All posts by James Potter

My day job is Director of Technology at one of the UK's leading independent schools. I'm on a daily mission to use, and learn to use technology in the most creative, innovative and transformational ways. The iPad ticks all of these boxes. I'm also an Apple Distinguished Educator, so at least Apple think I know what I'm blathering on about. My geekery also extends to a passion for cricket, amateur astronomy, video gaming and bad guitar playing. You can contact me on Twitter with the link below.

iTunes U Update Cannibalizes Other Services


Apple has just released a big update to iTunes U, which in the process will probably cannibalize similar well established educational classroom management services from Showbie and Edmodo. Apps like these allow communication, feedback and setting and receiving of class assignments.

For the uninitiated, iTunes U is a repository of free educational courses from certified institutions around the world. Previously it had been a rather one way affair, with institutes able to put lectures and class materials for students to consume. The attraction for teachers is that it is a hugely simple process to create a cool looking, accessible course for all the world to see. The new update makes iTunes U more of a proper classroom in that you can now set an assignment as a teacher and you can get your students to do it on their iPad. The best bit is they can turn it in using iTunes U, and you can seamlessly send a grade and a comment back to them, all saved in your and their iTunes U. Continue reading

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How to turn your iPad into a MacBook

IMG_0566After the recent WWDC, Apple made it much easier to teach its programming language, Swift, in schools. In iOS9, you can run apps created in Swift on an iPad without the need for a virtual machine which means students can test, change a bit and test again with ease. They’ve also released some great looking iTunes U courses to help you learn. I look after the 1:1 iPad program in my school and I’d really like to take advantage of this for my students. The problem is I need to learn how to program in Swift and to do this I need a MacBook. Unfortunately I don’t have a MacBook. Everywhere I look, other teachers, students, everyone seems to have one of those sleek looking MacBooks, but I don’t. As I wipe my tears away at the prospect of all of my money going on nappies for the newest member of the Potter family and not a new MacBook, I turn my attention to making one from what I already have. Here is what I came up with. Continue reading

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Bring a New Dimension to the Classroom – Verso for iPad


There are so many educational apps for iPad out there, many are total rubbish, some fall into the category of “Cool, but not quite good enough to give me a tangible educational benefit”. A select few though are real bankers and very occasionally, an app comes along which enables me to change something for the better in my classroom. Verso is one such app. The central premise of Verso is that it will collect responses, or answers to a stimulus and allows other people in the group or class to see them anonymously, which takes the worry out of who is saying what. The teacher, or group creator can see individual names of respondents so can see who as or hasn’t responded. Continue reading

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Contest: 10 Free Promo Codes for Notes Plus To Be Won


To Be Won: 10 free promo codes for the Notes Plus app

Contest Deadline: Thursday June 11, 4:00PM US Central

I reviewed Notes Plus last August and I was really impressed with it in terms of it being an excellent productivity app with some great features.

Notes Plus is celebrating it’s 5 year anniversary and the developers have sent us 10 free promo codes for their excellent app.

How to Win

Leave a comment on this post to get one entry for a chance to win.

As I’m addicted to scouring the world for the greatest productivity apps, you can get a bonus entry by naming your top 3 iPad productivity apps.

*** Please include a valid email address with your comment, as that’s where we will send the winners’ promo codes to.

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WriteReader for iPad Review: Teach Children How to Write

WriteReader with keyboard

WriteReader for iPad has clearly had a lot of thought go into it from an educational and technical perspective. It’s main USP is that it will help to develop your child’s writing through using phonetically based sounds to create words which can be turned into a publishable eBook. However, does it live up to it’s promise?

WriteReader has a lot of financial backing and it heralds from Denmark. It’s modus operandi is to teach children to write. I would say that the app should be aimed at reluctant writers who have a lot of parental support. I also don’t believe it is the sort of app your child could use effectively without direct assistance from an adult. Continue reading

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Notes Plus for iPad Giveaway: 5 Free Codes to Be Won


You may remember last year I wrote a post about the excellent note taking app Notes Plus. My opinion was that it was a really well thought out app with plenty of options and excellent handwriting recognition, which at the time was an in-app purchase. You can read the full review here, and you can read my 3 way handwriting recognition app shootout here, in which Notes Plus came out as clear winner.

