Wow, Thank You Apple!

October 5, 2013

Instead of a post about what I am doing in my classroom, I wanted to share with you something that happened last weekend that made me appreciate my Apple products that little bit more (I promise I am not one of those Apple evangelists).

My daughter is soon to turn 13, like most teenagers she is very attached to her technology. Last year she spent months saving up her allowance, birthday money, Christmas money as well as working odd jobs to earn extra so that she could buy herself an iPod touch. So finally in January 2013 she was to purchase it, and since then it seems like it has become surgically attached to her.

Just to give you an idea of how much it is used, here is a short list of some of the apps she uses on a regular basis (and not just to surf the internet or listen to music):

  • iAWriter – she is writing her second ‘novel’ on this (and is determined to be a published author)
  • Crunchyroll – where her current obsession with Japanese Culture and anime can be fulfilled.
  • iStudiez Pro – so that she can keep track of her homework.

She is unbelievably careful with her iPod, keeping in a zipped pocket of her school blazer and in a case to protect it. However through a series of horrible coincidences her iPod managed to fall out of this protection and bounced off the flagstones outside her school. Fortunately it only dented one corner of the iPod, but this happened to be the corner where the power button was.

From that moment on her iPod kept trying to randomly shut down, or take screen shots whenever she pressed the home button. So we decided to make out first ever trip to the ‘Genius Bar’ at an Apple store to see if it could be fixed.

The Apple store ‘Genius’ took one look at her iPod and said ‘that can’t be fixed, you need a new iPod’. My heart sank because I knew we couldn’t afford one and while he went to speak to his manager I explained to my daughter that she might just have to cope with a broken iPod for a while longer.

Imagine my surprise when he returned holding a new iPod, handed it to her and said ‘here you are try not to break this one’. Now I realise that they are probably going to refurbish her old iPod and sell it, but by giving her a new iPod for free to replace one that she had broken was amazing.

So we used the money I had set aside for repairs to buy her a better case for her new iPod.

It’s a Speck Geoskin which she chose for the simple reason that it protects the buttons.

And in case you wondered, we had backed her iPod to iCloud before we went, so when we set up her new iPod we used this back up to it up. So all her apps were back, with all ther data. Even her background picture was in place. It’s so nice when things work!
So thank you Apple, you have made my daughter (and by extension, me) very happy!

The joy of marking (and some new tools!)

March 2, 2013

After a hectic half term, and some ongoing sagas with living in a new property (not least of which the fact that my postcode does not yet exist in lots of companies databases, which makes online ordering quite entertaining!), I’m back!

This week, after a recommendation from a colleague, I got a new stylus for my iPad. Apart from one tiny (though one might say quite big) problem, it is making marking work on the iPad so much easier.

This is my Adonit Jot Pro, it is the most accurate stylus I have found so far. This is why:

The writing tip of the Jot Pro is a clear disc with a 4mm metal circle in the centre. This makes it incredibly easy to see where on the page you are writing. Plus it feels like a normal pen as it has the right weight! There were lots of reviews on Amazon warning that it scratches the iPad screen when you use it. This was the main reason I hadn’t bought one already. But my colleague, who had been using his for a while said he hadn’t experienced any problems. (You can probably see where this is going!).

So my pen arrived, and I started using in conjunction with an app called iAnnotate PDF. This app is amazing (it was £6.99, but I think it is worth it). You can link it with a variety of cloud services, but is also does WebDAV so I could open documents directly from my school documents. I could easily open my pupils (very large) PPT projects as PDFs, so I could mark them.

This is one of James’ pages on his 15 page PPT, as you can see I have already been annotating it with comments for improvement. For any Resistant Materials teachers out there – don’t worry this isn’t the real controlled assessment (in which no feedback is allowed), it is a mock controlled assessment we do in Year 10 (in which I give lots and lots of feedback!).

When I finished marking it, it was very easy to email the finished PDF back to the pupil. From the feedback my pupils have given me this week, they found it really useful.

However, as I was marking the 7th project I heard an ominous sound. The stylus had scratched my screen (it was a tiny scratch, but it’s still a scratch!). I should point out that I do work in a very dusty, dirty environment and despite regularly cleaning my iPad screen, it is invariably covered in wood dust. I suspect some of the dust has caught under the plastic disc and been dragged along the screen causing the scratch.

So I was faced with a dilemma. Do I stop using the stylus (which it’s easily the best stylus I had found so far), or do I find some way of protecting the screen?

I opted for the second option, and after doing some research decided to buy a Mediadevil screen protector. Amazingly, it arrived the next day. So now my iPad looks like this:

And I can finish my marking!

VGA Connection (at last!)

October 13, 2012

You may remember my blog post about connecting my iPad to an HDMI whiteboard. I mentioned the difficulties I was having connecting to a similar board, but with a VGA connector.

Well this week I finally solved the problem (with the help from another teacher who is genius with all things technical – don't tell him I said this!)

