Yik Yak

From my poll that was conducted last week, I will put together a blurb about each of the apps for which you voted.  In addition to a review of the app or site, I hope to find something positive to share about the featured app or site.

Yik Yak

This week my focus is Yik Yak.

In a nutshell, Yik Yak is an app that allows anonymous posts to appear
on a message board.  The message board uses GPS and allows messages
from approximately a 30 mile radius to appear on the user’s feed.
There is no log in for this app which makes the app completely

Yik Yak has been meant for colleges but it has been making it way into
high schools and middle schools.  The app was developed as a way to
encourage the quiet students to be a bit more vocal, “Because that guy
in the back row of your science class might be the funniest guy you
never heard.” said Buffington, one of the creators of Yik Yak.  It is
also mean to be a “Virtual Bulletin Board” and by using GPS this app
can update your feed with “Yaks” that are within a certain proximity
to your mobile device.

Recently, the Yik Yak app came under fire because of its use on high
school campuses.  Students were using the app to cyber-bully other
students.  Once the creators of Yik Yak heard about this, they became
very concerned.  What Buffington and Droll (the creators of Yik Yak)
did next was very commendable.  They contacted Apple to see if they
could get an expedited review of their app and updated it to a 17+ age
limit; Apple obliged.  The reason why this is so important is because
parents can set restrictions on their child’s iPad/iPhone or iPod
Touch. These restriction allow parents to enable a function that will
prevent their kids from downloading apps that have 17+ ratings.

However, even with the 17+ rating, our students are not in the clear.
Parents need to take an active role in knowing what their child is
doing on and off line. Setting restrictions on the device is a great
step in the right direction however, having regular conversations
about what is going with your child and being an active participant
is the best solution.

….with a little help from my friends


Below is a WordPress poll that I would love for you to fill out to help me spark some creativity.  I would like to know what you want to learn so that I can focus my next blog on something that interests you.  If your choice is not listed, then please write in your choice.

Turn It Off

D  is co n n ec  t

With Spring Break right around the corner, take some time to encourage your child to turn off the MacBook, iPad, iPhone or whatever device he or she uses regularly.  Have a conversation without the interruptions, unfold a board game or read a book. With this warm weather we experienced this past Monday, I rediscovered how much I love throwing the baseball with my children.

Here is an older blog post I wrote about 2 years ago that I updated with some newer activities that we do with our children.  Please keep in mind that we probably won’t take an entire week off of technology with Spring Break upon us, but will go a few days at time with out it.

It is my job to love technology and I do, every bit of it.  Each week I come up with a new tech tip for the Middle School’s Friday Footnotes, which I am always excited to share with all of you. My tech tip this week is: Turn It Off

As a family we decided to be tech free this past week.  No computer, no iPad, no Leapster, no texting, no Words with Friends, no Candy Crush.  Many kids are overcome by the excitement of technology and my kids are no exception. We have opened their eyes to interactive books on the iPad, drawing activities on the Leapster and fantastic games on pbskids.org (not to mention my son religiously watches Packer and Brewer highlights online).  None of these activities are detrimental to my children’s’ health, quite the opposite, but with the excitement of technology comes the possibility of dependency. The long and short of it is that my kids want to use tech devices more than we are comfortable with.  Plus, my wife and I aren’t always the best models of limited technology use. So we turned it off, all week, and it was great. We live in a technological world which I love, but what I love more is reading books, playing Zingo and Yahtzee, Tenzi, doing puzzles, building forts, playing invisible football and laundry basket basketball, being a client in my daughter’s hair salon or singing every song from the Frozen soundtrack at the top of our lungs.  

Technology will always be a big part of our lives and I get excited about what it offers my children.  But it is refreshing to step back, slow down and simplify. And that is why we turned it off.



This weekend I was looking for an app to record only audio.  There are plenty of apps out there that will record audio and video, but I strictly wanted audio.  I also wanted it to be very simple to use.

So, I did a little digging.

The apps that I discovered were iTalk Recorder and Voice Recorder HD.

iTalk Recorder was a very nice app and has a very easy to use interface.  But what it didn’t have was a place to store the recording.  I could email the recording to myself and then upload it to a webserver of some sort and then share it…WAY TO CUMBERSOME!

The second app I looked at was Voice Recorder HD. This was a very nice app.  However, this free app had advertisements galore.  One aspect that I thought was a true positive was that it had the ability to save recording to Google Drive and to DropBox.  All in all a good app but the ads need to go away and the user interface needs to be simpler.  If I was working with this app and students, the ads would be a distraction.

I looked a bit more and came across Croak.it! Now this app is exactly what I was looking for.  It is perfect.  It is easy.  It stores the recoded audio onto its own server and can automatically generate a link, which makes it simple to add a recording to a blog or a webpage.    Each recording can only be 30 seconds in length.  You might say, only thirty seconds, however, think about thirty seconds, that is a long time.

