By Teachers, For Teachers
It's a great time of the year to try out some new ideas in your classroom! Here are five great apps that can liven up your autumn curriculum:
Student Clicker - Socrative (Free)
The real challenge behind a classroom at any level is student retention and understanding. Socrative is an app for teachers and students that strives to ensure that these key metrics are both possible and quantifiable. In a way, this app is able to turn your classroom into a game of Jeopardy! where you pose questions and students respond. This real-time interplay is valuable not only for lesson/grading assessment and troubleshooting, but allows students a chance to interact with technology and take a break from traditional lecture.
Unlike many other apps, Socrative has put in the extra effort to make this app compatible across tablets, smartphones, laptops and all associated platforms – for free. Talk about no student left behind!
Once you’re in the app, the interface is very easy to understand – regardless of whether you’re on the teacher or student end. As the teacher, you’re able to select from a list of activities – multiple choice, true/false, short answer, quick quiz, exit ticket and space race. Your chosen activity will dictate the actual flow of the questions or games. As the student, you simply enter a room number and go with the flow. Socrative is able to present the answers directly on your screen or via e-mail.
Ultimately, your students might not be huge fans of how quickly you can queue up a pop quiz, but you may find they are tuned in a bit more astutely by virtue of friendly classroom competition and the prospect of gamification.
Cloud computing has been all the rage lately, and now K-12 teachers finally have an app that brings that technology to their classrooms – Showbie. Through your unique classroom cloud, students are able to submit homework assignments, so unless they have a digital dog, you’ll be hearing a lot less of those excuses.
Although this function in itself is great, it also allows student and teacher to add voice and text notes, annotations and more to the submitted work. In a way, it operates much like a professional, creative work management system custom built for the school environment.
As a result, Showbie opens up a whole new world of possibilities in regard to receiving and giving valuable feedback both in and out of the classroom.
The app itself is free and easy to navigate for both students and teachers and works well via mobile, tablet or PC/Mac. For those who still have difficulty using the app, video tutorials are readily available on their website, which is great. Once they’ve got the hang of it, students are able to join their specific class on Showbie using a class code.
Out of the box, Showbie is a fantastic and practical tool, though we would love to see options to make specific annotations to assignment sections (akin to traditional grading on paper) rather than the entire submission. Regardless, it’s a free app that we would recommend giving a shot.
For years, blogging on an iPad has beens atrocious. Using either the app versions of your favorite blogging platform have helped incrementally with this, but none of them make it feel like blogging from a good old fashioned screen and keyboard setup. Until now.
This app lessens the aforementioned frustrations from mobile blogging for the most widely used platforms – Wordpress, Blogger, Drupal, Tumblr, Squarespace and more.
As such, Blogsy’s crack at making the iPad more than just a device to consume information is more than welcomed. If you’re familiar with the web experience from any of the blog platforms mentioned above, Blogsy makes many of the features you use just as simple – scheduling posts, posting photos, sharing videos, attaching hyperlinks, styling your blog and tinkering with HTML. Our favorite feature has to be how easy it is to hyperlink: Simply drag and drop URLs into your post and the app does all the legwork from there.
For teachers, Blogsy is a great app to help keep your blog moving while you’re on the go. It’s also a good way to get your students sharing their thoughts and become more media literate on a collaborative, shared blog amongst the classroom.
Subtext - Subtext (Free)
Reading books in a traditional fashion is quickly becoming a thing of the past, and Subtext is an app that fully embraces the transition to the digital reading world. Gone are the days and limitations of the red pen and highlighter – Subtext ushers in the ability to embed instruction and scaffolding directly into the pages of most digital books or e-publications. Think of it like a Kindle reader on steroids.
Within the app, you can layer web links, videos, assignments and quizzes – making it both straightforward and interactive to engage students, improve critical thinking & writing skills and assess student progress within the frameworks of the Common Core State Standards. As the only eReader application that was designed specifically for the K-12 classroom, Subtext allows you to create classroom groups to keep notes private while also accommodating peer collaboration and book blogging at the close of each chapter or assignment.
A wide variety of literature is readily available to add to your Subtext bookshelf – individual and volume pricing are options right inside the Subtext eBook store or via Google Books. Perhaps surprisingly, there are several titles that are free on the latter platform that are mainstays in any K-12 instruction (i.e. Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, Wuthering Heights, The Scarlet Letter).
Speaking of free, the app manages to be exactly that despite all the advantages it delivers to any level of ed tech equipped classrooms. That being said, we think this app is a no-brainer to add to your instructional arsenal.
Brainstorming is a skill that often goes underappreciated, but many times as a result of poor translations into coherent and organized mapping. Inspiration Maps aims to make that transition from the students’ mind to paper a much more direct communicative process.
At the core of the app, students are able to utilize visual learning (via diagrams, maps and organizers) to help transform streams of thought into linear outlines that can later be exported for writing. It’s relatively easy to operate and utilizes gestures familiar to native iPad users for navigation, editing and more. To help students gets started, the app offers a handful of very useful templates including: Cause and effect diagram, group project plan and root cause analysis. Beyond this, teachers can use Inspiration Map as a workplace tool to analyze information, take notes and track classroom activities.
Inspiration Maps gives you a number of options for sharing your maps: via e-mail, saving them as images to your photos folder, printing them (via AirPrint) and storing or sharing via Dropbox and iTunes. The app also plays nicely with Pages and other word processing programs on the iPad.
At $9.99, it’s easily our most expensive tool we’re reviewing this time around but it definitely lives up to its price tag. For the budget conscious, there is a free version, but it is essentially just a preview of what the full-fledged variant can perform.