Monday, April 23, 2012

No More Printing Albums For Me!

No more printing albums for me!  Just before Easter my husband surprised me with an iPad!

This is what the bookshelf that holds our Montessori primary albums looks like:

The black binders hold my Karen Tyler Montessori primary albums plus a few other odds and ends.  Now that Kal-El is transitioning to elementary, I would be due to print a full set of elementary albums, which I predict would take up 50% more space.

This is what my collection of Karen Tyler primary albums looks like on my iPad:

With one touch, any one of those albums will instantly be open to the page I left off.  (The ones that say "new" across the front simply haven't been opened yet.)  Not only does this take up a lot less space than the binders, but it is a lot less cumbersome.

Keep in mind that at the primary level I like to refer to the Montessori by Hand albums for sequence, theory,  philosophy, and tips but often use the presentation as given in the Karen Tyler album.  At the elementary level we've barely scratched the surface, but I might give a grammar presentation to the boys using the basic presentation from one album, the key experience text from another, and the primary version for Me Too from yet another.  What I'm saying, is there is a lot of flipping around...if the album is even printed that is.  For primary I printed ONE set of albums and left the others in digital format on my desktop computer.  Now, most of my albums are all in one place and I can switch from a page in one to a page in another with a few taps of my finger.

Right now I am simply using the iBooks program already on the iPad for reading these PDF albums.  That will change.  However, for now I have them organized by album author like this:

Sorry about the bad photos.  I am not a professional "technology photographer."  Anyway, I could have also organized them by subject if I wanted.

The iPad screen is large enough that all of the pages of all of my albums are usable without increasing the size.  Here are some examples of some pages from different albums:

Cultivating Dharma:  Geometry

Karen Tyler: Math

If I want things a little bigger, sometimes I just flip the iPad sideways and it changes automatically to landscape mode:

Karen Tyler, Math

Montessori by Hand:  Language

Also, I'm sure most of you are familiar with the cool Alice in Wonderlandesque feature of tablets and smart phones that allows you to use your fingers to pinch things larger and smaller.

You can open up any picture or graphic to full-screen by double-tapping on it:

Lets say, for example, you want a closer look at that graph in this Cultivating Dharma math album:

There it is!

Very, very soon I will be adding an app to the iPad that will make using these PDF's even more fun.  It's called iAnnotate and for about $10 it will allow me to highlight, take notes, and write all over these albums with a stylus:

Beyond the albums, there are a lot of other ways I have already been using this tablet in the classroom. For example, I tend to pull up a lot of videos on YouTube to enhance certain topics (those that I cannot present directly in any other way) for the boys.  For example, we'll watch a two-minute video that shows a snake swallowing a mouse or a kangaroo boxing.  The BBC has a lot of great quality animal videos on YouTube.  Now we don't have to leave the classroom to do so.  This is helpful because sometimes leaving the room to watch a quick clip will inadvertently end their work if something else lying around the house catches their eye.  Here is a picture of the Ipad propped up with the attached "smart cover" showing a BBC video:

The sound is really good by the way. Which brings me to my next point, I can also pull up any music I need.  You might remember this post that I wrote about my favorite audio resources.  We really didn't have a good way to use them inside the school room.  I was playing everything off of our desktop computer in our office and turning it up loud enough to hear all over the house.

When I head to the coffee shop to study Montessori, now I can have access to ALL of my albums at once plus access to online videos of presentations if I wish, and the internet in general.  I did upload the Kindle app, so I also have access to a lot of Montessori books I own in Kindle format.  Don't forget, many of Maria Montessori's books are available online as PDF's and not Kindle format so I now have access to both.

Which brings me to a big question.  Can you do this on a Kindle?  The answer is "no."  I originally bought a Kindle Touch for this purpose, tried it for one week, and returned it.  The Kindle pdf reader, used on ALL Kindle devices included the "Fire," is AWFUL.  You can upload the albums and see the whole page at once on the screen with the original formatting but it has all kinds of problems.

  1. The Kindle screen size is much smaller so you can't read the text.
  2. You cannot increase the size of a document that isn't in Kindle format.
  3. You cannot change to landscape view.
  4. It can't handle large pdf's, it freezes and crashes nearly every time.
  5. Not a biggie, but unless you have the Kindle Fire, there is no color.

You can convert any pdf to Kindle format by e-mailing the file to your Kindle e-mail account with the word "convert" in the subject line.  This will fix the freezing/crashing problem and change the text to a "flow" that is more readable and allows you to use the Kindle font increase operations.  However, you loose all the formatting and graphics that are not an inserted jpg.  So imagine a page like this one with all the graphics gone as well as the spacing of the numbered list and possibly the numbers as well:

Not usable.

