Category Archives: software

5 Ideas for using iBooks Author and iBooks 2


When the original iPad first arrived there was buzz about how this device could change education. Schools began adopting iPad programs.  The iPad is an informational consumption device through which a learner can consume massive amounts of information through their ear and eye channels.  Learners could even customize the information slightly, a tenet of UDL.  If a learner needed larger text they could pinch and zoom with their hands and of course turn up or down any audio.  The iPad is very portable when compared to laptops and is really easy to use; which makes it a great tool to use with younger children or other learners who may be uncomfortable using a computer.  PDF readers became big apps in higher education and finding the next big content specific app became the big thing in elementary and secondary education as evident by the numerous app rating and apps for education sites.  It was not easy for educators to create their own relevant content for their classroom.  Most of the subject specific apps available were not adaptable to specific classroom content needs.  Now with iBooks Author educators can create content that is specific to their classroom needs.  Students now also have an exciting way to show off some of their creative genius on one of the most popular devices to date.

Student Produced Lessons

Female child creating a book on a silver iMac

The big buzz right now about Apple’s new iBooks 2 and iBooks Author app is the interactivity textbook publishers can bring to the classroom.  While that may be fine and dandy, imagine how you can unlock and display the creativity of students and teachers with this tool.  With iBooks Author being a free download, students and teachers now have the ability to produce high quality self-contained content for the iPad without having to know a lot about programming.  Here is one way I can see this being used with students:  During the late 90’s and early 2000’s some teachers used webquests as a tool to teach a topic a topic to their students by having the students research online resources that have been provided to them from their teacher.  The webquests usually ends in the students creating a report, video, or presentation.  Now with iBooks Author students can take their video, report, and presentation and create a beautifully crafted lesson on any topic while honing their digital content creation skills.  iBooks Author’s easy to use interface allows students to focus more on the content they are learning and creating and less on learning a program to create content that has a steep learning curve.

iBooks Author Book on iMac and iPad

Inclusive Design Awareness

What is really great about iBooks Author is the upfront approach to accessibility.  Not only does supplying the accessibility options help individuals who are born with or have developed certain disabilities, it also helps individuals as they age whose sensory functions may be beginning to fade.  As educators, we can help change the idea of the “burden” to provide accessible options by showing students (future generations) how easy it actually is to provide other means of accessing information when you think about including everyone from the outset.   With iBooks Author students and teachers can easily create content that takes advantage of the iPad’s accessibility features.

iBooks Author Accessiblity options are included in the inspector window.

Digital Storytelling Enhancement

Digital Storytelling has been around for a while now in classroom education.  Many times restricting students to one format, not because of an  inability to create multiple types of media, but because of the lack of one easy presentation of multiple media.   Just as a good storyteller makes you feel as if you are there with their voice and mannerisms, iBooks author allows students to create a world in a book and unveil their imaginations to others.

Supplement your classroom Teaching

Choose from various templates Apple provides for iBooks Author

Teachers can create an iBook of course materials that can easily be updated and distributed to students.   While this can be done a myriad of ways, imagine if you are the teacher of a face-to-face classroom of students who regularly miss class due to reasons necessary to their role in life (i.e. student-athletes, other students who travel for the university such as chorales or student government, etc.).  You could place much of the classroom materials in an iBook that is uploaded to your iTunes U collection.  Students would need the Internet once to download the book or chapter for the week.  Students could download the lesson before boarding a bus or plane where they would no longer have Internet connection most likely yet still be able to review and study the content for class.  The iBook is more than just a PDF that a student could download.  The iBook is better than having students download multiple videos and PDFs and then having to remember to read and watch everything.  The iBook acts as a guide through out the course materials for the week.  Students will have a  table of contents in front of them showing them everything they have to review for the week.  With iBooks you can even provide a self-check section to help students realize what information is seeking in and what information they still need to review.

Easily Drag and drop content from Pages or Microsoft word into iBooks Author

Final Project Portfolio

In some classrooms students are required to put together a final portfolio project.  In an interactive media class where students would learn about creating graphics, photography, video creation, and audio editing, iBooks author provides an easy packaging system for students to quickly drag and drop their projects from that semester into a neat, clean and fun iBook that can be easily presented on their iPad.

