Meandering through some Best Apps lists to get to iHomework

This morning I woke up and remembered my promise to research student agenda apps. After responding to the morning emails, watering my lovely Christmas tree and retrieving the essential cup of coffee (which seems to be going down faster than it is waking me up) I sat down and typed ipad app student agenda into my search engine.

And then promptly got distracted by all the best apps list.

I clicked on the first link from Gizmodo. It was a list  written in 2010 and had absolutely no student agenda in it at all, but what it did have was an awesome news section. I sat, sipping my coffee, wondering why I have never downloaded the BBC news app or NPR app or even the NYT Editor’s choice. Why? Oh why has it taken me so long? It is because I have a serious CBC addiction, that is why. New Year’s resolution: switch up my news sources.

But then I focused and realized the Gizmodo list was not only old, but had no student agendas on it. (As a librarian, I should n=know it was a faulty search, but I was having fun darn it.)

Mint.comPrice: free
Price: free

Next link was a more recent list by PC Mag, written last month.I perused this list for a while, but their format is unwieldy, making you click and then wait for the next app to load. Alsom they do not shy away from the really expensive apps. Still, a few things stood out- especially this one app,  which I noticed in this article entitled Back to School: 15 Essential iOS  for Students (written back in the summer of 2011).

It made me wonder what we are doing to teach financial literacy to our students. Do we teach budgeting anymore? I have a vague memory of a home economics class where I had to keep a budget.  I am going to download this app and give it a whirl…

Darn. Got distracted again.

The above article also mentioned istudiezpro, which I have already reviewed (at least the lite version). But it also mentions ihomework. Now I am confused as to why a student would need both? Do they not do the same thing? Let us compare…

Here is what the article says about the two apps:



8. iStudiez Pro

Cost: $2.99

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Organize even the most complicated course schedule with iStudiez. Visualize your classes, activities and assignments on this well designed color-coded calendar. Like many of the other organization apps, you can set reminders for major events and track your grades and GPA.


7. iHomework

Cost: $1.99

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

ihomeworkPrice: $1.99

Price: $1.99

Why you need it: Before you invest in a leather-bound planner, vowing to religiously log all your to-dos, consider iHomework instead. The app will keep your schedule and workflow streamlined, alerting you with all your deadlines and assignments. If a friend sleeps though class (the app alerts you for class so you’ll never be the one sleeping late) you can share missed assignments though email. Log your grades so you know what your report card will look like in advance.

Now let us revisit our citeria:

  • Easy to use
  • Clean, intuitive interface
  • easy to import schedules
  • It would be great if it could talk to our intranet, but that might be too much to ask.
  • Easy to input assignments
  • Different colours for different classes
  • Alerts for assignments
  • If not free, then cheap
  • Easily synced with your other devices

As ihomework does not have a lite version, I cannot test it out. But judging from the screenshots, the interface looks simple and easy to use:


It bills itself as “[the] only school organizer available for iPhone/iPod touch, iPad, and Mac. Add your work on the go and sync it with your laptop when you get the time.”Which is obviously not true. But it is syncable with your other devices.

Otherwise, I can’t see much difference between this one and istudiezpro, except that it is a dollar cheaper.

I think we might need a student focus group to solve this dilemma for us. Which is better: ihomework or istudiezpro?




Lesson Plan: The Elements in Augmented Reality

via Smarter Learning

This science teacher used augmented reality to enhance his lab on the elements:

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They include the poster they used in downloadable format as well as a handy format to show you how it works!

Writing on the iPad: Is it better because it is slower?

Here is an interesting article by Jason Snell describing his experience writing on the iPad.

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Read more

He makes a couple of intriguing propositions:

1. That because he needs to slow down when writing on the iPad (as opposed to his lap top where he can type a 120 words a minute) his writing is better. He pays more attention to the craft as his fingers must adjust to the speed of his brain.

2. That ironically, the iPad offers less distractions when he is writing. And though it might be slower typing, he actually gets more work done. Though he doesn’t come right out and say it, I suspect it is because he does not have the toolbar open with the email icon bouncing, or several windows open at the same time where you can always see if you have mail, or if someone posted something to Facebook or…well, you choose your own distraction.

What do you think?

iTunes II: Use your Mac Camera to Redeem Gift Cards


I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but iTunes looks different. You updated it, thinking oh, it was just another small bug fix, right? But then when you go to put some music on the interface is all different, things aren’t where they are supposed to be and you are stopped in your tracks just like the ants from the Disney movie A Bug’s Life:

This was the scenario in my household on the weekend, when my hands, deep in truffle makings, I asked my daughter to put some music on. She couldn’t figure out the new interface and we ended up listening to each song from her favourite Glee album over and over and over.

