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.

Review: Tocomail for iPad – Kid Safe Email

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Do you remember Clippy? He was a chipper guy, who when I first saw him in Windows as a spotty teen I thought “that’s cool, an interactive comic character who will help me use Office 97!”. Clippy was great, and then 2 minutes later I learned how to use Office properly and he quickly became annoying. I suspect his intention was to educate us in a fun and interesting way about Office 97 in those pre-web 2.0 days. Great idea, but we didn’t actually use it in practice.

This is how I feel about Tocomail. Great idea that works, but it fills a niche that probably doesn’t need to be filled. Tocomail is an interesting concept. It’s positioned as an app with e-safety at it’s heart by providing a controlled environment for children from the age of 5 to have their own email account. Signing up for a Tocomail account will give you as a parent the ability to set up an email account for your children. You can populate the address book with safe contacts, for example your family and friends, and your children can email these people from directly within the app.

The way the app is set up means that your child can only email these contacts and no one else. Likewise, only the people on the contacts list can email the child’s Tocomail account. If an email comes from an address not on the contact list then the email is put into a catch all account which the parent can log on and inspect, rather than going to the child’s inbox.   Setup is easy enough. You as a parent have to create an account with Tocomail, and then you can create an email address for your child (ending in @tocomail.com). You can set up multiple accounts for different children in the same app and switch between them. You then have two user interface options, both of which have a couple of differences.

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iPad Tips: iOS 7 Gesture Guide

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Let’s be honest, sometimes it can look a bit weird to the uninitiated outsider when they see you magically waving your fingers in different ways all over your shiny iPad (things look even weirder if you start talking to it via Siri too). However, from a user’s point of view, gestures on the iPad can really speed things up on a productivity level. Here is a guide to all of the major gestures in iOS 7. Practice makes perfect here and the more you use these gestures, the more you will find yourself flying through your iPad.

 

The five fingered grab

5 finger grab If you are in an app and you want to get back to the home screen quickly, put all five fingers on the screen and ‘grab’ your fingers together to a point. Graphically, you will see the app shrink and then disappear into the home screen.

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5 iPad Apps for the Productive 21st Century Student

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When I was at school, I struggled badly with random, un-filed bits of paper, leaky ink cartridges in my Parker Pen and terrible hand writing (as well as chronic laziness and an addiction to Cricket). I’m sure this approach to my organisation affected my school work. If I would have grown up in the iPad age I think things would have been different. The following 5 apps have been tried and tested by me and my students and rank highly as apps which work brilliantly to keep work organised in the cut and thrust of a busy school day.

Google Drive

The iPad is notorious in not having an accessible file structure. As we know, files are often saved in app, or to the camera roll or to iCloud where you can access the files on another device, as long as you have the corresponding app. The other problem is that the more files you generate, the more you eat into your precious iPad storage. Continue reading

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Roman Ruins HD for iPad Review

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I spent 4 years gaining two degrees studying history at university. After all this studying you could fit my knowledge of the Romans on the back of a postage stamp. I can bore anyone to death with tedious insight into Cold War politics, and Richard Nixon, but next to nothing about the Romans. Anyway, as a I sit in my centrally heated house, munching an apple with my cat sleeping on the sofa, I wonder; what did the Romans ever do for us? Thankfully, Roman Ruins HD can go some way to addressing my Roman ignorance.

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Apps to Get Your Kids Coding on the iPad Part 2

 

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This is Part 2 of my rundown on Coding with Your Kids on an iPad. Part 1 highlighted iPad apps that teach younger children the concepts behind programming. The following apps take these concepts further and introduce different elements to learning how to code. These apps are suitable for children aged 10-18 (or beyond!).

Hakitzu

Free + in-app purchases

Hakitzu is a fiendishly addictive app which teaches the essentials of Javascript. The premise of the game is you have to use Javascript commands to move robots around an arena to do battle, Robot Wars style. It’s a turn based game in which you are given a series of challenges like, ‘eliminate all enemies in one turn’. You then have to use your knowledge of Javascript to do this. You are also rewarded by coding efficiently, using less code to accomplish a task gets you more points. This is a nice nod to the ‘real world’ of programming where programmers want to avoid bloated code wherever possible.

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As you progress through Hakitzu, you can gain points which you can use to upgrade your robots with different weaponry and costumes.

I’ve used this app in the classroom and set up small teams to enable the students to have a ‘code off’ against each other. The nature of the app certainly brings out the competitive element in the students. The knowledge and programming that takes place in the game can also be directly related to Javascript coding and if your child is interested in this, Hakitzu compliments it nicely.

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Apps to Get Your Kids Coding on the iPad Part 1

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In the past, coding was a pretty niche affair, those of us with our Acorns, Spectrums and Commodore 64s experimenting with lines and lines of code. I remember as an 8 year old, spending ages typing out lines of code on my beige Acorn Electron to draw….a line on the screen. To add insult to injury there was no way to save it unless I wanted to erase my tape of “Ice Ice Baby” and replace it with my code. Needless to say because we were put into the deep end in those days, like millions of others I was put off a bit by coding and just played computer games instead.

Fast forward to the iPad era and coding is coming back in a big way. Some very talented developers with a love for coding have produced some spectacular apps, turning the iPad into a coding studio in your hand. There are some great iPad apps which take the pain out of coding for the layman and can teach your children (and you) some excellent skills.

This article will concentrate on the best coding apps available currently for your children aged 2-9. A follow up article will look at apps for older children.

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