Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A trio of reviews

Three companies have sent me items to review and reviews of them follow.  It is always fun to try out new technology gear!

MagBack for iPad

I am always on the lookout for ways to mount my devices in the car and around the house. MagBack for iPad is one neat solution! MagBack for iPad bills itself as the "world's thinnest iPad mount". The MagBack kit consists of two magnetic MagSticks, that can be mounted anywhere, and two MagBack Pads that mount to the back of the iPad. The MagBack is available for all models of the iPad Mini, iPad 2/3/4 non-Retina, and iPad Air 1 and 2, and comes in a variety of colors. The cost of the MagBack is $39 and you can also buy 3 sets of extra MagSticks for $19 to use to mount the iPad to additional places around the house or in your car.

The MagSticks can be mounted on a wall, your car dashboard, your cookbook stand, or the wall behind your desk. They are a shiny silver and are 4.5" x .5", so are unobtrusive even when mounted to your car dashboard. The MagStick can be mounted on wood, a painted wall, fabric, leather, glass, or aluminum (and I am assuming the "pleather" on my car dashboard!)

There is a template included in the package to ensure you get the MagBack Pads aligned correctly on the back of the iPad. These MagBack Pads also provide a nice gripping surface when you are carrying your iPad. The Apple iPad Smart Cover does not interfere with the MagBack Pads (and vice versa), since the MagBack Pads mount on the short sides of the iPad. 

MagBack Pads and MagSticks

MagBack Pads mounted on the iPads

Here is a another review of the MagBack for iPad that includes additional screenshots and a video demonstrating the process for installation.

MagBack is also accepting pre-orders for its MagBack for iPhone. In this model, the "Pads" are built right into the phone case and there is only one MagStick needed.

Headset by ThinkWrite

ThinkWrite was formed in 2013, and designs low-cost mobile device accessories to support the education market.

They sent me their headset (headphone and microphone combo) to review. This low-cost headset sells for $19.99 and volume discounts are available.

ThinkWrite specifically made a headset to meet the needs of schools. It is very durable and is made from special plastic that allows the headset to be bent (as kids are likely to try) without breaking! The headset is constructed with a "pleather" material that is easy to clean and provides padding and adjustments to fit any child's head. Take a look at how indestructible they are!

The inclusion of a mounted microphone that sits close to the student's mouth makes these very useful for students recording narratives and podcasts since the classroom noise level is kept to a minimum. And there is an in-line volume control to easily allow students to moderate the sound on something they are listening to.

Teachers are always on the look-out for low-cost technology solutions for their classrooms, and I think these ThinkWrite Headsets are a winner!

Reflector 2 by AirSquirrels

I have been a proponent of the Reflector app since the day it was introduced (when it was called Reflection). The Reflector app turns your Windows or Mac computer into an AirPlay device, allowing one or more devices to mirror their screens to your computer via WiFi or Bluetooth. If your computer is hooked up to a video projector, of course, the teacher and students can share their findings, work, or questions with the rest of the class. And it makes it easy for a teacher to roam about the classroom and clear up misconceptions by mirroring their device screen to the "big" screen.

One of my favorite features of the Reflector 1 app is the ability to record the activity on the screen of the mirrored iOS device while it is mirrored to the computer. As one who creates lots of instructional videos, I use this feature daily. Even the sound comes over to the computer so it is included in the movie I produce. In a classroom, the ability to easily record an iOS device screen is invaluable when a teacher needs to record an on-going lesson for an absent student, for parents, or by wanting the ability to record a student's work for their digital portfolio.

However, Reflector 2 ($14.99 per single license with volume licenses available) has bumped up the capabilities of the software! Devices running various operating systems can now mirror to the same computer! And whether the device is an iOS device, an Android device, or a Chromebook, the mirrored screen can be recorded! This is a wonderful addition for BYOD/T environments where students may have a mix of iOS devices, Android devices, and Chromebooks in the same classroom.

Reflector 2 also allows the teacher to emphasize a certain device on the computer screen when multiple devices are mirrored, as well as hiding connected devices. In addition, the teacher can show a device full-screen to eliminate all other distractions for the viewer

Reflector Director is an iPad app ($6.99) that allows the teacher to handle the emphasizing, hiding, and previewing of mirrored device screens on the computer from the iPad, rather than having to sit at the computer to do so.

There are a few additional programs that AirSquirrels makes that also may be helpful in a classroom. The Reflector for Android app allows iOS devices to mirror to the screen of an Android device (it does not enable Android mirroring.)

