Category Archives: apple

Top Ten Technologies of 2016

These are technologies that I actually use, they exclude web tools and services which I do a separate top ten for. They are generally tools that make my life easier, more efficient and more productive.

Here are my previous top tens from 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011201220132014 and 2015.

The tenth technology is my current workhorse computer is a Dell Latitude E7250 laptop running Windows 7, which is reasonably reliable, has a decent battery life.

Ninth is my new(ish) Canon printer the MG7752.

In eighth place is the iPad pro, which I like for the big screen. It’s an iPad, just bigger. Though the Apple Pencil adds a new dimension and I have found that aspect useful for sketchnoting.

Seventh place is the Apple TV which allows me to stream video from the Mac or my devices. Once I have fibre I expect it to be even more useful.

Sixth place is my Sony TV, which I am using a lot now for streaming video from services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer. As with the Apple TV, with fibre it will be more useful.

The tech in fifth place is the Polaroid Pogo Printer. This complements my manual note taking and allows me to add images, slides and diagrams to my notebooks. Now getting on a bit, it still has a place in my workflows.

MacBook Pro is number four. A really nice laptop that is fast, has a excellent retina screen and a great OS.

My iMac is in third place. Big 27” screen and still fast despite being a few years old now. Also a wonderful retina screen and a greatOS.

Like last year, 4G is my number two, having unlimited data on the phone means you don’t worry about streaming video, browsing web pages or uploading images to sites like Flickr. Only downside is that sometimes Apple (and others) restrict what you can do to wifi only, and as my home wifi is significantly slower this and I have unlimitedd data, for me this makes no sense.

In first place is my iPhone 6S Plus, A great phone, with a great screen and made really useful through the 4G connection. I like the camera. Having played with the iPhone 7 in an Apple Store I much prefer the physical home button of the 6S. I know not everyone likes the large screen of the Plus model, but I find it really easy to use, however the size can be a little cumbersome.

So that was my top ten technologies of 2016.

Emerged Technologies


Four years is a long time in technology, but how much has happened since 2011?

Back in November 2011 I was asked by the AoC to present at a conference with Donald Taylor on emerging technologies and how FE Colleges should be preparing for them.

My slides and Donald’s are in this slidedeck.

My notes from that presentation are here, but how much has changed since then and had education really embraced and started to embed these emerging technologies.

Continue reading Emerged Technologies

Did you know?

iOS devices

I was interested to see in the last few days that there were a number of people who were not aware of Apple’s Volume Purchase Programme.

The Volume Purchase Programme allows educational institutions to purchase iOS apps and books in volume and distribute them to students, teachers, administrators and employees.

I did post about this back in September last year when it finally arrived in the UK.

Institutions that weren’t aware of the Volume Purchase Programme would very likely have real issues with trying to manage class sets of iPads.

They could have just relied on free apps only, which was a pain if there were apps you wanted to buy or relied on in-app purchases.

Users could have been asked to spend their own money on apps, easy to do, but not everyone wanted or could afford to do this, and certainly wasn’t a practical solution on shared devices. It would also create difficulties with refunding people. It also meant that you would be “giving” people apps, which would create further problems in future years.

I was aware that some institutions decided to give users iTunes gift cards which were then used to buy apps. This did rely on trusting the users to buy the apps and not go out and buy music and films. As with refunding users, you were “giving” them apps.

It was certainly possible to create multiple iTunes user accounts and install apps on the devices, but this would have been an administrative nightmare with a huge number of iPads.

I suspect what most people were doing was to breach their iTunes agreement, buy an app once and then load it onto multiple devices. You can do this with your own devices, but according to the iTunes agreement this isn’t a viable option for educational devices.

Without the Volume Purchase Programme in place, we didn’t put in class sets of iPads as there wasn’t a practical method to get the apps people wanted onto the iPads. Virtually all the iPads we did buy were assigned to individuals.

Since the introduction of the Volume Purchase Programme we do have class sets and the Volume Purchase Programme has made it very easy to legally purchase apps for use on those class sets.

Find out more about the Apple Volume Purchase Programme.

Should I buy an Apple TV for my classroom?

Apple TV

I noticed the following tweet on the Twitter over the weekend and was inspired to reply.

This kind of response is just as short-sighted and blinkered as those by people who would say “buy an Apple TV”.

I agree with the sentiment that if we work within education, then we shouldn’t waste public money, but to assume that going down the Apple TV route is a waste of money, makes too many assumptions about the context.

