Powerpoint in the Classroom Must Die

His philosophy is that the information delivery common in today’s classroom lectures should be recorded and delivered to students as podcasts or online videos before class sessions. To make sure students tune in, he gives them short online multiple-choice tests.

So what’s left to do during class once you’ve delivered your lecture? Introduce issues of debate within the discipline and get the students to weigh in based on the knowledge they have from those lecture podcasts, Mr. Bowen says. “If you say to a student, We have this problem in Mayan archaeology: We don’t know if the answer is A or B. We used to all think it was A, now we think it’s B. If the lecture is ‘Here’s the answer, it’s B,’ that’s not very interesting. But if the student believes they can contribute, they’re a whole lot more motivated to enter the discourse, and to enter the discipline.”

In short, don’t be boring.

via chronicle.com

The part in bold is exactly my approach for student engagement. I admit that I do rely on Keynote too often, but I’m going to do my best to shift towards more engaging conversations pre-and-post lab work this year.

Looking back on my own education, I couldn’t agree more that PowerPoint is a classroom hindrance and security blanket for both teachers and students when used solely in the classroom.

Stunning Lack of 2.0 Teacher Tools on Web or iPhone

When I taught 8th grade science from 2004-2006, I made heavy use of MyGradebook and it eventually became (much to the delight of my students and their parents…and eventually administrators) my complete gradebook and student documentation platform.

What wasn’t to like? In 2004, the social web was just getting cranked up and folks were still becoming familiar with the idea of blogs…especially in the education space. What the students, parents, administrators and I realized is that everyone enjoyed being able to access grades, progress notes, lesson schedules and lab details via the web at anytime. Transparency and education do go hand-in-hand.

Fast forward five years to 2009. Not much has changed. MyGradeBook still seems like the most advanced platform for online grade/progress access. I even use objective-based grading and MyGradeBook supports that kind of customization, which is a great feature.

However (more like BUT), there is no iPhone app for MyGradeBook. There is actually only one iPhone app for teachers keeping grades. That’s a huge market not being served. Where are the developers? Charge me $20 or $30 and give me an app (even from MyGradeBook) that offers offline sync’ing, mobile grade/note inputs, etc… I’ll sing your praises all day long. It just doesn’t exist yet for some reason but there are a great deal of teachers, students and parents using iPhones, so that’s just unbelievable.

There are some solutions such as using FileMaker Pro’s Bento database on the Mac and porting a database over through Bento’s iPhone app. However, it still befuddles me that there’s not a better way to have that sort of access other than using an offline product and creating a database by hand a la 2001.

So, if there are any iPhone devs out there who’d like to make a few bucks… figure out a great way to make a web/iPhone app that brings the 2.0 goodness to teacher gradebooks. We’ll love you forever and make you rich.

Until then, I’m off to pay $60 a month for MyGradeBook…

Hey, You! Get Off of My Cloud! (Or The Rise of Anti-Social Media)

I’ve fallen in love with Pinboard (for bookmarking) and Simplenote (search for it on the iPhone app store) this week. I’ve been testing out both services for a little while but decided to take the plunge this week and use them more heavily.

And they rock.

Pinboard is Delicious from 2004 with more goodness baked in. It’s fast, easy and private.  That’s right… in an age of rival-bookmarker Diigo’s communities, Evernote offering sharing of notebooks as a Premium feature and RememberTheMilk touting their social features, I’m finding myself leaning back towards sites like Pinboard that take advantage of the web2.0 goodness with a nod towards those of us who want to bookmark without worrying about what the neighbors might think (not that I’m bookmarking anything scandalous, but I don’t have to worry about crossing the education/tech/marketing/science/music streams with Pinboard). 

Simplenote does exactly what I want a note taking app to do… it takes notes quickly, easily and syncs automagically. I love Evernote, but I’ve found myself overwhlemed there as of late since there are so many features (and since I do have so much data there).  Simplenote is… well, simple. And that’s refreshing.  The same with Pinboard vs Diigo. I love Diigo, but I honestly don’t make use of all their community and bookmarking features enough to pledge allegiance. 

So, will we see a rise of anti-social media apps that take us back to a “much more civilized time” of elegant and simple lightsabers rather than social blasters? I’m not sure. But the evolution of media is definitely fascinating to participate in and ponder.

Anti-Social Bookmarking

I joined Delicious back around the Holiday Season of 2004 and soon started bookmarking with regularity.  Aside from GMail, Delicious was one of the first web2.0 sites I really got excited about. And for good reason. Delicious changed the way we all thought about bookmarking. 

"A long long time ago, I remember how that music used to make me smile…"

However, Delicious eventually caught on, found a solid userbase and got itself acquired by Yahoo. Despite a site-wide user interface revamp, things have been stagnant on Delicious for the last couple of years. The original founders left Yahoo, the rabid community seemed to dissipate and folks like myself went off searching for other places to bookmark our web finds. One of those places was Ma.gnolia.com. We all know how that went (#FAIL)  I've been trying Diigo since I'm teaching and there's a heavy concentration of educators there (and great tools for us), but I still wanted a place where I could post my bookmarks in a quick, easy and thoughtless manner.

I might have found that in Pinboard.

Not only is it what Delicious was in '04, it includes a nifty "Read Later" function (hello Instapaper!). Best of all, Pinboard is "antisocial bookmarking" that gives me exactly what I want – bookmarking without having to worry about who is following, subscribed, in my network, etc. Clean, simple, fast and antisocial are sometimes good qualities.

