Friday, July 19, 2013

Snugg iPhone 5 Pouch Case

I admit it...I love distressed brown leather. I guess the reason I like it is that it looks better the more it gets used and all banged up. The sign of well-loved distressed leather case is the marks it bears!

When Snugg wrote me and asked me to review an item from their site, I was drawn to the Snugg iPhone 5 Distressed Leather Brown Pouch Case for two reasons. The distressed leather material caught my eye, and, even more importantly, this case was an updated version of my favorite iPhone case of all time!

I always try to find a tight-fighting pouch case for my phone. A few years ago, Brookstone sold an iPhone 4 pouch case that had a tab on the back to pull up the phone for easily getting it out of the case. However, they have no plans to make one for the larger iPhone 5.

I was so excited to see this Snugg iPhone 5 Pouch Case which has the same feature-- a tab on the back (that magnetically sticks to the back of the case) which is attached to an elastic strap to pull out the phone. It also includes a credit card slot on the front that will hold a one or two cards. 

I made the short video below which demonstrates how well the tab works. This is my dream  iPhone 5 slipcase-- distressed leather, thin and tight-fitting, protective, and an easy way to get the iPhone 5 out!

The Snugg iPhone 5 Distressed Leather Brown Pouch Case comes in distressed brown leather, black leather and tan suede. It is also available for the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Pebble Watch: First Impressions

I ran to my Best Buy store on Sunday, the day the Best Buy was slated to start selling the Pebble Watch. However, due to the holiday the week before, the shipping schedule was off and there were none yet in the store. However, the Best Buy employee assured me he would call me when they came in, and he did, and I was able to get one (of the two!) that arrived.

It is definitely a cool device. However, since there are not a lot of them out on the street yet, it is truly an early-adopter's dream! I had to work hard to learn how it worked and, more importantly, the best ways to make it work for me. 

The Pebble, for those of you that do not know, is a smartwatch that interfaces with your Android smartphone or iPhone via Bluetooth to provide notifications on your wrist. I would call it a pseudo-smartwatch since you cannot use it to send anything back. You can receive phone call info and SMS messages and you can control the music on your iPhone via the Pebble, set up to four reminder alarms, and, of course, change your clock face at will!

The Pebble watch has an e-ink display (like the original Kindles) and can be easily read in the sunlight. There is also a back-light for use in the dark and you can simply shake your wrist to make the light comes on.

Here is an unboxing video posted on Sunday from a user who has an Android device, but the set-up on the iPhone is pretty much the same.

It does not come with any real directions, probably because it is still a work in progress, but Pebble has information on their site to help you out. If you start searching for ideas, you might get confused between the Android phone owners and the iOS phone owners as to the capabilities of the watch. The new iPhone iOS 7 is going to allow notifications from third-party apps and to devices via Bluetooth which will be a boon for the iPhone/Pebble-owners crowd.

Here is the link to the user guide from the Pebble site:

I started to use some workarounds with Pushover and IFTTT, which will work for some things, but once I realized, if I only had everything I wanted to be notified about sent to SMS, I could easily receive the updates on the Pebble.

Since I already had my Twitter direct messages sent via SMS, I asked Adam Bellow to send me a DM so I could see how that worked. He is too funny!

I wanted my iCal appointment reminders to go to my Pebble, but, as the iOS instructions for setting up notifications page states, that functionality is coming soon to the Pebble. 

However, I knew there had to be a way to make that happen and I searched "sending iCal reminders to SMS" and came up with this great workaround that totally makes sense-- just use the email equivalent of your mobile phone number (mobile phone number followed by @ mobile company designated address) and send the appointment reminder to that email address! Here are the instructions and it worked like a charm!

Another tip-- if you cannot get an app or watchface to install from your phone app, use the desktop, go to the site, download the .pbw files to yourself, and install them via the email app on your device. Pick them to open in the Pebble App.

Tip #3: You can make a QR code and put it as a watchface in your Pebble and you will always have your contact info ready to share! It needs to be 144x144 pixels.

Do you have a Pebble watch yet? Any ideas for use in the classroom?

Monday, July 01, 2013


This post originally appeared on my Discovery Education Network blog, Kathy's Schrock Katch of the Month, on July 1, 2013 and is re-printed with permission from Discovery Education.

IMHO or Why give constructive criticism?

I recently had a brutally honest day. I was asked to review a new book coming out and write a blurb for the back cover. The title was something I was interested in, so I agreed. As I read along in a chapter about change, I came across the line. “Everyone knows that teachers, especially, are resistant to change.” Hold on! This book was written for educators– why dis' them in the text? And who is “everyone” and why are teachers more resistant to change than anyone in a different profession? I re-wrote the sentence to be less insulting.

As I read on in the technology sections, the exemplar lessons were pretty much the lowest level of technology use. The assessments were used to inform instruction but did not gauge student acquisition of content knowledge at all.

So, as I found things that I felt could be made better and more meaningful to the proposed audience, I jotted them down and included additional ideas, quotes, and links to resources. I sent them along to the editor with a note stating I did not feel comfortable offering a blurb for the book because I did not believe in many of the tenets that were put forth. It was probably too late to do anything about the content, because the book looked like it was in its final form, but I felt compelled to do it.

The same day, I was sent a lesson planning white paper that was released by a company. It was already on the Web. However, there were no author credentials on the pages and, since it was pedagogical in nature, I wanted to know that someone who was (or had been) a K-12 educator had written the piece. It was also a bit “preachy”, so I reworked one of the paragraphs to something a bit different, without changing the content. I sent my thoughts along to them.

I guess the point is, in education, where others sometimes tell us things we don’t agree with or we feel would never work in a regular classroom setting,  it is up to us to give constructive feedback when you see something that you don’t like or don’t agree with.

The important thing is to provide something other than simply writing “that sentence seems to put down the whole teaching profession”. Re-write the content so it will not be demeaning to teachers and will  make the teachers take more notice and continue reading the book or article. Provide links to resources that are, in your opinion, more appropriate   than the samples that are provided in the article, book chapter, Tweet, or GOOGLE+ post.

This goes for educational trends, too. Although it sometimes seems, IMHO,  educators jump on lots of bandwagons for new pedagogical models, I don’t always initially agree with the idea or the implementations of the new idea. I read about it, look at successful practices, and then comment, constructively (I hope!) about it. For instance, I passionately disagreed with this blog post about turning Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy on its head.  In this case, I publicly disagreed in the comment area, but oftentimes I may just write to the blogger directly and offer some alternatives for her/him to think about.

Following are some links about constructive feedback and criticism. Most are not directly related to education or even the online realm, but you should garner some good ideas. As with anything you are passionate about, you need to wait a few minutes before posting a bit of constructive feedback to someone else. Passion in print comes across differently than passion in person, so you have to plan your responses carefully. Write a draft, look it over, take a walk, and then push the send button.

We need to encourage constructive discourse in our profession. I also feel we should to step back and think about all aspects of a plan or trend before becoming enamored with the idea just because everyone else is. Maybe parts of the new concept are useful to help students acquire both the 21st century skills and the content knowledge they need. But, perhaps other parts of the new idea won’t work in your situation and you have already discovered alternative methods that work well. You need to share those alternative ideas with the rest of us!

Don’t be afraid to constructively criticize and don’t be afraid to be criticized, which you might be. If you are passionate about something or think something is not quite right about an aspect of education, write the company, the blogger, the Tweeter, the President, and let them know. Sometimes people just don’t know what they don’t know!

Do you have any specific thoughts on ways to give online constructive criticism/feedback? There are not a lot of good ideas out there…please share via Twitter (@kathyschrock), Google+, or email me at!