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Sphero: the coolest robot around

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Evaluate, iPod, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 14-04-2014

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Sphero- coolest robot ever

This week, the wonderful people at Orbotix sent me a Sphero to try out and play with. HOLY COW, I haven’t had so much fun with a new toy in a long time. The better part of today was spent learning about the Sphero and stealthily “driving” it into classrooms (much to the delight of kids). Sphero is a robotic ball that gets controlled by iPhone, iPad, or android device. I had it rolling all over school this morning…I only wish I had thought ahead to record student reactions (I was using my iPhone to control it and didn’t think about video and pictures). I had so much fun with it, that I brought it home to play and learn some more. It is equally loved by my dogs! ;)

Sphero seems like a simple concept, a ball that can be controlled via tablet or phone. Even though the concept is simple, I have to admit, I’m pretty floored by the way that this little ball moves around effortlessly as if by magic. We have a hallway in our school that includes an incline and it rolled up it without any trouble, like a champ! It is SO much more than a fun rolley ball. There are a slew of apps that interact with the Sphero making it ultra fun and educational. The majority of apps available are totally free to download. There are a few that cost $0.99. Apps include:

  • Sphero Nyan Cat Space Party- Even if you have no idea what Nyan cat is, your students will. They will think it is awesome.
  • Sphero Dark Nebula Episode One- A labyrinth game for the 21st century.
  • Sphero Dark Nebula Episode Two- Defeat obstacles and enemies using your Sphero.
  • Sphero- the app I played with all day. This app drives Sphero and teaches it (and you) new tricks with basics of coding.
  • GoGo Mongo- Designed to teach toddlers and primary students healthy eating habits.
  • Sphero Exile- Arcade-like space-fighter game. But with real life actions!
  • Sphero Draw N’ Drive- Use your finger on the tablet or phone to draw a shape or path and watch Sphero follow it.
  • Sphero MacroLab (great for education!)- Learn basics of programming by arranging simple commands and settings in any combination. Save favorite programs and share them with friends.
  • Sphero TAG- A great tag game when you have access to more than one Sphero.
  • Zombie Roller- A zombie app. Need I say more?
  • Sphero Lights- Basically the coolest night-light ever. Keep the Sphero lit even when charging.
  • Last Fish- Try surviving as a fish in toxic water filled with goo and shadow fish. The goal: survive.
  • Sphero Macro Draw- Draw using your Sphero robot.
  • DJ Sphero- Go ahead and be a party rock star with Sphero. Load tracks from your iPad/iPhone music library . Cross fade between songs and speed up or slow down music by spinning your sphere robot. Basically you will be the star of the lunch room.
  • Astro Ball- An arcade-syle 3D flight simulator.
  • Sphero Golf- I played this one as soon as I got home. Create a physical golf course and then virtually control Sphero to make it into the holes that you create. Hit Sphero with either a flick of the finger, or (for more fun) by swinging your arms while holding your tablet/phone.
  • Sphero Cam- Currently Android only. Use the built-in camera on Android to record video with Sphero.
  • orbBasic for Sphero- This is a great app for learning and practicing program. Students can execute basic programs and create and prototype autonomous behaviors for their Sphero robot.
  • Sphero H2O- For real, this robot can be played with IN water!! This is a game for a summer pool party.
  • Etch-o-matic- 21st century toy makes drawings like it is 1965. LOVE this app! Brings me right back to about 1987 when I sat in the back seat of the Jetta on the way to Grandmas. Just like an etch-a-sketch, only better.
  • Sphero Snake- Classic Snake game brought to life.
  • Disc Groove- Control your Sphero to avoid being hit by “flying meteors”
  • Doodle Grub- A new twist on the classic Snake game. Lots of fun.
  • Sphero Pet- Wishing you had a class pet? Sphero fits the bill well without being overwhelming. Kids can teach it to shake, flip and move in any direction.
  • Pass the Sphero- A game of dare for multiple players where Sphero becomes a ticking time-bomb. Lots of fun when there is lots of snow and recess has to occur inside.
  • Sphero Measuring Tape (AWESOME, measuring our Anastasis Academy garden!) Virtual measuring tape. Amazingly accurate. Our kids have been learning Area/Perimeter and using the Anastasis Academy garden as a learning space. Sphero helped verify their calculations.
  • Sharky the Beaver- Sphero turns into an augmented reality beaver that you can interact with.
  • Sphero ColorGrab- A multiplayer tabletop game. Sphero flashes colors and you have to pick him up at the right time to earn points. Best indoor recess ever!
  • Sphero Chromo- Like an old-school Simon game for this little robot. Makes me a little nostalgic for my childhood. :)
  • The Rolling Dead- an augmented reality game featuring zombies. Not sure how it gets better than using Sphero as a fireball to shoot virtual zombies. Anastasis Academy backs to a cemetery where the teachers walk/jog after school. I’m pretty sure the Rolling Dead/Sphero combo will be a welcome addition to our exercise.

