What educational apps are on your tablet? How did you decide which ones were the best?
Guest Post by: Lim Chuwei
Education and technology goes hand in hand. Devices like laptop, iPad, etc. have become an indispensable part of today’s education system. The learners and educators can make best use of technology to simplify the learning process. For the same reason the developers have come out with a number of applications, tools and much more. Check out the best iPad presentation tools, which will be of great help for the teachers.
With so many evolutions, the world of teaching has gone through the sea of change. No more the schools are constrained to ‘blackboards’ and ‘chalks’. Although the methods have changed yet, the motive behind remains the same, i.e. to inspire, educate and better engagement and interaction with the students. Following the same practice, teachers can make use of PowerPoint and Keynote for representing different ideas in the most beautiful way and helps in creating a fun learning environment in the classroom. For the tech savvy teachers, here is an insight to different classroom presentation tools for iPad which they can use for better teaching:
Let’s start with the app Keynote, which is one of the top solutions for presenting all your ideas to students. In addition, this amazing tool brings forth astonishing features. Have a look;
If you are looking for more themes and layouts, the Templates for keynote Pro will prove to be a great add-on for iPad users. It will get you more than 30 new templates, distributed into six different categories. The usage of this app is easy and simple. All you need to do is just search for the right style, take it to the Keynote app and add your content. You are done with an informative and interesting presentation.
Some striking features;
For those, who love to prefer working with Microsoft PowerPoint, SlideShark stands first in the list of top contenders for working with PPT presentations.
It is simple to work with. You just need to create an account (which is totally free) on their website, install the free app to the iPad, upload a presentation or make a new one and download it directly to the device.
Before you proceed, check out its startling features:
Wish to keep things secure and private? For such concerns, where your safety of your files become important or you need to keep a check on who all can access to your files, the Presentation Notes is the best solution. While other apps use cloud-based technology (the third party Cloud services) for faster access and sharing, it highly emphasizes on approach to save and store your files inside the iPad’s memory. Have a sneak peek at some outstanding features:
On Friday, August 8, I attended the Best of MACUL conference at Oakland Schools. It was jointly hosted by the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) and the REMC Association of Michigan. The conference was designed to highlight some of the presentations that were given at the MACUL conference in March, mostly for those who were unable to attend.
The Best of MACUL conference ran similar to most conferences, there were one of three presentations to choose from during each hour. There were four total hours in addition to one lunch hour. For the full list of presentations and presenters, please see the Best of MACUL Oakland Schools conference schedule/agenda.
App Smashing Your Way to Powerful Learning
(Presenter: Laura Cummings, Oakland Schools)
App Smashing, coined by Greg Kulowiec, “is the process of using multiple apps to create projects or complete tasks.” It’s not a new idea, but once Kulowiec gave the concept a catchy name, it became the newest buzzword in education.
Cummings demonstrated a few apps on the iPad that worked well together to create digital content that reflected student learning. These apps help students see that the information they learn in school is doing something. The paper is no longer the final product; the digital content is. The students are now producing something they can share on social media.
Side note: Cummings created a Weebly page with links to the apps and project examples. It also has some excellent links to more information about App Smashing and rules to follow for a successful experience.
I was most impressed with the following apps: Skitch, PicPlayPost, and ThinkLink. Skitch, as many of you may have heard, is a photo annotating app. It allows you to add text, shapes, blurs, and crop. The final image is then saved to the Camera Roll. This saves students time from having to add annotations in the program they decide to use. For example, students can then import those images into PicPlayPost, along with a recorded video (reading their paper?) to create a final media collage. See an example of a PicPlayPost collage uploaded to Dropbox. But what if there is just too much content to annotated on the photo? ThinkLink creates hotspots on an image that can link to video, images, text, sound (reading the paper in SoundCloud), and even downloading the paper in Evernote. See an example of a hotspotted image on ThingLink.
Engage Students. Explore apps, interactive books, and MultiTouch textbooks (Presenter: Joanna Montgomery, Apple)
“Just because the students know the technology, doesn’t mean they know how to use it to learn.”
Montgomery’s presentation also focused on apps on the iPad. But while Cummings’ presentation focused on apps that created digital content to demonstrate learning, Montgomery’s presentation focused on apps that had rich content written by academics for use in classrooms. Montgomery sees a future in which back-to-school lists will eventually include recommended apps.
iTunes U has expanded exponentially since the last time I looked at it. In fact, course materials for universities is only one-third of the content. There is a section exclusively for K-12 and another for Beyond Campus (i.e. the Smithsonian, Khan Academy). Material is not exclusively courses anymore. Of course, there are many courses, but users can download singular materials from a course. During Montgomery’s presentation, she showed us some videos and PDFs available from several sources. All content is screened by at least one educator, so while it is educationally appropriate, there is no guarantee it will be grade-appropriate. Thus, it is still best to preview material.
iBooks has may books that are beyond copyright for free. There are also plenty of books available for free. But Montgomery emphasized caution in using iBooks in the classroom. The “Top Free” book list is full of erotica. Teachers are encouraged to have students select a genre when searching for a free book and not using the top list to assist in filtering out inappropriate content.
