Mirror iPad, iPhone, iPod to Your Screen for Free

Mirror iPad, iPhone, iPod to Your Screen for Free

The simplest way to see exactly what's on your Apple device's screen is buy Apple's VGA (Dock Connector or Lightning) or HDMI (Dock Connector or Lightning) adapters. Those adapters plug into the connector at the bottom of your device and send out a video signal to the projector or TV at the other end. There's no software to install–it just works when you plug it in. Those adapters sell for between $27 and $45. I want to tell you about iTools because it's a free mirroring solution.

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Instantly Craft Collaborative Books with Bindle for iOS

Instantly Craft Collaborative Books with Bindle for iOS

At the time of publishing this post, Bindle - PDF Maker, a universal app for iPad and iPhone, is free. Bindle's price is down from $1.99. 

To use Bindle - PDF Maker, launch it and select up to 24 images, which can be from your Photo Library. Then Bindle - PDF Maker combines them into a multipage PDF file. You can share the PDF in a variety of ways.

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Buy or Make Touchscreen Styluses for Cheap

Buy or Make Touchscreen Styluses for Cheap

Touchscreen devices aren't supposed to require a stylus. But there are times when you might want to use one. You probably draw better with a stylus. Your handwriting is more legible with a stylus. You don't leave fingerprints with a stylus. Using a stylus doesn't block your view of the screen.

Because modern touchscreens are capacitive sensing, they take the conductivity of the human body as input. It doesn't matter how much pressure you apply. It's the electricity flowing through your fingers that cause a change in the screen's electrical field. That change is interpreted by the device as input.

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Now You Can Upload Photos and Videos to Websites from Your iPad

Now You Can Upload Photos and Videos to Websites from Your iPad

iOS 6 adds a much-needed feature—the ability to use UploadSelect File, or Choose File buttons and links found on websites for submitting files. Previously, when browsing websites that have a button for uploading files, nothing would happen when you tapped it on iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Now with iOS 6, tapping that button on webpages brings up your Media Library where you can select an image or video to upload.

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Limit an iOS Device to Running a Single App

Limit an iOS Device to Running a Single App

Apple has introduced Guided Access in iOS 6. It keeps your device in a single app and allows you to control which features are available. 

Locking a mobile device into a single app has been a request of parents and educators for some time. Using Guided Access to limit an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to one app can be handy when you want a child to remain on task and focused. It is also nice for youngsters who might accidentally click the Home button.

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Be an iPad Superstar: 8 Collections of iOS 5 Tips

Be an iPad Superstar: 8 Collections of iOS 5 Tips

Just when I think I know a lot of about Apple's iOS, someone shows me a clever feature, setting, or shortcut I've never seen before. Since Apple doesn't include a printed manual, it's up to us as iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch users to find our own ways of learning these tips. I'd like to share eight links with tips to help us get the most of our iOS devices.

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iOS Math Apps by Teachers

iOS Math Apps by Teachers

You've probably heard of apps developed by kids, like Bustin Jieber by twelve-year-old Thomas Suarez and MathTime by fifth grader Owen Voorhees and his slightly younger brother Finn. It's really great to see youth creating apps. It's also fantastic to see educators developing apps. I'd like to tell you about two new math apps and the teachers who made them.

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Myths about iOS, iPad, iPhone & iPod touch

I have the pleasure of working with educators who get to use iPads and iPod touches with students. Wherever I facilitate workshops, I find there are some myths floating around about Apple's iOS devices, and I'd like to clear up some of the misinformation.

iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch do not have user manuals.

Gone are the days when you receive a thick printed user manual with your electronics purchase. Instead of an in-depth guide, Apple includes a glossy folded-up single sheet of paper called Finger Tips in the box. You can hardly call this a user manual. But, if you want a nearly 200 page user manual, you can download one online or in the iBooks app.

You have to have a credit card associated with your iTunes account.

