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.

Screens VNC for iPad review: Ideal for Productivity and Pranking!

Mac on your iPad
Mac on your iPad

In my first teaching job, my school at the time had a remote desktop system going where I could use my dodgy old computer at home to remotely connect to a desktop at school which gave me access to all of the programs I needed to prepare my lessons. I remember thinking it was almost like witchcraft – having more than one computer on your computer! It actually worked pretty well in the early days of broadband (despite having to set it to 16 colour mode!). This was a feature that I sorely missed when I moved schools. Jump in the DeLoren and get to 88.8 mph and fast forward to today. Fast connectivity and mobility everywhere means that we don’t have to rely on a meaty central server at a place of work to provide these connections, you can do it yourself at a fraction of the price. This is where Edovia’s Screens software comes in. Continue reading

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My Incredible Body iPad Review: Like Innerspace but Educational!

If only Dennis Quad had this app in 1987.
If only Dennis Quaid had this app in 1987.

Back in primary school I remember learning about the internals of the human body by constructing a digestive system out of toilet rolls. Needless to say, that summer I probably used more toilet tissue than I needed too in an effort to get enough toilet rolls together. The results were awesome though. I plonked a marble through the cardboard oesophagus and proudly demonstrated to my parents the wonders of the human digestive system. I’m assuming my model had the equivalent of the runs as my marble got through in about 5 seconds. Now, the days of such eco-unfriendly learning are behind us and Zybright have released a great app called My Incredible Body, which I would say is aimed at ages 4-13. Continue reading

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iTunes U 2.0 iPad Review: Education for Everyone?

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Being a teacher and a die hard geek, I’ve long been searching for a way to take my courses online in a meaningful way where students can engage in their work in Martini fashion (anytime, anywhere, not drunk). There have been lots of, what we might call ‘Virtual Learning Environments’ over the last ten years, some terrible (I’m naming no names here) and some pretty good. There has always, however, been the stumbling block that the student still has to go somewhere to get hold of course materials, ie to a computer. What I have long been after is a medium where the work goes seamlessly to the student, and likewise, the teacher can create courses in an effective, time efficient way. We might just have found this with iTunes U 2.0 which has been recently updated by Apple. Continue reading

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6 Things I’d like to see from the iWatch

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Having followed and used Apple and Google products for a while now, the generalisation seems to be that Google is the risk taking young tearaway, often coming up with awesome ideas, but implementing them in a slightly haphazard manner and Apple takes these ideas, refines them like a wise old hand and releases something that works pretty flawlessly. Take the classic Android vs iPhone. Many of the features that Android has have been around ages before Apple implemented them on the iPhone. For example, Android implemented face unlock a while back, which was fun, not that secure and was more hassle than putting in a PIN. Apple refined that idea of using a part of your body to unlock your device with Touch ID, which by all accounts works pretty flawlessly. Fingerprint ID, is of course nothing new, it’s just no one had implemented it in such a refined way until the iPhone 5s. Other people come up with the ideas, Apple converts them into something the everyday consumer can find useful.

This is how I’m feeling about the upcoming iWatch (assuming the rumours are true, and I’ll call it iWatch for the duration of the article). Tech on your wrist is nothing new. Dick Tracy started it, Pebble took it to the next level, Samsung took it back a few steps with Gear, Android Wear seems interesting but underwhelming currently (although Google asserting control over the OS is a positive thing). This all makes the iWatch an interesting prospect because I’d like to think that if Apple do release such a product, they will do so without compromise in it’s function.

So, this is what I would love to see in a possible iWatch device, in no particular order:

1 – The main emphasis on fitness. 

There is talk that the device will have up to 10 sensors which will monitor a variety of things during your day and night. Apple’s trump card for this would surely be firstly, accurate sensing, and secondly some kind of sensor that is completely different to anything else out there. Maybe something that would provide analyses of your sweat – or even urine? OK, maybe I wouldn’t want to take that step, especially if the device is expensive. I wonder if you can get insurance for that sort of thing….

