Drafts 5

Drafts 5 is out today. It's a killer update to an app I use every day to help me get work done in my classroom. I'll be sharing more of how I'm doing that in the coming days, but until then, you should read the MacStories review to get a taste of what Drafts 5 can do.

Froggipedia and AR Apps

At Apple’s education event last month, the company touted everything you can do on an iPad compared to other devices. They focused heavily on AR and their pencil and featured an app called Froggipedia which allowed students to examine an AR frog and dissect it using the Apple Pencil.

Honestly, while I see value of using iPads in the classroom, this seemed gimmicky. However, my 2nd grade class is currently studying life cycles and adaptations of animals, so I decided to buy the app and test its utility in a real classroom.

For some background, my school is not a 1-to-1 iPad school. We have 2-3 iPads per classroom, none newer than the original iPad Air, some as old as iPad 2. This plays a part in my experience with this app because students were not able to explore by themselves or in small groups. I projected it onto the board using my personal iPad Pro and Apple TV.

I should also note that this app is geared toward older students and more advanced curriculum than what my 2nd graders are working on. However, It did model the frog life cycle from egg to frog which I wanted my students to see.

First though, I wanted to get the reaction of my kids to placing a frog on my desk. As soon as the frog was placed, I started hearing shouts of “Coolest app ever!” and asking what it was called so they could get it at home.

Then I showed them what we actually came to see, the life cycle model.

I don’t show my class a ton of movies, but there are many things we can’t experience in the classroom that need to be seen, so I will occasionally show a quick video. For example, we did a science unit on states of matter, and I wanted them to see that all matter can change state, not just water. So we watched a video of a man melting metals, pouring them into molds, and letting them harden into different shapes.

That’s essentially what this was: a video I controlled. There’s value, but it’s not a game changer.

While I do work very hard to make sure my lessons are engaging for my active 7-8 year olds, engagement can’t be the only factor in teaching. In order to have true rigor, students need to be producers, not just consumers of content. Right now, AR in apps is a novel way to consume. But what will happen when the novelty wears off?

That’s not to say there is no place for AR in education. I can think of a lot of special education and accessibility uses. I just don’t think it will take over the general education classroom.

11 Tips for Working on the iPad – MacStories

On MacStories today, Federico Viticci has some great tips for getting work done from an iPad. Several of these are super helpful in a classroom setting. I highly recommend you check it out.

Time Tracking

One of the primary goals of this website is the help teachers be more efficient in their jobs by utilizing technology.

However, lately, I have felt pretty inefficient, and I wanted to know where my time was going. So I downloaded the app Timelogger and have been tracking how I spend my time at school. I’m hoping if I can see any less important areas where I’m spending too much time, I can find ways cut those back.

I chose Timelogger because it’s native to iOS instead of being a web service like Toggl. Most importantly, it has an Apple Watch app where I can start and stop my timers. I like to leave my phone at my desk most of the day, so having controls on my watch is crucial.

I’ve only been doing this a few weeks, including one where I was out 3 days this past week for spring break. I don’t know that I have enough data yet to make any decisions, but hopefully by the end of the school year I can learn where my systems can be improved and then make the necessary adjustments over the summer.

If you’d like to join me in tracking your time, Timelogger can be downloaded for free on the App Store, but a $4.99 in-app purchase is required to unlock the full feature set.

Apple Education Event Reflection

I’ve spent the day reflecting on Apple’s education event, held this morning in Chicago. While there definitely are things to be excited about (the biggest company in the world holding an event about how they are trying to make my job/education as a whole better is a positive thing), I keep coming back to something I shared on my microblog this morning.

In order for me to be truly excited about what Apple announces today, they’re going to need a direction change in their education approach instead of just next steps on the current path.

I’m hoping since today is the first education event in 6 years, that’s what we see.

Today was a decent sized step down the same path. I wanted to see Apple take some risks and try new things. In the end, that’s not what we got, and that’s disappointing.

That being said, I am genuinely excited about a few things.

As a parent, my kids have one of my old iPad minis they use to watch movies and play games on when we travel. As they get older and need access to devices for homework and school, an iPad in this price range with Apple Pencil support looks amazing.

