Friday, January 27, 2012

Give an App!

You can buy apps and give them as a gift to other people. If you go into iTunes from a computer or the App Store on an iOS device and go to a particular app, one of the options it gives you is to "gift this app." You can give the same app to several people at one time by just typing in their email address. They will be sent an email with instructions on how to redeem the app. This is a great way to give students an app you want them to use in the classroom if it is not free. However, you will get charged for each email you send an app to, whether or not they actually redeem the app. Also, you cannot use iTunes credit to gift apps. You must use a "funding source," usually a credit card.

Ratings can be Misleading

When searching for an app on the iPad, I usually sort apps by “Customer Rating.” More often than not, if an app gets terrible customer ratings, it is not worth trying. However, some of the apps we are using in the classroom are bucking this trend. An example of this is the “Documents” app we have been using. This app allows you to view and edit many types of files including text files and spreadsheets. It can download and upload files to and from Google Docs and you can also attach a file to an email. Google Docs allows multiple users the ability to modify files in real time. This is great for some situations, but not for the classroom. First of all you always need internet access and second of all it is a pain to share documents with students because you have to create a separate document for each student or group. By using Google Docs to share files, we only have to create one document and share it with the entire class. This is easy to do once you have your students set up in a group in your contacts. Then the “Documents” app allows students to download their own version of the file and modify it without having internet access. Once they modify the file, they can email it to the instructor for grading. This is working well for our needs. However, this app gets terrible reviews in the app store. You can imagine why: what makes it useful for the classroom, makes it a pain to the individual user. In order to move documents from your desktop to the iPad, you need to first upload it to Google docs and then download it to the iPad. Then you need to reverse the process or email the document back to yourself to get it back on your computer. This process is not acceptable to the average user and thus it gets bad reviews.

Note: The “Documents” app does actually provide a pretty nice way to move files back and forth from the iPad. As long as you are connected to wifi the app will provide you with a URL to type into your browser that gives your direct access to the files on the app. You can upload or download files. This feature is not very intuitive so I imagine many users miss it.

Note2: There is a free version and a $0.99 version of the app. So far, one difference we have noticed between the two is that the free version limits a spreadsheet to 11 columns and 50 rows. The $0.99 version seems to be unlimited.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Build a house app

We are in the energy module, and I would love to see a simple "build an energy efficient house" app. We've talked about all sorts of choices that would help a home be more energy efficient. We could have groups of choices for the house: studs, SIPS, or other structural choices; shapes that can be made bigger or smaller to serve as windows and doors; different R values of insulation; different types of heating/cooling, etc. 

The students could make choices about the different characters of their home, and two values would be summed: 1) an energy efficiency and 2) a total cost to build the home. Students would then have to make choices about whether or not the building decisions they make also make economic sense.