muse: n. a source of inspiration

Updates to Adobe iOS Apps

The Technology: Adobe

Adobe has updated several of their iOS apps and given them a new look and some new features:

  • Spark Page (formerly known as Slate) helps you create beautiful web pages
  • Spark Video (formerly known as Voice) lets you create animated videos  
  • Premiere Clip allows you to easily create videos from your photos

The apps haven’t changed much. They work on the same simple premise: you choose a template, and add words, music, text and images to it. The app then takes that content, and uses it to create a final product. There are not many options for customization, and you are mostly locked in based on the template you choose. That may seem like it’s limiting (and, well, it is), but if you only have forty-five minutes for your students to create a product, it can also feel really liberating! 

To check out Adobe’s iPad apps, visit the iTunes App store. All are free to download and use. The only premium feature that you may want to purchase is a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud storage plan, which provides additional storage.

Additionally, it’s notable (and a welcome change!) that you can now sign up for a free Adobe ID in order to use many of the apps or you can use your Facebook or Google account. This is very convenient for those of us who already use Google and don’t wish to have another account.

In Your Classroom

  • Consider creating a single Google account or Adobe ID for all your students to use. That way, projects are synced across all your devices. It also allows for a project to be worked on by multiple users at once.
  • These apps are a wonderful way to have your students create end-of-year or field trip videos.
  • Apps that support voice like Spark Video are a great way for students to share their Hebrew skills.

This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.


November 1, 2016 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday | , , | Leave a comment

Choosing An App

Choosing An App

by Debbie Harris 

Edited by Ann D. Koffsky 

It’s so enticing: a new (free!) app comes along and sounds great. But how do you decide if it’s worth using in your classroom?

Be Selective

There are good reasons to be very picky about what tools you provide your students. IPads have limited storage space and can fill up very quickly. You want to make sure your apps are filling the right need and will be a good match for your students.

Decide: What is your goal?

What are you trying to accomplish? Think about how you would complete sentences like, “I want my students to be able to create a presentation/game/slide show that shows…” and, “My students will use this app to learn more about…”

Remember, just because technology looks inviting, doesn’t mean it will help you achieve your goals. 

Preview the content

If you’re choosing an app that is designed to share information and teach content, (as opposed to an app that helps students create their own content) you’ll want to make sure to preview it from start to finish to verify:

  • That the information is correct
  • That it is age-appropriate
  • That it’s taught in a manner befitting the topic

A cautionary tale:When Tablet Magazine reported on several apps that were designed to teach about the Holocaust, it noted that the playful game experience might not be the most appropriate choice of tool for teaching about something so serious. 

Additional Resources:

  • Commonsense Media is the first place you should head when trying to find an app for a specific purpose. This highly respected site has a terrific section where you can filter by age, type of media and skill.
  • The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has a number of resources available for educators who want to make sure they’re choosing the right tool for the task. This article is a good starting point.
  • Mindshift is a terrific resource for educators in general, and I recommend it for general education information. This Mindshift article on 50 great apps for educators has some really nice recommendations.
This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Technology Tuesdays | , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

There’s a great article about the Spheros in the New Yorker this week. There are lots of lesson plans to integrate these little guys in your curriculum – let me know if you want to explore. We’re really enjoying using them!

It’s not a short read, but this post says a lot about iPads, research about their effectiveness in education, and what it means to us. Very interesting!

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Learn with me: sketchnoting

I’m starting a new feature called “learn with me.” I realized that, more than anything else, I’m curious. About everything.

As a child, I was constantly reading. I remember not being able to eat breakfast unless the cereal box (now, there’s some fascinating literature) was sitting in front of me so I could read it. Of course, that was before the Internet. Now, I find myself eating dinner in front of the TV, with my iPad or phone in front of me. I realize that’s not what a nutritionist would suggest, but it’s perfect for a lifelong learner.

Anyway, whenever people ask me what I love most about my job, my answer typically is that there’s always something new to learn. I rarely do things the same way twice. In fact, the best part of repeating something you did before is figuring out how to improve on last year’s effort.

So one of the things I’ve been learning about is sketchnoting. Sketchnoting is essentially taking notes but doing it in an interesting visual manner; incorporating images (like icons), color and other diagramming tools. For instance, Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk accompanied by the RSA animation is a professional and incredibly powerful example of sketchnoting:

We will be getting a cart of iPad Pros next year with Apple Pencils, so I have been studying the whole sketchnoting field and figuring out how to teach it to my 7th and 8th grade students next year. Why sketchnoting on an iPad?