Showcase Your Classroom Using Google
(Presenter: Jennifer Bond, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools)
Bond using numerous Google products in her classroom to connect parents with her classroom. She highlighted several classroom blogs that she has created using Blogger. Since she is a third grade teacher, students cannot have an email address and thus, cannot publish their own blog. Thus, she is the moderator. Most often, the students write blog entries in their journals and Bond would choose the best ones, type them up, and post them. Another option for teacher moderation is, using Blogger, set up an email address students where can email posts (this works best if the school has a contract to allow the students to have an email address under the age of 13). The teacher will then be able to see the post prior to accepting it for publication. Many teachers have been doing this for years, but only showing the best writing in class, not publishing it to the internet.
Google Hangouts was another technology Bond used in her classroom. She uses it to help connect her class with other classrooms as well as parents. Sometimes, it is used just for fun. But be careful…there is a different between Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts ON AIR. On Air records the entire hangout and automatically uploads it to YouTube after you click done. There is no editing. There is no option to not upload.
Creating a Genius in Every Hour: 20 Time in Education
(Presenter: Nick Provenzano, TheNerdyTeacher.com)
A number of years ago, Google implemented a policy that employees were to work on a non-assigned project 15% of their week. In other words, Google would pay them to work on side projects. Just something fun. Many people though the executives at Google lost their mind. Do you know what they got? GMAIL. ADSENSE. And so some people wondered…what if we did the same for education? What would students achieve? The concept then became known as 20 Time (easier to give 1/5 of the week).
Provenzano piloted 20 Time in his class last year. He said it was difficult…when he realized in order to make it truly 20% of the school year, he had to figure out how to get ride of 34 instructional days (yes, there was a deep inhale by the teachers in the room at this moment). He cut movies, he trimmed his curriculum, and reworked lessons. Eventually, he obtained those 34 days. He didn’t even waiver on the commitment when the worst Michigan winter eliminated numerous instructional days. He kept his word: every Friday was 20 Time work time.
Students were graded on a completion basis, did they write this blog post, etc. They gave a speech at the end, TED style. In fact, they organized a TEDx event to showcase some of the projects.
I was amazed at some of the projects that students did. But the more I think about it, I wasn’t so amazed as I was thrilled that students rose to the challenge. Given time and encouragement, students are capable of doing great things.
Have you ever bought a book only to come home and find out you already had it? No? Well, then have you ever found a book in a series but you weren’t sure if you had it, passed it by, and then returned home only to find out you didn’t have it? Still no? Hmm, you must not be a bookworm or have your own physical library.
I have lots of books. I have two encyclopedia sets (one Britannica one from the 70s and one called the Great Books of the Western World), a leather-bound book collection, mass market paperbacks from several favorite authors, popular fiction I’ve read, a lengthy “to read” shelf, textbooks from undergraduate and graduate school, textbooks for tutoring, graphic novels, etc. My children’s books are currently in storage. Like I said, I have lots of books.
I’ve always wanted to digitally keep track of my library; however, I did not have the funds to purchase card catalog software (though if I had, I would have years ago!). Thankfully, I didn’t because I’ve found a smartphone app that scans the ISBN bar code of a book and populates an entry for me to keep track of each and every book (since it populates from WorldCat). It’s called Book Crawler.
Book Crawler is available for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch ($1.99) and the Mac Desktop. The free/lite version of Book Crawler limits you to only 25 books. I use Book Crawler on my iPhone and iPad. The app is perfect; I can scan each book (that has a bar code, I will have to manually create new entries for all the leather-bound books and encyclopedia sets) and add any additional information I want to the entry. I can add the price I paid for the book, whether I own it, the genre, have read it (and the date I read it or just put “a long time ago…”), have multiple editions of the same book, the medium (Kindle, paperback, hardcover, audio, etc.) plus several custom fields. But what I REALLY like is the ability to classify the series it belongs to, including the order number.
I can delete any information that is populated from scanning the bar code and/or add any information. This is great because sometimes the populated information isn’t specific enough for me or it doesn’t match others in the same series and thus, the database thinks this new book is a different series. For example, one author I like to read is Debbie Macomber. She has a series she calls “Dakota”. Two of the books scanned with “Dakota” as the series, but another used “Buffalo Valley”. It is a common reference to the series. However, I wanted to keep the series name consistent, so I changed it to “Dakota”.