The developers have released a new version of the app with the headline feature being that handwriting recognition is no longer an in-app purchase, which is great news if you want to find a pretty accurate handwriting recognition app. The developers have also kindly given our readers 5 promo codes for Notes Plus which you can get by being one of the first 5 people to reply to this post in answer to this question:

What is the productivity app that you simply could not do without on your iPad? (mine would have to be Google Drive I think).

Your reply needs to have a valid email address, or I won’t be able to send the code to you and the contest will close on Sunday February 15 at 3:00 US Central.

In the meantime, here’s an App Store link for Notes Plus; it’s priced at $9.99.

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Koder for iPad: Take the Hell out of HTML


One of the computing classes that I teach at school is HTML, and being a 1:1 iPad school I wanted to refresh my scheme of work to take advantage of using the iPad. Now, let’s get one thing out of the way, coding on the iPad may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, the fact that I can work on it in class and get the students to take the same software home and continue working is a real bonus for me. I had a good look around for an app which would fit my needs and zeroed in on Koder. My reasons for choosing this were mainly because it offered a browser preview of your code and it also wasn’t rated 17+ (Apple rates pretty much any app with a browser 17+ for unrestricted web access unfortunately). It is worth noting that it offers other coding languages, but for the purposes of this review I’m going to concentrate on HTML. Continue reading

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Spout is the Prezi for social network feeds


I was introduced to Spout at the start of the week and it was one of those apps that I was immediately wowed by. Pictures won’t really do it justice, it’s the movement and animation that really sell this app. The way to describe it is it is rather like watching a Prezi of your social network feeds.

Upon launching the app, you can configure your social network feeds and attach Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Instagram. Within this you can opt to display certain hashtags. If, for example you put #ipaded into the stream, Spout will only display tweets with this hashtag. As well as this, you can add custom text which will animate. It could be used as a message if your iPad is connected to a screen for example.

Continue reading

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Osmo for iPad Review: Magical and Educational


We are all used to interfacing with a computer through mouse, keyboard, and in more recent times, touchscreen. Osmo has created an educational game system that allows you to interface with the iPad through physical objects. It’s a new way of using the iPad to engage children in learning and it is as close to a magical experience as I have come using an iPad. Continue reading

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Great Tool for Sports Coaches and Schools: Nexstar for iPad Review

Nexstar, iPad, Apple TV and Coaches Eye used to coach swimming.

We use iPads a lot in the school I teach in. In fact, we have issued one to each member of staff and each student. iPads are amazingly useful in the classroom in a variety of different ways, and certainly one of the best features is the camera. Back in the day, you’d have to book a video camera, film what you wanted, download the file, and hope that it was compatible with your creaky PC video editing software. Now, students can just shoot, edit and they are done all on one device. We use iPad in sports coaching in school and while it works great, it relies on either a student holding the iPad still, or the coach filming, rather than coaching. The Nexstar Training system offers a custom made solution to this issue, and it has certainly been thought about with sports training specifically in mind. Continue reading

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Save Those Old Photos: Pic Scanner for iPad Review

Scanning multiple photos
Scanning multiple photos

Anyone who is 25 and over probably remembers the analogue days of photography. The ‘good old days’ of not being exactly sure what your pictures would look like when you snapped them on your camera, and the agonising, up to a week wait for the photos to be developed. You then had the exciting moment of taking them out of the envelope, only to find half of them over or under exposed and a few ruined when you opened the back of the camera to see if you had film left. Despite all of this, these real photos are all the more precious, offering a tantalising glimpse to another time, when your parents were your age and you were a baby. I’ve probably got about 50 photos of me as a baby, compared to thousands of digitals which we have of my daughter. Our problem comes however when we want to share or preserve these old photos. Yes, we could scan them one by one, but Pic Scanner has kindly come up with a way to streamline the process somewhat. Continue reading

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