Is Your Mac Slow?

One of the most common tech support questions I get from teachers is asking “Why is my Mac so slow?” (Or some variation of that theme). There are (literally) hundreds of reasons why this could be the case. Some of them are simply due to the physical hardware of your computer showing its age. But many more have to do with the way that you’re using the computer. The good news is, these are easy to fix! Below are a few of the most common problem areas and how to address them.

1. Too Many Items On The Desktop

clutter

Too many icons!

Does your desktop look like this? If so, you’ve got too many files on the desktop. Mac OS (the operating system on your Mac) is very graphical and has lots of slick features. One of those is how it shows a preview of the file as the icon on your desktop (or in a Finder window). The downside of this is that when you have lots of files on the desktop, you are devoting a lot of your system’s resources to generating and maintaining those little preview icons. If you have a super-cluttered desktop, simply moving most of those files into a folder could give you a very noticeable improvement in performance! Check out this Lifehacker article for more info – and a cool utility that will help you automate this process.

2. Not Enough Free Disk Space

Look for this if you're using a white MacBook

Look for this if you’re using a white MacBook

Do you have every photo you’ve ever taken saved on your hard drive? Have you never once emptied your trash or downloads folder? Do you have local copies of every cat video ever posted to YouTube? Then chances are your hard drive is close to being full. The method for determining this depends on your computer. If you have a white MacBook, just open a new finder window. It will tell you the amount of free space at the bottom. If you have a silver MacBook, click the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen and select “About This Mac.” Then click the button that says “More Information.” This will open a window that tells you all about the computer. Click the tab at the top that says “Storage” and you will see a nice visual of you hard drive usage – similar to the one you see on an iPad or iPhone.

Look for this if you have a silver MacBook

Look for this if you have a silver MacBook

The general rule of thumb is that you need to have at least 10% of your hard drive free at all times. Less than that and you will notice your computer slowing down. If you are in the danger zone, try cleaning out the downloads folder or the trash. If that’s not enough, think about archiving some of those pictures and videos to an external drive or cloud storage.

3. Too Many Applications Running

This is a common problem for folks who are used to working on a Windows computer. Unlike Windows, when you click that little red ball in the corner of a Mac window it does not shut down the application – it just closes that window.

There are 8 applications running here. Can you tell what they are?

There are 8 applications running here. Can you tell what they are?

To actually close the program, you can either click the name of the program in the menu and select “Quit xxxx” from the list, or press command+Q. You can tell what programs are running by looking for  a little white dot below the program’s icon in your dock. (Side note – you cannot quit Finder. It will always be running)

4. Reboot Once In A While

One of the great things about using a Mac is that you don’t have to shut down the computer all the time. Most of the time I leave my Mac running and just close the lid when I’m done. When I open it later its ready to go right where I left off! The disadvantage of this convenience is that we may often go very long periods of time without rebooting the system. Often, something as simple as a reboot will help “clear the cobwebs” and get things running more smoothly. I generally try to reboot my computer about once a week, just to reset everything.

Like I said before, there are lots of reasons why your Mac may be running slow, so I may not have addressed your issue here. But, these are simple things that every user should be able to do – and you don’t even have to call the helpdesk! If, however, these fixes don’t work for you, don’t hesitate to give them a call so that they can try to follow up with more advanced solutions.

Student Collaboration on an iPad

Collaboration is a buzzword in our school these days. With the introduction of iPads to our classes, the challenge is to find ways for students to collaborate using the iPads. Greg Kulowiec from EdTechTeacher has posted an excellent video that highlights six different ways you can have students work together on the iPad. He highlights several apps, including some paid apps that we do not have on our iPads, but take a few minutes to check out what he does with the ones we do use – particularly Notability, Google Drive, and iMovie!

You can also read the full blog post at the EdTechTeacher site.

Using the Report Manager in Renweb

I’ve been asked by several folks recently to either generate lists or reports of students or to show others how to do so. This brief tutorial video will walk you through the steps of using the Report Manager in Renweb so that you can get whatever information you may need.

