Posts tagged iPad
A participant in my iPad workshop writes:
Do you have recommendations for apps to work with documents in Dropbox?
Great question, Michelle. There are a couple of ways to address this issue.
Use Text—Not Documents—Whenever Possible
Documents are a pain. When you create a document, you have to decide on:
- A format (such as .doc or .rtf)
- An app that can open them
- A filename
- A location in your folder system
Since the iPad doesn’t have a file folder system, isn’t friendly toward filenames, and doesn’t have any truly outstanding apps for managing traditional documents, I tend to avoid documents as much as possible and just use plain-text notes in Evernote (which does support some formatting, but not complex document layout).
But as principals, we often need to edit documents that are in a particular format for a particular reason—for instance, teacher observation forms with tables, checklists, comment boxes, and so forth. We’d all like to be able to use these documents on our iPads, but the truth is that it seldom works. Complex document layouts tend not to work correctly on the iPad.
Just Managing Files
If all you need to do is find, view, and send files and documents of various types, Dropbox is great. I’ve been recommending it in my workshops for a long time. If you’re interested in using Dropbox to sync your files across all of your devices, check out Dr. Frank Buck’s free ebook Get Organized! with Dropbox (PDF).
Dropbox allows you to share any file by emailing a link to whomever you’d like. It’s great for syncing data and managing files and folders on your iPad, but Dropbox does not allow you to edit Word documents.
While you can send documents from Dropbox to Apple’s app Pages (which is like Word), this creates a copy every time you move between apps, so you end up with a bunch of versions in both places. Not ideal.
(If you have found an app that syncs with Dropbox and is great for editing Word documents on the iPad, please leave a comment and let me know.)
Managing & Editing Word Documents with Dropbox + Pages
If you do occasionally need to edit a Word document that you have in Dropbox on your iPad, here are the steps to do so, using Apple’s iPad word processor app Pages.
From Dropbox to Pages: Click the icon in the top-right corner in Dropbox (which looks like an arrow going down into a box) when viewing a document -> Open In… -> Pages (Note: this menu will only show compatible apps that you have installed – so if you don’t have Pages, it won’t appear here).
Pages to Dropbox: Wrench icon in upper right when editing the document -> Share and Print -> Open in Another App -> Word format -> Choose App -> Dropbox
Here are visual directions:
Again, not a great solution. But there is an emerging solution that appears to be better than Pages and Dropbox.
Google Docs, the online word processor that’s been around for nearly a decade, is now part of Google Drive, the online storage service that is similar to Dropbox in many respects. Essentially, you are given online storage folder that is synchronized with your computer.
Google recently released a Drive app for the iPad. I haven’t recommended it in my workshops because it is so new and the features have been very limited, but it’s improving rapidly, so it will probably become one of the main apps I recommend.
I would recommend installing the Drive app on your computer and your iPad (so they sync), and creating documents in Google Docs whenever possible, to keep them simple and compatible.
How Word documents work in Google Drive
You can either upload a Word document to Google Drive and just use Drive as a storage space (in which case no changes to the Word document can be made in Google Docs), or you can convert the document to Google Docs format so it’s editable. This is a choice that you make when you upload the document from your computer.
You can only convert documents on your computer, not in the iPad app, so on your iPad, you’re limited to editing documents that are in Google Docs format. You also can’t convert back to Word format from the iPad app, but you can “share” (not send) the document with other Google Drive users. This is a crucial difference between Dropbox and Google Drive: Dropbox allows you to share a file with anyone, but Google Drive requires that the other person have a Google account, which is better for collaborating on documents, but a pain for just sending them.
So, if you do occasionally need to edit and send Word documents from your iPad, Google Drive won’t work – see the rather convoluted steps above using Dropbox and Pages for a way to get the job done.
If you do want to make the transition from Word to Google Docs, you can import all of your existing documents from your computer into Google Drive with just a few clicks. You’ll need to decide whether to keep the documents in Word format (in which case they won’t be editable), or to convert them to Google Docs format (in which case you can’t convert them back into Word documents on the iPad and send them to people).
