360Cities Rapa Nui Panoramas

I love the colourful and personal world-view that Google Maps and  Street View have brought to my classroom.

I’ve now added 360Cities to my teaching toolkit as they take Street View and turn it into an immersive (you guessed it!) 360 degree panorama.

I’m writing a children’s musical set on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and was alerted to a 360cities panorama of the Ran Raraku quarry, where the famous heads were carved:


Inside Rano Raraku : The Moai Quarry in Rapa Nui – Easter Island

This one shows the Ahu Akivi moai, the only ones to actually face the ocean.

Ahu Akivi (Front Left) in Rapa Nui – Easter Island

This one shows the Ahu Tongariki, the largest moai on the island.


Another Day At Tongariki (Front Center) in Rapa Nui – Easter Island

The 360Cities site requires Flash, so there’s no visiting on your iPad! Fortunately, there is an app, and since it allows you to make your own panoramas, it’s excellent value.

Panoramas are user uploaded, so popular tourist sites are over-represented and some places have none at all. That aside, my quick sampling (birth place in UK, recent trip to New Zealand, Canada and interest in Easter Island) all turned up useful views.

And of course, your students could make their own too!


Dashboard is a beautiful (and sort-of-free-depending ) iOS6 app with both iPad and iPhone versions available.

It offers a one-stop-view for your email, Facebook, weather, news, notes, to-do-lists and more, all on  customisable and relatively easy to navigate screens.

I started with Dashboard for  iPad. I’t slick right up (looking a lot like the Wunderlist) and exudes a professional feeling. I started customising the first screen and added a Calendar, Time and weather panel. Each panel can fit across any combination of each screen’s eight-module areas, so you could  feasibly have eight panels per screen. I chose to have four on the first (home) screen), two on the next screen and a single custom panelon the third. Panels can be easily resized and deleted – lots of fun!

An email seemed a logical inclusion, but an email pack is part of Dashboard’s in-app purchase.


Still, a couple of bucks isn’t a lot to ask considering the app is free (at the moment) and a quick trip to the app store netted me a Gmail panel, a Check List panel and a Notes panel. You can have up to eight screens and the settings section includes a half-decent Help file, a variety of background themes and the option to turn off the button sounds. The custom module allows you to add specific urls as panels a worthwhile feature in its own right.

I’m impressed by what I’ve seen so far and I guess more panels will become available if the demand warrants it. The only hiccups I had were 1)  having to read the Help file to work out how to add additional screens (drag a screen to the left until ‘Add Screen’ appears. Doh!) and 2) a lag with the

Give Dashboard a spin, it could be just the thing you need to collect you busy life in one place.

YouTube clip: Editing in Dashboard

On the App Store: Dashboard

Zite Update

Layout of the new Zite

Layout of the new Zite. Note the ‘headline news’ section with the scrolling news items, the new ‘explore icon and the updated Quicklist icon.

Zite, my favourite news aggregator, has just been updated.

As mentioned in my original post, Zite uses an algorithm to gradually tailor the app’s content to your interests. Over time this results in pages (and pages and pages!) of news and blog articles that I simply just have to read.


The new Zite has an updated icon (a rather fetching owl), a slicker interface and a larger database of categories (over 40,000). There’s also an interesting feature where Zite will connect to social sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pocket and Google Reader and ‘suggest topics based on your social activity’. I hooked it up with Pocket and it returned just three new suggestions. The low number is probably because most of my Pocket clippings come from Zite in the first place!

Thumbs up or down?

Mostly up. The UI design is smart, minimalistic and easy to navigate. The number of article stubs per page is nicely varied, from 3-5 and a ‘suggested by Zite’ box, with several sliding stories, appears every few pages.

The thumbs up / down icons are now present on the page without having to activate a menu, and this makes saving to other services (such as Pocket, Evernote etc) quicker. You can also ‘thumbs up’ an article by pushing the article stub up to reveal a green thumb. Releasing it means you’ll ‘see more articles like this’. You can also navigate the various articles in a category without returning to its overview page using the ‘next’ button at the bottom of the page.

Some down. You can’t navigate between articles by the iPad tradition of swiping, which is easily forgotten as you move from app to app. Zite won’t allow you to ahve a category that it doesn’t define With 40,000 to choose from this shouldn’t be an issue, but I’d love to be able to view ‘tech theatre’ or ‘stage design’ as categories. Lastly, any pages you navigate to from a Zite page can only be viewed. You can’t send them to a service, open them in Safari or otherwise interact with them. Shame.

But Zite is (still) awesome and of course, it’s still free. Brilliant!






Easy Portfolio app – it’s a start


Easy Portfolio is an app for collecting and storing student portfolio. It’s a good start but unfortunately it’s not quite ready for intense classroom use.

The good

  • You can add portfolio names (probably one per student / one per project.
  • You can add a range of document types namely video, photos, documents, urls, notes and audio.
  • You can add multiple photos, docs and videos at one time.
  • You can sort, rename, delete,email and save documents.
  • You can import from Dropbox. But not everything.
  • iPhone / iPad app in one.

The not so good:

  • Inconsistent interface makes for a confusing ride. And there are save buttons. Save buttons on an iPad? I don’t need save buttons! If I change my mind I’ll just delete the entry.
  • It takes a minimum of eight taps to add, say, a video. More if you want to rename the video. And did I mention saving? One of those taps is a save button. Forget the save button and you have to start again.
  • You can’t sort the portfolio names. Thirty students in random order? I think not.
  • You can’t select a student and then add multiple items – you have to select a portfolio each time.
  • You can’t select a document type then add multiple versions to different portfolios (such as a set of class photos). I can imagine this getting very aggravating when entering a lot of material.