So to connect your iPad through a VGA connector to a whiteboard you will need the following:

1. A VGA Manual Switching Box, I got mine from Amazon.

2. 2 VGA cables (I found some cheap on EBay)

3. A VGA to iPad adapter which you can get from the Apple store.

You then need to connect them together:

1 VGA cable goes from the VGA connector box to the projector (Beige Cable in the picture), the computer VGA cable goes in one of the ports (blue cable into port A), and your 2nd VGA cable goes out from the other port (white cable, port B).

You can then easily switch between the computer and your iPad by pressing either button A or B on the front of the box.

To connect your iPad you just need to connect your VGA adapter into the spare VGA cable (white in my case) and then into your iPad. Press button B and hey presto – iPad projected onto the screen!

I mentioned before that I have to be able to easily connect between 4 different boards (2 of which are HDMI and 2 are VGA). So once I have my adapters, I can easily connect into any of the boards that have the cables pre-set up.

I know it would be easier with an Apple TV, but I still have to connect the Apple TV into the various boards before I can project by AirPlay (and I am not buying 4 Apple TVs!).

One annoying thing with the cable set up, is that there is no sound. But I have (another) cable coming that should solve that problem, if it works then I will share it with you in another post.

The iPad Trial

October 6, 2012

My school are starting an iPad trial with a small group of teachers, to see if we can use iPads as our main teaching tool. With that in mind, I thought it might be useful to summarise what I consider to be my essential apps to begin with (with links to the relevant blog post):

This is a screenshot of my ‘Teacher Screen’

Teacher Planners

Teachers Attaché


Quiz Programmes

Make My Own Puzzles



Standard Software



QuickOffice HD


My general Cloud storage summary can be found here.

I am looking forward to discovering new apps, and new ways to use my iPad in my teaching (and if all goes according to plan – and Amazon hurry up with my order – I may have sorted out the VGA whiteboard connection).

How to use your iPad to teach from (part 1)

June 30, 2012

Almost all classrooms now have some form of smart board (we have Promethean Boards in my school). I knew that the iPad 2 had AirPlay Mirroring, and I thought it might be useful to show how I connect my iPad to the smart board without using an Apple TV (I am still investigating the potential of an Apple TV, but wanted to try a cheaper alternative first).


I tend to have lots of PPTs and Keynote presentations for my lesson, but because my pupils tend to be in the workshop working I don't use a smart board for its intended purpose as often as I would like. So for those non interactive lessons, it's faster to connect my iPad to the projector than it is to boot up the desktop that is attached already.


So to connect your iPad to a projector you will need the following

I connected the HDMI cable to the back of the projector and then fed it down through the trunking,so it would always be available.

When you are ready to show your presentation you need to connect the iPad through the HDMI connector and select the correct source on the projector (mine has a source button which you press, then select HDMI).

Because I was using Keynote and I also have an iPhone, I was able to use Keynote Remote which allows me to move through the presentation without having to go near the iPad. You have to be on the same wifi network for it to work.

Keynote remote was very easy to setup, you can see the opening screen and controlling screen here.

If your projector doesn't have an HDMI input, then you can also get a VGA connector. In my department teaching space we have 4 different classrooms. Frustratingly, 2 of them use HDMI and the other 2 use VGA. So I have both types of connectors, but as yet I haven't managed to purchase a VGA cable so I've not been able to test the VGA connectivity.


Accessories and Hardware (aka more ways to spend money)

January 16, 2012

I teach in a workshop, grubby tables, machines, tools, dust and dirt. I was a little (ok, very) worried about damaging my new iPad. So I though it best to invest in some protection. I wanted something clear, as I have made a vinyl sticker with my name and department to go on the back of the iPad. However I didn’t want anything remotely sticky (as some silicone covers can be) as there is a lot of wood dust to contend with.

I thought I would gamble on a cover with reasonably good reviews on Amazon, and was pleasantly surprised when it arrived.



(Photo from

The iTalk Online ProGel Cover is clear, but slightly smoky. It has enough of a sticky feel, so it is easier to grip the iPad. But not so much stickiness that it collects dust and fluff at will. It was very easy to put on, and I can take it off if I want to. Plus as it was reasonably cheap (£7.45) I don’t feel to worried about having to replace it when it starts to get too scratched up.

I also wanted to buy a stylus pen, so I could write more accurately than I can with my finger, especially when I need to draw a diagram for pupils on my note taking app (more details on that soon). I also wanted to have a real pen included, as I sometimes have to be able to write on real paper. Most of the dual function pens I found seemed quite expensive. So I was quite pleased to discover the Kensington Virtuoso Touch Screen Stylus Pen as it was only £14, as opposed to the £30+ I had been seeing on some other sites.

The pen works well, it can be refilled with a standard Parker ball pen refill. The only problem with it is you can’t put the cap on the stylus end when you are writing with the normal pen. I can see the cap becoming lost quite easily.



(Photo from

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