Also with the pencil, having iWork updated to work with the pencil and drawings is really nice. Microsoft announced support for this in Office back in 2015 when the original 12.9” iPad Pro and Apple Pencil were announced. I can’t believe it’s taken this long to add pencil support to iWork.

The addition of creating books in Pages looks promising as well. While it may not be an iBooks Author replacement, this looks like it could be a great way to share content with students and even a way to for them to create content.

Finally, the update to student iCloud accounts having 200GB of storage for free is fantastic. While we don’t currently use this at my school at all, it definitely helps schools who have large iPad deployments (especially using shared iPads).

Sadly, very little of this will be used in my classroom anytime soon. At a public school with a district going through major budget cuts, adding a fleet of iPads isn’t in the cards. That’s where the problem lies. I don’t blame Apple for the cost. I know Chromebooks often cost about the same. But state testing regulations still make those a more likely choice if we’re ever even given a choice.

So for the schools that can afford it, today was probably a good day. For many though, it was something we can only hope for.

Fraser Speirs on Apple’s Education Event

I started a draft of a blog post about what I hope to see at Tuesday’s Apple education event. Then Fraser Speirs went and said everything I wanted to in 5 tweets. Rather than making you read through my rambling, I am linking to his thread. It’s concise, and dead on.

Thoughts on SaneBox

Back in January, I shared I was beginning SaneBox’s free trial period to help get control over my email. As a teacher, I get urgent information from parents all day right next to needless spam. The signal to noise ratio was not where I needed it to be, and I was spending far too much time managing email instead of preparing lessons for my students.

I had heard about SaneBox for years on tech podcasts, but from the descriptions I heard, it sounded mostly like a server side way to snooze email which can be done in native clients such as Spark and Airmail for far cheaper. However, after I returned to using iOS’s default mail app which doesn’t have these features, something had to be done about email. Important things were being buried and forgotten as I was overwhelmed by junk. I decided to give SaneBox a try, and realized very quickly I would be purchasing a subscription.

The killer feature I had no idea about was the SaneLater folder. SaneBox intelligently sorts email for you and decides what should go immediately into your inbox, and what is less important, and can be read later. From day one, it was doing a great job of sorting for me. However, if something ends up in the wrong place, I simply move the email to the inbox, and all future emails from that sender will appear there.

I thought I would forget to check the SaneLater folder, but every day I get a SaneDigest email from SaneBox which tells me how many emails have been placed in my SaneLater folder that day. Generally, I go check it at that time (which I have set as the end of the school day), and spend 5 minutes dealing with it all. I can even wait a few days to manage my SaneLater folder because nothing in there is ever urgent. Meanwhile, important emails from parents of students or my principal go straight to my inbox.

I do have a few custom folders set up for receipts and TestFlight betas, and I use the SaneBlackHole to unsubscribe from emails as well. SaneLater is just the most useful feature for me.

If you’d like to give SaneBox a try, you can click here, which will give you $5 off your initial subscription.

Todoist Education Pricing

While I have traded my usage of Todoist for Things 3, Todoist is still an excellent task manager, and could very well be the right choice for many people.

This week, Todoist introduced their education pricing for students and teachers. It’s 50% off of the usual annual subscription. If you’re a teacher looking to get your task list under control this new year, this is a great place to start.

You can apply for the education discount here.

New Semester, New Plan

4 years into my teaching career, I’m still struggling to find the best way to lay out my lesson plans that allows me to easily make sure I’m covering what I need to cover, have all my materials together, and don’t forget day to day what I need to do.

Since August alone I’ve tried using Bear to hold all lesson plans, a digital bullet journal in GoodNotes, and a physical bullet journal in my Studio Neat Panobook.

I know part of the issue is my desire to always try new things which can prevent giving systems a chance to actually work. However, I also think part of the reason I can’t stay consistent is nothing strikes the right balance of enough detail that it’s useful without being too fiddly and time consuming.

In the last few weeks of last semester, I started using a few tools that I really like. Now over winter break, I have refined my system that I’ll be using as I head into the next semester this week.

The first app I’m using is Bear. I’ve written about using Bear for lesson planning before, but instead of laying out days and weeks worth of lessons as I was this time last year, I’m using Bear as a wiki of sorts for every state standard I have to teach and how they will be assessed. I use Bear’s tagging system (which is much handier with the recent updates in version 1.4) to group standards by subject, quarter, and unit. I also use note links to link related standards.