Give it a try, because it’s heading in the right direction and feedback ideas to the developers because there’s certainly potential here, but not quite the actuality.


Zite Icon

I’ve tried a stack of news aggregators – Flipboard, Pulse, Currents, NewsMix, Hitpad and more – but Zite’s the only one that stays on my home page and the only one I open and read every day.

Zite screenshot

So what make’s Zite my personal favourite?

It’s not the layout (Flipboard is better), the interface (HitPad rocks) or the news sources (Currents has more).

Nope, it’s the way Zite learns what I find interesting (upvote / downvote), what tags are important to me (‘show me more…’) and the ease with which I can share the articles, esepcially to Pocket, Email, FaceBook and Evernote.

Zite screenshot 2

Some suggested topics: iPad, Education, Pedagogy, Technology, NASA, Science News, Professional Development, Literacy, Special Education, Science Education.

If you can’t find a specific topic, search for topics like Maths / Science / Education / Leadership etc.

Zite is free and should be on educator’s iPad.

Finale Songbook

Finale Songbook icon

Woo hoo! There’s now an official Finale music notation app – Finale Songbook – and for a (free) first go, it’s not bad – not bad at all.

Now I’ve used the Finale notation program ever since it was available on Windows, and I have all the disks to prove it! Back in the day, Finale had no ‘undo’, scant MIDI support and a frankly horrendous learning curve. The learning curve is still there, but everything else has improved exponentially, and despite newer and flashier programs such as Sibelius (much loved by our Education Department’s Instrumental Service) I’ll probably remain a Finale fan to my dyin’ day – and certainly Finale Songbook does nothing to change my mind.

Finale Songbook screenshot

First up though: it doesn’t do that much. Songbook will:

  • Display Finale ‘mus’ files
  • Auto scroll through them
  • Display the score’s parts separately
  • Create ‘playlists’
  • Sort your Library by title, composer and file name.

A bit like my much used Musicnotes app.

But the kicker, and I was most surprised by this, it plays your score. And pretty darn well too (especially if ‘human playback’ is available.

Oh, and along with the playback, it  has a metronome to set the tempo, a resume feature and a scroll bar to quickly move to a desired page.

All in all it’s pretty useful and I can certainly see myself using it at school for:

  • Playing new arrangements on the interactive whiteboard
  • An accompaniment machine for my instrumental groups
  • Playing songs from my musicals when learning them – follow the moving bar
  • Analysing songs for melody, harmony, rhythms etc

Wish list? At this point I’d see huge benefits in:

  • Selecting a part to display while the score plays.
  • Rudimentary editing
  • Ability to add annotations

In the meantime, download, install and enjoy.





PDF Expert

iBooks is a good way to store and organise your pdfs.

PDF Expert is a much better – in fact a great way – to store, organise, annotate and share your pdfs.


Whole day Australian Curriculum T & D, English / History focus (not my teaching areas). Download curriculum documents from the Australian Curriculum site onto my PC. My iPad is on the same wireless network, so I enter the iPad network address into the PC browser and I’m presented with an explorer-type interface. Hit the upload button and a minute or so later the five pdfs are safely in their folders. Continue reading

Tango iPad / iPhone app

Tango app iconTango? Yes, as in ‘to takes two to’.

Two Tangos then? Yes, one sits on your iPad, one sits on the iPhone (or iPod).

And when you have two Tangos? One acts as a remote control for the other.

Once installed you have complete access to you iTunes library: playlists, songs, albums, videos, podcasts. The obvious use is remotely controlling your iPad (loaded with music and plugged into a dock or sound system) with your iPhone, though Tango does allow you to set them up with the remote working the opposite way.

At school? I have my iPad plugged into the classroom projector. But this isn’t convenient for stopping starting music and videos. Here’s where Tango comes in. Same setup, but now I have a remote that works wherever there’s a wireless network. (There’s a bluetooth option but this doesn’t work with my 3GS phone.

In practice it’s easy as. The two apps find each other quickly (5-10 seconds) and there’s no apparent lag in operation. You can add a password, disable auto-lock and sync changes to the library.

The remote for the videos is certainly useful, especially when viewing music clips, as pausing from a remote is much more convenient.

Tango costs $5.49, but it’s a solid, well thought out and practical app that should be on your shopping list.

iPhone Tango screenshot


iPad Tango Screenshot




Choice screenshot

Choice screenshot

Choice was one of the first apps I ever downloaded for my iPhone and for a free app, it’s certainly been one of the most useful.

Operation is simple; up to five people place a finger each on the screen. Grey dots form under their fingertips. the dots flash on and off then just one ends up red. A winner has been decided on!

I use this app at least once every day with classes. Students never argue with the decision and it’s quick and painless. A few believe they can ‘game’ the result by being the first / last to put their fingers down. No statistical proof of this helping to win has been established however.

The app did disappear from the App Store for a while but developer Christian Stropp brought it back and produced an updated (thank you!) version for the iPad that takes up to eleven fingers.

It’s almost as good as rock / paper / scissors!

I use it to:

  • Select leaders for Drama / Music groups
  • Choose classroom monitors
  • Arbitrate on contentious classroom issues
  • Pick teams
  • Bring about world peace

iPads and Interactive Whiteboards

The Whiteboard Blog compares three ways of using your iPad with an interactive whiteboard.

While I have a PC connected to the whiteboard in the classroom, it only gets used for PowerPoint and program demonstrations. For playing music examples and video clips, my iPad is the gadget of choice. (CineX player is a slick video app, and my current video player since YouTube stopped video apps from downloading directly on the iPad).

The short VGA dongle lead (and the need to plug into the speakers) is frustrating, and now we have a wireless system installed I’m going to experiment with some of the iPhone/iPod remote systems that are available.