Seven Reasons Why 12South’s HiRise is Perfect for Educators with MacBooks


I recently had the good pleasure of reviewing HiRise by TwelveSouth and it is a perfect addition to anyone that uses a MacBook. 

To call HiRise a computer stand is like calling a Ferrari a car. HiRise is the perfect combination of elegance and function.

If you’re like me you’re probably thinking you don’t even need a stand for your MacBook, but you would be wrong.  When I was young I drove a car without air conditioning without any problems.  The HiRise, like air conditioning, is dearly missed when you don’t have it.

Here’s what I love about the HiRise in education:

1) Sitting is the new smoking: Every tenth tweet and post I read is about standing desks or the importance of standing. I believe it.  Well, the HiRise makes standing and sitting workspaces so much more comfortable and useable.  The keyboard and screen are at an ideal height. While difficult to convey in words, the HiRise simply must be used to be appreciated. 

2) Every place has its thing, every thing has its place: With the HiRise on your desk you have designated a specific area for your laptop.  It’s like a reservation at a 5 star restaurant.  You’re saying this important tool has an important place. That place doesn’t get cluttered or full, and you know exactly where it is.  If you’re into getting stuff done organization tips, well, the HiRise is for you. 

3) Video calls just got an upgrade: One of the best improvements I have noticed with my HiRise is that FaceTime and Skype video calls are so much better.  Again, you are looking at the person at a more correct height.  It just makes interviews for my podcast on Skype and talking with others via FaceTime so much better.  It improves your view, their view, lighting, and more. You will love the HiRise for this feature probably most of all. 

4) Improved MacBook Performance: You might think this one is a stretch, but not for me. I am rocking an older 13 inch MacBook Air that is maxed out in memory and use. When it isn’t on the HiRise it makes a noise like a fan is running. When on the HiRise— nothing. I think the HiRise helps cool it by keeping it off a closed base. No hard data here, just my best guess as a veteran Apple fanboy with a bunch of years behind the screen.

WEP 0014: An Interview with Roger Wagner

wagner3The Maker Movement is for everyone. Roger Wagner’s awesome software HyperStudio has allowed my students and me to create amazing interactive projects from earliest days of teaching to presently creating interactive iBooks Author widgets for the iBooks we build. In this podcast I interview the amazing Roger Wagner. We talk about the Maker Movement, his new project Hyperduino, and so much more. This is one of my favorite interviews because Roger has been such a hero to me throughout my teaching. Thanks for listening!


My Favorite iPad Mirroring App Enhanced: Reflector 2.1


A while back I reviewed Reflector and found it to be the most amazing method to mirror your iPad in the classroom, or anywhere really, because of its ability to record, host multiple iPad feeds, record voice narration, resize, show device template art, and so much more.  I still stand by that review, there is nothing better than Reflector to mirror your iPad, except, well, Reflector updated.

First, the new Reflector update will be unveiled in mid August. The new update will include features like YouTube Live Streaming, webcam sharing, Bluetooth Reflector Director, Student Discovery, an improved user interface and Reflector Student Support. This update will be free.

That’s right Reflector will be seeing an update in mid August, bringing it to Reflector 2.1, and there are several cool companion apps available to make Reflector even more useful to teachers.

Next, Reflector has just released Reflector Director, which is a powerful remote control for the Reflector app. This iOS app allows a teacher to control the settings for Reflector anywhere in the room.  It’s a paid app.

Last up is Reflector Student, which will arrive late August or early September. It will be a free app that allows students to pull the content that is being shared on the big screen to any mobile device.  Sounds very cool.


Create Books on Your iPad with Book Creator: New Features!


Book Creator is an essential app for teachers and students that allows users to create gorgeous books right on your iPad or tablet. 

I love creating iBooks using iBooks Author on my Mac, but I also love having the ability to build and publish with Book Creator directly from my iPad.  Book Creator is a robust app that allows you to add text, video, music, art, and narration to create. It’s easy and fun to use. 

You can submit your finished book directly to the iBook Store or Google Play Books from the iPad.  Book Creator uses the international ePub3 standard. You can share pages from your book to Twitter and Facebook to share what you have created.

One of the greatest features of Book Creator is that it is a great app for any age.  It is powerful enough for college students and professors to use, yet easy enough for a kindergartner to create. I use it in my middle school and recommend it to students and teacher  in all levels.

Another great feature is the “combine book” feature that allows students and teachers to collaborate on one project.  Each person can create pages for the book and then combine all the pages together and edit together for publication. This is ideal for class projects.

Students love to create and Book Creator allows my students to really use their various talents and limitless imagination. I believe Book Creator to be ideal for all subjects areas and grade levels, and an essential app for every iPad.  I just absolutely love it. 

Book Creator constantly updates the app with new features. In fact, Book Creator 4.0 will be out in the next month and the update will inlude Comic Book templates that will allow writers to make entertaining comics to share and publish. 

What’s new in the upcoming Book Creator 4.0:
  • Choose between a standard book or a new comic one. When you start a comic it’s the same Book Creator you know, but everything’s slightly more super!
  • Adding text gives preset comic styles
  • Speech bubbles, thought bubbles and other shapes can now have text added straight into them – just tap on the shape.
  • New comic backgrounds for your pages
  • New comic icons for audio and video
  • Great fonts licensed from Blambot studios – as used in Marvel and DC comics.

Great Updates to Dropbox


I love using Dropbox to store and share important files. Now Dropbox has made it even better and easier in a new update by adding three new features: File Requests and the Dropbox badge.