 My (Incomplete) Standards Wiki in Bear

With Bear’s excellent URL scheme, I can link to specific standards from other parts of my planning workflow if needed.

Bear is great for big picture planning, but for day to day lessons, I’ve decided to just use my calendar. Fantastical (iPhone, iPad) is my main calendar app, and it works great for what I need. I created a separate Lesson Plan calendar in my iCloud account, and add plans to it. As a self contained 2nd grade teacher, I teach multiple subjects a day. I lay out every subject, every day of school with a short description of the lesson in the title. I then have several ways which I will cover later to see my plans for each day.

Rather than go through the tedium of entering each day’s lessons myself, I have a Workflow which does this for me. I have a repeating task in Things 3 (iPhone, iPad) that reminds me every Thursday to run this workflow for the next week. I could just use repeating tasks, but the amount of time it takes to delete these on days where there is no school or a special event adds up to way more than it takes to run this workflow every week.


 <p>Once I add lessons to my calendar, I view them a few different ways. The first is with the Siri Face on my Apple Watch. Many days I wear this while at school so I can always see what I’m teaching next, as well as have quick access to my Things today view via the complication and any timers I run during the day automatically show up.</p>  

 <p>Speaking of Things, one of the major reasons I started using it as my task manager instead of Todoist last month was its fantastic calendar integration. Every morning I look at the Today view which shows me tasks already set for that day. I can then look at what I’m teaching in the calendar section as well to see if there is anything I need to do to prepare the lesson such as print or gather materials. If I do, I add that to my task list to make sure it’s ready for the lesson.</p>

We’ll see how this works for me in the first few weeks of the semester, but I feel like it will be a good balance of organized without hours of work.

Sponsor: MDM Deals - Curating Fantastic Deals on Fantastic Apps & Movies

Happy Holidays from The Class Nerd!

I am hard at work on a post about the apps I’ll be using for lesson planning in the second semester of this year. Be on the lookout for that next week.

In the meantime, if you’re getting some fancy new Apple devices or iTunes gift cards and are looking for apps to use or ways to spend that money, you need to check out MDM Deals.

While apps and movies go on sale year round, Black Friday and Christmas are always the two biggest sales of the year. MDM Deals looks through everything that goes on sale in the App Store and iTunes (movies) and picks the best ones to share with you.

The best way to keep up with what’s on sale is their holiday deals site. You can also follow them year round in a variety of ways. Here are a few of my favorites:

The potential for apps making your life as a teacher easier has never been higher. MDM Deals is a great way to get some new tools for a good price. I’m sure I’ll be spending some money through there next week myself.

The Enneagram, Things, and Ticci

I have been microblogging a lot lately about both the Enneagram (here and here) and transitioning to Things as my task manager (here and here). While I haven’t said as much, the two are actually related.

I wasn’t 100% sure I would actually post this, but after the latest episode of Connected where Federico Viticci talked about why he made the transition from Todoist to Things, there were enough similarities that I needed to share my story as well.

The Enneagram

I had planned on writing a big post on the Enneagram at some point, and that may still come, but I need to explain some things about what it is in order to explain how it has impacted my task manager choice.

In the shortest terms, the Enneagram is a personality typing system. In some ways it’s similar to Myers-Briggs or Disc, or other popular personality test. In a lot of ways though, it’s different.

The Enneagram teaches that there are nine different personality styles in the world, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. - Ian Morgan Cron, “The Road Back to You”

If you’ve heard a lot of people talking about the Enneagram lately, it’s becoming popular in Christian circles because Ian Cron, a popular Christian author, wrote a book about it. But The Enneagram is not a religion. It’s not tied to one. It’s not something you have to believe or follow. It’s a tool to help you understand yourself, the good and bad. That’s it.

As I’ve studied the Enneagram over the last 6 months or so, I’ve determined I gravitate toward type 3 which is often called “The Performer” or “The Achiever.” Like all 3s, at some point in my life I began to believe that love was based more on what you did than who you are. I will transform myself (or perform) based on whatever situation I’m in to try to win people over and make them think I’m successful. I’m obsessed with productivity and efficiency because the more I do, the more value I have. This isn’t all bad. If you need someone to get a job done, find a 3. But the underlying motivation for me is often unhealthy.