To upload files or folders to Google Drive from your computer:
To convert when uploading to Google Drive:
For now at least, you have to choose between being able to share Word-format documents from Google Drive on your iPad, or being able to edit your documents in the Google Drive app by keeping them in Google Docs format. On your desktop computer or laptop, you don’t have to choose, as all are options.
Once More: Text!
As you can see, dealing with document formats and files is complicated. To the greatest extent possible, just use plain text. In three years of using the iPad as a principal, I have never once wished I had put more of my plain-text notes into Word, Pages, or Google documents. Evernote has been a great way to organize, save, and find all of my notes, so start there if you’re looking for a way to manage information on your iPad.
But hopefully the tips above are helpful, at least until our options on the iPad improve.
Do you have any advice to share on dealing with documents on the iPad? If so, please leave a comment.
I will be leading another iPad Essentials workshop on Thursdays at 4pm Pacific, April 5-19
I will be leading another iPad Essentials workshop on Wednesday nights, February 22-March 7.
Thank you for joining me this Tuesday, January 17 for my webinar with Educational Research Newsletter. For more information on increasing your productivity using the iPad and other tools, please feel free to sign up for my Tips & Articles mailing list.
If you participated in the webinar, you will receive an email from ERN containing the download links for the PowerPoint file and handouts. Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com with any additional questions about using the iPad to increase your productivity.
I’m pleased to be working with Educational Research Newsletter again this month to put on a webinar for educators with iPads. While this isn’t a free event, the advantage is that you can have an entire team of administrators and/or teachers participate under one registration.
How to Increase Your Productivity Using the iPad
WHEN: Tuesday, January 17, 2012, 1-2:30 p.m. Eastern Time
SNAPSHOT: Every day you wonder how you could possibly do your job without email, search engines, your laptop, smartphone and many other technology tools. The next frontier in your quest for greater effectiveness is the iPad, rapidly becoming the new standard for mobile productivity.
Most educators are not sitting at their computers in their offices all day. They are on the move, interacting with administrators, educators students, parents and other professionals. A desktop and even a laptop cannot keep up with the pace you typically set. Many educators have found that the iPad is ideally suited to helping them manage the complexity of their work, expanding the possibilities and opportunities for improving their performance beyond those offered by paper- and desktop-based tools alone.
You will be able to both hear the webinar and view the PowerPoint on the CD-ROM.
Justin received outstanding reviews for his last webinar, “The High-Performance administrator: How to Better Manage Time, Workflow & Communication to Maximize Your Impact on Student Learning”. Now he helps you go one step further by showing you how to maximize use of your iPad.
- Selecting the right apps—finding high-quality tools for your essential work
- Developing a workflow—making your data move smoothly between apps
- Looking for learning—conducting classroom observations and walkthroughs with the iPad
- Beyond tapping—selecting a Bluetooth external keyboard for faster text input
- A thousand words—how to use photos and video to gather evidence of student learning and prompt professional learning conversations
- Show up and follow through—managing your time and tasks with iCal, OmniFocus, and other essential productivity apps
- Finding your files—managing and syncing documents using Dropbox and more
The fine folks at Evernote, in addition to creating the best cross-platform application for keeping all of your information at your fingertips, have recently released two great new free apps that I want to highlight.
First, Clearly is a new tool for reading articles, news stories, and blog posts from websites without all the cruft that typically surrounds them. Clearly is a browser extension, meaning it’s something that you install from within your web browser. The only downside is that your browser must be Google Chrome, which isn’t really a downside since Chrome is by far the fastest browser around. You can get Chrome here for Windows or Mac.
The second tool is Skitch for iPad, which is based on the popular Mac app for quickly snapping and editing screenshots and photos. I’ve been using Skitch for years (virtually all of the images on this site went through Skitch at some point), so I’m delighted to see it on the iPad app store.
You can use Skitch to quickly annotate photos of student work or classroom displays. A picture says a thousand words, but often adding a few words or an arrow to a picture can say even more.
Skitch and Clearly are both free, and allow you to save their respective data to your Evernote account, reinforcing its position as your virtual brain in the cloud.
I’m excited that the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ National Conference will be in Seattle, March 22-24, 2012.