The Sphero apps the are available to download range from just plain fun, to serious learning capability and augmented reality. There are so many possibilities with this little robot and, it seems, that the apps and abilities of this little robot will only continue to grow. This robot is resilient. It can stand up to dogs, water, outdoors, hills, etc. Truly so magical and amazing!

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

I dig technology that effortlessly blends real world with imagination and technology. Sphero definitely fits this bill in ways that I haven’t seen before. I’m excited to dig into Sphero Education to try out the STEM lessons that can be used with Sphero with students. I’ll be sure to blog our progress through them! Stay tuned.

 

Last day to enter for a Koostik! #technologymadenatural

Posted by admin | Posted in General | Posted on 06-12-2013

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Koostik give away: iLearn Technology #technologymadenatural

Today is your last chance to enter the Koostik giveaway! Winner will be announced tomorrow :)  The winner should receive their Koostik just in time for the holidays. Happy things.
Details for this giveaway below:

I’m particularly fond of small business shopping because my family has always owned small businesses. My dad is the ultimate craftsman. He is always dreaming up new inventions and he uses one of my favorite mediums to carry out those inventions: beautiful cuts of wood. There is something about having wood in your home, it evokes feelings of warmth and a connection to nature. When my dad started Koostik, I was especially excited because it connects technology (which you know I love) with the natural beauty of wood. These are not just functional, they are truly pieces of art. Each Koostik is handmade and unique.  Because no cut of wood is exactly the same, each one has a slightly different feel.  Every time I visit the shop I want to take more product home.  I constantly get the, “but Kelly, you already have a Pivot.” My response, “I know but it isn’t THIS Pivot in the Ambrosia Maple!”

Koostik is a true small business.  My dad works on the woodwork with a few other guys in his shop, and my mom does the finishing and packaging. My brother works sales and does all the photography and website design. There is a passion and attention to detail that you find in small businesses that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. I support small business because I appreciate that attention to detail. I appreciate the craftsmanship and passion that go into every product. I like knowing that I am supporting a neighbor, a family.

I’m offering a giveaway for the Koostik product of your choice. Sorry international friends, this one is for US citizens only! To enter you will need to do one (or all) of the following:

A winner will be chosen on December 7, 2013.  Hurry and get as many entries in as you can! The winner will be announced on iLearn Technology and contacted through the social media that you used to enter.

 

Support Small Business Saturday: Koostik #technologymadenatural

Posted by admin | Posted in General | Posted on 30-11-2013

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Two give aways in two days. That is pretty awesome!

Koostik give away: iLearn Technology #technologymadenatural

 

Today is support small business Saturday in the United States.  I’m particularly fond of this cause for shopping because my family has always owned small businesses. My dad is the ultimate craftsman. He is always dreaming up new inventions and he uses one of my favorite mediums to carry out those inventions: beautiful cuts of wood. There is something about having wood in your home, it evokes feelings of warmth and a connection to nature. When my dad started Koostik, I was especially excited because it connects technology (which you know I love) with the natural beauty of wood. These are not just functional, they are truly pieces of art. Each Koostik is handmade and unique.  Because no cut of wood is exactly the same, each one has a slightly different feel.  Every time I visit the shop I want to take more product home.  I constantly get the, “but Kelly, you already have a Pivot.” My response, “I know but it isn’t THIS Pivot in the Ambrosia Maple!”