So why all this “fuss” in the first place? What is the significance of AirPlay and as a result the discussion over Air Server and Apple TV.

One of the features that Apple have had for many years is the ability to stream media across your wireless network to a device on that network.

You could stream your iTunes audio to the original Airport Express, which was then connected to speakers (usually better speakers than the ones on the Mac) or speakers in a different room. This was known as AirTunes.

The name was changed to AirPlay in 2010 when it could be used to stream video content from your Mac. In 2011 with the release of the iPad 2 it was now possible to stream (mirror) your screen using AirPlay.

What then excited people in education was the ability to mirror your iPad (and now your Mac desktop) over the wireless network. This meant you didn’t need to worry about cables and you could hand round your device without needing to come up to the screen.

Additionally everyone with a device could use also use the technology could use it, so if all your learners had an iPad they could all stream their screens.

Though initially such a technology was restricted to Apple devices, it wasn’t long before developers came up with solutions for other devices.

Your PC could, through the use of Air Server act as an “Apple TV” and allow devices to Air Play or mirror their screens. Software such as Air Parrot allows older Macs and PCs to stream and mirror their screens to Apple TV.

So what was initially an Apple centric solution now didn’t need a single Apple device.

So what about that tweet?

Well if you already have a classroom setup, there is a PC, a projector then I agree an Apple TV is probably not the cheapest solution, I would also suspect that the projector doesn’t have an HDMI connection. In this instance and context then Air Server is the cheaper solution.

However this is not the only context and to say the Apple TV is a waste of money is not correct.

When equipping a new room, or replacing equipment, if you consider the cost of a PC, a projector, an IWB or an iPad, then compare that to the cost of an iPad, a TV and an Apple TV then the Apple TV solution would be a much cheaper solution. Add a wheeled stand to the TV and suddenly you have a mobile solution.

The important consideration when purchasing any equipment is not to favour one solution over another, but consider the context, what do you have already, what do you want to do, where are you going to do it.

In my libraries we have large plasma screens with a Mac mini underneath, in this instance we have gone down the Air Server route to allow us to stream through AirPlay. However if I already had the iPad and the screen, to buy a £499 Mac mini would cost a lot more than a £99 Apple TV.

It’s not about the technology, it’s about the context. Be informed and think about solutions.

MacBook Retina and HDMI

Left ports on MacBook Retina and HDMI

One of the features I really like about the MacBook Retina is the fact it comes with an HDMI port. Okay what I really like about it is the fantastic screen… but back to the HDMI port.

The Mac mini has had an HDMI port for a while now and we have been using them at work to power the plasma screen in the library. Self-contained it means we can show a whole range of different things on the screen, from movies to YouTube playlists, presentations and a browser. Very useful in the library for news and information and a great presentation tool to take the library out into the college (in the dining room or Freshers’ Fayre).

I demonstrate a fair bit of stuff at work and it has always been a bit of pain to connect my Mac to a projector, so much so it was often easier to bring in my own projector than use the one in the rooms I was presenting in. I would have used the Mac mini and the screen (as the screen was on a stand with wheels) however the problem was that I couldn’t see the screen and therefore would have had my back to the group.

Now that my Macbook has an HDMI port, I can now face the group and they can see what I am doing on the big screen. It has been pretty seamless and worked well… until recently.

I had my Macbook upgraded to Mountain Lion, in the main so I could use AirPlay to stream the screen to a TV via AppleTV. Alas though that worked, the HDMI port stopped working properly. It works fine with some screens with HDMI but not all.

I had hoped that the update to 10.8.2 would fix it, but it hasn’t. It is rather annoying.

What was happening was, you plugged in the HDMI cable and I then expected the screen to refresh as it changed resolution to match the external screen. What in fact was happening was that the screen would go all weird and wonky. Even restarting, with the HDMI cable plugged in, wouldn’t fix the issue. The MacBook starts off acting normally and then the screen goes “black” and stops working… it doesn’t change to the 1080p resolution that it is suppose to.

If you power cycle the screen, this has no impact. If you turn off the MacBook and turn it back on again, well the login screen “works”, but then after logging in, it no longer works as it should. I managed to get it to work once… but never again.

Hadn’t realised how much I had depended on it for delivering training. Of course HDMI on laptops is not a new thing, various PC laptops have had it for a while. For many classrooms I have found that unless you have a high powered projector then a screen is brighter and clearer for the audience. Some of the classrooms I work in also have very noisy old projectors, in these cases the screen works better too.

At this time, the only real solution appears to be replacing the screens!