I will be presenting a 2-hour session entitled “Using Apple’s iPad™ to Maximize Your Effectiveness as a Leader” on Thursday, March 22, from 7:45 –9:45 a.m.
Hope to see you there! You can register here.
The rate at which the iPad has been adopted by school leaders has been nothing short of astounding. I get questions all the time from principals around the world about the best ways to use the iPad in school leadership, and one of the top questions I receive is “What’s the best keyboard to use with the iPad?”
It’s an understandable question. The light, compact form factor and long battery life make the iPad great for toting around all day. But writing evaluations and answering emails without a real keyboard is nearly impossible – the onscreen keyboard just doesn’t cut it.
I used Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard for several months, but found it awkward to hold the keyboard on my lap and find somewhere else to set the iPad.
Then I bought a cheap keyboard case, the leather-folio style, and used it for a few months. But I found the key quality, placement, and functionality less than tolerable (mushy, illogical, and erratic, respectively).
Enter the Adonit Writer, a slim, hard-key keyboard case for the iPad and iPad 2 that I’ve been drooling over since I saw it on Kickstarter a few months ago. Adonit (a Seattle company) was kind enough to provide me with a review model, which I used to draft this review.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no perfect keyboard case for the iPad, but the Adonit Writer is as close as anyone is going to get.
There are two shift keys and two command, option, and control keys, which was a curious choice since Apple laptops don’t have a control key on the right. Leaving it out could have enabled them to make the spacebar longer; currently, it doesn’t extend beneath the M key, making it a full key shorter than on an Apple laptop. My other spacebar pet-peeve is that the bumper that keeps the keys from touching the screen is somewhat in the way, especially given how short the spacebar is anyway. However, I’ve adapted pretty quickly to these two small issues.
The keys are small, but as big as they could possibly be and still fit in this form factor. The repeat rate, which as far as I know isn’t a software setting on the iPad, is reasonable, and I didn’t have any trouble with multiple characters resulting from a single key press, which is a huge problem on the mushy-key case I’ve been using. The Writer’s keys are hard and responsive. The top-row buttons match the buttons on the iPad dock keyboard, in function if not in placement.
For principals, a lot of the appeal of an iPad keyboard is being able to do classroom observations, which generally requires balancing the whole setup on your lap. So far, the Writer seems very stable, since it’s held up by magnets under the keyboard – even with my knees on a slope, as they often are in tiny elementary-school chairs, the Writer had no trouble staying upright.
This is probably the most unique feature of the Writer – the keyboard sticks magnetically to the cover flap, so you can adjust it to a variety of angles, and it absolutely will not flop over. If your hands are on the keyboard, it’s impossible for the iPad to fall over.
I haven’t found any case that isn’t somewhat in the way when you’re using the iPad in portrait mode as a PDA. The Writer does a fairly good job of opening unobtrusively, but it’s always a bit awkward to close due to the magnets that hold the keyboard against the case flap. The flap itself is held closed by an elastic loop. This loop would be easier to close if it was triangular rather than rounded, but it’s a pretty good design.
When the case is closed, it’s extremely thin and easy to slip in and out of a bag; the Writer is about half as thick as my previous keyboard case.
The hard plastic rim that holds the iPad in place seems sturdy, and doesn’t interfere with using the iPad all the way to the edge of the screen; many leather-style cases cover the black border around the screen, making it hard to touch near the edges. The Writer is absolutely great in terms of touch-usability, and it’s easy to pull out if you don’t want to use the keyboard. I found that I could even get the iPad out of the case while it’s still in my briefcase, thanks to the quick-release tab on top.
The exterior material is a matte nylon-like fabric, like the Apple case for the original iPad (though it seems to attract far less dirt). The keyboard body seems to be Apple-style machined aluminum, and the rim that holds in the iPad appears to be sturdy plastic. I’ve been using it for several weeks, and it’s held up to the rigors of travel very well.
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I haven’t tried this case or spoken with anyone who has, but the concept is incredible: a $60 iPad case with a built-in Bluetooth keyboard.
As I mentioned in my Essential iPad Guide for Principals, the iPad is far more useful with a Bluetooth keyboard, but Apple’s model costs $69 and isn’t easily carried with the iPad (though I found a case that does the job).