Koostik is a true small business.  My dad works on the woodwork with a few other guys in his shop, and my mom does the finishing and packaging. My brother works sales and does all the photography and website design. There is a passion and attention to detail that you find in small businesses that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. I support small business because I appreciate that attention to detail. I appreciate the craftsmanship and passion that go into every product. I like knowing that I am supporting a neighbor, a family.

In honor of Support Small Business Saturday, I’m offering a giveaway for the Koostik product of your choice. Sorry international friends, this one is for US citizens only! To enter you will need to do one (or all) of the following:

A winner will be chosen on December 6, 2013.  Hurry and get as many entries in as you can! The winner will be announced on iLearn Technology and contacted through the social media that you used to enter.

 

Don’t want to wait to see if you’ve won? Koostik is currently running a sale for 30% off all products and 50% the Mini Koo! The sale runs through Cyber Monday (December 2). You could be the star of the holidays with your awesome Koostik gift giving skills!

Book Writer: create books on the iPad

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Interactive book, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 21-10-2013

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Book Writer app- iLearn TechnologyBook Writer

 

 

 

What it is:  Book Writer is a great app for the iPad (and iPhone or iPod Touch).  This app makes it a snap for kids to create books that can be read directly in iBooks.  With Book Writer, students can create their own ebooks with photos, video, audio and links.  Images and video can be annotated over in the book.  Finished books can be shared using iTunes and E-mail.  One of the best features of Book Writer is the huge number of applications that books can be shared through including: iBooks, Nook, Instashare, Bump, Evernote, Dropbox, and Send Anywhere.  This makes Book Writer wonderfully flexible no matter what apps your school uses regularly.

Book Writer- iLearn Technology

How to integrate Book Writer into the classroom: Book Writer is a great app for students to “publish” their writing in.  Students can compile research, notes, images and videos to create their own textbooks.  Why passively read through a text when students can be a part of creating their own?  This makes the learning so much more valuable and gives students the opportunity to “own” their learning.  Each student’s finished book will be just a little different.  Students can compile class notes, images of work and examples from class, and videos (either their own or other videos they’ve downloaded), reflections on learning, etc. into a book that can be shared.  This would be a fantastic way for students to share what they’ve learned at the end of a unit.  Because of the variety of content that can be included in Book Writer, it would make for a great science journal.  Students can take photos  of a scientific experiment or process, label the images, and reflect on observations, hypothesis, etc.

Students could also use Book Writer as a place to keep all of their creative writing based on visual writing prompts.  Students can include the picture prompt on one page and their writing on the facing page.  Students can add to this book throughout the year and share their “published” writings at the end of the year.

Younger students will find Book Writer easy to use.  These students could create their own word bank picture dictionary.  Ask students to create a new page for each letter.  Every time a word gets added to the class word wall, students can add it to their dictionary.  Students can also add pictures to accompany the words, or audio of themselves saying the word.

Book Writer can be used for a class yearbook and then shared with all students digitally.  The extra fun part are the videos that can be included!

Tips: Book Writer has a clean, easy to use interface.  If you are using with young students, you may want to walk them through where to find tools for the first time.

Compatibility: Requires iOS5.0 or later

Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Price: $3.99 (iTunes link)

Addison Tales: Ignite Your Student’s Imagination

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Evaluate, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 17-10-2013

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Addison Tales: Activate your student's imagination in descriptive writing

What it is: Addison Tales is an interesting interactive site that asks your students to contribute content.  This ongoing competition challenges students to invent an imaginative story character for Addison’s Tales.  When students visit the site, they will be introduced to Mr. Cornelius Addison.  If students click on the sparkly stars, they can visit the story’s characters.  When students click on Mr. Cornelius Addison, they will be taken to a story called “The Dream”.  The story is about Mack’s wild and imaginative store where he sells characters.  The story urges students to add characters to the store and then to “trap” their characters inside finished stories so that they don’t just remain figments of the imagination.  When students create their own characters, they make them “real” like the solid characters in the cottage that can be discovered inside the apps that are available from Addison tales in the app store.  The challenge is for students to write and draw interesting characters.

