Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Apple on Google: Gmail

Last week I posted about the valuable role of the iOS mail app. In more of a philosophical note on email, I like to compartmentalize my accounts. Particularly on my iPhone, I don't like to have my happiness disturbed by a work-related email while checking my personal Gmail for Facebook notifications or other enjoyable nonsense. The fact that the iOS Mail app automatically checks all of your added accounts, and can blend them into a All Mailboxes feed, makes it difficult to avoid such disturbances. So, instead of adding those work accounts, which in my case are also Gmail-based, to the Mail app, I prefer the Gmail app (free), which just got a very nice makeover from Google. In this way, I have to deliberately rather than accidentally check those email accounts. Not that my work is that stressful, I actually love it, it's just important to be present in the other aspects of life.

The new Gmail app has been praised for its minimalist design and light font choices, and it is indeed pretty pleasing! I also like that you can easily sign in from multiple accounts and switch between them.

The Gmail app. Facilitating my Zen. Except when I cave to an impulse to check it at the wrong time. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

iPad Essentials: iOS Mail App

The iOS Mail app is one that some avoid- perhaps not knowing how to use it, having privacy concerns or not seeing the reason why it is useful. I do find it an essential app for the purpose of file transfer, and often recommend that people at least add one account to Mail, even if its an account you create just for file transfer to and from your iPad. There are many iPad apps that allow you to share what you have created with the app; you might be interested in doing so to share with parents or colleagues or to email an item to print it from an account on a laptop or desktop. You would not be able to share this way unless there were an account added to the Mail app:

The Share button in the Photos app leads to this menu, from which you can email the photo (in this case an annotation in Skitch)
Additionally, as I have discussed here before, sometimes it is useful to email files TO your iPad, such as PDFs.  The process of accessing and opening such files is MUCH easier from the Mail app as opposed to navigating to your webmail in the Safari app.

So, how do you add an account to the Mail app? Open Settings, then Mail, Contacts, Calendars:

This screen also allows you to delete any accounts you have added.  Simply tap the account in question and there is a Delete Account button on the following screen.

To add a new account, tap Add Account.  The app makes this simple for us by allowing us to access protocols for common email providers:

Simply put in your username, password, and other simple information requested (name on account, name on account, e.g. "My Gmail") and you are all set.  Next time you go to share an item from an app, it will come FROM that account. If you want to move a file TO your iPad, mail it to that account and check your email in the Mail app.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Google on Apple (sort of): Calendar via Calendars by Readdle

Over the years, I don't know how many years exactly, I have discovered that I have a bit of a temporal concept problem. When communicating with others about dates and times, I constantly make mistakes. Wrong date, wrong time, wrong amount of time. When making plane or hotel accommodations, I have to sloooooow wayyyyyy dowwwwwn to ensure that I have the right dates, so I don't arrive someplace and have no reservation until the following day. Which I have done. At least twice. Interestingly enough, I am never late and rarely miss an appointment, but I think this is cause I am so terrified of doing so that I check everything 768 times.

For this reason, among others including some syncing problems, the iOS calendar just doesn't do it for me.  On both iPhone and iPad, it doesn't give me enough visual information to keep track of what is going on in my life. Especially not on iPhone, where if you have an appointment on a particular day, this is indicated by a non-eye-catching dot.

Dots are lame.

The iPad version gives one a bit more information, but I can't get over the skeuomorphism. Leather binding and torn paper are kinda goofy in a digital interface:

When I switched to a more open schedule this year, keeping track of my calendar became even more critical.  At an IEP meeting on a case I was consulting for, I saw that the director was using a colorful, very visual calendar, and probably too eagerly asked him what it was. Calendars by Readdle (currently $6.99 and very worth it) syncs your Google Calendar and very much mirrors the interface of Google's pretty powerful scheduling tool.  I love not only the look and feel but also the ease of use- tap the plus sign to add an appointment and all details, tap and drag to move the appointment (which, by the way, iOS calendar does not let you do). The app also naturally lets you see any calendars that have been shared with you (great for knowing where my cohorts are going to be) and displays the tasks list you access in Google Calendar as well, so I have my to-do's there! Check it out if you like Google Calendar, or consult on students who could benefit from visual calendars.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Google on Apple: Google Drive