Absolutely my favorite part about Croak.it! is that it is well within my price range…FREE!

Check it out!

If You Think You’re Anonymous Online, Think Again

If You Think You’re Anonymous Online, Think Again

I just listened to this really great piece on NPR.  Julia Angwin was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.  She is now writing for an independent news organization ProPublica.

It is quite alarming how much information that is gathered about a person digitally.  From how many Google searches are done in a specific time frame and from what you are purchasing on-line.

One very interesting statement that I found was that each time you land on a page on the internet, you are being tracked and also your identity is being auctioned by a data broker.  Records are getting much more precise so that retailers and data brokers can then customize ads for you within seconds.

Did you know that the most used password for the past decade has been 123456.  Now that is a terrible password.  If you have that password, I apologies for calling you out, but it is time to change it. You will get hacked…it is only a matter of time.

Is Free Wi-Fi really free?  Breaking up with Google…why?  Listen to Ms. Angwin’s answer.

What is Duck, Duck, Go?

I love that Ms. Angwin uses the term “Burner Phone”.  If you are a House of Cards or Wired fan, you will know what that means, but if you do not,  listen to find out.

Now do I think that Mr. Angwin is a bit extreme?  Yes, yes I do.  Do I think we should be this extreme? No, but I do think that there are many ways that we can take better care of our digital identity.  The bottom line for me is that this will only get worse and that most people will continue “Business as Usual!”

Thanks for reading and listening.


Research, research and more research… that is what I did to get USM’s first ever Genius Hour course off the ground. Pair that with a good deal of support and I was able to get moving.  Here’s how.

The class I teach is very fun and interesting, but when I started to feel my excitement level fading, I decided to take a step back and dream it all up again. I went right to my source for ideas…Twitter.  I searched out #GeniusHour and read, read and read some more.  I came across wonderful websites that inspired me to jump in and give it a try.  During my research I found a highly  inspirational youtube video from Kid President that not only pumped me up but served as an awesome kick-off  to my introduction of Genius Hour.

I also decided to poll my middle school colleagues, family and friends to see what they would do if they had a “genius hour,” an hour every other day to work on a project for which they felt passionate. The students in my class were very interested to know the interests and passions of their middle school teachers.  Most of them couldn’t believe that their teachers had interests aside from the subjects that they taught!

The introduction of the genius hour has also opened my eyes to projects that I have always wanted to pursue.  One of the projects that I found to be right up my alley was remixing music using Garage Band.  This project piqued my interest because I have a great appreciation for music (and always thought that I had a face for radio)!  While teaching a student to import music from iTunes into Garage Band I learned that, like me, that student had a fondness for vinyl.  With this in mind we worked together to find a turntable (thanks, Ms. Walczak) and then proceeded to learn how to import music from vinyl into Garage Band. Many students were quite intrigued by the turntable. In fact, one student asked me if it was “new technology,” which made me laugh…and cry. Just bringing this piece of equipment into the Maker Space brought up some great questions, like, “How does that work?”, and “Your receiver has a phono input…what is that?” and “You flip it over to hear more music? Crazy!”

All in all, the first two weeks of Genius Hour has been very exciting.  Not only am I re-energized by this class, I think the students are learning much more by driving their learning.  It has kept me busy!  Instead of delivering one lesson and answering questions on one topic correctly, I now have to research and find answers for 17 topics.  I love it!

Taking Up Space – The Story Of My Life

Last week a friend came up to me stating that she has done it!  She filled her 32 gig iPad with vital information (yeah, right!) and that she cannot complete the upgrade to iOS7.

So after a few emails back and forth we came across the culprits.  The way that she found the culprits was pretty simple.  By opening Settings on the iPad and then tapping on General and then navigating to Usage, she was able to see all of her apps and the file size of each.  The file size that is calculated inside of Usage includes the actual app as well as the data the is stored inside that app.

She saw that her pictures were taking up some vital space.  So I suggested that she open a DropBox account and add the app to her iPad.  DropBox has a great feature that will allow the DropBox App to automatically upload images to DropBox once the DropBox App is granted access to the photo library and then opened on the iPad.  There are other services that can do the same function…Google+ does it and as well as Box.
pagesKeynoteScreen Shot 2014-02-06 at 8.14.20 AMEvernote
Some apps that will take up a great deal of space are:
1.  Pages
2.  Keynote
3.  iMovie
4.  Evernote
5.  Videos
6.  Music
Lastly, the one that surprised me the most was Messages.  But once I thought about it, it really made sense.  Messages was really chalked full with videos, and pictures.  This made the Messages app the largest app on my device.  Once I deleted all my Messages and rebooted my device, I had regained quite a bit of space.
Please let me know if you have any questions and as always, please leave a comment.
Thank you!
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