How to integrate Addison Tales into your classroom:  I think the way that Addison Tales combines technology, writing, drawing, story and imagination is brilliant!  Read “The Dream” with your students using classroom computers, an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  For those of you with iPads in the classroom, “The Dream” is also available as a free app.  After reading the story, talk about the types of characters described in “The Dream.”  This is a great way to get your students thinking about description and imagery!  Ask students to write down the adjectives and descriptive words that they remember from the story.  Students can choose a character from the story to draw.  For a fun class activity, invite students to all draw the same character and see what similarities and differences exist between student drawings.  (This can lead to some fun discussion about artistic license!) 

After students try their hand at describing characters from the story, they can work on creating their own character.  Students should think carefully about word choice and imagery.  Through December (2013) Addison Tales is running a competition where students can submit their characters.  Each week, Mr. Addison will frame a select number of characters on his wall with the artist’s nickname, country and character name for everyone to see.  At the end of the month, one of the most curious of the characters submitted will be turned into a plush toy and sent to the lucky artist.  Pretty great reward!

Tips: The contest portion runs every month through the end of December.  Even without the contest, the site offers a great way to introduce your kids to descriptive writing and imagery!

What do you think of Addison Tales?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

24 of Our Favorite Apps at Anastasis Academy!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, For Teachers, inspiration, iPod, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary | Posted on 12-09-2013

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24 of our favorite apps at Anastasis Academy

 

Recently, Kelly Hodgkins from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) interviewed me for a back to school piece on apps that teachers use in the classroom.  I not only shared our favorite apps, I also shared some iPad accessories that keep us happy.

Click here for 24 of our favorite apps at Anastasis Academy.   What are your favorite apps?

Fluency Finder App: Updated with new features!

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Interactive book, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 21-08-2013

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Normally I post all of my app posts at my other blog, iPad Curriculum.  Because iDevices are becoming SO common place as a technology in the classroom, I’m going to start posting them here as well.  If you just want apps, head over to iPad Curriculum and you can search apps only!  Just like iLearn Technology, you can search any app by Bloom’s Taxonomy level.  All of the websites I share on iLearn Technology are completely FREE, the apps I review tend to be a mix of free and paid apps.  At the bottom of each post, I share the cost of the app.


Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 2.29.31 PMFluency Finder

What it is: In the US it is back to school time!  I love these first days of school when you get to meet a new group of students and uncover their passions, strengths and weaknesses.  Fluency is one of those measures that is great to have from the beginning of the year because it means that we as teachers are armed with the background knowledge to help build reading confidence in students.   You can easily find and track fluency rates so that you have more time to help students strengthen reading skills and find books that are confidence-building and enjoyable for them.  I have written about Fluency Finder before (here), but I’m writing about it again because they have just come out with some great new features worth another mention!  Fluency Finder now has a data-sharing email function so that you can share fluency results with all stakeholders easily.  Comprehension questions have been built-in so now you have a one-step fluency and reading comprehension assessment.  Very handy!  Reading passages are being updated with a snapshot list so that you can quickly compare passages.  32 brand new passages are also being added from literary classics for 1st-8th grade reading levels.

 

I like Fluency Finder because of the way that it instantly calculates results and then stores them in your Student Record for instant access.  Really handy when you are in the library with students and want to quickly remind yourself of their current fluency levels to assist them in selecting the perfect, not-to-hard-book that will keep them reading with enjoyment.

How to integrate Fluency Finder app into the classroom:

Fluency Finder makes it simple to assess reading fluency in 1st-8th grade reading levels.  To get started:

  • Add students to the app
  • Select an appropriate grade level passage for the student to read
  • Print the passage from the www.fluencyfinder.com website (students could also read from their own iDevice or computer if you want to save paper)
  • Begin assessment, start the app timer as the student begins reading
  • Student will read from printed passage as you follow on your iDevice marking any mistakes
  • Tap the (+) button when student makes a reading mistake
  • Tap the (-) button if the student self-corrects a mistake
  • End the timer when the student finishes
  • Tap the “finish assessment” button to instantly see results

Now instead of focusing so much on keeping track of the fluency and score, you can focus on what actually matters: listening for fluency, comprehension and expression.