Reflector for Amazon Fire TV and TV Stick ($6.99) allows one to mirror a Mac computer, Windows computer or Chromebook (in conjunction with AirParrot 2) to a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick as well as mirror any iOS device to your TV that has an Amazon Fire TV Stick.

With all of these features, Reflector 2 meets the needs of teachers and students no matter what device they are using or need to share!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Literacies for the digital age: Health literacy

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in June 2015 and is re-posted here with permission.

This is the tenth, and final, in a series of blog posts highlighting the digital literacies our students will need to succeed. The first posts covered financial literacyvisual literacymedia literacyhistorical literacynumeracydata literacyinformation and digital literacytool literacy, and civic and global literacy. This post will provide you with some ideas on how to infuse health literacy skills into the curriculum.
The literacies I feel need to be explored, practiced and mastered by students can be found in the graphic below.


The World Health Organization’s motto is “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” And, according to UNESCO, infusing “health learning in subjects across the curriculum should not be a substitute for a comprehensive, sequential course of health education, but doing so can significantly support the learning that takes place in a health class.”
The UNESCO toolkit publication contains mappings to curriculum activities that can help students learn and think about health-related issues. Below are some curriculum tie-ins for social studies, science and mathematics.
There are many online tools and apps for mobile devices that can support any one of these activities as well as activities in health education classes.
Keeping a private wellness journal can both help students deal with stressful events as well as help track their progress towards a goal– whether it be physical or intellectual. Penzu is an online private journaling program, with a mobile app for iOS and Android, too, that makes it easy for students to jot down their thoughts and action plans for personal wellness.
Once a student has set some wellness goals, they will need a place to record their quantitative information– whether it be calories consumed, steps taken, or minutes exercised. Zoho Creator is an online database that is easy to set up and easy to both enter and analyze the data.
Glencoe has a health textbook support page that includes some technology project lesson in the areas of health and fitness for students.
As far as providing students with sites to start with to gather data on global health issues, the US Department of Health and Human Services has a site which deals with the medical, political, and social aspects of health issues worldwide.
Looking at the content-based health activities suggested by UNESCO, in addition to the research skills students will be utilizing, there are many ways students can create a product as a formative or summative assessment using technology.
  • Digital story
  • Infographic
  • Video
  • Poster, handout, flyer
  • Timeline
  • Podcast
  • Animation
  • Screencast
  • Word cloud
  • Concept or mind map
  • Blog
  • Collage
  • Sketchnote
My online tools page includes Web 2.0 applications that can be used for these products. In addition, I have specific pages with ideas, tips, and tutorials for products such as these.


Discovery Education has any number of resources to support health and wellness.
There is an entire Health Connection that includes full lessons and teacher guides, at all grade levels, and provides multiple health education curriculums, 500 videos, and interactive activities.
In the classroom, it is a great resource as students are doing research on a health or wellness topic or a discussion on a health/wellness topic comes up. This site gives educators the ability to access nationally recognized programs, lesson plans, and video clips all correlated to national and state standards. Health Connection gives educators all of the resources and tools necessary to address the critical health issues facing young people. The categorized topics include: Alcohol and other Drugs, The Body, Mental Health, Nutrition, Physical Activity, Safety, Sexuality, Tobacco, and Violence
When searching Discovery Education Streaming by the term “wellness”, I found some useful videos and video series.
  • Wellness Review: Host Joan O’Keefe reviews how exercise, good nutrition, and rest are essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind. (Spanish version) (Grades 3-5)
  • Good Things First! The Way to Wellness : Registered dietician Joan O’Keefe talks with students about what it takes to be well. Emphasizing the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle during all stages of life, she provides advice on nutrition, physical activity, dealing with stress, and getting plenty of sleep. (Spanish version) (Grades 3-5)
  • Exercise Series: Why Exercise: Shows how to adopt healthful routines to avoid the onset of disease. The program discusses the history of exercise before explaining its benefits for the heart and muscles. (Grades 3-5)
  • SOS: 20 Questions on Health and Wellness: An activity board to help middle and high school students learn more about childhood obesity. (Grades 6-12)
Of course, searching by any of the main topics in the UNESCO listing of activities within Discovery Education Streaming brings up tons of additional resources in the Science Techbook and the Social Studies Techbook, both part of the Discovery Education Resources.
The UNESCO toolkit included a sample cross-curricular unit with activities that target health and wellness for grade 4.
Searching through the Discovery Education site, I mapped some resources to support this unit.
Science Elementary Streaming: Grades 3-5
Science Techbook: Upper elementary
Social Studies Techbook
Discovery Education Streaming