Building Enduring Mathematical Understanding, one lesson at a time.

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Tech Talk: Keynote + Absolute Board = Awesome!

Continuing my series on iPad Apps. . .

When I first received my iPad a year ago last spring, I was DESPERATE to use it in the classroom. My school laptop was getting old and cranky, freezing up at the most inopportune moments. I have used Power Point in the classroom for quite awhile – not to “tell” students information, but to “ask” them questions. I searched through the App store quite extensively, looking for something cheap to do the job, but nothing looked too promising, so I bit the bullet, forked out $9.99 + tax and bought. . .


My kids use an Apple laptop at home, so I was familiar with the program. (We actually bought a “five-user pack” of Keynote/Pages/Numbers way back when. . . I cringe when I think of how much we spent. Who knew what would happen to the App industry?!) The iPad version doesn’t quite have as many features as the Mac version, but an upgrade sometime during the past year brought the two closer together. I have been able to email my old PowerPoints to myself and open them in Keynote. Occasionally there are a few glitches – borders on a table don’t show up, or a cool font isn’t available – but for the most part it has worked out well. I have different slide backgrounds that I use for different activities in the class, and have added to my collection with the ones in Keynote. Working on the iPad is more enjoyable than on the laptop, and moving or modifying slides is a snap. You can “nest” slides under one another, so this summer I combined all of my slides for each day of a unit together, with a general lesson plan as the “top” slide.


Clicking on the triangle by the slide will “collapse” all of the slides underneath.

Drawback #1

One glaring absence in Keynote is the ability to use superscript (and subscript, but I don’t need that NEARLY as often.) It is really unfathomable to me that this is not available in the font modifications. HOWEVER, I have found a work around. Remember when I said I emailed PowerPoints and opened them within Keynote. The superscript STAYS so I just have a “fall back” slide that I go to when I need to use an exponent. I can change the font/color/size and the superscript will change along with it! (Strange, but true!) I use a similar “shortcut” with square roots, as the keyboard shortcut for the radical symbol is non-existant, but I’ve copied it over from PowerPoint. Since the highest level of math I teach is Algebra, it’s not as if I need a full-fledged Math Editor (although it would be nice!) I am playing around with Mathbot and TeXit and learning a bit of LaTex so that I can paste in some more complex equations later on this year.

Drawback #2

I always though it would be nice to be able to “draw” on the slides! It is, after all, an iPad App! There is really no “freehand tool.” You can created shapes and lines and curves, but you can’t just “scribble something out” on a slide. At first I was really bummed about this, but I have come to realize that maybe I wouldn’t really want to, since I would need to use the slide again the following period. It would be kind of a pain to make multiple copies of each of the slides I wish to write on, so maybe not such a deal-breaker. (Although, it still would be an awesome feature just for CREATING the slides, but I doubt that Apple is listening.) So. . .from the multitude of options that I have downloaded, played with, and even used for awhile, the winner in the end is the FREE App. . .

Absolute Board!

It really IS free!


The way I use this in conjunction with Keynote on my iPad is that I will take a screen shot of the PowerPoint slides I plan on using so that they are stored in the Camera Roll. When I pull up Absolute Board I can quickly pick the slide and it will fill the screen. (For awhile I did it ahead of time, but it doesn’t take any longer to grab the slide than it does to select it from the pages stored in Absolute Board.) I can zoom in and out, change pen size and color, and write down a solution process as a student shares it aloud. (I have found that it is a BIG time saver to have me record rather than a student “write” on the iPad. There are other opportunities in class for them to write.)


The “marked up” slides are then saved in Absolute Board, and I can pull them up later. I am not sure what the limit is on the number of “pages” you can store. Every once in awhile I will “purge” the old drawings, but I can also save them to my photo album if I wish!

These two together make a great combination for me!


Tech Talk: Fun Free Apps #1

I’m not so sure how these “Tech Talk” posts fit into my “Finding Enduring Mathematical Understanding” theme, but I will stick with them for now. I am, after all, a closet AppleFanGirl with a Master’s in Educational Technology. (O.k., so the Master’s is almost twenty years old. . .not exactly “useful” – except on pay day.)

If you have an iPad, iPhone, or (newish) iPod Touch, and you read ANY blogs at all, you MUST get this App. (Oh, it’s probably available on Android as well.) It is, amazingly, FREE! Soon, you too will be swiping through your Google Reader with ease. The magazine-like interface is so relaxing. Each post shows the title, an image (when available,) and the first few lines of text. One click and the whole post appears. Another click and you are taken directly to the website. Double click and you are back to to swiping pages.


In addition to Google Reader, you can set it up to show your Twitter feed. Images of pictures and links show up right on the page. A few clicks and you can reply, re-tweet, favorite…


Facebook is another social networking option. Flipboard also “curates” posts in a large variety of categories. (See Tech, Cool, and Sports in image.) A few months before the Olympics, I added one on the Olympics. (Maybe this wasn’t such a good choice, as I too often knew the results prior to watching the broadcast – what a surprise!)


