Robby on Twitter - @robbyburns
Craig on Twitter - @craigmcclellan
Robby on Twitter - @robbyburns
Craig on Twitter - @craigmcclellan
This week on Robby’s personal blog, he shared some of his favorite features of Apple’s upcoming iPadOS 13. While he’s been on the beta far longer than I have, I agree with this list.
I did want to highlight two features I think will be most beneficial for teachers and students in an education setting: Desktop Class Safari and PencilKit.
Unfortunately, education is a field slow to embrace the latest technologies, and services like Infinite Campus, my school’s SIS, have been difficult to use from iOS’s version of Safari. No more. With a desktop class browser, all sites teachers need to use should be accessible from an iPad. I say should because I’m sure there will be outliers, but this is a big step forward.
With PencilKit, app developers will be able to incorporate Apple’s own Apple Pencil writing tools into their apps instead of having to design their own. In my classroom, I model writing and math problems regularly using GoodNotes over my projector. While GoodNotes’s pencil experience is good, it is slightly different than other apps like Apple Notes. Now I will can have a consistent writing experience across my entire device if developers adopt PencilKit.
I’m only on day 2 of my personal beta test with iPadOS 13, but working from an iPad has never been so good. I can’t wait to see how teachers are able to use it starting this fall.
I have been on the beta of this feature, but with it being summer time haven’t been able to really utilize it in lesson planning. That said, in combination with Apple’s updates to the Reminders app coming to iOS, iPadOS and macOS this fall, Agenda and Reminders has the potential to be a powerhouse tool for teachers.
Recently, Robby and I released an episode of The Class Nerd Podcast devoted to mind mapping. We spent most of our time discussing the amazing app MindNode.
Today, MindNode 6 is being released on The App Store.
I won’t go into all of the new features here. You can read about those on the Ideas on Canvas blog.
I want to specifically mention one aspect of MindNode 6 I think would be great for teachers: Focus Mode.
Focus mode brings only the nodes you want to the foreground, which will be great for presenting content to students. I’m excited to try it in my own classroom once our marathon of state testing is done.
If you’ve been with The Class Nerd for a while, you may remember the name Peter Davison-Reiber. He contributed several articles to the site a couple years ago. Well today, Peter is releasing his first app to the App Store: a great utility for teachers called Grader+.
Peter created this app out of a need he had in the classroom. In his own words:
What I wanted was a way to record an individual mark with a single tap, and then save each mark quickly and easily. That core functionality was the inspiration of this app, and then the other features grew from there.
You can check out his blog post to learn more about the features.
Grader+ is available on the App Store for free with a $.99 in-app purchase to unlock dark mode and CSV export.
It’s a great tool, and I encourage you to check it out.
Today, Flexibits has released Cardhop for iOS which we discussed in our parent communication episode. It’s a really great way to manage contacts (especially groups) on iOS, and is on sale for $3.99 at launch.
In the final episode of Semester 2, Robby and Craig revisit lesson planning. Then they get into a discussion of “Sticky Tech,” or apps and services that they keep coming back to.
We are aware of an issue with the latest episode and are working to fix it.
In today’s episode, Craig and Robby explorer tools for mind mapping and how it can be useful for teachers in the classroom.
In this week’s episode, Craig and Robby try to explain what Shortcuts are (though Apple’s naming doesn’t make it easy), share several of their favorite shortcuts as inspiration, and then get to some listener questions.
Also, Craig’s kids were home during the recording of this episode…and you can definitely tell. Apologies.
Shortcuts App on the App Store
In this episode, Craig and Robby discuss the differences between task and time management, then get into the apps and workflows they use to manage their busy teacher schedules.
Teachers (and hopefully people in other professions) should always be lifelong learners. In this week’s episode, Craig and Robby share their workflows, primarily on iPad, to help make continuing education and learning easier.
I should clarify that Agenda probably wouldn’t say the biggest features is a bug fix, but it is to me who has been experiencing this bug for a while.
The folks at Agenda just released version 5.0, and the biggest feature is a fix for an exporting bug. It’s what initially turned me off from using Agenda as my lesson planning app. With this fixed, I can whole-heartedly recommend Agenda for teachers.
In this week’s episode, Craig makes Robby’s editing job difficult, and we discuss apps for taking handwritten notes on iPad.
We’re having some technical difficulties getting today’s episode posted, and both of us have started our school days. We hope to have it posted by lunch time. Sorry for the inconvenience.
In this week’s episode, Craig and Robby get into a listen requested topic discussing the differences between different types of apps in the productivity category and how we use them.
Habitica (Robby referred to this in episode as Habit RPG)
Craig and Robby wax philosophical about automation, and then turn to everything bucket apps.
