Winter Break Challenge – Zoombla 2.0

About a year ago I created my first app for the iPhone and as I am reviewing my notes I realize that I missed some of the updates that I promised.  I am also getting messages from Apple that I should think about upgrading my app to work on newer iOS platforms such as iOS8.  I am writing you to make you aware of my Winter Break Challenge as I float into the holiday season, and I wanted to make you aware of it to keep my plans honest, transparent, and accountable.  Consequently, I will update Zoombla to Zoombla 2.0 for the die hard fans.  It will be free to you, and I hope we gain a new audience so you can continue playing your math game with family, friends, and maybe one day new acquaintances.  Thanks for all of your support of my apps this year.  2014 has been an amazing year.  I will publish again when it is done.  At the moment it looks like it will be a SpriteKit App as I am really enjoying the added user interface of the SpriteKit platform.

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Hour of Code

Although I have been busy with a new position in instructional design for online education at a community college, I want to continue to add educational technology posts at this site and keep you posted of great ideas out there.  As a part time developer of educational apps for the iPad and iPhone (iOS platform) and as a coder of Objective C, SpriteKit, Cocoa Touch, and many other Frameworks, it would not have been possible to have released my apps on the App Store at Apple without studying computer programming. There are many applications of computer programming in today’s world as you will see in the video.  I hope this Hour of Code Video inspires you to consider using their materials in your classroom or at the very least to promote these services to your students.

Designing Apps for Education

When I went into the field of educational technology full time, I knew I wanted to create, design, develop, troubleshoot, and release great learning modules for students and modern learners.  This past year I have had the great opportunity to hone my skills in iOS development for the iPad and the Iphone, and with the success of FIND CALCULATE COLOR, I see more apps on the horizon.  ( There is a free version that can be sampled should you want to try it out. )

Creating an App from design to production is a very rewarding experience, and with each new creation I am learning more about the design and development process and how the iOS apps can be harnessed for speed and the ultimate intuitive user experience.  Apple truly has a platform that allows a small business to thrive in a very competitive world or is it?

My apps are truly educationally focused first.  I don’t add Zombie’s for flair, and I try to meet a clear learning objective without trying to teach the entire curriculum.  I think there is much room for great educational apps that can be placed on the iPad growth within our educational systems.  I want to thank you for supporting Absolutely Learning this year.  It has made a world of difference to me and my personal attempt to put a positive stamp on this digital world.

An Instructional Design Specialist

EDTEC Thoughts for Dedicated Readers and EDTEC Enthusiasts

 

English: Costco in Moncton, New BrunswickThese past two months have been complicated with job interviews, conferences, clients, and iOS7 application development, and I missed the mark in regards to writing on a weekly basis.  In efforts to sincerely apologize, I want to give you an easy list of top ten current thoughts for the past two months this Spring of 2014.  This is for my dedicated readers of this blog and other educational technology enthusiasts.  As always this list is full of my professional observations and opinions.

1.  Windows 8.1 computers that are purchased at Costco are a great choice to recommend as they have been well-tested.  I have set up two of these computers recently for clients.  One was an HP All in One, and the other was an HP Laptop.  Clients were satisfied with price, functionality, and touch screen.

2.  Based upon years of experience, I believe that Apple Computer products in schools will run more efficiently with less need for maintenance than a PC Environment.  While I believe in great computers whether PC or MAC, I believe there will be less cost on maintenance and repair in an Apple campus, and I believe those savings will outweigh the initial startup costs of Apple products.  Students, Faculty, Parents, and Support Staff are usually happier too as they can spend more time on the creative learning and application to subject matter.

3.  I had the pleasure of testing Lenovo laptops at a recent conference, and they are well worth considering for PC users and PC organizations. Look at the Lenovo Yoga and the Lenovo Thinkpad series.  I don’t believe they are sold at Costco, but they have great deals for educators at their site.  If you have never heard of Lenovo then just remember that it is the old IBM brand.

4.  3D printing has great applications to the modern classroom for science, mathematics, architecture, and sculpting.  I would suggest that schools invest in a 3D printer and that they find ways to use it in their curriculum.

5.  Blogging is here to stay, and it is a great record for student portfolios.  They can be made private, public, or in combinations to be shared with educators, scholarship advisers, donors, admissions representatives, and select users if privacy is a concern.

6.  I hope you have heard of Google Apps for education, and I hope you have explored Outlook.com and One Drive from Microsoft.  Both of these organizations are offering a great way to create, store, access anywhere, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  There are free versions for individuals and better free versions for educational communities.  Most people who are familiar with MS Office will be happy with One Drive.

7.  Robotics is a great program to support, teach, and advise, and students can participate in competitions with big rewards.  Get Started Today!

8.  Computer programming jobs will continue to be available in the future as hardware technologies improve and as consumers demand the ease of product usage.  Why we don’t teach more computer programming in our schools is beyond my comprehension.  The students with computer programming backgrounds will be able to develop their ideas into prototypes in the future that will bring about new business for the US and the world.