While not the most fun-loving of Google's offerings, Google Drive is potentially hugely useful to all humans, including SLPs. This resource, formerly known as Google Docs and now confusingly renamed, allows you to upload documents, images and PDFs, and edit documents and spreadsheets (presentations and drawings too in the full web version) solo or collaboratively. The renaming of this whole shebang as Drive was timed with the addition of a downloadable app for Mac/PC that syncs to your account and keeps all the files on the computer as well. I ignore this feature and go on using Docs as I used to do. Dropbox is still the standard for the kind of file sharing this computer-lab-havoc-wreaking sync function Drive aspires to achieve.

"Docs," still of course a function of Drive, is a tool I have found myself utilizing as part of my direct and consultative services in all sorts of cases. It's a great way to share a graphic organizer with a student so he can access it electronically when getting down to writing. Additionally, it's a means to nudge a student toward some order in his organization of materials and workflow, as it allows you to access work from any computer or device, organize materials into electronic folders within one's (free or institutionally assigned) account, and share with other students, teachers or parents without the need for messy file attachments and emailing, all major pitfalls for our students.

Google Docs has historically not played well with iPad, but that situation is definitely improving with the Google Drive app released this past Fall. This free app gives you access to any Google Drive account, where you can upload/edit documents and spreadsheets (not presentations), organize by folders and manage sharing of files.

Google Drive app for iOS

Google Drive can be even more useful because, when installed, it will appear on the Open in menu. Here you see a graphic organizer I created on paper with a student to help map out his writing assignment. I used the DocScanner app to scan it, and sharing options include Open in (PDF) Google Drive.  This saved the visual support to his Drive account so he could access it when completing the writing assignment.  

How do you find Google Docs/Drive useful in your practice.  Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Google on Apple: Search is Language

Google is pretty much synonymous with search.  Though in the earlier days of the web, people went different places like Lycos, Yahoo, and Altavista, it's second nature for most of us to turn to Google nowadays when we have a question or need a resource. BING? Sorry, no.

The thing about web search, when you think of it...it's language. We ask a question and get an answer. The results can be a list, a description, a fact, a picture to describe.

Often, a search can be very helpful when we discover those pesky gaps in our students' world knowledge or vocabulary.

Most of us, including myself, probably turn most readily to the little Google field in the upper right corner of the Safari iPad app, which indeed does the job pretty handily. However, Google has been steadily improving its free (of course) Google Search app, and it now includes speech-to-text (Voice Search), regardless of the version of the iPad you are using.  Additionally, depending on the type of search you are making, the app will read aloud the results (so, text-to-speech), a feature related to what Google calls its Knowledge Graph, which helps zoom in on the most important facts about real-world items. Google gives us some ideas for the types of questions that work well with Voice Search.

To see how the Google Search app can be useful in your interventions, check out this terrific contextual demo centering around one of my favorite places: Cape Cod. I need to go to there right now. *Sigh* I hate January.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Google on Apple: YouTube

A frequently touched upon theme here on this blog is the usefulness of YouTube as a visual teaching tool, and it keeps evolving as a resource.  For example, recently with the iOS6 update, Apple removed the native YouTube app.  I had previously recommended Jasmine as a replacement, and this is still a perfectly nice app, but Google then produced their own new (free) YouTube app for iPhone and then updated it to be universal for iPad. You can, as always, still see YouTube videos in the Safari app as well.

The iPad app works as you would expect it to, and has a very nice, clean interface as many of the new Google apps do. The nifty addition of voice search (using the microphone in the upper right corner) and sign-in capabilities allowing you to subscribe to "channels" or add videos to playlists, are nice touches.  One of the issues when the native app disappeared is that many people, including families of kids with autism who used the app extensively to provide entertainment to their children, lost the "favorite" lists that were saved in that app and only in that app. With sign-in, all favorites will be saved to your Google account.