I like the ability to create Collections as well. This allows me to separate my cookbooks. Collections can be a smart list so I can specify a “Sparks Notes” Collection by publisher or content for my graphic novels. I can also tag content in the books. Right now I am not tagging content, mostly because of the sheer number of books and it’s not a priority. But since I can go back and edit this, I may add tags in the future.
An excellent time-saving feature of Book Crawler is the ability to set defaults for my entries. For example, if I am scanning all the books I own, I can set the default to of “Own” to on. Why would it be anything else? Perhaps you want to keep track of every book you ever read…including library books. And since I’m scanning books I’ve already read, I’ve got that default set in the on position as well. Lastly, since most of my books are paperback, I’ve got that default set to on as well.
When I first started scanning books using Book Crawler, I frequently got an error message that it couldn’t find the book. I would have to manually enter the information in. It quickly grew tedious and time-consuming on an iPhone to do so. I have found three things that together solved the problem. First, and most importantly, there is a difference between the UPC bar code on the back of the book and the ISBN bar code on the inside flap of a mass market paperback. Book Crawler needs the ISBN bar code. If there is no other bar code than the back of the book (like with a hard cover book), then chances are the ISBN bar code and the UPC bar code are intertwined. Secondly, the default scanning program that Book Crawler uses is not that good. It has trouble reading the ISBN bar codes. Book Crawler recommends that you download pic2shop, a free bar code scanning program that integrates with Book Crawler. I have found the recognition rate to be much higher. Lastly, I have found that, on occasion, Book Crawler can take up to a minute to populate the entry with scanned information. On the times the information is not found instantaneously, I begin filling out any information that I want that won’t be populated, like if I have read the book, how much I paid for it, etc. Generally, after about 3 fields, the information is populated.
Now that I have Book Crawler running smoothly, I am excited to scan all my books. I typically scan on my iPhone, however, if I want to use my iPad, the Book Crawler database does not automatically sync. I have to back up the database to Dropbox (an excellent feature) on my iPhone and then download the backup on my iPad. It takes a couple of minutes to do, but it’s not a big deal once I have it initially setup.
Book Crawler is essentially my own electronic card catalog for my own library!
Popsicle sticks have been a popular choice for teachers to randomly draw names of students. However, keeping classes organized can be difficult. Standing in front of 30 students is not the time for a game of pick up sticks.
Stick Pick is an app by Buzz Garwood and available for both the iPhone and iPad. It costs $2.99 and can hold as many electronic Popsicle sticks as you want; all organized by class.
Stick Pick will keep used and unused names separate so keeping track of who has already had a chance to speak won’t be an issue. When you get to the end of the tin, you can just simply reset. Of course, you can reset the tin at any time to start over.
You can operate Stick Pick in just “Stick Only” mode where names are being drawn, or you can operate in one of several modes with stem questions being prompted from either Bloom’s Taxonomy, Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, or ESL. You can customize a different mode for each student as well, to apply differentiated learning strategies to your classroom.
Additionally, you can utilize a few feedback buttons and gather statistical data on your discussion. In other words, you can draw a name and click “assess” and mark if the student answered the question correctly or incorrectly. Then, at the end of the discussion, you can go look through statistical data.
While the app is available for both iPhone and iPad, it does not appear to sync between the two devices. This can be rather difficult if you have both devices that you use interchangeably in the classroom. You’d have to set up the sticks on each device separately and the feedback data will not sync.
I have used Stick Pick in the classroom before to actually create more classroom interaction. I have downloaded the app to my iPhone and then directly hooked up the phone to the projector. I picked the first student and no matter if he or she answered correctly or not, that student still had to get up out of his or her seat to come up to the front of the classroom and hit the button to pick the next student. There is a bit of audio noise of a tin can shaking and then all students see whose name was drawn. After a few minutes it became more game-like to them. They were more enthusiastic with answering and interested to see whose name would come up next. Hint: Everyone’s name came up! I used this to during an otherwise boring lesson on comma usage.
I have not hooked up the app on an iPad to a SmartBoard to see if the students could just tap the Smartboard and have the next stick picked, but I would definitely be interested in trying it!
If you are a teacher and if you are a regular smartphone user, chances are that you have come across a plethora of education websites and apps. You may not, however, have realized that many of these can be feasibly used inside the classroom to improve learning. Most of your students (unless you are a primary school teacher) must also have access to smartphones and tablets and know their way around the internet and the app world. You may be the type with a zero tolerance policy when you see a phone out during class, but how do you know that the student is necessarily communicating with friends, and not trying to Google a word or phrase you just uttered, and which he or she doesn’t understand? Maybe the student is even brushing up on the topic of the lesson. How about trying to integrate all of this and create a more enriching teaching experience?