A credit card is not required when you create an iTunes account. Apple would be delighted to get a credit card number from you, but they do provide a way to keep your credit card number to yourself.

First log out of any iTunes accounts you might be signed into. Then simply tap to download any free app in the App Store. When prompted to log into an account, choose Create New Account. When asked for a credit card, choose None. The None option only appears if you create an account by first trying to install a free app. If you try to create an account in any other manner, Apple will not present the None choice and will require a credit card number for the account. Read my previous post, iTunes Account Without a Credit Card

If you have already given iTunes a credit card number, you can log into your account and click to edit your payment information. You should be able to select None for Payment Type.

You can buy an app once and install it on all devices in the classroom or school.

While it is technically possible to purchase an app once and install it on an unlimited number of devices, Apple's Terms and Conditions states:

If you are a commercial enterprise or educational institution, you may download and sync an App Store Product for use by either (a) a single individual on one or more iOS Devices used by that individual that you own or control or (b) multiple individuals, on a single shared iOS Device you own or control. For example, a single employee may use an App Store Product on both the employee's iPhone and iPad, or multiple students may serially use an App Store Product on a single iPad located at a resource center or library. For the sake of clarity, each iOS Device used serially by multiple users requires a separate license.

Individual consumers can sync an app to multiple devices, but Apple expects schools to purchase an app for each and every devices upon which it is installed. In order to buy multiple licenses for apps, there's the App Store Volume Purchase Program. Not only can educational institutions buy in bulk, but the Volume Purchase Program often gives a 50% discount.

The Volume Purchase Program is only for paid apps. Free apps can still be downloaded one time and installed on as many devices as you'd like. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I often share apps that have temporary become free. Simply document that you downloaded an app to a school account when it was free and you can treat it like any other free app (i.e. install it on class sets of devices). Read my blog post, Things to Know about Apps & Apple Devices, for more about apps in classrooms.

Once you fill 12 home screens of apps you cannot install any more.

It's true: you are limited to a dozen Home screens. You can fill those screen with apps, folders, and web page icons. However, once filled you can still install more apps. The catch is that the apps won't have icons on your Home screen. To launch an app that doesn't have a Home screen icon, you'll need to search for it. Access search by clicking the Home button (or swiping right) while you're on your first Home screen. Note: when you have filled all 12 screens, Safari no longer gives you the option to add a webpage to the Home screen.

You need a Mac to sync multiple devices.

For simplicity, I highly recommend syncing a class set of iPads or iPod touches to one computer. That computer's iTunes Library will have all apps, audio, video, playlists, podcasts, and iTunes U content in it. When you make a change to the iTunes Library, that change is mirrored onto all the devices upon the next sync. 

You can sync multiple devices simultaneously to one computer. There are cartstrays, and cases designed for this task. These syncing solutions all suggest using a Mac for syncing. The problem is that some schools don't allow Macs and some teachers are afraid they won't know how to use a Mac.

Yes, you can use a Windows PC to sync multiple devices. However, Windows computers tend to have problems syncing more than a few devices simultaneously. A Macintosh would be my syncing computer of choice because it does indeed work better (but a Mac can still choke on syncing 20 devices all at the same time). But if a Mac isn't an option for you, a Windows PC will be ok. You will have to babysit it more, perhaps by connecting just a few devices at a time instead of a whole cart at once.

I'm hopeful that syncing is less of an issue when iOS 5 comes out this fall. Wi-Fi Sync will work with Mac or Windows. Apple's website brags:

Wirelessly sync your iOS device to your Mac or PC over a shared Wi-Fi connection. Every time you connect your iOS device to a power source (say, overnight for charging), it automatically syncs and backs up any new content to iTunes. So you always have your movies, TV shows, home videos, and photo albums everywhere you want them.

Apps stay open after you leave them and this drains the battery and slows down the device.

You can view the most recently used apps by double-clicking the Home button. The apps appear at the bottom of the screen. You can flick left to see more apps. All of these apps are not actually running. They appear on the list simply because you launched them lately. Yes, some apps run in the background, like Pandora for playing music or Twitter for receiving notifications. But, most apps do not actually run in the background. They simply stay frozen until you switch back to using them. You can remove an app from the list by touching and holding the app icon until it begins to jiggle and then tapping the red minus button.

I met a media specialist who would manually go through and close all apps that appear in the recents list at the end of each school day. She thought that all of those apps in the list were running and therefore draining the batteries in her school's iPod touches. I can only imagine how much time it took her each day to accomplish this. Alternatively, she could have simply powered down the iPods. When powered back on, an iPod touch's (and iPhone's and iPad's) memory is completely cleared. However, the recent apps list is not cleared, which made this media specialist feel she had to do it manually.

In 2010 Apple's Scott Forstall was asked how you close applications when multitasking in iOS 4. He said, "You don't have to. The user just uses things and doesn't ever have to worry about it." Users do not have to management background tasks.

Apple's own support page states, "Double-clicking the Home button displays a list of recently used apps. These apps are not necessarily actively in use, open, or taking up system resources. They will instantly launch when you return to them. Certain tasks or services can continue to run in the background. You can distinguish most of these by checking the status bar."

So, in theory you shouldn't ever have to close apps. One exception when I do close an app from the recents list is when an app is acting weird. Another is when I'm done using my TomTom GPS navigator app. TomTom runs in the background and constantly uses power to detect my GPS location. It will shut itself down after a while, but it can eat a lot of battery power before closing itself. But, most people should never have to worry about it. If your device seems to be slowing down or the battery is draining faster than usual, simply do a power off and power back on instead of worrying about apps that may or may not be running in the background.

For a very detailed explaination about the misconceptions about multitasking, read Frasier Speirs blog post.

For longer battery life you should occasionally drain the battery completely.

We all want healthy batteries in our precious devices. There are certain things we can do to make sure batteries live a long life. For instance, never store your device in a freezing cold or very hot vehicle. Furthermore, be sure to exercise the battery by occasionally discharging and charging it.

Before modern lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries, old-fashioned nickel-cadmium batteries experienced a "memory effect" where these batteries would lose capacity over time if they were recharged before they were completely drained. Batteries in your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch do not suffer from the memory effect. You can charge these devices at any battery percentage and it will not affect its charge capacity.

I have spoken with numerous teachers who have been stressed out trying to completely drain iPads batteries because Apple told them to. Indeed, Apple's page on batteries states, "For proper reporting of the battery’s state of charge, be sure to go through at least one charge cycle per month (charging the battery to 100% and then completely running it down)." Notice that Apple doesn't claim this is for the battery's health; it's simply so the battery meter is more accurate. Personally, I never run down my batteries on purpose. It's great if it happens by normal usage, but I'm not going to drain my battery for the sole purpose of pleasing the battery meter. My meter seems to be pretty accurate even without a monthly drain. On top of that, batteries have a limited number of charge and discharge cycles. Repeatedly draining a battery uses up some of those cycles. 

The screen scratches easily.

Handhelds' screens used to be made of plastic that could scratch easily. Today's devices, including iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, and most Android handhelds, use glass screens. While glass sounds like it would be fragile, Apple uses a material like Gorilla Glass, which is designed to be resistant to scratches, drops, and bumps of everyday use. Watch a YouTube video where someone runs a metal key over an iPad's screen, and you'll see it causes no scratches. Certainly, your device's glass screen can scratch, but not very easily.

Keys and other objects you might think would scratch the screen don't because of the inability of softer material to scratch harder material. Glass falls between 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. In general, materials with a lower hardness will not scratch a material with a higher hardness. Most metal is less than 5 on the Mohs scale. But, be careful with all your diamonds around your touchscreen because diamond scores a 10 for hardness.

As a cat owner, this is exciting: Friskies makes Games for Cats. They are free web apps that work well on iPad and Android devices. Friskies says, "The bare glass screen on the iPad stands up to our cat's claws with no problems." That's because fingernails, horns, claws, and other keratins are below 3 on the Mohs scale (and remember that glass is 5). Friskies does warn that a cat's claws will damage add-on plastic film covers.

Some feel more protected by placing those stick-on screen covers over their touchscreens. Often those stickers have annoying bubbles and they make the screen less sensitive to touch. I find them to usually be ugly and a hindrance. Apple does too because in 2010 they removed all screen protectors from their retail and online stores. Now, if it's likely a device will be dropped, then a screen protector just might keep the glass from cracking because of an accident. Furthermore, I know some teachers who love anti-glare screen protectors, particularly when using a device under a document camera.

The bottom line is that I don't want you to feel guilty for not using screen protectors. Your devices' screens are most likely going to be A-ok.

More Opportunities Belong in Learning Environments

I have the honor of keynoting the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine's MAINEducation 2011 conference. I wrote the short article below for ACTEM's Electronic Educator September 2011 newsletter.

As a former Nebraska fifth grade teacher and current Arizona resident, I've been envious of Maine's ten year old laptop initiative. The state understands the power of integrating technology and learning. In fact, that's what Mobile Learning is all about—using tools at hand for educational and productivity uses.

The first reaction from those in other states when Maine's laptops are mentioned is, "How can they afford that?" School systems are scraping together as much money as they can to put technology in students' hands. At the same time, most of them ban students from bringing their own computers and devices into their own learning environments. 

Sure, there are some legal and networking reasons for being reluctant to let students bring in the very technology that schools are struggling to finance. But, there are many more reasons for allowing students to learn with their own personal tools. As a learner I would feel angry, deflated, belittled, and offended if I could not use my phone, laptop, tablet, and online tools as I see fit in my learning environment.

More and more schools are empowering their students by turning their frowns upside-down on personally owned devices. With smartphones, iPads, handhelds, laptops and the like always available to students, opportunities for learning increase.

Opportunities for Personalization. Students access content, software, and apps that meet their needs. In the case of Apple and Android devices, there are about half a million apps to choose from. Learners deserve a choice in what and how they learn, and mobile learning can facilitate personalized learning.

Opportunities for Expression. Students can express themselves and share what they have learned in so many ways, including audio recording, moviemaking, and document creation. There are even great online tools for making animated cartoons and super cool apps for creating digital puppet shows.  

Opportunities for Productivity. Mobile technology gives access to tools for organization and for getting things done efficiently. In addition to the typical note taking, calendar, and planner uses, savvy students enter their notes directly into a flashcard app for easy studying. Talk about being productive!

Opportunities for Access. Having technology readily at hand makes its use a commonplace occurrence instead of a special event. There's no seeking permission to go to the computer lab or waiting for the cart of laptops to be wheeled in. Most adults don't have those kinds of roadblocks to technology, why should students?

Opportunities to Use Real-World Tools. Personal and mobile devices are certainly everywhere today. People in the real world use technology for real tasks everyday. I think that school should mirror the outside world as much as possible because "playing school" fails to prepare learners for the reality of life. 

It's true. Technology in schools is typically bought, owned, and controlled by the school. Many are focused on deploying class or one-to-one sets of iPads, iPod touches, tablets, and laptops, but I think this mindset is an intermediate step to eventually having students provide their own technology. Not just because of expense, but because students will have their own technology they'll want at their fingertips. The technology they will bring will be highly portable and what students do and create will be digital and shareable. It will be MOBILE, and that's a good thing because More Opportunities Belong In Learning Environments.

Icons by dryicons.com

iPad/iPod/iPhone Accessories, Add-Ons & DIY

One of the sharing sessions at Mobile Learning Experience 2011 was dedicated to accessories, add-ons, and do it yourself projects for mobile devices. I took along many of mine to share.


Disclosure: I do not accept free or special deals on products. However, I make a little money if you follow a product link and buy from Amazon.

Speech Input in Dictionary and Translate Apps

Speech InputSpeech input is finding its way into more and more mobile devices and apps. Dragon Dictation for iOS came out in December 2008 and is probably the best way for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch users to speak into their devices and have it turned into text. The dictated text can then be pasted into other apps. Perhaps future versions of iOS will include speech-to-text across all apps.

iOS's rival mobile operating system, Android, introduced a voice-enabled keyboard with version 2.1. Any time the keyboard is on the screen, Android users can simply tap the speech input icon (or swipe across the keyboard) and then say what they want typed. The device displays the spoken words on the screen.

Android Keyboard

An app that takes advantage of speech input is the Merriam Dictionary app for iOS and Android. Users can search words by voice. This means that you don't have to know how to spell a word to look it up! The app also will pronounce the word, provides synonyms and antonyms, and contains sample sentences. Unfortunately, the free app also contains advertisements.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary App

An even more amazing app that features speech input is Google Translate for iOS and Android. The app translates words and phrases from more than 50 languages. For many languages, you can speak your phrases and hear the corresponding translations. Not only could this be useful for learning a language, but it could be a helpful communication tool for teachers, students, and parents who speak different languages. Translations can be displayed full screen by holding the device in landscape. Tapping a translation gives you the option to copy the text for use in other apps. As the comments to this post indicate, beware when relying on technology to communicate. You may not be expressing what you actually mean or the translation could turn out to be gibberish or offensive.

Google Translate

Of course, for speech input to work your device must have a microphone. Those with older iPod touches without built-in microphones can use Apple Earbuds with Microphone or very affordable mics from Amazon and DealExtreme. (sorry first generation iPod cannot use any kind of microphone). Going forward, pretty much all mobile devices will have built-in microphones because of features like speech input.

Microphone for iPod touch

Things to Know about Apps & Apple Devices

I've put together a list of things to know about iOS, apps, iTunes, and the App Store:

  • Some software programs for Apple handhelds (known as "apps") come preinstalled on every device, including Safari for web browsing, Mail for email, and Notes for text files.
  • You can download and install many more apps from the App Store. The App Store can be found in two places: in iTunes on Mac and Windows computers or in its own app on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.
  • The App Store is organized in categories, including Games, Education, Photography, and Productivity.
  • In addition to browsing categories, you can search the App Store. In iTunes you can perform a Power Search to filter results to free apps or a specific device. Alternatively, you can browse and search app at AppShopper.com. AppShopper's search results are more detailed than iTunes'.
  • Approximately 34% of all apps are free of charge and another 31% are 99¢. The average price for an app is $2.50.
  • You must have an iTunes account to download apps. For school sets of handhelds, it is recommended you create an account specifically for school. Typically Apple demands a credit card number to create an account. Follow these directions before creating an account and you won't be required to supply a credit card number.
  • Each app downloaded is associated with an iTunes account.
  • You can authorize up to five computers to use an iTunes account. An unlimited number of Apple handhelds can sync to a single computer.
  • A single computer can have more than one account authorized on it. This is different than being signed in. Authorizing multiple accounts allows for installation of apps that may have been downloaded while signed into different accounts. Authorize accounts from iTunes' Store menu.
  • Accounts authorized in iTunes are also authorized on the devices synced to that iTunes app Library.
  • Syncing an individual device to the same computer each time is ideal. Attempting to sync to a different computer than the original can result in data loss and extreme frustration.
  • You can sync multiple devices to one Mac or Windows computer simultaneously. There are options for carts, cases, and hubs to allow for connecting large numbers of devices to one computer.
  • iPad can run almost all iPhone/iPod touch apps. iPhone and iPod touch cannot run iPad-specific apps. Universal apps can run on all three kinds of devices and are denoted in the App Store with a + symbol.
  • Apps are updated periodically. Updates are free and often offer extra features and bug fixes.
  • Some apps require the latest version of the iOS. You can check to see if your device is running the latest release of iOS by connecting it to iTunes, clicking the device's Summary Tab, and click the Check for Update button.
  • Unlike music and movies, you can always re-download both free and paid apps from the App Store free of charge. Be sure you are signed into the iTunes account in which you originally bought the app.
  • Free and paid apps purchased in the App Store app on the Apple handheld are copied to the iTunes Library upon the next sync.
  • Periodically paid apps go on sale for free. For school sets of devices, be sure to document when apps are downloaded for free in case of a software audit.
  • I often share apps you may be interested in on Twitter. Oftentimes the apps I share are temporarily on sale, so download them while they are free or cheap. twitter.com/tonyvincent
  • Twitter users who reference an educational app frequently tag their tweets with #edapp. Searching Twitter for #edapp shows you these tweets all in one spot. Read more about #edapp.
  • Apple has different Terms & Conditions for educational institutions relating to paid apps. Apple expects U.S. education customers to purchase a license for each device a paid app will be installed on using the App Store Volume Purchase Program.
  • Apps can be organized into folders by tapping and holding one app until it jiggles. Then drop apps into existing folders or drop an app onto another to create a folder. Press the Home button when done.
  • Folders and icon positions are individual to each device. Unless you restore a device from the backup of another device, folder and icon positions have to be manually set on each handheld.
  • Deleting an app from the iTunes Library will also remove the app from any device which synchronizes with that library.
  • Delete apps on the device by tapping an holding one app's icon until all icons begin to jiggle. Tap the X next to an app's icon to delete the app. Press the Home button when done.
  • To prevent students from deleting apps, enable Restrictions and turn off Deleting Apps in the General section of the Settings app on each device.
  • To prevent students from logging into their own accounts and installing apps, enable Restrictions and turn off Installing Apps in the General section of the Settings app on each device. However, this will need to be turned off and back on each time you want to legitimately install apps, even through iTunes.
  • Double-tap the Home button to access a list of recently used applications and toggle among them.
  • Got a lot of apps? Tap the Home button while on your first screen of apps to access a search field where you can enter an app's name to launch it.

Four Student Response Systems

Class ClickersIf you've got a class set of computers or mobile devices, then you've got a student response system. Response systems sold to schools typically consist of a handheld remote, called a clicker, and software for managing students, questions, and answers. Rather than pay over $1,000 for a set of clickers, a WiFi-equipped classroom that already has iPod touches, iPads, netbooks, etc. (or invited students to bring their own) can turn those devices into a response system for much less.

Google Docs

Google Docs provides a free way to collect responses called Forms. The teacher creates a questionnaire for students to complete. Questions can be multiple choice, true/false, short answer, essay, or a scale. Once the form is completed, Google provides a very long URL that is much to long for anyone to manually type. So, forms can be linked from or embedded in a class web page. Alternatively, a URL shortener like j.mp, bit.ly, or tinyurl.com can be used to create a shorter web address that redirects to the obnoxiously long one. This way students can simply type the short URL in their device's browser to access the questions.

Google Form

The responses are collected in a spreadsheet the teacher accesses online. Google makes it easy to see responses in graphs by simply choosing Show summary of responses from the Form menu. With a Google Form, students are not required to respond at the same time. The questionnaire is online and ready for them any time they ready. For more information about using Google Docs as a student response system, view Radford University's video on YouTube.

Poll Everywhere

Another service that can be used as a student response system is Poll Everywhere. They have a nice Web interface that looks great on a laptop or mobile device. Poll Everywhere can also take responses through text messages. Students text in their answers to the teacher's question using identifying codes. Be aware that Poll Everywhere and Google Docs do not provide feedback to students since there is no way to indicate correct and incorrect answers. While there is a free Poll Everywhere plan for K-12 classrooms, the $50 per year plan gives teachers the ability to see individual student responses and to approve text-based responses before they appear for the whole class to see. Read more about Poll Everywhere.

Poll Everywhere


QuestionPress (formerly QuickieQ) is a 100% web-based audience and classroom response/assessment tool. This means that QuestionPress is accessible on any Internet connected device. Students can easily find and bookmark their teacher's QuestionPress URL. Alan Degener, QuestionPress' developer, writes more about the service:

QuestionPress is one of the few response web sites that allows you to offer a fully live session where you can control which questions are asked, when they are asked, in what order they are asked, and when and how results are sent to the responders’ screens. Questions can also be served at the responder’s pace with options that allow for the scores and correct answers being displayed upon completion.

Question Press Questions

You can use a prepared question set and/or create questions on-the-fly. Points can be assigned to all questions and QuestionPress can auto-score multiple choice, true/false, yes/no, short answer, fill in the blank, sorting, numeric, “images as answers”, and “check all that apply” problems. Other question types include essay, ranking, and file uploads. Dynamic questions with images can be created using a simple yet powerful WYSIWYG editor, which includes a math equation editor and grapher. Questions can be edited on-the-fly and questions created in a live session can be imported into question sets or used directly in future session. Question sets can be stored, organized and shared with others. Session results can be organized into folders and sessions can be reopened to help consolidate data.

Question Press Session

There are no responder accounts with QuestionPress, so students do not need to remember yet another login and password. Students can use student ids or other codes to protect privacy.

A standard QuestionPress license starts at 35-responders per session. Polling mode increases that limit 10 fold, allowing you to put polls up on your classroom web site. You can also use QuestionPress for homework since it is web-based and can run asynchronously. The email feature allows you to email results to responders when they finish the question set or you can add comments and annotations and send out emails later.

QuestionPress starts at just $24 for an annual 35-responder license. Larger license and multiple session licenses are optional. Group accounts are also available. For more information, a complete list of features, and to sign up for a free trial account go to questionpress.com.

eClicker Host

eClicker HostAn option for iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch using teachers is the eClicker Host app. Priced at $9.99, it's a very affordable solution because no subscription is required. Only the teacher needs the app; students can use any web browser or the free eClicker iOS app. Student devices need to be on the same WiFi network as the teacher's iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The app provides a URL for students to type into their browsers. Devices running the optional and free eClicker app automatically detect the teacher's device on the network running eClicker Host. If eClicker Host is running on iPad, up 64 responders can connect. For iPhone and iPod touch, the maximum is 32 responders.

Like QuestionPress, the teacher can control what question is displayed on students' screens. When the teacher moves to the next question, everyone's screens change at the same time to display the next question.

Teachers can compose multiple choice or true false questions on their mobile device or at eClicker.com. Sadly, eClicker does not support short answer or open-ended responses. I don't mind composing the questions on my iPad. I can even include images from my Photo Library or draw one within the app. Alternatively, questions can be edited on a computer at editor.eclicker.com by first creating an account within the eClicker Host app. When done editing, syncing your account updates the on your device. Teachers can even share question sets with one another via Bluetooth.

eClicker on iPad

eClicker has worked well for me for informal assessment. However, it does not have a management system where I can track students over time. It's not a quiz or evaluation tool. If you use eClicker, you'll notice that each question has a timer. I have not found a way to turn off the timer, which can be a distraction. eClicker Host lacks options, especially compared to QuestionPress. But, with fewer features, eClicker Host is streamlined and simplistic. Find out more about eClicker.

Response systems can improve attentiveness, increase knowledge retention, inform instruction, and provide immediate feedback. It's nice to have affordable choices. I've only highlighted on the four systems I've used myself. There are certainly many more. Which one to choose? Fortunately Google Docs and Poll Everywhere can be used for free, and QuestionPress has a free trial. There is no free version or trial for the eClicker Host app. If you have a favorite, please tell us about it in the comments.

Four Student Response Systems

Classroom clicker photo licensed under Creative Commons by Flickr user Kentucky Country Day.