I recently, refocused my Google Reader so that it only contains education related blogs, but then I am able to add some other blogs that I enjoy (kxcd, This is Indexed, GraphJam. . .ok, they are still kind of “mathy”) to Flipboard so that I can read them at my leisure. Originally you could only fill one “page” but now it might be unlimited. I’m on my third page as this point.

It doesn’t take much time at all to set up and then you can change things around add/delete whenever you want. It is DEFINITELY worth it 🙂

Tech Talk: Paid Apps #1

I love my iPad dearly, but I am frugal, to say the least. I rarely purchase Apps, finding free ones that serve the purpose quite well. Here are a few of the ones I have actually spent my hard earned money on – maybe it was worth it 🙂

Use Your Handwriting
(Question: How do you make a link to the App Store on an iPad?! Go there and check it out – really!)
I was an early adopter of the iPod Touch. I still use my First Generation even though I can no longer update to the newest operating system, nor can I seem to add any more Apps – they all require an updated system. My fascination with this tool/toy was the touch screen, and I yearned for a way to literally “write on the screen.” I found it with UYH! It was really the first App out there to truly give you the ability to just “write!” I originally picked up the Free Version, but later upgraded to UYH GOLD because it had additional features I liked. I cringed at the $1.99 (or was it just $0.99?) price, but I bit the bullet. (It is now up to $4.99 – good thing I bought it early!) Anyways, you can write notes in the screen and then it shrinks down to a scrollable list. With the GOLD version, each item in your list can then become its own heading so you have “lists within lists within lists…” When I got my iPad the iPad version came along for the ride – what a deal! My all time favorite use for it is brainstorming. I love to just write and write and write as ideas come into my head. I can organize them as I go or move things around later using “cut and paste.” (I know there many more Apps out there now that have similar features, but I am nothing if not loyal.)

The first image is an actual screen shot of the App “in action.”

The second image is after I have added a few more notes.

The final image is what the “saved image” looks like as a photo file (or in am email.)


Ok, that’s all for today. I’m going to go add to my “Blog Ideas” list on Use Your Handwriting 🙂

Tech Talk: Edmodo

I played around with Edmodo last year, and I intend to increase my usage this year. I love the fact that it is self-contained within your own class/students. You can make logins available to parents, but even they don’t have the ability to post!

Initial Steps
My sixth grade “enhanced” class was my guinea pig group this year. Initially they wanted to treat it like Facebook (which they are “too young” to have, but some do anyways.) We discussed how it was different and agreed upon the following “ground rules:” Only respectful and on topic comments are appropriate. Occasionally throughout the year I took away posting privileges for a few who temporarily forgot the rules. One issue I did not plan for ahead of time was students changing their User Name to something goofy. We discussed the necessity of avoiding anonymity (even if you “know” who it is from their User Name) in our learning environment. As the teacher/moderator, I can delete any comment. Student accounts are not capable of communicating one on one with each other, only with the whole group, or to just the teacher.

Posting Homework:
I posted the homework assignment daily (well, mostly daily.) One student figured out how to set up the preferences to receive a text message reminding him about the homework and shared it with others. Next year I plan on posting homework solutions the following day, and also trying to “attach” handouts (or at least post images of the handout.)

Problem of the Week:
Every few weeks I assigned a Problem of the Week, and it was only available on Edmodo – no “handout.” I introduced the problem in class and we discussed possible strategies / starting points. On Edmodo students could give “helpful hints,” but I strongly emphasized the concept of “spoilers” and the reasons for avoiding them! There wasn’t nearly as much productive discussion as I had hoped for – vague mysterious comments, but not much guidance.

I used this feature a few times, but didn’t feel the time it took for students to take turns on the computers was worth the feedback – there are other methods that are more efficient.

Part of the way through the school year, Edmodo added a quiz feature. I looked forward to using it, but some of the computers I have in my classroom had trouble loading it – possible due to the age of the computers and the browsers? I am not sure. I plan to try this again next year, as I am in a different classroom. I POSSIBLY might allow students to use their smartphones in order to speed up the “taking turns” process.

Again, part of the way through the year, the iPad App obtained the ability to post photos either from the camera or the photo album. Since I use Keynote and take screenshots of slides all the time, this is a feature I began to use more and more. The “library” system is a bit clunky though. I would love to be able to post directly from the photo album, but you have to upload the photo to your library first.

Student Communication
This is a fabulous part of Edmodo that I didn’t take advantage of nearly as much as I could have last year. Students were able to post questions directly to me and they would pop up in my email, but in order to respond I had to go on Edmodo. While I could also send “notes” to individual students, I did not follow through on that as much as I plan to next year. I have thought about students using Edmodo to sign up for re-assessments next year, instead of my GoogleDocs Re-Assessment Request Form. That way I can reply back to them, especially if I have concerns about their level of preparation, need to re-schedule due to a conflict, or they forget to show up 🙂 I am also mulling over using it for some other communication related issues – more on that later.

How is this related to Enduring Mathematical Understanding? Hmmmm, needs more thought 🙂

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