Being a paperless school, we are LOVING this option for helping students choose books that are at a level that is “just right.”  It gives us the opportunity to help students hunt down the perfect amount of challenge and really focus on a story they can love.  We are all about encouraging an absolute love of reading!

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 2.29.58 PM

Tips: Target Fluency Rates

First Grade: 60-70 wpm

Second Grade: 80-95 wpm

Third Grade: 100-120 wpm

Fourth Grade: 120-135 wpm

Fifth Grade: 130-145 wpm

Sixth Grade: 140-150 wpm

Seventh Grade: 150-160 wpm

Eighth Grade 160-175 wpm

Cost$6.99 (iTunes link)

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Fluency Finder in your classroom.

Snap! Digital Reading Program: 128 leveled readers

Posted by admin | Posted in Download, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 08-08-2013

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Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn Technology

What it is: Snap! Digital Reading Program is a set of interactive leveled books that can be printed, viewed on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, interactive whiteboards or classroom computer.  All of the books in the program have been developed to help teachers meet requirements in the Common Core Standards in vocabulary and comprehension through the use of direct instruction, close reading, modeling, guided and independent practice, and text-dependent questioning.  Each leveled reader has a digital interactive version that includes fluency exercises, comprehension and multiple-choice type assessments.  As your students read, you can track what they are reading, view the digital assessments and performance reports.  These reports include information about CLOZE scores, multiple choice scores, and fluency.  You can also see information about the  last book they read (word counts, difficulty, words read correctly, etc.).  Snap! Digital Reading Program also includes lesson plans associated with each book.  While the program isn’t a free one, a year-long subscription to all materials (interactive ebooks for student, printable PDF versions of the books/lessons/other materials, and the data analytics for all of your students is just $89.  Pretty reasonable for access for every student in your class!

How to use the Snap! Digital Reading Program in your classroom: I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating: when you have a limited classroom library (due to space, as a new teacher, budget, etc.) ebooks are such a great way to instantly expand that library exponentially!  Snap! helps you do that and more.  Not only are you able to offer your students additional access to reading material, they have the added benefit of getting interactive books that give you data so that you can better guide students in choosing books that will help them fall in love with reading.  The readers can also be used for reading interventions, guided reading, shared reading and tutoring.  The leveled readers are for students in grades k-8, so even if you have a super advanced second grade student, you can continually challenge them.

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn Technology

The flexibility of this program is fantastic!  I’ve long been a fan of Learning A-Z for their printable books, but they are limited to a printout.  With Snap! you have the option of printing out books, but students can also access them from home device, on the iPad, Kindle Fire, Android, interactive whiteboard, or classroom computers.  The eBook version of the reader includes audio, photo slideshows, glossary terms, videos, fun facts, interactive maps and animations.  The PDF version includes lesson plans, alphabet book, word books, assessment materials and individual student record books.  Regardless of how much technology you have available in your classroom, the Snap! program works.

In a one to one setting you get the best of all worlds.  Every student in your class instantly has access to 128 quality interactive books and activities.  Did I mention $89?! That is a great deal!  You also have the ability for offline pdf books that can be sent home for extra practice.  When I taught second grade, my students loved having a print copy of the ebooks that they read in class.  It was always a treat to have those printed to color and share at home.

In a one or two device classroom, you can set up a reading center for students to cycle through.  Students can visit the center once or twice a week to read.

Model reading strategies for the whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can practice reading along and be introduced to new vocabulary.

Tips: The iPad version is not called “Snap!” Digital Reader.  The app you will download to access the interactive ebook library is Mobl21 HD.

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn TechnologyPrice of app: Free* ($89 yearly subscription required!)