Hands touching iPad displaying science book made in iBooks Author

While it is great that Apple and textbook publishers are now able to offer interactive textbooks on the iPad (similar apps on the iPad have been attempting this: Kno and Inkling apps), it is even more exciting that now students and teachers have a very easy to use multimedia publishing tool to create content for the iPad.  Maybe one day creating high quality multimedia content for tablet devices will be as universal and as easy as word processing.


iPad Apps for Researching, Organizing, and Writing Papers

Streamlining your learning with technology makes education work seamlessly from any of your devices whether it is an iPhone, iPod, iPad, or the computer.  There are an overwhelming number of apps available for students to try as part of their work process.

Some resources that are valuable and worthwhile whether you are a freshman or working on your doctorate that we recommend are:

1.  GoodReader for iPad:  GoodReader is a mulit-tasking tool that supports large text and PDF files, syncs with remote servers, and works with .doc, .ppt, .xls, iWork, HTML and Safari webarchives, high resolution images, and audio and video.  This app, also allows you the opportunity to annotate your documents or PDF’s, manage the files, transfer files, sync files and folders, zoom, do a text search, and do a quick hyperlink search in your PDF’s.  Cost: $4.99

2.  Tap-Dictionary:  Works with the Safari web browser and gets dictionary definitions with the tap of a finger.  This app will not make you switch applications to find the definition.  It instantly finds the definition while you browse the web.  Tap-dictionary will pronounce the word in 56 different languages.  Cost: $.99

3.  Remember the Milk:  This utility app lets you take your to do list anywhere.  There are a variety of versions for the iPod, iPhone,and iPad.  The app also works with your online version that you sync with your calendars at  This app lets you add and complete tasks on the go, sync with your online version, organize priorities, due dates, search, receive reminders by email SMS and IM and much more.  Cost: Free

4.  Dropbox:  Once you download this feature to your computer and purchase the app on your iPad or iPhone you have the ability to save and open or share documents, photos, or videos anywhere  and at anytime.  The best thing about the dropbox account is that you can save, share, or email anything from or to the dropbox account at any time.  Cost: Free

5.  Dropvox:  Dropvox records audio and sends it directly to your dropbox account.    It can be used to capture any audio (e.g. interviews, memos, or lectures, ets.) In addition, you can set the audio to start recording immediately when dropvox is launched or continue recording in the background.    Cost: $1.99

Taken from Dr. Blog, PhD., this site shares information about apps for research with a focus on obtaining a PhD., but has many apps that are valid for everyone.

One of the most difficult things you can do academically is to get a PhD degree. There are a lot of tough tasks you have to complete in order to be awarded this high degree — including writing research papers. Indeed, anyone on a Ph.D. track knows that it is impossible to get through your schooling without writing several papers. And, of course, a Ph.D. dissertation is a research paper on a massive scale.

If you are looking for ways to improve your ability to write research papers, you are in luck. Technology makes it simple to get help with research papers. If you have an iPad, you can get help writing your research paper.” –from

The link for this site is:

WordPress and OnSwipe change the way you view blogs on your iPad

Until recently if you wanted your wordpress blog to have a different design for mobile devices you had to download a mobile plugin such as WPTouch. WordPress and OnSwipe have worked together to make all 18 million blogs on look more app like when viewed on the iPad. promises to make it easy for all publishers content appear more app like.


This new design reminds me of the FlipBoard app or Zite app available in the iTunes app store. Publishers who host their own blogs can go to and sign up for the beta.

Will this make reading blogs online more enjoyable? The iPad does provide a different reading experience than reading from your computer. And it looks like this most popular design for reading magazine type or content of short articles being adopted or at least getting the most buzz. But should that be the standard or default design or user experience for viewing Rss feed stories on the iPad?

What Can Gaming Do for You?

With the advancement of electronic devices gaming on these devices are increasing. There are many different types of games on different platforms and devices. There are games aimed at the casual gamer to games for the very serious gamer.  Games vary in the continuum of collaboration from no collaboration in single player games to very collaborative games such as MMOs (massive multiplayer online) games, i.e. World of Warcraft.  Gamers across the world spend/waste/invest (depending on your view) billions of hours weekly playing in the virtual worlds trying to solve a mission, complete a task, or WIN!  These gamers enjoy playing the games so much that they do not even realize many times how much time is passed. And gamers all have the same goal: to be successful at the task.