The iPad is certainly the most expensive way to get into a tablet for this purpose.  There are other brands of tablets available at a lot of different price points.  Our desktop computer is a Mac so we elected to not complicate our lives with a PC device.  Keep in mind, I have been gearing up to either print a full set of elementary albums or have them printed.  I estimate that this was going to cost at least $200.

Let me also say that I have only scratched the surface of what this can do in the classroom.  Not only am I not carrying around a stack of binders, but I no longer have to carry around the camera for the blog.  It takes good-quality pictures and video.

I haven't explored all of the apps available and am mostly still just using what it came with, but I can take notes on it while the boys are working or while I'm reading a book or album:

I can also create lists of presentations I am ready to give and check them off as I go:

There is one thing I will NOT be using the iPad for in the school room:  the boys will not be doing any work on it.  They will not be using the Montessori iPad apps; they won't be playing educational games.  I am teaching them how computers can be carefully used as a mobile library and probably at some point in the future they will do research online. Otherwise, I am keeping them off the computer.

There is a great chapter on the effects of video games on boys' motivation and connectedness with the real world in Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.    If you have a copy of Angeline Stoll Lillard's Montessori:  The Science Behind the Genius lying around (mine's on my iPad), she articulates her thoughts on the place of computers in classroom much more eloquently than I would be able on pages 335-336.  This post is plenty long already, but I'll post those paragraphs separately later this week.

UPDATE:  I did buy and install iAnnotate shortly after writing this post.  It works beautifully.  I write on my albums with a stylus, bookmark pages, etc.,  The BEST feature compared to iBooks is that you can have multiple albums "open" at the same time (like having multiple tabs open on your web browser) and I can tap back and forth between albums easily.  This is a great feature when you own multiple sets of albums, like I do, and want to compare presentations.

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  1. THAT is so neat!

    I'm almost tempted to get one now! Almost.... ;) Christmas is only another 8 months away.... ;)

  2. I love our iPad. I never realized I could put my albums on it like that so thank you. How do you get them from your computer to your iPad?

    Do you put the albums on itunes and then transfer them from there?

  3. The girl who painted trees:

    You nailed it! I put them in itunes and they automatically move to the ipad when I sync.

  4. WOW!!!! I am so jelous! That is so cool! Having albums all at your finger tips is so awesome! No more binders! Wow! I also love that you can use it for video and stuff in the classroom! Thanks for sharing how it all works together!

  5. I did not know about the app to write notes on the pdf's. Thank you!
    It never occurred to me to put the albums on the iPad. You are so smart and resourceful.
    Thank you for sharing!

  6. This is awesome! How exciting that technology can make teaching so much easier! If I were still teaching or homeschooling, I would definitely go this route. I tend to keep my online albums on my desktop and laptop computers as it is. Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page:

  7. I don't know how I missed this post but I'm going out of mind about this. Just sent the link to the post to the Mr. because it makes a much better case for getting one than I do :)

    Crossing my fingers for Mother's Day...

  8. I received a kindle fire he as a gift just recently & am happy to share with your readers that the newest versions now work similarly to what you've described with the iPad. For my purposes, the smaller size is preferred as it fits nicely in my medium-sized purses/bags. The price point might be more agreeable to some budgets so I thought I would share the update.

  9. Did you ever switch to something other than iBooks?

    1. Yes, I switched to iAnnotate as planned and it works really well.

  10. I have been trying to download my Keys of the Universe albums forever. Did you just click and drag the files to the iTunes icon? Nothing happens when I do that, so I thought there may be a step I am missing. Thank you!

    1. A couple of ideas. I've always done this on my desktop computer and then got the albums on my iPad when I sync to my desktop.. I don't know how to do this directly on the iPad.

      Then, even on my desktop, I never tried dragging it directly to iTunes/iBooks. I always dragged them to a folder on my desktop THEN to iTunes.

      Also, if you Mac is updated, iTunes is just for music now. Books have to be dragged to iBooks. That could be the problem.

      And, of course, that just puts things on your desktop. If you want it on your device you'll have to sync your device to your desktop computer.

      I'll bet this can all be done directly on the tablet, I just don' t know how.

  11. Thank you so much! Now I have some new things to try anyway. Yes, iTunes is updated, I looked and looked for the book section. :) Glad I am not completely stupid.

  12. OK, this is what worked for any other non techie people like me. At the top of the opened pdf file in Adobe, there is a cloud with an arrow symbol that with upload the pdf to Then you can log into Acrobat from your iPad and download the file. Once downloaded if you touch the screen and an option to open in ibooks will pop up. :)

  13. Email the PDF to yourself, open the PDF file from the email app on the iPad, and then "open in iBooks" or other app. That is the easiest way to get the items from your desktop to your iPad. If you do not have home wifi you will have to do the old method of syncing...