Device: iPad with iOS 5.0 or later, Kindle Fire, Android, computer

Kids Picture Dictionary App

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 30-07-2013

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Kids picture dictionary app- iLearn Technology

Kids picture dictionary app-iLearn TechnologyWhat it is: Kids Picture Dictionary is just what you would imagine it to be: a dictionary, for kids, with pictures.  This picture dictionary has something extra special built in, it includes a self record feature so that kids (teachers or parents) can record their own voice to record sentence examples.  Each word includes a picture, an audio recording of the word, and the ability for kids (teachers or parents) to record their own sentence.

How to use the Kids Picture Dictionary App in your classroom: This is a very simple dictionary app for young students.  It is organized well so that they can search words by letter and picture.  The words included are pretty basic, but would be perfect for an emerging reader/writer.  Students could use the dictionary to help them with spelling during writing time.  I’ve often seen kids who can tell a fantastic story, but their writing is limited because they don’t want to spell a word that they aren’t sure of.  Kids Picture Dictionary app could be just the confidence they need to let their ideas soar.

The Kids Picture Dictionary app could also be really helpful for ELL/ESL students who are learning vocabulary.  Each word not only includes a picture, but also a sample sentence.  Students can listen to the word used in context and then practice recording their own sentence using the new vocabulary.  The recording is saved within the app so students can work independently, and teachers can go back through the app to assess understanding later.

Tips: The Kids Picture Dictionary app is free; however, it does include advertisements at the bottom of each page.  For $1.99 you can get the app without the ads.  A strong suggestion for educational app developers: It is RIDICULOUS to put an in-app purchase option on an educational app.  If a school is going to buy your app, they will want to do it through the Volume Purchase program.  In app purchases are NOT education friendly!  (If you are purchasing this for school, the app exists in the app store twice, the free version always comes up first and if you dig, you can find the $1.99 ad free version.)

Price: Free

Device: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad with iOS 4.3 or later.

HP Envy x2: Tablet/Notebook Review (gasp! it’s not an Apple!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 26-07-2013

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Staples HP Envy x2 iLearn Technology

If you have followed my blog or Twitter feed for any amount of time, you know that this review is kind of a big deal.  I have been a hard-core Apple evangelist for at least 10 years now.  As in: Apple is the only technology product that I own and use.  Why in the world, you might wonder, has she suddenly switched gears and started using the HP Envy x2?  The good people of Staples invited me to do a review for them.  Full disclosure: they sent me a HP Envy x2 to play with.  Being the tech geek that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play with a new gadget!

After taking some gratuitous un-boxing pictures, I plugged it in and got ready to play.

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

The thing is…I haven’t used a non-Apple product in a LONG time.  I forgot that Windows likes you to promise your first-born before you actually get to play.  After signing my life away (not really, but it felt like it!) I played with the Envy and did the tasks normally reserved for my MacBook Pro and iPad.  I’ve been using the Envy for almost a month (and exclusively in place of my iPad today, @jtenkely snuck mine away for a client presentation) below are my notes.

Staples HP Envy x2

The Awesome:

  • The last time I used a non-Apple touch screen, it was a train wreck.  I was pleasantly surprised that this touch screen was everything you expect a touch screen to be.  It is incredibly responsive and works like you would (and should) expect it to.
  • The battery life is pretty great.  I had it on for 4 days of off-on use without having to recharge.  I’m pretty sure I got every bit of the 12 hours of battery life out of it.  The tablet alone gets slightly less battery life. The thought that HP put into charging is pretty impressive, the tablet gets fully charged before the keyboard gets charged.  This makes a lot of sense since you want the most out of the tablet.
  • The cameras are decent quality, the resolution of pictures seems better to me than what I get out of my iPad 3.
  • Beats Audio is a nice touch, the sound quality is good for a notebook/tablet.  This let me rock out to Spotify while I worked.
  • The Envy has inputs on the keyboard base including HDMI, two USB, and SD ports.  This makes transferring, adding, sharing content really easy.
  • The notebook/tablet combination are lightweight at just a hair over 3lbs.
  • Aesthetically the HP Envy x2 is nice.  It feels sturdy but still manages to look sleek (everyone seems to be taking styling cues from Apple these days…hard to go wrong with that inspiration).
  • Flash works all the time. Not having to open a new browser just for Flash is nice.  So many educational websites are still built using flash so for a classroom setting, this feature is handy!
  • Bluetooth connectivity.

