Best Smart Phone apps 2017

Because we all need new smart phone apps! We do. Developers are highly productive and becoming more creative and so it pays to check from time to time to see if there are apps which will improve and enhance your life and productivity. Phones are becoming more the must have device because they can now control and manage so much as well as serve their function as a communications device. Both android and iPhone are offering some really good new apps this year. PCMag has 100 new apps for android phones you can have a look through . popularmechanics has 23 iPhone apps for your consideration and then the video offers some more. Have fun!

Virtual schools

There has been some talk about increasing online options for students. It needs to stay like that until clear and successful models have been established for online learning. There are then the issues around online learning in virtual schools like isolation, social engineering, social justice, care giving, duty of care, cyber and real life safety. It is going to come and it is going to happen but we are the ones who need to drive this because we want technology to work for us not for us to be entrapped and enslaved to technology. Of course it’s cheaper to run online schools. It saves about half the costs. That would make it an attractive option for some but we need to think about the other costs. It would suit some students well, you just know it. It would suit some teachers better. There is no longer a one size fits all so there is no reason to ignore the benefits of webinars, online conferencing and communication tools which we now have. It needs to be thoroughly thought out and planned and then carefully trialled.

Good online tools for learning provide quality content, report on progress, create local and global activities, allow work to be customised and set and then report on participation. They allow student and staff input , participation and feed back. They have a proven track record. Students can ignore all of that, though, and so someone needs to be monitoring participation and progress. SBS looked at Aurora Online school and its progress earlier this year. That is a school which runs synchronous online lessons. Victoria is running online schools in languages with some success. The Victorian virtual schools network is also running other online subjects via video conferencing tools. This keeps the people aspect of learning going. Babble has a parent point of view on virtual schools which is worth the read. Geoff Masters has written an excellent piece about the challenges for Australian schools and that looks at flexible learning arrangements. There has also been some useful research into the differences between online and traditional learning  by Joseph Cavanaugh and Stephen J Jacquemin. Kevin Gumienny  has looked  at what you really need to run successful online courses and has isolated the issues well. Not that you could ever quantify or objectify the lifelong impact of a teacher who has written on your life.

Online learning has to be targeted, effective and able to achieve its goal. It has to involve the learner and for that to happen it has to meet the needs of the learner . Participation both cerebrally and emotionally is important. A learner needs to have input and help. Online learning tools need to consult the learner about how to progress and improve the delivery. That two way conversation again – create content, share, gain feedback, improve.

Zen Colouring book

Zen colouringThe Jasmine Illustrator does not have a lot of views on her video but I like her approach. She is genuinely and naturally articulating her views about art and digital art, in particular , and has drawn some thoughtful comments because of her willingness to be open and honest. There has been quite a discussion about whether digital art is real or proper art. What about digital colouring? Does it have the same benefits as paper and pencil colouring? The benefits of colouring can be found on the net. Some of the main points are made on color-meanings which discusses the therapeutic benefits of coloring for adults. Lynda.com has a video interview with John Derry about the advantages of painting digitally. The Microsoft store has the Zen: colouring book for adults for free for Windows 10. You can purchase more images but there are plenty there to start with. I can use the really nice interface with a mouse. I think it would be easier with a graphics tablet or on a Windows touch screen. There are other versions of digital colouring books online if you are not using Windows 10. It’s handy to have something like this as a brain break or as something which will just let you sooth your thinking. The benefits you will find for yourself.

Emby

As I often do, I am putting up this post so I don’t lose my links to Emby because it is something I want to find out more about. It has a functional free version and then you can subscribe to the premium version with extra functionality of you want to. It is designed to organize all you media , including streaming media , across devices. Emby has parental controls if you need them and appears to read all the media files and then have a very workable user interface. It syncs and backs up your so no matter which device you are using you can access what you want from anywhere. Judge for yourself. The video and site explain what you need to know to see whether you are interested.

Nextpad

NextpadNextpad is a visually improved version of Windows 10 Notepad. Notepad is a simple text editor but you can use it for scripts, web page design, time logs  and text editing. I have often used it to sort out font mismatches. There are times where I have cut and pasted text and then the fonts won’t converge into one font. The quickest way around it is to copy and paste all the text into Notepad and then back into the document. You can then sort out the fonts easily. I also use Notepad too ,well,to  keep notes while I am working on something. It’s just quick and easy. The other advantage is the text files are small. Sometimes you are looking to save space for data. Nextpad operates like Notepad but has a really nice interface and I have put them next to each other in the picture so you can see. Nextpad integrates with your Windows colour scheme. You can contact the developers of Nextpad if you have ideas , want to give feedback or want to know the latest news on the app. It is free from the Windows store. The only negative I can see is you cannot appear to  time stamp it and sometimes that is needed.

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