Welcome to Jennie Magiera's Technology in Education Blog:

Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Whetting your APPetite Vol. 9: Update on Screencasting & Digital Math Workbooks

Two new screencasting / annotation apps have caught my eye, one free and one paid. Both offer solutions for some of the problems I addressed in the cons section of the post "Pros and Cons of Digital Workbooks." Many thanks to Stephanie Meewes in Chicago for pointing out that Noterize is free. I was under the silly impression that it was $3.99. What a happy surprise!

Below is an overview of each app so you can decide if the free version will work for you. (Sadly, I think I'll have to cough up the cash for the paid version... but am not too sad because it offers some amazing opportunities for my students!)

Noterize, FREE
Noterize shares many of the same features as neu.Annotate PDF, and many more! This handy little app - which costs the same $0.00 as neu.Annotate - but also has palm protection and the ability to include voice recordings to your slides. Furthermore, it allows users to upload their annotated pages through email, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Box.net and Dropbox (neu.Annotate only allows for email). When saving the document, you can also annotate the file name, which is great when you have many students turning in the same file.

Downsides: You can't do a full screen recording with video on Noterize. You can only do audio - which isn't half bad, but the visual annotation capture can be incredibly powerful when students are working through math problems (see below, in review of Explain Everything). Also, the audio can only be shared through Docs Folder (which you access through iTunes) and cannot be uploaded to Dropbox. This makes it difficult to access these recordings from a class set of iPads. After this reflection, it seems that Noterize is parallel to to neu.Annotate in all aspects except the fact that the upload function is much better. If choosing between Noterize and neu.Annotate, I would definitely choose the former.

Explain Everything, $2.99
($1.49 through volume purchase if you buy 20+ units)

Explain Everything has, well, everything. It has all the features of Noterize and neu.Annotate PLUS all the features of apps like ShowMe and ScreenChomp. Yes, that's right: Students can screencast their work as they write! As they solve mathematical problems, work through misunderstandings, and persevere towards a solution, they can now capture their thinking both through live recording of their writing but also as they think aloud!

In the previous post about digital math journals, I mentioned that I don't want to watch 93 videos of my students' work daily. Well, that is still true - however now they are available in case I want to. Students can record their work as they work, but simply send me the image. If, while grading, I decide I want more information about how the student came to this answer, I can go to that child's iPad and watch the screenrecording, or request that they send it to DropBox. Explain Everything doesn't require a document to begin writing, so I can also use this app to replace ShowMe. One app, two applications! Love it! As with Noterize, this app allows a myriad of upload options: Photo Roll, Email, DropBox, Evernote. As mentioned above, the user has the option to upload only the image, only the movie or the entire project.

Downside: This app costs money :(. Also, there may be too many features. I like how simple ShowMe and neu.Annotate are - they allow kids to get in, do what they need to do, and get out. Explain Everything allows students to very easily delete the actual PDF image, rotate it, shrink it, etc. This may cause issues for those with some motor disabilities. However, I think I can overcome this latter downside through careful modeling and practice with my students. I can overcome the first mentioned downside through careful begging.

Downsides, continued: After working with app some more, I have found two more issues: You cannot change the file name as you upload to DropBox. Not terrible, since I can have kids write their names directly on their work, but it would be helpful if you could change it. Also, when uploading the image, it only uploads the image you can see on the screen. So if the kids are zoomed in, that's all it will upload. I will have to train my students to zoom out. 


  1. Thanks for trying our app! We will add the option to change default file name for Dropbox and Evernote exports to our enhancement request list.

    Our next update will contain some new features too - stay tuned!


  2. Have you ever tried PDF-notes 2.0.0? It's a free app that I think I like better than Noterize and neu.annotate.

    Give it a try!

  3. I am impressed, Jennie. Thanks for doing your work in such an open and transparent fashion. Your background seems rather broad-based from the description I read today in the article at Toontastic blog: http://goo.gl/GCKaP No doubt that has a hand in your ability to see mathematics in all its beauty as opposed to mere computation. I tweeted a link to that little blurb at Toontastic with my review of that snippet of your vision.

    I am a longtime biology teacher (I still teach one class of Marine Biology.) who moved into instructional coaching at the building level about six years ago, and then last year into my current job as an instructional tech specialist for our district.

    We have two 1:1 implementations starting in secondary in January (MacBooks), as well as two elementary in February (4,5,6- iPad2). Consider yourself and your public work here yet another valuable resource in my planning. Thank you, keep up the good work... and perhaps we'll be in touch more in the future.


  4. Thanks for the positive reinforcement, Sean! I wish you luck with your initiatives and hope I can be of help in the future!