Mark at the “Home of Superman” rest stop.

We are on the road for 6 weeks and I assumed there must be some app or service to automatically track the trip and allow images and comments to be added along the route. Finding something to fit this purpose was more difficult than I had anticipated. There are plenty of apps for planning a trip, but I found few options for documenting a trip. We also tend to make decisions as we go so I wanted something that would be flexible.

The app I am using (Android only) is called The Traveler. The app is a project of Ball State University. I think this is pretty cool. I have encountered a few glitches with the app (see the image that follows – there should be an image icon rather than the way point marker), but I can live with this.


We have had to drive hard to get to Orlando for the FETC conference. 1600 miles in three days does not leave a lot of time for photography.

The social component of the service is pretty interesting. You can follow our progress online. I intend to add many more images during the conference and then in the weeks that follow. This app would seem a way to offer students an interesting virtual tour.


30 Hands – Preparing Suet Demo

There are several iPad presentation apps based on a “voice over slide approach”. Explain Everything is the app from this category that seems to have received the most attention. I think this type of app offers an efficient way for students to create videos. The advantage is that these apps allow the audio to be generated on a slide by slide basis. This approach makes it easy to redo the segment of audio associated with a slide when an attempt to generate the segment comes up short of expectations.

30 Hands takes a similar approach and has similar capabilities. Again, the author generates “slides” in various ways and then records the audio to accompany each visual. Slides can be generated in multiple ways (see below).


The following is a quick demonstration I created with 30 Hands.


I still make use of rss and an rss reader. My workflow for reviewing new online resources is to search my feed using Feedly and send the URLs I want to store or work with more extensively to Evernote. I use the personalized Evernote email option to save content.

Feedly has announced a pro version that has some interesting additions. One stores the entire content of a page to Evernote. My issue with the pro version is that the cost difference between the free and the paid version seems overly large to me. I do pay for a pro version of Evernote and would do the same for Feedly at a more reasonable price.

Newsify is a  new RSS reader that taps into the Feedly feed, but presently saves the entire page to Evernote at no cost (the app is free). I assume Newsify will eventually figure out how to make money and charging for some services may be part of the transition, but a present the service is probably trying to build market share and offers some advantages.


Tools within tools

I have been writing about the writing process and improving the teaching of writing for the past few weeks. You do not see this work at present because most will be incorporated into the summer revision of our textbook.

This focus has led to deeper examination of Google docs. I use the service constantly, but do not investigate what new capabilities are available unless some activity prompts me to move beyond my immediate personal needs. One of the new ideas that I have been exploring in greater depth is the provision to supplement the basic tool (docs) with add-ons. This capability is new to docs, but familiar to those of us who have been extending browsers with plugins and extensions for years. The hierarchical nature of this situations strikes me as interesting – plugins within docs within a browser.

Anyway, the idea of tools within tools seemed worth a blog post.


I remember when there seemed to be multiple levels of tools for a general purpose. For example, I remember when a software company would offer simple and advanced products for authoring web pages. Then, it seemed, the lower end and less expensive tools seemed to disappear. What remained were expensive and bloated (for most purposes) tools. The tool within a tool category seems to me to be a return to a simpler time with an improvement. There is now the real opportunity to expand core tools (say Google docs) to meet specific needs. This seems a great opportunity especially with the tools and plugins are free or inexpensive.

A related interesting opportunity is the similar process of merging tools. Again, using a Google example, you can kind of expand the capabilities of hangouts by adding docs. Now you have a setting capable of powerful discussions (via hangouts) around a common, shared document.


Here is what I have observed as a down side. It may sound like a complaint, but you really should not complain about free.

The motivation for those who generate the main and the supplemental level tools often differ (in other words some are third party providers) and this can cause incompatibilities when improvements are made to the main tool. The case that continually brings this to my attention is my use of Last.FM. This product might be promoted as a social, music discovery tool, but for me it is primarily a way to track my listening habits over time. I can account for nearly all of the songs I have listened to since 2006. When I listen to music on my devices or my computers a record of my “listens” is sent to Last.FM. This is a process that has been named scrobbling. I have never understood the origin of the term. Anyway, I pay Last.Fm $4 a month for a pro membership. For a service and the reason I use it, this is a lot of money. I assume Last.FM is motivated to make improvements to maintain my interest and my payments.

