Today I was loading some apps on one of my class IPads for a student and I had to wade through hundreds of apps that I have downloaded over the last few years. This made me reflect on my journey of using apps in my classroom and how my attitude to them has changed. When I first started out on my IPad adventure I was a app hoarder. Every day I would check what apps had gone free and would madly download any app that remotely looked appropriate for education. Most of these apps would be learning style games usually related to maths such as time tables games. I would proudly use them in my rotations as a learning activity and yes the students were engaged but in reality I was just substituting these games for a similar non technological learning activity. They really didn’t make a difference to my students learning and did not show me what the students knew.
Now days my approach is very different to what apps I use in my classroom. I am nolonger using apps as a substitution for something I was already doing but rather I am using them as a medium for students to show their learning or to provide learning opportunities to the students where they are in the curriculum.
Apps for Mathematics
Kahoot is a class favourite as it is a game show style app where students compete against each other on whatever topic the teacher creates. Personally I use it as a warmup exercise for my math lessons where we practise our times table.
FrontRow is a daily staple in my math class as a way for students to work through the curriculum in their own time at their own level. What I love about this app is that is an adaptive app that presents the students questions at their level of the curriculum after they do a pretest. If students get an answer wrong the app presents then with a mini lesson on how to solve that math concept but the best feature is that it suggests peers names who they can approach for tutoring who have already mastered that concept. This is by far the most powerful aspect of the app as there is no better way of reinforcing a concept as to having to teach it to someone else.
When it comes to assessment I like to get my students to show their knowledge by creating teaching videos. Students use apps such as explain everything, doceri, notability, ShowMe, 30hands or iMovies to create videos about how to solve problems based on the concept we have been learning about. I like this because it gives me great insight into their thought process on solving the problems.
In the future I would like to explore Khan Academy as an alternative to Frontrow, but right now I love the data I can gather from Frontrow and as my students have been consistently using it for 1 1/2 years no I am unwilling to make the change yet.
Apps for English
For English all the apps I use are very much based around allowing my students to present their work in a professional way to a global audience.
For our writing we can’t go past Book Creator as a way to produce high quality ebooks which we can publish through our blogs. This year we have enhanced our books by using Green Screen to create suitable images for our stories. Pic Collage is also a favourite for producing imagery.
Other apps which are fun to use to share book reviews are ChatterPix. BuddyPoke or Tellagami. With these students can create short videos using avatars to do the speaking parts. My personal favourite is Chatterpix where you can take a photo of anything such as a book and then draw on a mouth, record your sound and then watch it come to life. Great for book reviews!
Google Docs is our go to app for any writing task as a way to share their draft work with myself and their classmates to receive feedback and assistance with editing. My students have also been fortunate enough to Skype with an author in the USA who is willing to read their stories and give them feedback, so many of my students share their work with him too.
When it comes to blogging this year we are using edublogs. Last year we used Kidblog and we found it a great platform to use but this year I have chosen edublogs because of its ability to not only be a blog but also a webpage and that the students have the ability to personalise and maintain their own blog pages which are attached to the class page. It is always exciting to see where we attract readers for our work from through such widgets as flag counter and live traffic feed and is highly motivating for the students as a medium to publish any of their work.
Edublogs is very easy to use and a great way for me to share homework and class newsletters but my absolute favourite for sharing any worksheets or assignment task sheets is Padlet. It is so easy to use and it also a very powerful way to have students collaborate on. This week I have had my students all sharing on a Padlet the names of all the countries they knew at the same time to assess what prior knowledge they have.
Later this year when I find time I would love to test out Google Classroom as another way to share and gather information but I want to read my recent purchase “50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom” by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller before I embark on that journey.
As you can see I nolonger look for subject specific apps but instead focus on apps that students can use to share their learning in a creative way to a global audience. Do I still love to check out new apps, absolutely! Do I download everything and share them with my students, not anymore. In fact nowadays I usually just ask one of my students to check out any new app I read about other teachers using and get them to tell me whether it is something we could use in or classroom, because when it comes down to it, the apps are for them to show their learning, not for me to feel like I know what I am doing because I have hundreds of apps on my iPad.