Recently on, Jane McGonigal (Twitter page), a game designer, recently presented a talk of how Gaming can make a better world.  In it she talks about the emotions that gaming does and does NOT produce.  She also wants to develop away to take the emotions real people have while seriously playing collaborative games and apply them to the real world. Her them seems to be: if the energy, emotion, and sticktuitiveness of gamers in the virtual world could be applied to real world, real life issues and events, then the world could be a better place. You can view the video below.

Now apply that to education. Ms. McGonigal points out in the video that the average gamer in a strong gaming culture will have logged 10,000 hours or more by the age of 21. She states that is approximately the amount of face time teachers will have with students from 5th grade till high school graduation in the United States. During that time frame adolescent gamers are spending almost the same amount of time playing video games. Imagine if educators could tap into that extra time.

The University of South Florida (USF) is trying to do just that. How can educators harness virtual worlds to educate the k-12 students?  USF has created a website of lesson plans, resources, and case studies related to education and gaming platforms. You can find these resources on the USF website. The project is called Worlds of Education and it focuses on using virtual worlds to enhance or distribute education. The two gaming environments primarily used in the project are the World of Warcraft game by Blizzard and SecondLife.  The website also has a small but growing resource of lesson plans grouped by subject area.

Should gaming be used in education?

Converting PDFs e-books for the iPhone and Kindle

In Higher education, professors require their students to read various handouts from pertinent writers of the field of study. Many times professors provide their readings electronically as PDF documents. PDF documents require a reader such as Preview (Mac only) or Adobe’s Acrobat reader (PC or Mac) to be viewed. Many current browsers have a PDF plugin already installed, making PDF a good format to deliver electronic readings for all students to access the content.

Distance learners are many times business travelers or students who are constantly on the go. Many times they are accessing online classes through their laptops or smartphones. Many times the layout of PDFs do not lend themselves for easy reading on small portable devices such as the iPhone or blackberry. A website that I found the other day is This site will allow the student to upload a PDF from their computer or paste in a link to a PDF that is online. The epub2go site will convet the PDF into an EPUB file. The website will either email you a link to download your EPUB or if you are on an iPhone, it will download the file to an app called Stanza. Stanza, which can be downloaded from, is an e-book reader for the mac or pc with sharing capabilities to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the Kindle.


According to EPUB is a format for reflowable digital books. These books can be easily read and manipulated by many devices since it is basically an XML format.


Provided by, Stanza can be downloaded on the mac, pc, iPhone or, iPod Touch. With Stanza, a student can change the font styling (face, color and size), background color and brightness to make reading the text on screen easier. Stanza app and allow the on the go student to convert online PDFs to ebooks all on the iPhone or iPod Touch with wi-fi connection; no computer needed. The student can now build their library of journal articles on their Apple mobile device to be read on the train, plane, taxi or other similar situations. Below are screenshots from my iPod Touch of the epub2go to stanza app conersion process

More iWeb freeware

iWebMore allows you to include HTML code from Google Video, Flickr and other websites in your iWeb sites.

Keyboard utilities for Mac Windows Users

Today I have two utilities that will make using a dual boot computer much easier:

  •  Apple Mouse Utility: this was designed for using a one-button mouse under Windows.  However, the cool thing about it is that it allows you to use the Control +  Click shortcut you can use in Mac OS to right-click in XP.  To use the utility, save it somewhere on your hard drive then place a shortcut to it in the Startup folder. This is much better than having to do a Shift + F10 each time you need to right-click.
  • DoubleCommand: this extension allows you to remap the keys on a Windows keyboard while you’re in OS X. I used it to make my Windows key work as a Command key, and the Alt key to function as the Option key.


This is a great little utility that allows you to quickly change your sound input or output on the Mac.  I’m always switching between my headphones and the built-in sound on my iMac.  Using SoundSource makes the task much easier.  The application sits in the menu bar, right next to the date, etc.  A pulldown menu allows you to switch either the input or output with just one click (no need to open the System Preferences).