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Classroom PDF for iPad: Useful for teaching

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As any teacher will tell you, the last thing they want to be doing is faffing around with technology during a lesson. An easy way for a lesson to go quickly south is to be relying on a piece of technology to work there and then, and it suddenly doesn’t. Cue descent into chaos and a carefully planned lesson unravelling. This is one of the reasons why the iPad is so appealing in education, because it isn’t a faff (and this is coming from an Android fan). There are also certain apps on the iPad which work in an extremely straightforward way and do something very useful in the classroom. Classroom PDF is one of those apps. Continue reading

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Green Screen for iPad review

green_screen_main_imageAs a young wannabe film maker (or nerd as it’s more commonly referred to) in the early 90s, I used to love grabbing the family camcorder and knocking up some quality Hollywood remakes. My greatest hits included remakes of Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters and the criminally underrated original production “That Army Bloke II”. I’m still waiting for an offer for the screenplay for that one. Me and my sister had to be pretty creative with our movies as special effects were limited to fade to white and macro. Nowadays with the iPad, the world is your digital celluloid oyster and Do Ink’s excellent Green Screen app is a fantastic addition to the amateur film maker’s armoury.  Continue reading

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8 iPad Apps to Teach your Children about Space

IMG_0913I’ve been interested in space for as long as I can remember and I was trying to wrack my brains to figure out exactly what it was that got me into it. In a dark corner of my brain, a book appeared: The Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopaedia. I remember having the abridged version as a kid and the space chapter fascinated me. If you are of a certain age you will remember the carefully sketched, cross section diagrams of US and Soviet rockets, and the occasional picture of Neil Armstrong on the Moon, or Yuri Gagarin floating around in space. The problem with the traditional encyclopaedia is that it is out of date as soon as it is printed, which was as true in the 1920s, when my mate Arthur started writing, as it is now. Thankfully for us, iPad apps change all of this with regular updates to apps and iBooks, and today’s children can have up to date information at their fingertips. 

Here is a round up of some apps which will help introduce, or further your child’s knowledge of space. This article will list them in age appropriate order, youngest first. Continue reading

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GoodReader 4 review: The iPad utility belt?

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When I was 9 years old, I got an amazing birthday present; a Swiss Army knife. In this day and age it is rather frowned upon to give a child a knife, but in the 80s that was how we rolled. 26 years later and after a four replacement blades and a new housing, it’s still the same knife that I use on a regular basis, and boy is it useful.

This is how I feel about GoodReader. Although GoodReader is not going to slice my fingers open, it’s an extremely useful and versatile app. It’s one of those apps that you may not use everyday, but if you want to get something productivity related done in a hurry, GoodReader will probably do it for you. Continue reading

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5 iPad Apps for Amateur Astronomers

DSC_0011I’ve always been interested in space and a couple of years ago, my other half bought me a telescope for my birthday. It was a rather left-field sort of present, but she knew it would appeal because firstly, I like space, and secondly it was computer controlled, which would appeal to my inner and outer geek. I had one problem though. I knew nothing about our night sky, short of looking at a few nice pictures from Hubble and documentaries on Discovery. My new scope faced being an expensive, and large, doorstop unless I could figure out a bit more about what was above my head.

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Apex Rechargeable Stylus: The Missing Link for iPad?

IMG_20140521_192447You know you are pretty geeky when you get excited about receiving a stylus in the post. However, this is a fairly regular occurrence for me and I’m not quite, but almost a stylus junkie. One of the main reasons I love the iPad is that, used with apps which suit your style of working, you can do some amazing things to streamline your workflow. For me though, the thing that is missing from the iPad is a good stylus for handwritten input. I’ve always been slightly jealous of the Samsung S-pen and thought that this is one of the areas where the iPad is lacking. The iPad has some amazing note taking apps (Notability is my favourite), but without decent hardware input, the writing experience is truly awful. However, Lynktec look to be about to change this with their new rechargeable Apex active stylus. Continue reading

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iDoceo for iPad: The ultimate teacher app?

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When I first started teaching, I marvelled at my colleague’s neatly tended mark books. The amazing array of handwritten marks, numbers and codes in different coloured pens were almost like a work of art. Unfortunately for me two of my greatest weaknesses are record keeping on paper, and filing paper. I also thought I didn’t want to hang on to physical mark books for years on the off chance the inspector came knocking. As a result I started my quest for a digital solution. Nothing really fit the bill – Excel was not portable around the classroom, Google Sheets didn’t have the flexibility. I even bought my ancient PDA out of retirement for a term. In desperation I started looking into writing my own app. Luckily for me, this is when I stumbled across iDoceo. Continue reading

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