This mentality even shows itself in the sign-up process. Rather than having an "open beta" program, you have to pay an increasing fee to join Pinboard. In other words, as the service becomes more popular, you have to pay more to join.  I had to pay $2.91 via Amazon Payments to join. I love that thinking. Revolutionary. Look for more copycats very soon.

So will Pinboard replace Delicious for me? Already has. Will it replace Diigo? Time will tell. Will Pinboard replace Instapaper? Not sure. I'd need an iPhone app or some way to save things on mobile Safari (iPhone browser) to make that happen.

But for the time being, I'm excited 2004-style. Fingers are crossed that roadmap goal at the top of this post doesn't happen

What’s On My iPhone? Or How My iPhone Has Become My Computer

My iPhone has become my primary “computer” over the last few weeks, replacing my Macbook, a Windows 7 laptop and an older Ubuntu box that I keep around for fun.  They are all great computers but I love the reality of having my computer in my pocket or bag at all times (with most of my data always present and/or accessible) no matter where I am.  That accessibility is worth the trade-off of eye-strain and learning to type again on such a small (and virtual) keyboard.

As wonderful as the iPhone is, I have to thank the third party application developers for allowing me to use the device as an actual computer. 

So, here are the apps that I currently have on my iPhone…

Page 1: The Essential Stuff

We’ll start with the “dock” at the bottom since that never changes. I keep access to the phone, mail app and iPod down there as well as OmniFocus, which is my default organizer (more on that later).  I use these four apps almost constantly, so having them in the dock on every page is a must.

Above them are the other communication and most-used apps on my device. Most of these apps will be familiar.  However, this is where I keep the apps that I need quick access to or use the most often when I’m on the run. So, my Google Tasks (which I’m still not sure how useful this will be long term, but I keep trying to fit it into my work flow with OmniFocus), BeeJive (fantastic IM application complete with Push notifications), Evernote (my 2nd brain) and Voice Memos are all there.  I use Voice Memos to do audio podcasts on here every now and then since I can simply email a recorded mp3 to Posterous. Love that functionality.  I also keep Pandora, WunderRadio, Facebook and a link to GReader there for quick entertainment/info access. 

You might also notice I have three Twitter apps on the first page.  Yes, it’s a waste of space but I really can’t decide which Twitter app I like the most.  Tweetie and Birdfeed are fast and elegant whereas Twittelator is the pic/GPS workhorse app.  I actually use all three of them on any given day and am finding that I use Tweetie when I just have a few secs to check Twitter and Twittelator when I want to spend more time in the stream.  I actually have TweetDeck on my iPhone as well, but it’s been relegated to the last page since it constantly crashes on me.  Fingers are crossed for a fix soon.

From Safari, I can get to all of my docs on Google Docs or anything saved in DropBox just to name a few.  The web really is my primary OS so Safari is in a prime place on the first page.

Page 2: Processing and Games

I can’t say enough about InstaPaper. It’s a fantastic app that allows you to save material for reading later as long as you have access to a browser. I wasn’t sure how I’d use this app, but after a few days I realized I needed to go “Pro” and get the paid version.  It’s becomign one of my most used apps. 

QuickOffice is a life-saver.  Basically, it is a word processor and spreadsheet app that integrates with any format file I might need to edit, view or create.  It’s expensive, but well worth it. 

GV Mobile integrates with Google Voice and provides me with all I could ever ask of that service. I don’t use it everyday, but I like to know it’s there when I need it. The other apps there are for trips, quick posting on the GriffinScience blog and making audio posts to Twitter.  Not essential, but handy.

The bottom two rows are the current games I have on the iPhone. RS09 Soccer and TapDefense are downright addicting.

Page 3: Books, Music and Science

Entertainment apps (Stitcher is fantastic for random podcast discovery) on the first three rows and science apps I use on the last row.  The Kindle app has actually replaced my physical Kindle device to the point that I’m considering eBay.  We’ll see.  The bottom science apps are all useful to me but probably not for most folks. I do teach 8th Grade Physical Science, though.  If you’re interested, I’d highly recommend EleMints as a great Periodic Table app.  Formul8 is also a must-have for me since it provides a great database of science formulas I might not know off the top of my head. Very handy when you’re in my line of work. 

Page 4: The Kitchen Sink and Triathlon Training

The first two rows are for apps that I’m really not sure how to integrate or just want to keep around. However, when I’m traveling I do use WiFiFoFum a great deal since it allows you to find wifi networks in a pinch.  The bottom row of apps are for my triathlon training and are fantastic. I keep them on the bottom row there because the last page includes the “Settings” app that I use to turn off wifi while exercising to save power.  I can’t stress how useful and handy Run Keeper Pro is if you’re into cycling, jogging, etc.  It’s changed the way I look at staying fit. sendGPS is great for just bookmarking a particular geographic location since I can quickly send an email to myself with specific coordinates and elevation that I can see on a Google Map and archive in GMail (such as a particular hill where I fell while biking this past Sunday).

Page 5: Settings

These are the apps that come standard with the iPhone that you can’t delete.  So, I banish them to the last page of my device so I don’t have to deal with them.  I use the Settings and App Store apps the most since I update apps from the device itself rather than through syncing to one computer. 

So there you have it.  Those are the apps that are on my iPhone and allow me to use the device as my primary computer.  Of course there times when I need to use a laptop and I still do that at least once a day.  However, I’m increasingly relying on my iPhone for everything (including word processing thanks to Google Docs and QuickOffice).  The web is my OS and the iPhone is my node. 

Any other apps I need that you love or use?