating events!

YOUTUBE VIDEO

Places NOT to put your iPad – if you want FindMy iPad tech to work!

Filed iPadSo yesterday I did a really stupid thing… I filed my iPad! Yep, you heard me correctly – I FILED it, right there in with all my file folders and handbooks! Then I closed the drawer and walked away…. bad part was that I did not meant to do this!

So I got home and realized I did not have my iPad. No big deal, I figured I had just left it at the school, which in fact I actually had done. I went an evening with my iPad1 (which was a nice reunion – I miss 64GB’s of space!).

This morning I went to school expecting to find my iPad sitting on my desk or podium – nope, not there! Hmmmm…. well maybe I had left it in the back room while sorting and filing music – nope, not there. Well then maybe I had laid it on the piano while working on uniforms – nope, not there either. Well now I was starting to freak out! I scoured the room looking all over the place – lockers, cabinets, sink, where we rehearse our electronic music ensemble and found nothing. So I fired up iCloud and dove into Find My iPhone – my iPad2 could not be located – now I was REALLY worried. All morning I put it off thinking I must have taken it out of my bag as soon as I got home and laid it someplace weird at the house. So I drove home at lunch, one benefit of living close to school! Only problem was I couldn’t find it there either. Now I started to wonder if it had been stolen – couldn’t imagine that though!

Got back to school and started digging in really weird places – within the next half an hour I found it…. tucked in the file drawer next to my desk. I hardly used the drawer or the stuff in it but I had to write a student up yesterday. I guess I was a bit distracted!

THE POINT OF THE STORY –

The only thing I can figure is that the metal cabinet kept Find My iPhone from working! I had thought maybe my battery had died but I still had 89% left! As soon as I hit the power button though and pulled it out of the drawer, I heard the alert I had sent to it and also heard it locking itself up because I had also put it into Locked and Stolen mode.

 

Automatic Updating in iOS7

As we all are excitedly awaiting the official arrival of iOS7, there are some cautions to throw out there!

Tonight I checked my updates for my iPad apps. As always I read through what was new in each app. One app stated – DO NOT UPDATE to this version wait until the next version is released! That is one very good reason to make sure that when you do update to iOS7 you are aware of the new “features”! One of those features is for your apps to automatically update by themselves in the background! A much requested feature, one that even was brought up in court during some of the hearings against Apple. One of the Senators (I think it was a senator anyways) asked, “Why do we have to update our apps ourselves?” Tim Cook himself answered the senators question. His simple response was, “We are working on that!”

It is possible in iOS7 to turn this feature off! It might be a good idea. If this app would have updated by itself, I would have been in trouble as it is an app I rely on daily in class!

Just a short though of the day!

 

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