First, I figure the iPad app Paper will be a terrific way for the students to be able to combine sketching with using the iPad. Paper is a great app, and there are lots of ways that students will be able to use it. The advantage to using the iPad for sketchnoting is that electronic sketchnotes can easily be shared and tagged for reference.

Thoughts about teaching students to sketchnote:

The first is the “why.” I’ll start with why we take notes, and how studies are showing that taking notes using your hand is more effective than typing them.

The second will be to learn how to use Paper and the stylus. There are a number of terrific tutorials here. Then we’ll have the students create their own drawings using the app.

Next, we will work on learning how to actually sketchnote. This will be the tricky part – kids need to learn how to LISTEN and figure out what the important stuff is (which is why taking notes by hand rather than trying to just transcribe everything they hear). I think this will be the hard part, but certainly the most beneficial. There are several lessons plans online that incorporate sketchnoting:

Third grade sketchnoting

2nd graders go wild for sketchnoting

Visual narrative meets note taking

I think it will be helpful to find some TED talks that are of interest to the specific grade level, and practice sketchnoting to those, before using them in an actual class. In fact – that’s what I’m doing to hone my sketchnoting skills.

The other thing that I’ll do with my students is have them develop their own library of images (ideas, important connections, for more information, etc.) and then put them on the side of a drawing (like a key). Then, they can use that drawing as a template for each of their subsequent sketchnotes. That way, they don’t have to figure out how to redraw an image over and over; they can just select and copy it to wherever they need it when they’re doing the actual sketchnote.

I’m excited to try sketchnoting! Stay tuned!

May 10, 2016 Posted by | iPads, Learn with me, Sketchnoting | , , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Slate has an interesting article about how artificial intelligence is changing schools. What do you think?

If you’re a fan of Explain Everything on the iPad, check out this article with tons of links to resources.

And… a couple of reminders about our friends the iPads:

Doing a hard reset:

If an iPad isn’t responding, and you’ve tried everything else, try a hard reset.

This is how you do it:

  1. hold down the home button
  2. hold down the power button
  3. Wait until you see the Apple logo – it’s about 10 seconds.

You don’t have to do it often, but when you have to do it, you have to do it.

Add Hebrew to the keyboard:

  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Tap on General
  3. Tap on Keyboard
  4. Tap on Keyboards

5. Tap on Add New Keyboard

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Links You'll Love | , , | Leave a comment

On taking it slow

I have a meeting Monday to talk about what new stuff we want to buy for next year. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. We did a needs (really a wants) survey with the staff earlier this year and we had a lot of teachers ask for interactive white boards or iPad carts. I have one colleague, who, even though she houses an iPad cart, is lobbying heavily for her own that she doesn’t ever have to share. If we bought everything people asked for (not including repairing, replacing or upgrading, including upgrading our OS including servers), it would be pretty close to 200K. That’s a lot of money.

I will admit that I work for a school that really wants to remain cutting edge. In fact, I’ve been known to admit that I’ve never had a reasonable technology request denied.

That’s why I’m recommending that we buy very little of what my colleagues want for next year.


Not much.

In my fifteen years of working with ed tech, I’ve never heard anyone say “I wish we’d bought x a year earlier.”

I’ve never said it. Have you?

I don’t want to buy classroom carts. I don’t want to jump into one-to-one.

Right now we have thirteen carts of devices that are distributed throughout the building, mostly in classrooms, and two labs. That’s plenty for our school judging from the data (which, admittedly, isn’t completely accurate because I don’t think people who house carts are really good at reserving them). I realize sharing can be a pain, but I’m not seeing much of a justification for buying more stuff. Learn how to share, people.

What I want is to plan, share outcomes and reflect. The stuff money can’t buy.

I want to meet regularly with the teachers who have IWBs and figure out how they’re using them and how they want to use them. I REALLY don’t want to buy more without seeing where they’re making a difference NOW.

I want to meet with the teachers who want to use iPads in their classrooms and figure out how they want to use them for authentic learning experiences, not just for the bells and whistles.

Most of all, I want to figure out how we determine if these awesome tools are, well, actually doing anything other than increase student (and, maybe, teacher) engagement. You know…are the kids learning more because they’re swiping, not typing? I want systematic, allocated time for planning and reflection. I’m no fan of all data all the time, but I would like to figure out how we’ll measure success.

I do want to buy every teacher an iPad for his or own use in and out of the classroom. Some of them haven’t even held tablets yet. I want to spend next year exploring them with the staff – using them for our own productivity and sharing, modeling their use at faculty meetings and professional development.

Then, once we’ve taken a full school year to explore how we’re using them, I’ll talk about putting more into our kids’ hands.

We shall see.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Education, Thinking | , | Leave a comment


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