Google's New YouTube App
If YouTube is blocked at your school, or you do not have wifi access in your building, you can also consider saving YouTube videos for later viewing using apps such as PlayTube-Offline Player for YouTube (free). Simply search for a video and tap Cache, and the video will be saved for playing within the app, regardless of where you are.  Do keep in mind that caching video consumes storage on your device.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Google on Apple: Google Catalogs

Continuing this series on Google's offerings on iOS, here's an app I know many SLPs will LOVE.  Catalogs can provide a great therapy material, as they are visual, descriptive, personally relevant and motivating, and filled with categories!  Catalogs also provide contexts that stretch across many age levels and populations.  There have been a number of good posts about using catalogs in therapy; see Speech Time Fun for one and Speech Room News for another.

Google is naturally involved in the world of goods and services, but I find it interesting that they chose to create an app as interactive and creative as Google Catalogs (free). Google Catalogs lets you browse catalogs in a wide variety of categories, pinch to zoom and tap the tag to select items to view more information.

The truly cool thing about this app is that it goes beyond information consumption to become a creative tool. You can tap the heart icon to "Favorite" any item, and then go into a collage mode to create a picture array integrating your favorites with a themed background and text.  This creative capability allows SLPs to target categories, descriptive language, causals, conditionals and written expression, or have clients work within a budget to target functional math.

Ok, maybe I don't really NEED these things...

As you can see from the screenshot, the collage mode allows you to add items you have tagged as favorites (heart), text, change themes, and share the collage. Check out the app, and make sure you don't buy too much in the process.

Common Core Connection:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.1b Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Google on Apple: Google Maps

Toward the end of 2012, Google released a flurry of updates and new apps for iPad, many of them useful for SLPs. The Google-Apple connection should be of interest to us because, like it or not, Google provides some terrific services in communication, mapping, video and all-around information access that can help us in our jobs daily.

The connection between these two giants is famously tenuous, with Apple often acting like a jealous ex (unhappy about Google's foray into mobile technology with its Android platform). With the launch this past fall of its most recent operating system, iOS 6, Apple sort of kicked Google out of the house by removing the Google-based Maps app, as well as placing the native YouTube app on the curb. Apple's own foray into mapping (what you see when you open the Maps app after updating to iOS 6, which you hopefully have done, unless you have an iPad 1, and can't), with the exception of some pretty amazing 3D building imagery useful for taking kids on virtual field trips related to the curriculum, was a huge embarrassment. Apple Maps was even blamed for almost getting some people killed, when poor directions led to some strandings in the Australian Outback. So it is sort of like Apple had been dating some embarrassing people, while ignoring phone calls from eager-to-reconcile Google.

However, Google has continued sending gifts to Apple, and to its credit, Apple has not ignored the value of Google-based apps for iOS, and recently accepted a slew of them by approving the apps for downloading in the App Store, to everyone's benefit. It would have been a shame for iOS users to have gotten caught in the middle and not have iOS-worthy apps to access Google services or data on our devices.

To dispense with my extended dating drama metaphor, my main message in this new post is to encourage you to download the new Google Maps app (Free). Though for now (and I am sure, not for long) this is an iPhone app that runs in "compatibility mode" (i.e. it looks small on screen, and you can hit 2x to make it bigger), it is worthwhile to SLPs for several reasons:

-If you do have an iPhone, use Google Maps instead of the Maps app if you need to travel to provide any clinical services, and you are much less likely to have a data glitch that will result in your getting lost and/or saying a swear word. Via iPhone, the app has great turn-by-turn directions that also reduce your odds of having a crash!

-Google's maps data has been being developed for years and years and is a great resource for connecting with curriculum, geographic information, vocabulary and concepts and, finally...

-...the app provides you with an easy way to access Google Street View, a hugely rich resource for visuals and elicitation of descriptive language. Within the app, you can search for a particular location, then sweep up to access Street View, or tap and hold to insert a pin, then sweep up:

-Particularly cool in this release is the "look-around" feature (see icon on bottom left), which allows you to interact with the view by tilting or moving your iDevice left and right, a form of augmented reality.

-Google Street View can also be accessed in your Safari app (but without the look-around movement feature), and here's a great list from Google on some Street View sites, including interiors of buildings such as the White House and many art museums, places that aren't technically streets, such as the Amazon River, and even underwater reefs. Wow, that little Street View car has gotten advanced!

Coming up: Some other useful apps by Google!