In the first episode of a new semester, Robby and Craig discuss their new iPad Pros and then how they use their Apple Watches in the classroom.
It started a few weeks ago. I don’t remember all the details. All I know is in the middle of a conversation where I was attempting to talk Robby into switching from OmniFocus to Things for task management, he somehow convinced me to give OmniFocus 3 a go.
The main thing I was interested in was OmniFocus’s ability to process TaskPaper input which allows easy templates to be made. Things can do something similar with JSON data, but it’s not nearly as user friendly to write.
In OmniFocus 3, the ability to always show tasks with a certain tag in Forecast view was added which meant items didn’t have to be marked as due on a certain day to be visible in that day’s forecast. I used Things’s Today view this way, so it was nice to see this capability in OmniFocus.
I spent a few weeks using OmniFocus, and finally decided to go with OmniFocus full time…
Less than 24 hours after publishing the above post, I realized something. I was more stressed and overwhelmed at work than I had been in a long time. I felt like I was struggling to remember what I needed to do. I realized, to borrow a phrase from GTD, I wasn’t capturing my tasks into a trusted system because I didn’t trust OmniFocus.
I wasn’t sure of the correct syntax for adding a task via Siri. My system was also so dependent on tags and perspectives surfacing tasks I would need to see I didn’t feel comfortable adding tasks without taking time to tag.
I’m sure there are better ways to use OmniFocus, and some of this was my own preconceived notions and misunderstandings. But the fact of the matter is the system wasn’t working for me to relieve stress and help me keep up with tasks because I didn’t trust it.
This realization came right as iOS 12 was released to the public and apps were updating to include new features. With Things still installed on my devices, I noticed the update included really interesting Siri Shortcuts support.
In Things 3.7 you can create a task template and add it to Siri. It can automatically fill in the project, tags, and due dates for you all with one command. It can even use the clipboard as a variable to allow you to input certain pieces of the template every time.
This definitely helps with the template issue I mentioned earlier.
So I’m back in Things full time, and have never loved it more.
My time in OmniFocus wasn’t a complete waste though. After using a lot of tags to create custom perspectives, I realized ways I could be better utilizing tags in Things.
One of the perspectives Robby showed me while trying to indoctrinate me into OmniFocus was his Priority view. It showed items from the Forecast view which had been flagged so he could have a list of things that must be completed that day, and those that could be.
I really liked this idea, and have now recreated it in Things with a Priority tag. Now I can open the Today view and filter by that tag and only see my priority items.
Even better, I have created a custom Siri Shortcut I can use to open that exact view. So at the start of my planning period every day, I say “Hey Siri, show my Priority list,” and then get to work.
Things isn’t perfect. No task manager is. I definitely miss some of the features of OmniFocus. But with it’s balance of power and simplicity, it’s the right choice for me.
In this bonus episode, Craig and Robby talk a bit (ok, a lot) about the products Apple is releasing in September, and then move on to their favorite features and apps of watchOS 5 and iOS 12.
Robby and I are busy planning Semester 2 of The Class Nerd Podcast which will definitely include content on iOS 12 and Siri Shortcuts. But I had 2 really good use cases for the Shortcuts app in my classroom recently, and thought it would be fun to go ahead and share them.
The first is a classic automation passing information between apps. As I have previously stated, I am once again planning all of my lessons inside of the amazing note-taking app, Bear. After listening to a recent episode of Automators, I wanted to make a task template for my big unit planning.
This creates a task in Things reminding me to plan the unit with a link to the MindNode 5 file I use for my initial planning, and also creates the Unit Overview note in Bear with a link to that MindMap as well. All I have to do is enter the Math Unit 2 or Science Unit 4, and Shortcuts does the rest.
The other Shortcut I made today took 5 minutes to work out, and saved me probably 30 minutes just today. My room mom needed a list of email addresses for parents of my students. Fortunately, I already had a contacts group on iOS for the class, so I created a Shortcut that read all of the contacts in that group, input their last name, first name, email address, and child’s name into a text block separated by commas. I then saved this whole document as a CSV file which both Excel and Numbers can read. I opened it in Excel, converted it to an Excel spreadsheet, and sent it to my room mom. No going through 30 emails address and typing them up manually. It happened for me at the touch of a button.
This is the kind of power that the Shortcuts app has, and it will only get more powerful when iOS 12 releases and developers are able to embrace Siri Shortcuts even more. Solutions like this are exactly why I’m so passionate about using technology to get my job done and why Robby and I started The Class Nerd Podcast. This saved me real time on the job, and I hope all teachers are able to find ways to use these tools.
You can download these 2 shortcuts here:
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This week The Class Nerd talks about apps they use to gather, process, manage, and reflect on student data.