In order to scrobble my plays from my android phone, my iPads, my multiple computers and from many different music sources (iTune, Pandora, Google, Amazon, Grooveshark, YouTube, etc., etc.), it is necessary to rely on plugins (extensions, etc.) that must often be tuned (ha, ha) to the different music sources. I pay for none of these. I seem to have to constantly search for new plugins to fix what used to work. I attribute this issue to the differential motives of Last.FM and those who contributed the multiple supplemental tools. The base tool is being improved to attract my money and these enhancements seem to “break” the add-ons. Last.FM is likely not big enough to offer multiple plugins because the “scrobbling” feature is not perceived as the main role for their product.

It seems to me this situation is likely to create much more inconsistency than we tend to expect.


WWDC 2014 as viewed by an educator’s advocate

On June 2 Apple held its annual event for Developers (WWDC – watch the two hour event ). The keynote outlines Apple’s plans for the near future supposedly to guide and encourage software developers. Of course, the rest of watch as well and hope to learn what we might expect from the company in the next few months. Here are some personal comments mostly focused on revelations that may influence the use of Apple technology in K-12 settings. I encourage you to view the presentation and draw your own conclusions.

First, this event is primarily about Apple software development and how developers might take advantage of OS and iOS improvements (mostly) in preparing products and services to be used with Apple hardware. My impression and the impression of the comments of pundits I have reviewed is that Apple proposes some major new innovations. On a personal level, I will find it more convenient to use Apple-enabled software across Apple devices (back and forth between my iPad and Apple computers). I should find that software developers will find it possible to create more powerful services to operate within the Apple ecosystem and possibly I will be able to count on improvements in Apple’s use of the Apple cloud.

I do not necessarily see these changes as opportunities for the K-12 setting. My view of K-12 assumes the use of technology in the classroom and elsewhere (home) and assumes that students will be using multiple platforms (not just Apple). The power I see in the Apple announcements seem pretty much focused on Apple hardware and software (i.e., apps) running on Apple hardware. The use of the cloud appears to play a bigger role in Apple plans, but mostly to store and transfer files between Apple devices. This approach might be contrasted with the Google model in which the hardware is primarily a way to get to the cloud and Software as a Service runs “in the cloud”.

I think there are “work arounds” for the approach taken by any company. You can certainly use Google drive to store files as a method of moving data from one device to another. You can do the same with DropBox, Box and other cloud services. iCloud does allow me web access via any browser and allows me to manipulate files I have created with Pages, Numbers, etc. You can, in fact, use iCloud to store other file types. I must admit I have not used the service for this purpose.

I propose that an issue educators will have to consider is how much time their students spend working within the Apple ecosystem using experiences that require apps running on Apple hardware vs. how much time they use Apple hardware to work online or run software that creates files that can be stored in other ways.

If you have read many of my posts, you know that I lean toward open systems. What I value does not assume services should be provided at no cost. I believe there is value in the most flexible approach possible. It might be argued that the experience of using technology can be made most efficient when one organization controls the experience end to end. Perhaps this is true, BUT a) this requires everyone commit to what this environment will be and b) ad end to end approach has the potential to reduce competition that leads to long term development.

I use a variety of hardware. I do prefer Apple for computers and tablets, but presently not a phone. I have the opportunity to own multiple products in each hardware category. Not everyone is so lucky nor should their income level be a liability in learning with technology.

Here is another perspective on how the WWDC announcements may impact educators. is a Google app that is used to annotate video. The app runs within a browser. Comments related to a video (e.g., a YouTube video) are time stamped. When finished, clicking a comment cues up the associated section of the video.

My first thought when reviewing the app was that it could be used in place of the expensive software qualitative researchers use to annotate video. It might also be thought of as a way to take notes from video – say the type of video used in a flipped classroom scenario. Like several products that allow students to annotate a simultaneous audio recording the product would allow the student to review parts of the video that require more careful thought. The system also makes a great way to evaluate and share thoughts on a video product under development.  The file resulting from such an analysis can then be shared.


Google Doc Table of Contents

The Google Doc adds-on offer some new capabilities and a great way of expanding the power of apps in general.


I am putting together content that will eventually be divided between a textbook and related online resources. My work flow results in one giant integrated file and I eventually decide what I will end up putting where.



In the image that appears above, you see the Table of Contents as a second window to the right of the open doc. The one technique I had to add to my normal approach is to identify my headings as headings (I usually just bold my headings). If you are familiar with HTML headings, you  are ready to go.