If you’re looking for a particular report, these links will take you straight to that portion of the video:

Class Roster

Class Roster Data Entry

Student List by Grade Level

Turn In Video Assignments with Google Drive for iOS

One of the more challenging tasks for teachers and students using iPads has been the issue of how students can turn in video assignments to a teacher. The initial solution that we offered was to have the student upload his finished work to YouTube so that the teacher could view it there. However, this solution is not without problems – most notably privacy concerns and the requirement that students be at least 13 years old to create a YouTube account.

A New Way to Share

With the publishing of the Google Drive app for iOS, we now have a very simple and powerful way for students to turn in video assignments that eliminates the age and privacy concerns mentioned above. The basic workflow with this method is:

  1. Create video in iMovie (or another app)
  2. Export finalized video to the Camera Roll
  3. Use the Google Drive app to upload the video to the student’s drive
  4. Share the video with the teacher

The Details

The first step in this process is to create the video. This can be done in iMovie or any other video tool on the iPad. Once the project is complete, send it to the Cameral Roll. In iMovie this is done by tapping the share icon and then selecting Camera Roll. The exact location of the share button may vary in other apps, but the basic process should be the same. Next select the export size – be careful that you don’t make your video so large that you run out of storage!

Once the video has been added to the Camera Roll, the next step is to open the Google Drive app. I am assuming here that you’ve already installed the app and have entered your account credentials. Once the app is open, tap the “+” button at the top of the screen. You will see several options to add items to your drive, with the third being “Upload Photo or Video.”

When you tap this option, you will be prompted to select a photo or video. Tap on the video that you just created and you will see it begin to upload. This may take a while depending on the size of the file, but it will continue even after the device goes to sleep.
After the upload is completed you will see your video in the list of files. Tap the arrow icon to the right of the file name to open the Details panel, which includes options for sharing. Tap the plus icon in the “Who has access” pane and type the full email address of the person you want to share with. If needed, you can even share with several people. Tap the “Add” button and the process is complete!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, this is a great method for sharing video without running into some of the headaches associated with using YouTube. It keeps your video private and allows you specific control over who can view your file. It also avoids problems due to file size limits in email and age limits on YouTube accounts.

So what do you think? Any suggestions to improve the process? Is there a problem we’re missing here? Let us know in the comments section!

5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads

EdTechTeacher has a great post on their blog about some of the most common pitfalls that schools face in their iPad implementations. Author Tom Daccord gives an excellent synopsis of what he sees as the 5 most critical. You can read his article here.

What do you think? Is he right? Did he leave anything out? How are we doing in these areas? Give your thoughts in the comments section!

Uploading to the Schoology dropbox from an iPad

One of the most frustrating things about moving to iPads this year has been the limitations on how to get files from a student to a teacher. There just aren’t many good ways to do it! We’ve spent most of our time discussing how to send work via email, as that has seemed like the only really good option.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could upload to the assignment dropbox in Schoology?

Well, it looks like the folks at Schoology heard our pleas. The most recent update to the app included with it the ability to upload PDF, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files to the dropbox for an assignment. This is done via the “Open In” menu option in iOS. Read on to see how this would work for submitting something created in Notability…

1. After completing the assignment, the student taps the “Share” button in Notability.

2. Select the destination for your file

3. Select “Open In” from the list of options

4. Tap the “Open Note In…” button

5. Select Schoology from the list. (You may have to scroll down to see Schoology)

6. The iPad will open Schoology and ask you to select a course.

7. Next, select the assignment you want to add the file to

8. Sit back and watch the magic happen…

One important note about this feature… currently it seems that there are some issues with performing this task while on our campus. The helpdesk has been notified about it and are working on fixing the problem. Once that has been corrected, this will give us a great way to have students turn in work inside Schoology!

Taxonomy of Technology Integration

Here’s a great resource from the Berglund Center for Internet Studies at Pacific University that unpacks the updated version of Bloom’s Taxonomy and applies it to tech integration in the classroom. I love that the writer here points out that, “learning is the result of thinking,” and therefore, “the role of technology is to direct & foster thinking.”

The author also provides some example tools to check out, and points out the individual or collaborative nature of those tools. Check out this resource here.