So I’m slowly trying to let myself be at times. Let myself do nothing. Let myself stop always being busy. Being ok with not everything I do being a success.

This is where the transition of task managers has come in.

Todoist to Things

I started using Todoist about a year ago as my primary task manager. We got an Amazon Echo Dot in our kitchen, and I wanted to try working with a task manager that I could easily add tasks to using Alexa (it turns out I never did this anyway). Todoist stuck though.

One of the stickiest aspects of Todoist for me was Karma. Todoist even quoted me on their blog talking about how much I loved Karma. Every day I would work my tail off to reach 0 tasks in my Todoist Today view or continue my streak. When I didn’t make that happen, I would get stressed out. Anxious even. I started hating even opening Todoist because I felt like I couldn’t be good enough at my job to get everything done that I needed to. \ I tried turning off Karma, but it was so deeply connected with using Todoist in my brain I knew I probably needed to get out.

I’m at almost 2 weeks of using Things, and the way Ticci described it in this week’s Connected has been my experience as well. I like that there’s no karma. I like that if I don’t complete a task on a certain day, it just remains on my task list for the next. I like that there’s no congratulations from the app for getting through all of my to-dos for the day.

Things helps me do my job while not making my job my life.

There are definitely things about Todoist that I miss, but after 2 weeks, I’m really happy I made this transition. I hope it leads to more balance, and less stress in the long run. Ticci trying out Things for the same reasons was further confirmation for me that I’m on the right track.

You can pick up Things for iPhone for $9.99 and for iPad for $19.99.

MindNode 5

I don’t know exactly how I found MindNode, but I’ve been using it for at least 5 years as the primary place I get ideas out of my brain to organize and write. I used it in grad school, I’ve laid out semesters worth of lessons, and most blog posts (including this one) begin in MindNode.

Version 5 of MindNode for iOS releases today, and it is a terrific update.

MindNode 5 brings iPhone X support, iOS 11 Files support, and Drag and Drop to the app. These are needed/welcome changes, but not the most exciting features of the update.

It also features an all new design that fits in really well on iOS 11 and the iPhone X especially. Menus are now located in a card that can be resized by the user and feature more options for customizing the appearance of your mind map. Also, if the background of the mind map is black, MindNode will convert the menus to a dark mode.

 MindNode 4 vs MindNode 5

These customizations can be saved as custom themes that can be reused. I’ve made my own dark theme I really enjoy.

Perhaps my favorite new feature is an option to have “orthogonal branches.” Basically, lines in your map can have 90 degree angles instead of just being curved. I think this looks really nice, and I wish there was an option to have this be the default. Branches can also be placed in a top down orientation which I use with my students for tree maps.

This is a great new version of one of my favorite apps. It’s free to try with an in-app purchase of $14.99 to unlock the full version. If you’re an owner of MindNode 4, the new version is $9.99.

280 on Twitter vs Micro.blog

Earlier today, I posted the following on my microblog and twitter:

It’s funny how much I’ve enjoyed 280 characters on Micro.blog, but how much I hate it on Twitter.

I’ve gotten a lot of people agreeing with me, but not for the same reasons I have. While I don’t want to add to the people complaining about Twitter’s 280 character change, I’ve had enough interactions with people on the subject that I want my thoughts in one place.

Here are my 2 main problems with 280 characters on Twitter vs Micro.blog:

  1. I’ve been on Twitter for 9 years. It has always been 140 characters. It’s jarring to scroll my feed and it suddenly look so different. Micro.blog has always been 280 characters and truncated my posts longer than 140 behind a link when cross-posting to Twitter.
  2. People are still doing tweet threads, but they’re 280 character tweet threads. It’s even more obnoxious. With Micro.blog, when you go over 280, it becomes a real blog post and just has a link. This makes so much more sense.

Yes, there is the ridiculousness of what people say on twitter (including taking 280 characters to tweet about 280 characters), but these 2 are the biggest factors for me.