New version of Picasa

I usually write only about Mac applications, but since a lot of people have dual boot machines (or have two machines), I thought I would mention that one of my favorite Windows programs just got even better.  Picasa (as close to iPhoto as you can get on the PC), has added a bunch of new features:

  • Labels are now called Albums.  They work the same way, but there is an album called screensaver that is automatically created for you.  Any images you drag to that album will become part of your Windows screensaver.  Nothing spectacular (the Mac has been able to do this for a while), but a nice addition to the program.
  • You can create a movie with a bunch of photos and Picasa will use the Album title and description as the title of the movie.  The movie includes the “Ken Burns effect” a la iMovie, but you don’t have as much control over it.  I hope they continue to improve on this feature.
  • You can now geotag images with Google Earth from within Picasa.  I will be using this feature quite a bit to add location information to my images.
  • I have not had a chance to test this out yet, but it looks like you can send images from your PC to a Tivo using Picasa.  I have the Tivo Desktop installed already, so maybe I’ll give this a shot later this week.

iPod as a testing device

I recently helped one of our students design a test for special education students to be delivered using iPods. The idea was inspired by the Louisa Muscatine iPod Project, even though my approach is a little bit different than theirs. Today, I finally had a chance to look at their site, where they had a short video explaining how they created their tests. I have to commend them on this creative use of the iPod in the classroom. As a visually impaired person, I am always looking for ways that this wonderful device can be used as an assistive technology.

I think their approach has two key advantages:

  • It is very easy for teachers to create the test items. They can use Keynote or PowerPoint to create slides that are exported as images, and these slides can include other images such as simple graphs or tables. My approach, which uses the notes feature of the iPod, involves a little more work because each individual test item is an individual note on the ipod and these notes are linked through hyperlinks. I fear that as soon as you mention that hyperlinks and HTML are involved (even if it’s only two tags) this may turn off many teachers from wanting to implement this kind of technology. To get around this, you can provide a template for teachers to follow, as I did with the student I worked with.
  • It is also very easy for the students to navigate through the questions once they are on the iPod. They just have to click on the back or forward button to navigate, whereas with my approach they must scroll to a link until it changes color to indicate that it is active, then click on the center button to move to the next note. For younger students, this may be too difficult.

For elementary school students, I would say that their approach is ideal. However, for older students I think my approach has some advantages:

  • The notes feature has an advantage when it comes to text. You are not limited by what can be displayed on the screen at one time. For questions where students have to read a short passage (FCAT reading review, etc), the notes method would be ideal because you can scroll to see more content. The text is also more legible when you use notes. This is a limitation of the movie size created by Garageband, which will hopefully be addressed in the next release of the program.
  • The use of hyperlinks gives you more flexibility in the types of exhibits you can use with the test items. You can easily link to video clips and images in the same test. When you create the test using the podcast track in Garageband, you can only include still images or video, but not both (unless you create the whole thing as a movie in iMovie and then import into Garageband–but now you’re introducing another program into the equation). This is another limitation that will hopefully be addressed in the next version of iLife.
  • The use of “museum mode” allows you to lock down the iPod so that students are not distracted by other content on the iPod. They only have access to the content in the notes folder, which would be your test and any instructions. Obviously, you would not have any music or other content on the iPod before administering a test, but the temptation to click on other things (even if it’s just the settings) is too much of a distraction.

For older students I think the use of the notes is fine. They probably already have some experience with the iPod, so learning the navigation is probably not too much of a problem.  And as I said before, once you create a test once, you can continue to reuse it as a template.  All you have to do is substitute the text for the new items and link to new exhibits.

I can see combining the two approaches as well.  That is, I would have the iPod set to notes mode to “lock it down”, then include a menu for each section of the test (using a .linx note)  and use a podcast (created with Garageband) for each section.  This would work well for a test where you only have text and the items are short.

As they say, there is “more than one way to skin a cat”.  The way in which we both developed a successful iPod test demonstrates that there are several ways to get this done, each with advantages and disadvantages.  The method you choose will depend on the tech savvy of the teachers and the needs of the audience as well as the requirements of the test.

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