One quick search of the App Store is all it takes to find that there is no shortage of educational apps available for your iPad. The trick, it seems is to find the one that best suits the needs of your classroom. Like any other piece of teaching material, it is important to have a purpose for using it. What is the intended outcome? Learn to not judge an app by its cover; ignore the bells and whistles and make sure that you’re only encouraging the use of apps that support your learning goals.
When considering the use of an app I use this criteria to determine if it will be a good fit for my class.
1. Is it being used in place of something else?
For example is the student using the white board on Explain Everything to practice spelling their word wall words or to work out a math problem. In this instance; the app is simply a replacement tool. In my classroom it is not uncommon to find students working side by side using iPads and whiteboards. The tool they select is based on their personal preference.
This student took a screenshot of both the word problem and the materials he used to solve the problem; and used the white board provide a number sentence and explain his thinking.
2. Is the app reinforcing a skill or concept that has already been taught?
Sight Words and Math Slides are two great examples of programs that do just this. Both apps provide opportunities for independent or partner work.
Math Slides allows students to review a variety of math concepts through games played individually, with a partner or in groups of 3-4.
Concentration games using sight words.
The microphone feature allows students to hear the word displayed.
3. Is the app providing opportunities for the task to be redesigned, or extended in ways that would otherwise not be possible?
Twitter, Edmodo and Kidblog have been powerful tools in my classroom. Using twitter to connect globally with other classrooms through the #brainybeans project and the global read aloud project. Having the opportunity to interact with students across the world and share our learning, while providing and receiving constructive criticism has been engaging, motivating and has extended the understanding of our world in ways that I never anticipated. Edmodo has provided a safe forum for students to engage in academic talk; sharing ideas, learning and having rich conversation. Learning is no longer confined by the walls of our classroom nor defined by the ringing of the bell.
Edmodo provides a place for students to engage in meaningful conversation during or outside of school hours.
Our #brainybeans Twitter feed allows collaboration with other classrooms.
4. Is the app going to be used for the creation of something new?
For example; using Book Creator, Explain Everything or iMovies for students to create presentations. Allowing students the option to complete projects digitally allows them to develop projects that incorporate media (such as You Tube videos), pictures, audio and text.
This student used Explain Everything to create an 8 page slide about a community around the world that they were interested in learning more about.
5. Is it going to be more work for you?
Of course, there will be a learning curve involved when you begin to integrate the use of technology into your classroom, but apps should be user friendly and require minimal work on your part. One of my favourite apps for making my life easier is Qrafter. I discovered this app after searching for solutions to constantly being interrupted during Guided Reading, to assist students with accessing sites online while working in the Listen to Read centre. By creating a document in Google Docs and linking it to a QR code I was able to provide students with a barcode to access the sites I wanted them to use. Since then we have begun to use them for a variety of purposes.
6. Is it going to be used to present student work?
Aurasma and KidBlog are two ways to showcase student work in various ways. KidBlog can be used as an online portfolio, allowing students to post their work, give and receive feedback. It is a great way for parents to be able to see screenshots of work completed in class and to be able to look back and see progress over time. Aurasma allows our classroom walls to come alive! By adding trigger points to the room to scan with the app we are able to link digital content. Student work can be displayed this way, as well as video of presentations, experiments and activities. With multiple access points in the room, students and visitors can cycle back to see work completed throughout the year, hear words displayed on the word wall and more. The possibilities here really are endless.
Student work linked to the location on the map that was researched.
Our classroom map
I have had several fantastic apps recommended to me based on the success of other educators, but that doesn’t allows mean that they are right for my class at the time. By carefully considering the purpose of the app in the classroom I can ensure that our time on the iPads is being used in a way that will best support our learning.