9.  I am still going to have a shameless plug for Zoombla, a math app for ages 8 and above.  It is definitely not Zombie Math, but it will definitely force students to use and practice math skills.  It also encourages face to face competition so that students are still communicating and using real time social skills in the classroom.  Zoombla – Matt Moore

10.  An entire generation uses facetime, skype, and gaming devices such as the Xbox and Wii to video conference daily, yet I still see a lot of schools not using video conferencing for educational purposes.  Teachers should reach out to real time meetings with subject matter experts, authors, universities, and or other schools in distant locations.  Why not?  Isn’t collaboration a 21st century skill?

Have a great Spring!  Perhaps I will find time to elaborate in the future.  As always I appreciate your comments, suggestions, and advice.

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Next computer? What to buy?

I am frequently asked by students, teachers, parents, and friends where to buy the next computer and what model should be purchased.  In the past this was a daunting question for me because I felt that a good model for me was not necessarily the best model for the average user and I was concerned that if I chose the wrong model for the user that I was somehow responsible for their success or failure with a new computer device.  Today, however, I ask a few questions to help them determine their needs;  I teach them about current models and options; and I expect them to help make the final decision.  I expect the user to reach an educated conclusion.

The first question that I ask is how portable do you need to be.   Tablets today are a great option for the average user because the portability can’t be beat.  However, tablets are not currently great devices for heavy processing and high end development such as video production or intense graphic development.  Tablets usually require additional newer technologies to connect to externals such as printers, projectors, and more storage.  Today, the laptop option is usually suitable for the more complex processing needs such as computer programming, animation development, graphics, and video.  If portability is not important then I refer users to all in one type computers such as those from HP and MAC.

The second question I like to ask is the PC or MAC question.  I remind potential PC users that while the device is more common, more compatible, and usually more inexpensive on the front end there are some costs associated with PC’s such as support, viruses, frequent updates, and software expenses.  The downtime alone on a PC can be costly and should be clearly discussed.  The MAC environment has a better track record for support issues and while the software can be expensive there are some very enticing free programs that come with the operating system.  I have used great models on both platforms, but I am trending personally toward a MAC environment at home due to the countless hours of time saved via no support issues.  However, I do like to remind people that I favor good computers, and I am not brand name loyal.

The third question that I ask is about the research that they have completed.  Frequently little to no research has been started by a user, and they are looking for a quick fix.  Consequently, I point them in the direction of Consumer Reports and Costco.  Consumer Reports has a great process for evaluating the best computers and then compares them side by side in nice charts to help you see how much you want to spend and how effective and efficient they are.  I have found Consumer Reports very reliable.  I have also found that the Costco computer department follows standards similar to Consumer Reports, and I usually recommend the computers that are on both reports to make it easy for the user.  Costco tests their devices too before purchasing in bulk so there are few models.  Those models are usually quite reliable and current.  If you are buying a MAC then I simply recommend buying it online from the Apple store in order to save some money.  Mac prices do not fluctuate in price due to that fact that they have a stronger control over where the new MACs are sold.

Finally I remind users that this is a major purchase like purchasing a car, and you should expect to use it for at least three years without problems and that the user should be actively involved in the process.  It is going to be your device that you will take to family events, the work place, and cafes.  Don’t leave everything up to the sales person.  I have been in many stores where sales persons have told me things that were completely wrong, perhaps fabricated, poorly researched, or simply hid the fact that they did not know the answer to a tech question.  I won’t reveal those store names, but I will caution you that there are many models of computers that are still in testing phases and should have never been released to the public.  Computer Science is a practice of trial and error, but business has a responsibility to the consumer.  So I recommend that you do your research and take the advice from Consumer Reports and Costco as a starting point if not a purchasing point.  More reviews are better than one, and I am not going to tell you what to buy.   Please do contact me with unique purchases that you make along your journey, and let me know if there are better reports that what I am recommending.

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How to play Zoombla, a math app for ages 8 and up

As Zoombla is my first app on the Apple App Store, I am receiving a lot of good feedback about how to improve it.  But I am also finding that some don’t understand its main benefit so I wanted to review the benefits of its design for teachers, parents, and students.  First, it is a math game with endless solutions.  It is not right or wrong.  There are many ways to win the game, and thus it provides competition and more fun when played head to head with two or more players.  It is also designed to help students think about math and not necessarily be right or wrong along the way, but to use and see math for a real purpose.

The five random cards that are produced each round can be used in a variety of ways to reach the target number.  Participants who use all operations and operands should be awarded more points, but I left the game open ended so that students and families could find creative ways to play and apply points to the game.  So while our natural inclination is to search for specific right and wrong answers.  Zoombla gives you a problem to which you apply creative math solutions and have fun with how you want to score the results.  Every solution should be rewarded as some are more challenging than others, and I wanted students and players to talk with each other instead of only facing some unknown on-line participant.

I have added a video link below that is currently on Youtube, and I hope it helps better explain the game.  I would also appreciate your suggestions for improvement.  In fact if you send me a direct review to my email (matt@mattmoore.net), I can send you a free promotional code so that you can give the app to a friend or a colleague.  As I finish my studies of Core Data, I am also beginning to find data game ideas such as State Facts Games etc.  If you have an idea that you would to see developed on the iPhone and iPad, let me know and I can give you a free copy of it if I design and develop it.

 

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