Google Drive app for iOS gets a big update!

If you use Google Docs then you know it is an outstanding platform for managing your work in the cloud, and gives you some great collaboration tools. You also know that it is painfully limited on iPads and other mobile devices. Back in June, Google released a Google Drive app for iOS, but it did not provide much functionality over what was already available through a mobile browser (which was pretty much none).

Well today Google released a significant update to the Drive app. Among the new features are the ability to store files locally for offline viewing, the ability to access presentations, the ability to edit documents, and the ability to see and make real-time edits in shared documents. Yes, you read that correctly, you can now enjoy the same real-time collaboration on your iPad that was previously only available on a computer!

Because this update came out only a few hours ago, I’m still working through the finer points of what the app can do. But I have tested the real-time editing, and it does work. This is a huge leap forward for Google, and brings some real usability to Google Drive (aka Docs) in our classrooms… particularly when you consider the fact that students can link their Google Docs account to their Schoology account…

There’s more to come from this, but you can check it out for yourself at Google’s website or by watching the video they’ve put on YouTube today.

UPDATE – It seems that right now you can only create documents (not spreadsheets or presentations) in the app, but you can edit files of those types that originated in the desktop platform…

Remind101

Remind101 is a great service that allows teachers, coaches, or anyone who works with students to have a means for sending text messages without the dangers that come with having your students’ or parents’ phone numbers (or them having yours)! As an added bonus, the service now works as an app in Schoology! To find out more, visit the Remind101 website or watch this video:

Backing Up Your iPad

One of the most frustrating things that can happen to a teacher (tech savy or not), is to lose all your work and materials due to a hardware crash, device damage, or theft. All that hard work, all those photos, all your three-star ratings in Angry Birds, all lost in an instant…

… of course, it doesn’t have to be like that. You can protect yourself from this sort of tragedy by making sure that your iPad is backed up. And since the advent of iOS 5 last year, you have options as to how you’d like to accomplish this important task. This post will walk you through the two methods for backing up your iPad and will discuss the pros and cons of each.

Method One – iTunes

This method for backing up is as old as the iPad – which is ancient in tech-years! To use this method, simply connect your iPad to your computer using that handy white sync cable, and fire up the iTunes software. If you’ve used the iPad with that computer before, it will start trying to sync right away (part of the sync process is to back up the iPad).

One thing to note about this method is to be careful if you’ve previously connected to a different computer. If that is the case, you may get a message asking if you want to transfer purchases or erase and sync. Make sure you choose the first option (transfer), or iTunes will completely erase your iPad and you will loose all your music, apps, etc!

The good thing about this method is that you don’t have to worry about running out of room for backups. It also makes the restoration process very easy and fast should the need to do so ever arise.

The drawbacks to this method include the fact that it requires you to Do Something. If you’re the forgetful sort, this may not be the solution for you. Or, you may want to set a reminder on your calendar. Also, if you ever change to a new computer, it is possible to transfer your backup to that machine but it is not the simplest process.

Method Two – iCloud

With the advent of iOS 5 in 2011, we were also introduced to iCloud. This magical fairy in the sky is supposed to make all our documents sync between devices, all our photos easy to access everywhere, and make you better looking and raises your IQ 50 points!

Ok, maybe it doesn’t do that last thing. But, it does provide you with a quick and easy way to back up your iPad without much work on your part. Once you’ve turned on iCloud backups you don’t need to do anything else. The little trolls that live in your iPad will handle all the work for you!

To set up iCloud backups, go into the Settings app and tap “iCloud” in the left-side panel. If you haven’t signed in yet, you will be asked to enter your Apple ID (aka the email address you use for iTunes) and your password. Then tap “Sign In.”

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You will then be presented with a variety of options to sync via iCloud. The ones we’re really concerned with are at the bottom. Make sure that “Find My iPad” is turned ON, and then tap “Storage & Backup.” On this screen, turn on “iCloud Backup.” That’s all you have to do!

The primary advantage of this backup method is that is works automatically. You don’t have to connect any wires or remember to do anything. iCloud will sync your iPad any time it is on WiFi and charging.

The drawbacks to this method are 1) you have a limited amount of free storage and 2) it is much slower than an iTunes sync. iCloud gives you 5 GB of storage for free, which some may use up quickly. If you need more space, Apple is happy to oblige… for a price. Plans rage from $20 a year for 10 GB all the way to $100 for 50 GB.

Summary

So which method is right for you? If you need more than 5 GB of storage and you don’t want to pay Apple, then iTunes is your only option. If not, you may want to consider the “set it and forget it” ease of iCloud.

Got any other suggestions? Lets hear them in the comments!