I wonder how much longer I’ll use Twitter beyond cross-posting from Micro.blog. Returning to more RSS usage instead of Twitter seems more and more appealing every day.

6s Plus to X

Like almost everyone in the Apple nerdosphere, I cannot wait until my iPhone X arrives tomorrow. It’s unfortunate that UPS usually doesn’t come to my house until between 6:30 and 7pm, but I will try to wait patiently.

As I’ve spent some time reading reviews this week and trying to learn more about how the X will work, I’ve realized this is a really big update for me since I skipped the iPhone 7 generation and am upgrading from a 6S Plus.

Haptic feedback and the zoom/portrait mode are things I’ve realized I’ll be getting along with FaceID, the OLED display, and Animoji. Not to mention that zoom/portrait mode have the new, better camera and Portrait Lighting.

This phone isn’t just the new sexy. It’s a major feature update for me. Just over 24 hours now. Bring it on.

Ulysses 12

Today the team over at The Soulmen have released Ulysses 12 for iOS. Ulysses has been my text editor for around 2.5 years including my final master’s research, and I immediately subscribed when they switched their pricing model this year. I didn’t know I could love this app much more, but version 12 takes it to a whole new level.

I’ve been on the beta for a bit, and there are 2 key features that have truly delighted me: drag and drop and inline image preview.

I use Apple’s Pages a lot in my classroom to make rubrics and tests for students. Recently, I started working on an activity for students in Pages that ended up having a lot more writing in it than I originally anticipated. I regretted not starting in Ulysses using markdown then moving to Pages.

I opened Ulysses in split view, selected the text in Pages, dragged it into Ulysses, and watched with delight as Ulysses converted the rich text to markdown automatically. It felt like magic.

Ulysses 12 also features inline image previews. Prior to version 12, to add an image to a sheet, you had to type (img) and you would see a small placeholder indicating an image. In Ulysses 12 you can simply drop an image into the app from anywhere and you will see a thumbnail of the image in the sheet. This makes it much easier to remember what images you have added and why.

Ulysses will always be one of the first apps I install on a new device, and version 12 makes it that much better. It’s available on the App Store, and you can try it for free for 14 days before you subscribe.

Returning to Apple Mail on iOS

A few months ago, I shared I was looking for a new email client:

Here are the features I need in an email client:

  • Sharing a link to the content of an email to another app (such as Todoist or Workflow).
  • URL scheme for accessing emails (see previous item) and creating emails via Workflow or Drafts.
  • The ability to search an entire exchange directory for a contact (super helpful in a very large school district).
  • UI that helps you see your mail and is easy to navigate.
  • Reliable Functionality

It turns out that with iOS 11’s Drag and Drop feature now being used by many 3rd party apps, Apple Mail now meets all of these requirements.

I can drag a message from Mail into Todoist and a link to the message will be placed in the task. Workflow and Drafts both have email actions thanks to Apple’s native APIs. Mail can search an exchange directory. The UI is nicer to look at than Airmail’s, and it actually works and doesn’t have constant bugs like Airmail did.

Plus, Mail has the added benefit of working more naturally with drag and drop when adding email attachments. With Airmail, half the time when I dropped an attachment into an email, it would never show up.

Is Airmail more powerful? Absolutely. I’ll definitely miss snoozing emails. But I think being able to trust my email client to actually send emails is worth the trade off.

For the foreseeable future, I’m going to stick with Mail. It and Notes are on the list of default iOS apps I’m using every day instead of a 3rd party service. Who says Apple can’t make software?

Day 1 With Apple Watch Series 3

I think UPS must hate me. Our house is always at the end of their route, and they don’t tend to deliver new Apple products until after 6pm. My wife and I went to a concert Friday night, so we were not home for the arrival of,k her iPhone 8 and my Apple Watch Series 3. I did set up my watch when we got home, but yesterday was my first day actually wearing it.

Here are my thoughts after 1 day with the Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular with Dark Olive Sport Loop.