Step 1: Use Smartphone Apps
There are countless smartphone or tablet apps that you can use to supplement your teaching and add to your reference material database for the benefit of your students. For example, a language app called Courses123 allows the user to learn five new languages. It offers vocabulary training, definitions, pronunciation and usage guides. Wolfram Alpha, the big brother of learning apps, works like a search engine. Additionally, it answers factual queries in a unique way. It uses curated database of knowledge websites or pages to directly calculate and display the answer. So it is also an answer engine. School Fuel Apps connects teachers and students and acts as a learning platform, in the classroom and on the move. If you are a science teacher, you can recommend apps such as Science Glossary, Atomium and Skeptical Science to your students. Science Glossary is an extensive science dictionary app that provides definitions, short biographies and education modules. The Atomium periodic table app provides information about every element, while Skeptical Science addresses climate change.
Step 2: Access Online Resources
Websites, online tools and other such resources could be of huge help to both students and teachers. HippoCampus, for example, is a knowledge rich website where you can find instructional videos that are arranged by subject. The Jefferson Lab website contains knowledge resources and content on high school science. It is divided into a student zone and teacher resources, and also offers games and puzzles. Discovery Education gives you the best links to other educational sites, and lets you create your own classroom clip art and word puzzles. There is also a huge number of education blogs that you can find. E-pals lets you arrange safe online interaction and communication between your students and other students around the world. English as a Foreign Language (EFL) blogs include Kalinago English, EFL 2.0, TEFLtastic with Alex Case, Jamie Keddie.com and so on.
Step 3: Use Cloud Storage and Sharing
Cloud storage has given a facelift to teaching methods. For example, Dropbox and Sugarsync are resources that allow you to back up files and sync them across connected devices. You get to carry around all your teaching material with you, via these applications. With such effective utilization of cloud storage, you don’t need to worry about losing your data even when you lose a device. You can also share saved data and resources in the classroom, or with your students who have accounts in, say, Dropbox.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more things you can do with smartphones in the classroom. If every other kind of technology is being allowed for teaching, why not smartphones or handheld devices? And with a more enjoyable classroom experience, there will be fewer chances of students being easily distracted.
Author’s Bio: Lynda Scott is an educationist, social media evangelist, and an ESL English specialist. She writes primarily on education and technology related topics.
On the internet there are hundreds of articles reviewing iPad, iPhone, and Android apps that can be used in the classroom on mobile devices. Some reviews tout how amazing and life-changing some apps are for the classroom and others reveal that certain apps just don’t live up to the hype.
But is there any way you can weed through apps on the App Store or the Android Marketplace/Google Play? How can you evaluate apps for yourself?
According to the Texas Computer Education Association, apps should:
• be easy to use
• be easy to understand
• have no/few ads
• be subject-intensive
• connect to the classroom units of inquiry
• differentiate for users, accommodating the many ways students learn
• have skills and approaches that are real world
• require higher order thinking–which according to Bloom’s includes creating, evaluating, analyzing
Overview of the App
- App Title:
- App Publisher/Developer:
- Link to App Store:
- Yes/ No – Is it relevant to the curriculum framework?
- Please add any additional comments regarding implementation.
- Yes/ No – Is navigation easy? For example, index, contents, menus, clear icons
- Yes/ No – Is on-screen help and/or tutorial available?
- Yes/ No – Does it have multiple ability levels?
- Yes/ No – How does it respond to errors? For example, incorrect spelling.
- Yes/ No – Are there audio/video options with controls?
- Yes/ No – Can selected material be tagged, copied, pasted, saved, and printed?
- Yes/ No – Does it keep a history of the user’s work over a period of time?
- Yes/ No – Features that address special needs? E.g. physical, aural, visual, ESL.
- Yes/ No – What support materials are included? For example, online resources, booklet, lesson plans, student worksheets?
- Yes/ No – Does the material accommodate diverse ways in which students learn?
- Yes/ No – Is it developmentally and age appropriate?
- Yes/ No – Does it provide an opportunity to increase students’ understanding?
- Yes/ No – Does it provide an opportunity for higher order thinking?
- Yes/ No – Does it provide an opportunity for engagement and interaction?
- Yes/ No – Does it provide opportunity for collaborative practice & idea sharing?
- Yes/ No – Does it promote creativity and imagination?
- Yes/ No – Does it provide an opportunity for problem solving?
- Yes/ No – Does it provide feedback and assessment?
Need a bit more formalized rubric? Kathy Schrock has a iPad App Evaluation rubric in PDF form you can download and use.
These three guides came from an article, “Friday Five: Top 5 iPad Apps for Your Classroom,” written by Jacqui Murray for TeachHub.com. Using these guides, she recommends the following 5 apps: Babakus, GarageBand, Educreations Interactive Whiteboard,Google Earth, andTimed Test Arcade for iPhone. Read Murray’s article for her rationales.
Murray, Jacqui. “”Friday Five: Top 5 iPad Apps for Your Classroom.” TeachHub.com. Web.