Dropbox is free and a must for every computer, tablet, and phone.  It’s an absolute essential.

You can sign up here for free.

Learn about the new features from Dropbox here:

File requests

With file requests, you can request and receive files from anyone, and they’ll go right into the Dropbox folder you specify. Here’s how it works:

  • Get files from anyone: Anyone can send you a file, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account
  • Easily receive large files: Unlike most email attachments, you can receive files as large as 2 GB
  • Keep your files handy and secure: Submitted files are accessible on all your devices, but just to you — people who send you files can’t see those uploaded by others (unless you choose to share them), and can’t access your Dropbox

Acorn Investing App Now Free for Students! Teachers Next?

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The Acorn app is an interesting way for people to invest for very little cost, and now the app is making investing absolutely FREE fro students. Very cool.

The app works having the user connect the program with a bank account.  It keeps track of your spending and then asks you if you would like to invest the spare change by rounding up purchases and sending the spare change to an investment portfolio of your choice. You can choose low, moderate, or high risk.  The company even sends you tax information at the end of the year, and the best news is you can pull your money amount at any time without penalty.

For the average user the cost to invest is $1 a month for accounts under $5,000 and .25% for accounts over $5,000, but now this fee is waived for students. 

I think it would be great if Acorn would extend this opportunity to teachers as well. 

Here’s the video to explain how it works.

iOS 9 Swift Coding Course: 35 Hours of Video

b507553fdac4f95de7ddeaa926dd95f515bd5431_main_hero_imageI have been using a lot of free resources to learn Swift Programming, and today I purchased this course from Stack Social.  Thirty-Five hours of video and at $59 it’s a price this educator can afford. (It will go back up to $200 in three days.) I thought others interested in learning Swift might be interested. I’m picky about what I spend money on, and this looked valuable. Good luck! Learn to Code in Swift.

Here’s the details:

 iOS 9 may be in beta, but you can become an app building pro just in time for the big release with more than 35 hours of premium training. Master the powerful Apple programming language, Swift, by building 11 functioning apps, and be one of the first to take advantage of iOS 9’s amazing new features. This is one of the only iOS 9 preview courses available on the web, so sign up now and stay tech-forward!

  • Dive into the details of building apps for iOS 9 w/ 35 hours of video
  • Be one of the first to build apps for iOS 9 & dominate the App Store’s top downloads
  • Become proficient in Swift & Xcode
  • Create an iCloud app
  • Set up push notifications for your app
  • Work w/ iOS 9 classes like stackView &AVAudioRecorder
  • Implement Swift code in unique ways
  • Follow the easy to understand step-by-step format

Apple’s 2015 Back to School Promotion

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Last Thursday Apple launched its 2015 Back to School Promotion.  This year’s promotion is unlike anything we have seen in the past.

The 2015 Back to School Promotion offers a free pair of Beats Solo2 wired headphones with the purchase of a new Mac.

A customer qualified for the promotion can also pay $100 to upgrade to a pair of Beats Solo2 Wireless Headphones that are valued at $300. 

The deal will begin online on August 6, but the promotion has started in Apple’s retail stores and authorized campus stores. The promotion will end online and in stores on September 18th.

In the past Apple has given $100 gift cards for the Mac purchases and $50 with a purchase of an iPhone or iPad. This year its just for the Mac purchase and only the headphones. There are no Back to School promotions for iPhones nor iPads. Still, the headphones are awesome and probably something students really want, plus purchasers benefit from the education discount pricing for the Mac. 

(Hmmmm. Why no promotion for iPads since iPads are becoming Apple’s focus in education.)

You can read about the promotion on Apple’s “Current Rebates” page.

WEP 0013 Student Choice: An Interview with Erin Olson

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 6.39.19 PMIn this episode I interview Erin Olson. Erin’s work as an educator has been recognized by CNN, The New York Times, and more.  Erin is a former middle school teacher and a former high school English teacher and now serves as an Instructional technology consultant. Erin has been nominated twice for a Bammy. Erin advocates for the power of student contribution, explaining, ‘I do not want my students to be the best in the world, I want them to be the best FOR the world.’

iOS 9 on the iPad is Perfect for Education

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Apple’s new iOS upgrade will certainly provide a smoother and faster overall experience for all users, but several new features will be particularly beneficial for iPad use in education.

Notes app received a great update. Notes may not be one of your primary apps, but now it was some muscle behind it to make it much more useful in the classroom. You can now add checklists, photos, and sketches inside your notes. A three finger swipe to the left will undo the last stroke, and a swipe to the right will bring them back. (There are also undo and redo buttons built onto the screen.) You can now access Notes in the Share Button in many of the apps to save attachments to Notes. And with the new Split View feature you can access Notes from within whatever app you are using. 

Slide Over will now allow you to open a second app without leaving the one you are currently using. This is great.  Now you can write down some notes or type a document without leaving the app you were using, and then slide it away to return to the app you were originally using.

Split View (available on the iPad Air 2) will allow you to have two apps open and active at the same time. Unlike Slide Over, with Split View both apps are active at the same time. 

Picture in Picture will scale down a video or FaceTime call to a corner of your display while using another app. Simply press the Home button while you are watching the video or making the call.  You can keep watching a movie while replying to an email. A student could watch a lecture and take notes, or write a paper at the same time. 

Turn Your Keyboard into a trackpad to move a cursor around. iOS 9 will allow you to have a cursor! 

 Apple has added many multitasking features in iOS 9 that will help teachers and students. 

Better Battery Life is reported as well which is always good.