  • After 2.5 years with a Stainless Steel Apple Watch, this aluminum doesn’t even feel like it’s on my arm. The steel wasn’t horribly heavy, but this weight is so nice.
  • I had no issue setting up the cellular connection with AT&T unlike many other people. It was quick and easy.
  • I love the Sport Loop. I wore it during a workout and while mowing my grass, and it breathes more than the Sport Band did, but doesn’t retain moisture the way the Nylon Bands do. The Dark Olive is a really nice color. The fabric on the sides and underneath the velcro is actually olive green, but it’s quite subtle. The loops themselves are way more gray than in the pictures. I really like the look though, and may end up getting another color as well. The only question for me is the durability of the loops. Time will tell on that.
  • That Explorer Face is sexy. It goes really well with the Space Gray body and the red dot.
  • The Series 1 and 2 watches were 50% faster than my Series 0 according to Apple at their launch. The Series 3 is 70% faster than 1 and 2. If you do the math, that’s 255% faster than my Series 0. Let’s just say it’s noticeable. Everything from launching apps to Force Touch and Siri are actually responsive. It makes the watch so much more usable.
  • I did an Iron Tribe workout early in the morning for 45 minutes and tracked it with _David Smith’s fantastic Workouts++ app. When I was finished, the watch battery was at 94%.
  • I also ran a workout and listened to music using my AirPods while mowing for an hour. The battery percentage ended in the 80s.
  • I ran a cellular experiment leaving my phone in my car while I ran in the grocery store. I listened to music on my AirPods, texted my wife and a friend, asked Siri some questions, and checked off items in our shared Todoist grocery list. The one place this fell down was with Todoist as it hasn’t been optimized to work away from the phone. I ran into problems when I got into the store and Todoist hadn’t synced to add things to the list (so I unfortunately ran out to the car to fix it). Then when I got back to my phone after shopping, the phone reset my completed items as incomplete. Developers are going to have to do some work to get their apps ready to work independently from the phone. I hope they have enough motivation.
  • I finished the day at 55%. This was with me using it even heavier than a normal day. Compare that to my 2.5 year old Series 0 battery who struggled to make it to the end of the day by the time it retired. It makes a big difference.

I love this watch. I’m extremely pleased with the cellular capabilities, the speed, and the look. Being untethered from my phone while still being reachable in emergencies is game changing. Apple has made huge strides since the watch debuted. Now if only you could stream or listen to podcasts on it with no phone around.

My Drag and Drop Request

I’ve been running iOS 11 on my iPads since June, and have been sad not having many apps to take advantage of the new features. That has finally changed this week with the public release of iOS 11.

But as more and more apps add new Files and Drag and Drop capabilities, there has been an omission that greatly frustrates me, and even Apple’s own iWork apps have this issue.

I create a lot of material for my job as a teacher in Pages, but none of my grade level team members use an iPad or even a Mac for their work machines. In order to share with them, I have to export as a Word document or PDF and email it to them.

While I can easily drag a Pages file into Airmail, I cannot drag an document exported to another format. Right now to reply to an email (instead of creating a new one) with an attachment from Pages, I have to save the exported PDF to Files using the Share Sheet, then drag from Files (or use the attachment menu in Airmail). Then I need to delete the document from files as I no longer need it.

I would love to see Apple place a draggable thumbnail of the PDF in the export share sheet right next to where the AirDrop controls are.

   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"]<img src="http://theclassnerd.micro.blog/uploads/2018/d65ee999e5.jpg" alt=" Drag and Drop from here in the Share Sheet "/>  Drag and Drop from here in the Share Sheet [/caption] 

Being able to drag out of the share sheet of anything system-wide would improve the speed of my workflow, and help me avoid a frustrating set of extra steps.

Viticci’s iOS 11 Review

On the iPad, the floating preview supports drag and drop, so you can hold it and drop it in other apps. This is particularly effective when combined with the ability to return to floating mode after you’ve edited a screenshot. From the markup view, hit the Home button, and the annotated screenshot will shrink into a thumbnail again so you can grab it and drop it as an edited version.

There are 2 reasons I always read Viticci’s reviews of an operating system I’ve been running for close to 3 months. First, tidbits like the one above I never would have discovered on my own. The depth of his knowledge on iOS and its frameworks is unmatched outside of Apple.

Second, the insight, thought, and care put into every word really is extraordinary. No one else could write a review like this. It makes me think about where iOS’s shortcomings are, and gets me excited about the potential for the current version I couldn’t see myself.

Go read this review. It’s worth the time.