The Less Awesome

  • I like the HP Envy x2 better as a touch-screen computer than I do as a tablet.  The screen size is just a little too big and heavy to hold comfortably as a tablet for reading, typing, etc.
  • On this device, I constantly used the touch screen instead of the track pad.  The track pad drove me absolutely crazy.  It  wasn’t as sensitive as I was used to, and there are spots on the pad that were way too sensitive for my liking and kept sending me into full screen mode.  It also has some little grooves in it that make it feel like it is sticky. When you work with children, things that feel sticky are never good.
  • Windows 8- I don’t get it.  It seems hard to complete even simple tasks.  This could just be my bias toward Apple’s OS, but I am not impressed.  When I got the hang of navigating, things got smoother.  I still wouldn’t trade Apple’s OS for it.  One of the things that I missed (and this may just be the apps I was using) was that apps don’t integrate seamlessly together like I anticipated they should.  The Windows 8 store is not my favorite.  It isn’t easy to search for something specific.
  • While the camera’s resolution was good, I wasn’t impressed with the response time to get it to focus on something.

What to Anticipate for the Classroom:

The HP Envy x2 would make a fine classroom computer/tablet.  I like that students can use it as a laptop, they can type on it easily, can access downloadable content, and it stores away nicely so you are not taking up too much space in the classroom.  I also like that it transforms into a tablet so that students can make their learning, and capturing of their learning, more mobile.  Our students constantly take photographs and videos of their learning whether they are inside, outside, on a field trip, etc.  The keyboard dock would be too cumbersome to tote all over so it is great that students could just use the tablet portion when a task called for more portability.  I found the Microsoft store a little lacking in apps that are available.  I think that in the classroom, this gets made up for by the free Flash content you can access online.  I anticipate that with the Windows 8 interface, the learning curve for using the device would be more significant than with an iPad (which has no learning curve).  This is especially true for the primary grades.  It really took me some playing around with to get it figured out, and although I’m all Apple, I am also tech savvy.

Fun Find:

Most of the apps that I downloaded are those that I use regularly on my other devices.  I was impressed with some (Twitter app was great!) and less so with others (Pinterest app was ridiculous…it was easier to just use the browser).  One of the fun finds that I immediately searched for afterward in Apple’s app store was wordBrush (not there).  It lets you type some words into a box and then draw with them.  Pretty awesome!  This could be fun for vocabulary/spelling practice, poetry, book quotes, etc.

I was impressed with the number of free apps available for download.

Overall Impression:

The HP Envy x2 is a nice device that would hold up well in a classroom.  My personal preference is NOT for Windows 8, but if you are used to a Windows environment, it probably won’t phase you.  I was extremely impressed with Staples customer service, after I ordered the HP Envy x2, it came within just a few days. Everyone I worked with on the Staples side was great! (They didn’t even ask me to say that!) :)  At $699 this is a good competitor for the iPad.  The combination tablet/notebook is nice.  It really was like being able to use my iPad and then instantly turn it into my MacBook.  Being small, it doesn’t have the same capabilities as my MacBook, but for the majority of what kids do in the classroom, it would be great!

We use Staples a LOT at Anastasis Academy.  I’ve been there every day this week getting school supplies true story.  They have some great back to school deals that you should check out.  The first is Teacher Appreciation Day.  20% back in Staples rewards on all purchases! You can also enter to win a $25 gift card.  Check out the website to find out when your local Staples is holding the Teacher Appreciation Day.

Staples also recently introduced Reward a Classroom.  Sign up and then invite parents to help you earn rewards by buying the school and office supplies they do already.  This could help keep you classroom well stocked all year-long!

**The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own. Thank you Staples for letting me step outside of the Apple world to explore!