Three apps to help your iPad dress up like a PC

Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is great. However, some of us have lots of our work living in the Windows environment. To help us out, many apps have been created for the Apple tablet to help us out.

I'm a PC
I'm a PC

Below are three free apps that try to bring a few more windows to the iPad.

  • PocketCloud – Pocket Cloud lets you access your work or home Windows PC via Remote Desktop. There are several other apps in the Apps Store that offer this functionality but for a fee. When you need to get to your computer using only an iPad, PocketCloud does the job nicely in a touch environment
  • CloudOn – CloudOn is an interesting new app that allows you access to the files in your DropBox account so you can edit them in a virtual version of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. The service was simple to set up but I did find editing documents to have a bit of lag.
  • OnLive Desktop – The OnLive Desktop app takes virtual computing a step farther for iPad users by giving you an entire Windows desktop (Start menu and all) to play with. OnLive Desktop gave me the smoothest transition back to the Windows world. Creating an account (and waiting for it to activate) took longer than I expected but it came with 2GB of free storage for all my Windows files. Editing documents in MS Office was much smoother than CloudOn and I found this app to be a great way to show off PowerPoint presentations.

I should be clear about one thing. None of the apps above will replace your Windows PC. You won’t have an iPad that runs Windows too. The apps above are close but some things are are just not the same in a touch environment. If you’re an iPad user who also runs Windows, all three apps above are worth taking a look at but don’t throw out your PC just yet.

When using QR codes, make sure your punch line is worth it

What is this?QR codes have been turning up everywhere from the billboard at the bus stop to the back of the ketchup bottle at your favorite restaurant. These blocky little squares are beefed up barcodes that anyone with a smartphone can scan.

We’re starting to see them pop up in classrooms too. We now have QR code scavenger hunts, periodic tables, and worksheets.

QR codes are great for passing long URLs to your students’ devices. I think they work best when you want to conceal information for a period of time while the students try to solve a problem you have given them. For example, let students scan the QR code for a hint on a difficult problem or create a guess and check bulletin board to review a recent lesson.

Scan and find your science teacher
Scan and find your science teacher

However, are they always worth the time? QR codes are not as quick as they’re name (quick response) makes them sound. They are not worth the time for short messages that your students could probably type in faster than scanning. They are especially slow if your students do not already have the app required to read the codes installed on their device. You risk losing your lesson tinkering with technology for technology sake.

McKee Floyd, director of brand development for Sweetgreen, said it best when he spoke with NPR:

The issue I have with QR codes is that marketing is a little bit like telling a joke, and the longer the joke, the better the punch line has to be — and [using] QR code is a really long joke

I think the same is true in the classroom. If you’re going to use QR codes with students, make sure your punch line is worth it.

Are you texting enough in school?

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in the spring:

Young adults are the most avid texters by a wide margin. Cell owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day—that works out to more than 3,200 texts per month—and the typical or median cell owner in this age group sends or receives 50 messages per day (or 1500 messages per month).

Here’s how the rest of the nation breaks down.

Who Texts
Wow! According to this table, I’m over 65!

Read the whole report.

This reminds me of a Dilbert I saw recently.

I’m with Dilbert, but our students are not.

Here are two ways to use text messaging with students:

  1. post announcements to Twitter and have students follow via text message
  2. use Google Voice to have students text their questions to your email

Convert that old hard copy with OCR

Despite my love for computers, I’m not strong when it comes to typing. The idea of retyping something makes me cringe.

That’s why I was so happy to stumble upon Online OCR.

Out with the old and in with the new
Out with the old and in with the new

Using optical character recognition (OCR), this site will take any old document that you’ve scanned in as a PDF and convert it to editable text.

Google can’t do this

Like many people, I often go to Google for answers. However, when you need to do calculations or access raw data, Wolfram Alpha easily beats Google.

For example, the other day I needed to know what date is 60 days after February 11th. Sure I could get a calendar and start counting but it only takes seconds to do this:

Below are a few of my other recent inquiries:

Start your own investigation or check out their examples to get an idea of Wolfram Alpha’s power.

What to do with Wordle

Have you tried Wordle?  If you provide the text, Wordle will create a word cloud that will display each word used in the source text in a font size based on the frequency that the word appears in the source. The more the word is used, the larger it appears. Take a look at Wordle’s gallery to see some examples.

Some have criticized Wordle by suggesting that Wordle’s only attribute is that it is eye-catching.

I’m okay with that. I can work with eye-catching. Below is a Wordle I made using all the text from a recent test.

Wordle the Test
Wordle the test at

A few days before the test, I shared this with my students. They were eager to hypothesize as to how words like “astronaut” or “gravy” would be used to access there knowledge of friction and momentum. Some student suggested possible questions that used the terms from the word cloud. A few of their questions were so good that I plan to use them next year.

While Woodle wasn’t able to teach physics, it was able to start a conversation. That’s perfect. I can take it from there.