The case is faux-leather, and has a built-in battery for the keyboard. I like the fact that it’s also a stand, since I can’t always find a place to set my iPad when I’m doing observations with the keyboard on my lap. I’m not sure if it would stand up properly and work comfortably on the lap, but it looks like it could.
If you’ve tried this case, please let me know what you think.
I’ve been trying a few different methods for doing walkthroughs and giving feedback to teachers using my iPad. I used a paper log and paper notes for feedback in previous years, but now that I have an iPad, it’s time to go paperless. I’ve tried a few different solutions for organizing walkthroughs and giving feedback via iPad, and here’s what I’ve come up with.
Trial and Error
Chris Lehmann developed a great form using Google Spreadsheets, which I tried and found very easy to use (for entering feedback, at least). You create a form and enter information into the form, and the results are added to a Google Spreadsheet. The drawbacks are that you need constant internet access (wifi or 3G), and the spreadsheet format doesn’t lend itself to communicating feedback to teachers (though Chris has a partial solution to this in asking teachers to sign up to receive notifications when their spreadsheet is updated). I like using the form, but not the spreadsheet.
I’ve also tried using OmniFocus to keep track of both whom I need to visit and what feedback I provided. OmniFocus is a great task management app, and I rely on it to keep track of my to-dos, but I’ve found it’s not great for holding large amounts of text. You can type a note into a task, and even email it, but the resulting email is oddly formatted (so that the recipient, if also an OmniFocus user, can add the task to their to-do list), and adding lots of text can slow down your database loading and synching.
Hitting My Stride
However, OmniFocus shines when it comes to keeping track of whom you’ve visited. You can set recurring tasks, re-order them, and set reminders. Today I made a list of all the teachers in my school, and when I visit a teacher’s room and give feedback, I drag that teacher’s name to the bottom of the list so I know I’ll get to everyone. When it’s time to pick a room to visit, I look at my list and see who’s at the top.
So far, I’ve found Evernote to be the best app for taking notes and emailing feedback. I already use Evernote as my virtual file cabinet, so it’s easy to use it for this additional purpose. I take notes in Evernote (starting a new note for each classroom visit), then email them to the teacher directly from Evernote. Evernote works even if you’re offline, so you can take notes even if you’re out of wifi range, and they’ll send/sync when you’re back online. To make it easy to find all the notes for a particular teacher, I add two tags to each note: the word “feedback,” and the teacher’s name. A bonus is that Evernote syncs via Evernote’s servers, so your notes are always backed up and accessible from your computer.
One more essential tool: the Bluetooth keyboard. This $69 accessory almost turns the iPad into a laptop, but with 12 hours of battery life and half the bulk of even the smallest netbook. The keyboard multiplies my typing speed tenfold, and makes it viable to give substantive feedback directly from the classroom.
Workflow that Works
Using these tools, here’s the workflow I’ve developed: Whenever I can get into classrooms, I visit the room at the top of my list (in OmniFocus), take notes in Evernote, email them to the teacher, and move the teacher’s name to the bottom of my list in OmniFocus (I can also add the date to the note field in OmniFocus so I can quickly see all the dates I’ve visited the room).
So far this year, my schedule has been unpredictable enough that I haven’t scheduled informal walkthroughs, but if you can consistently make time, it’s OK to put them on your calendar. I would caution you to avoid using your calendar to motivate yourself, and have a way to ensure that, even if you miss a planned visit, you’ll still get to every classroom without too much reworking of your schedule. In other words, I wouldn’t recommend adding specific classes to visit to your calendar at specific times, because if you get interrupted and can’t make it to the class, you won’t want to completely redo your schedule. That’s why I keep an ordered list of classes to visit in OmniFocus, and just move each class to the bottom of the list when I visit.
I prefer to send feedback via email in most cases (since teachers can respond at their leisure if necessary), but some feedback is best given in person. If your walkthrough leads you to the conclusion that a personal conversation is in order, you can email the teacher from your iPad to set up the meeting, and put the meeting on your iPad’s calendar.
If you’ve been thinking of getting an iPad but have questions, please ask in the comments. See also my Essential iPad Guide for Principals.
How do you give feedback when you do walkthroughs?