To avoid this scenario, you might want to take the tutorial.

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 9.12.21 AM

Even though there is a learning curve, there are also some perks. I just came across this article from app advice noting how we can now just take a picture of the bloody iTunes gift card code instead of having to do all that pesky typing (I don’t mind typing when the words make sense. But typing in a random alphanumeric code makes me nervous. I know I am making a mistake. I know it!

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 9.15.27 AM

Read more

Student Agendas on the iPad: Part 1

This morning I received a message in my inbox asking me if I know anything about student agendas on the iPad. I answered the way I always do: No, but I can look.

First thing’s first though. What are we looking for? I am assuming that the app would be a replacement for the paper agendas we hand out to the students each year. Some features would be:

  • Easy to use
  • Clean, intuitive interface
  • easy to import schedules
  • It would be great if it could talk to our intranet, but that might be too much to ask.
  • Easy to input assignments
  • Different colours for different classes
  • Alerts for assignments
  • If not free, then cheap
  • Easily synced with your other devices

That is all I can think of for now, but it is a start.



To begin with, I read this article by a student way back in 2011 who uses his iPad for school. He mentions ihomework and istudiezpro. Then I read this other article from 2010 which also mentions these two apps.

Because istudiezpro has a lite version I decided to try this one out first.

Can you access my calendar? Well, yes please! My life is on my calendar. I would like my life in my agenda:


I used the sample courses because, well, I don’t have any courses. I am the librarian.


You can add an assignment to your class as well as add a partner from your contacts or add a new partner:


You can have a day view or a week view (but no month view, at least not in the lite version):


You have the option to sync to icloud when you buy the paid version. You can also change your settings, though I don’t see a place for push notifications. Perhaps in the paid version?


When you tap on the folder with the paperclip you can see all the assignments that are due and even those that are completed. You can add new ones and decide what their priority is:


You can also add your instructors to your agenda with all their contact info:


If you tap the house icon you can add your courses:

So does it meet our criteria? Let us see:

  • Easy to use? √
  • Clean, intuitive interface? 
  • easy to import schedules?   Yes, if your schedule is already in icalendar or google calendar
  • It would be great if it could talk to our intranet, but that might be too much to ask? x But that might have been too much to ask. Still, I dream of a world where all our applications talk to each other. How lovely would it be for an incoming grade 7 student to be able to import all her classes, teacher info, etc. from the intranet. Or when a teacher posts an assignment on the portal for it to automatically be updated into their agenda? I know. Dream on.
  • Easy to input assignments?  
  • Different colours for different classes?  √
  • Alerts for assignments? X At least I don’t think so…Let me try to make an assignment due in two minutes and see if I get a notification….Hmmm. You can’t get more specific than due today and I don’t see istudiez in my notification centre so I guess not.
  • If not free, then cheap?  √ Yes- the paid version is only $2.99
  • Easily synced with your other devices?  √

So istudiezpro fares pretty well with the haphazard criteria I set for it. Is there anything else a student agenda should be able to do?

Let me know!

Next in the student agenda saga…ihomework.


Just in Time for the Holidays: the Etsy App!

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 8.46.16 AMIf you are like me and prefer to avoid the plague of Christmas shoppers on St. Catherine and in the malls, never fear! The Etsy App is here!

If you are not familiar with the addiction that is Etsy, it is an online market place for handmade arts and crafts.



Here is how Etsy looks on the iPad:


I use Etsy to buy some very funky stationery from a Quebec designer called Lapapierre (because yes, I still write snail mail):


and I a book stamp is on my wish list:


Here is a good article that gives you the ins and outs of the Etsy App.

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, maybe I should forward this blog post to my partner…


Lesson Plan: Another Background Documentary

250px-Persepolis-books1and2-coversIn order for our grade 8 students to have a better understanding of the Graphic novel Persepolis, the English teachers asked me to put together another background documentary project.

Like always, this project involved:

  1. Finding the information in specific print and online resources
  2. Scanning a QR code to find relevant images
  3. Filming a “panel of experts” on a given issue (eg. The Iran/Iraq war)
  4. Write a “script” using their answers. This must be in their words.
  5. Putting the whole thing together in imovie to make a documentary.

The teachers divided the class into four equal groups. Then the students began their research. This took a long time. They are so used to scanning the information, that even when they are given the exact page in the book, they tend to miss the answer. What I found most useful was circulating through the groups as they attempted to figure out this complicated issue. Having the teacher and I drop in on their discussions helped the girls understand a little better. I encouraged them to explain it to each other aloud- this seemed to work well and the students were very engaged.

Here are some sample questions:

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 12.10.57 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 12.10.46 PMScreen Shot 2012-12-04 at 12.10.30 PMHere is an example of a finished documentary: