UEN is located at the University of Utah

UEN is located at the University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

Monday, October 26, 2015

Steve Jobs - Movie Review

This weekend I had the pleasure of catching the new Steve Jobs bio-pic starring Michael Fassbender as the iconic Apple Computer founder and CEO.  Although the film is entertaining to Apple Fanboys like me, it may fall flat for the general movie goer, or worse for Windows Users!

Set over the entire life of Steve Jobs this movie concentrates on three specific events.  The unveiling of the first Mac Computer in 1985, the launch of Job's solo company NeXT in 1988, and finally the 1998 release of the first iMac and Jobs' return to Apple.  A personified camera approach follows Jobs through the preparation of each event highlighting personal conflicts with Apple Co-created Steve Wozniak played by Seth Rogen, Apple marking director and Jobs confidant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), and Apple CEO John Scully (Jeff Daniels).  Also present in the drama are Jobs' former high school girlfriend Chrissann Brennan (Katherine Waterson) and daughter Lisa Brennan.  Combining the drama of Jobs' paternitiy dispute with Brennan as Lisa's father and his "reality distortion field" in dealing with Apple colleagues, the film spins through the three events with a cache of flashbacks to summarize his controversial career. 

While Fassbender, Winslet, and Rogen all put on powerful performances, it does seem weird to see Kate Winslet stressing out backstage of an Apple event and not on a sinking ship.  Seth Rogen also surprises in a serious role where he continuously confronts Jobs about the poor treatment of the Apple II design team.  Three actresses portray Jobs' daughter "Lisa" as she learns how to deal with her father who describes himself as "broken" before declaring he will make a device that holds all of her music in her pocket.

If you're an Apple fan and love to learn about the bizarre character quirks of Jobs then you'll certainly enjoy this movie.  I will share, however, that this isn't a "big screen" movie.  Save your money for Star Wars Episode 7 and wait for Steve Jobs to hit Blu-Ray, or better yet - iTunes.  I have a feeling this flick would probably look best on an iPad.


Friday, September 11, 2015

The New Canvas User Interface Is Here!

If you've been using Canvas, the Learning Management System from Salt Lake based "Instructure" then you may have noticed a total overhaul to the way your user dashboard and class landing pages look.

Instructure released the news of their updated User Interface back in June 2015 at InstructureCon, but many School District and University Canvas Admins are just now turning on the new feature.  UEN, for example, updated their Canvas Interface at the end of August just in time for the start of fall online classes.

Look to the left!
Perhaps the best way to explain the changes to the Canvas interface is to think of it like crossing the street in England - always look to the left first.  That's where you'll find any real changes to the menus and quick links.

The Old Canvas Dashboard

Notice on the old Canvas dashboard that the quick links to Inbox, Settings, Logout and Help are all located in the upper right hand corner of the screen.  Recent Activity appears in the center and the To To List and Feedback all fall on the right side of the page.  All of these features are still available, but you'll need to look to the left for these items and more user friendly icons.

The New Canvas Dashboard

With the new interface the visual icons make finding things not only easier but also more intuitive.  Each class appears in a colorful square with shortcuts to announcements, assignments, and discussions under each box when necessary.  This will look very familiar to Google Classroom users!  If  you don't like the color of a class' square don't panic, you can adjust it on your screen by clicking the "cog" icon in the upper right hand corner to select a color you like better.  

The To Do list, Coming Up notifications and Recent Feedback are all on the right side of your screen just as they were on the old interface.  There's one more step, however, to logging out.  The Logout icon is gone from the top and instead you'll click "Account" from the left menu and then Logout from the pop out menu. (see below)

Other than these new features on the dashboard, the rest of the updates will be found once you dive into your courses.  Be aware that the course menu still remains on the left side of your screen, but the menu is interactive and browser responsive.  In other words, if you have your window size too small the menu will hide under the Dashboard Menu until you click the settings grill icon which also looks strikingly similar to that in Google Classroom.

The New Canvas Course Landing Page with Menu Hidden
Click on this "Hot Dog" or "Hamburger" icon to open the menu...

The New Canvas Course Landing Page with Menu Open

Once you get a chance to interact with the NEW Canvas User Interface you should find it to be a little more friendly than the old interface, and much more intuitive.  Personally I find it much easier to explain and demonstrate to new Canvas users.

If you need more help with the new interface be sure to check out the Canvas Guides demo at

100 - New Canvas User Interface Overview from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Twitter Chat Overload!

Participating in an EdChat on Twitter can be a lot like kayaking or mountain biking.  If it's your first time, you'll definitely be overwhelmed.  Things move at a very quick pace and trying to take it all in will send you flying over a waterfall or flipping over the handlebars, metaphorically speaking.

If you're new to Twitter and jump into an EdChat be prepared to let some things go.  Just like shooting down a river in a kayak you'll need to focus on what is in front of you and try your best not to be distracted by everything going on in your peripheral vision.

Imagine going into a staff meeting at your school and trying to follow all the things going on if everyone talked at the same time!  Impossible.

A twitter chat may seem like this at first.  You'll see questions and answers filling up your device, Tweetdeck or Twitter.com page faster than you can read.  The nice thing, however, is you don't have to listen to everything.  You can turn off the noise by only looking at specific people or specific hashtags.  In other words, pick and choose what you want to read and think about - don't try to do it all!  That would make about as much sense as trying to identify wildflowers while zooming down a mountain at 30 mph.

Here are a five tips for safely consuming all the incredible information coming at you at warp speed during an EdChat on Twitter:

1.  Don't jump into the deep end until you learn how to swim!
Believe it or not, you don't need to have a Twitter account to be on Twitter.  You can easily access a twitter user's page and tweets by going to the address www.twitter.com and then /their name.  For example, all of my tweets can be seen at www.twitter.com/edtechakk.  It's also possible to do the same thing to read over tweets that included a hashtag, check out https://twitter.com/hashtag/utedchat to see what's been happening with the Utah Ed Chat.

2.  Make it simple and just watch.
If you do have a Twitter account you can try following an Ed Chat by showing up on Twitter at the predetermined time and watching all the tweets fly.  You'll see tweets appear from the moderator with Q1:, Q2: etc before each question.  Participants will likely respond with A1:, A2:, and so forth.  If you see tweets with ideas you like go ahead and click the star button to favorite these tweets.  That way it will be easy for you to go back and look at your favorites at a later time when the EdChat is over or the pace has slowed down.

3.  When you're ready to participate try following some of the other participants.
It's one thing to favorite a few tweets, but you may start to find there are a few Tweeters that you really like.  Follow them!  Don't be afraid, simply click on their name or icon image.  If you are already following them you'll see the icon with "Following", and if not, click it!

4.  Use a tool to help control the pace and stay focused on specific topics.
TweetDeck is simple and free!  Install the app for your Mac or iOS device and then compartmentalize the flood of tweets.  It's easy to follow a hashtag, specific person, activity, direct messages, etc.

5.  Search previous EdChats to find resources you might have missed.
Many EdChat hosts will use the tool Storify to create an archive of the conversation.  A chat I recently hosted about balancing technology and teaching can be seen at https://storify.com/edtechakk/balancing-teaching-and-technology  If a Storify isn't available you always do a search for the EdChat's hashtag, like #utedchat, and then go back and read all the tweets that were made with that hashtag.

Now that you have an idea of what to expect and a few tools to use to make it easier to be a part of an EdChat on Twitter, here are a couple you might want to try out:

Utah EdChat = #utedchat
Wednesdays from 9-10 PM Mountain
Full Schedule here: http://www.ucet.org/utedchat/

EdChat = #edchat
Tuesdays from 7-8 AM Eastern
Get more info at http://edchat.pbworks.com/w/page/219908/FrontPage

EdTechChat = #edtechchat
Mondays from 8-9 PM Eastern
Hosts and topics are listed at http://edtechchat.wikispaces.com/

MDEdChat = #mdedchat
Tuesdays from 8-9 PM Eastern
Archives and info can be found at http://www.jaredwastler.com/#!mdedchat/c21qz

SATCHAT = #satchat
This one is hard to follow because it's on Saturdays from 7:30-8:30 AM
Catered to administrators, SatChat is explained in detail in the following Edutopia article:

And for more tips on hosting a Twitter Chat, check out https://blog.bufferapp.com/twitter-chat-101

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Destress Your Holidays with Evernote

Evernote is one of my favorite apps for my iPhone and Mac Computer because it's very easy to use and allows me to keep track of just about everything.  From notes, to calendar events, images, web clips, and even images from my iPhone - anything can be backed up, edited, and shared with Evernote.

Life is crazy enough in the 21st century, but during the Holiday Season things can get really out of control. Try some of these tips for using Evernote to "de-stress" the Holiday Chaos!

1.  To get started using Evernote go to www.evernote.com and create a free account. All you need is an email and a password.

The free version of the Evernote is all you'll need at first.  I've been using Evernote for over 5 years now and still haven't maxed out the monthly space allotment of 4GB.

2. Once you have an Evernote account, download the Evernote app for your Mac, iOS, Android or Windows phone and log in.

3.  Use Evernote on your Mobile Device to access notes created on your computer or add new notes.  You can even set up your Evernote app to allow images taken on your device to be uploaded to your online workspace.

4.  Once you're comfortable using Evernote to make your own notebooks you can also search for new notebooks created by Evernote and Evernote users, then add them to your collection.

For the holidays, be sure to check out the "Evernote Holiday Notebook" available at http://goo.gl/6TM4Qq.  Click the Join Notebook button to add this notebook to your account.

And now, here are some ideas for managing the holiday stress with Evernote:

- keep your shopping list current in notes
- keep your shopping list secret by encrypting the text! (Click here to see how)
- use Evernote Web Clipper to grab screenshots from online stores and add annotations
- take pictures of receipts to help keep track of your spending
- forward online shopping receipts to Evernote for safe keeping and budgeting
- find new recipes for Holiday parties and events in Evernote Food https://evernote.com/food/

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No changes are permanent...

Today is the last day I get to work with the Canyons School District Ed Tech team in the "Launch Pad".  This is a place that over the last year and a half I've learned so much about instructional technology, made friends, laughed until I cried, and got a lot of really good work done with really good people.

It's hard to leave.  Life is hard.  Well, it's hard if you're doing it right.  The challenges we face appear unsurmountable sometimes, but when you're surrounded by good people and friends it seems much easier.

EdTechs, you all know moving to Utah has been a big change for my family and I.  We're still going through changes.  It's hard.  Coming to work with you has made it almost manageable.  There's no way I can ever thank each of you for all that you've done.

I will miss the meetings, emails, messages about Sage, projects that just keep getting bigger, classes, workshops, everything.  I will miss the Sunday runs in Emigration Canyon, trips to the climbing gym, random hikes in the mountains, skiing, all of it.

Although we won't work together at CSD after this week, I look forward to UEN events, C-Forum, UCET, any excuse to spend time with you in the future.  Thank you for everything.  I don't know how else to say it without triggering an avalanche of emotions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

iPad Voice Over Feature & Encouraging Student iPad Misuse

Willow Springs Elementary School has six sets of iPads for classrooms where students use the devices as part of a 1:1 environment.  This means each student in these rooms has an iPad dedicated to their individual use for the entire school year.  In order to build a sense of ownership and responsibility for the iPads we encourage students to personalize them to best support their learning needs.  This can include everything from changing the backgrounds, to arranging apps, to setting accessibility options like text size or guided access.

Before you start to think that this is a blog post about how to turn on some of these features be aware that it isn't.  Instead, this is a reflection on how my perspective on student use of technology changed on a dime in a single second.  It involves students turning on the "Voice Over" feature, which if you've ever used you know it's not easy to turn off!

Heres the scenario...
It's a Friday afternoon and I get an email from the teacher.  "There are two iPads that we can't use in the classroom because every time we tap the screen it just highlights what you tapped and starts talking.  Please Help!"

There's no way I can get to the school until Monday so over the weekend this issue keeps creeping back into my head. What could that be? Why did it just turn on? Is there a glitch in the iOS 8 update?

Monday morning arrives and I grab the two iPads, turn them on and immediately recognize the Voice Over feature has been turned on.  The frustration isn't that the device is talking about everything I click on but that you have to triple tap anything you want to use.  Immediately I triple click the Settings Icon, wait for Siri to talk about Settings, then triple click on General, more talking, triple click on Accessibility, on and on until I get to the Voice Over feature and try to turn it off only to find out you can't.  The toggle switch resets itself back to on again and again.  The only way to turn off this feature is to find the "Triple Click Home Button" feature and set it for the Voice Over control and turn it off that way.  What a pain!

Ten minutes later I've fixed them both but my blood pressure is now 150/110.  Marching off to the classroom with the repaired iPads I'm trying to figure out if I should read the kids the riot act for turning on this feature or ask them how it happened.  The minute I see their faces I know it's best to ask what happened before losing my cool.

"Mr. B, can I speak to the two students who belong to these iPads out in the hallway?" I ask as he smiles at me knowing I'm annoyed with something. "And pay no attention to any crying you might hear" I add as the two boys and I walk out the door.

They look at me with wide eyes.  "Did you fix it?" one of them asks as the other looks at him with shock that his counterpart would actually ask me that.

"Fix it?  Is it broken? Why don't you tell me what happened to it first?" is my reply with a teacher voice, but no yelling of course - although I want to.  After all, turning Voice Over off on an iPad is a total pain in the you know what!

"Well, we were just checking out all the things it could do in the Accessibility features and started trying things out. We turned on Voice Over and then we couldn't turn it off.  I was afraid we would get in trouble so I just told Mr. B that it stopped working right." said the young man who was the first to ask if it was fixed.

That's when the switch in my head went from frustrated to epiphany.

This kid was afraid he would get in trouble for doing what I honestly wish more teachers would do.  Try things out!  Don't be afraid to click!  Troubleshoot!

"You're awesome." I say.  He smiles.  His friend's shoulders drop with relief.

"Let me show you how to fix this next time so that when one of your classmates or teachers accidentally turns this on, you can be the one to fix it."  The three of us hover over the iPads and start meddling with the settings, talking about different features, adjusting text size, etc.  Within 10 minutes I have two experts returning to their classroom with their iPads.

Before leaving I take a second to tell Mr. B that these boys know how to fix what went wrong and they can be a great resource the next time he has any iPad issues.  All smiles.

Walking off to the next classroom issue to resolve I find myself thinking, I can't wait to see what they mess up next.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The New Google Drive is Here!

Google Drive got a facelift, and some of the changes may surprise you!

If you're used to looking for documents and files in the "Shared with Me" folder, or making new items using the red "Create" button, then you're in for a rude awakening because they're gone!

Although the "Create" button is no longer at the ready for you to make new documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms, there is a new and easier way to build these files.   Click the "My Drive" drop down button and you'll see all your shortcuts are still there, just updated with cleaner pictures.

And when you want to find something that was shared with you be aware that the new name for these items are "Incoming".


Getting used to a new interface can be difficult.  If it's impeding your work or just too uncomfortable you can switch back to the "Old Drive" at anytime.  To do this click on the settings wheel in the upper right hand corner and choose "Leave the new Drive".

Switching back to the new Drive is just as easy.  Click the settings wheel in the upper right hand corner of your screen in the old Google Drive and select "Experience the new Drive"

If you are currently using the Google Drive app on an iPad you may find that the new Drive has a very similar appearance and might fit your visual preferences better than the old Google Drive interface. Folders and documents are displayed now in rectangular boxes with quick previews and other info.  In fact, all of the changes made to the online version of Google Drive were made to help insure that users of the mobile apps find the experience to be seamless.

Downloading Google Drive for your iPad is also pretty easy, go to Google Drive Tools and pick the device you're using.  On iPads you'll also need to download the free Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets apps to edit any of those Google Drive made files.

Note to CSD Docs users! - Our school domain for Google Drive is set up with a security system that may not work too well with the Mac and Windows Desktop apps for Google Drive.  Please use the standard log in at http://csddocs.org when you want to use Google Drive on your Mac or PC.

For more helpful tips on using the new Google Drive check out the Google Drive Help Website.

Once you get there be sure to watch this short intro video about the new Google Drive Experience.