Five Fabulous Free Apps Every Teacher Should Have

18 11 2012

The following list is definitely not a be all, end all for apps, but these 5 apps are powerful sharing, creation, and assessment tools for teachers. Plus, they’re free!

1. Dropbox:

Dropbox is one of the best cloud-based file storage and sharing systems out there. WIth the ability to install Dropbox on any computer or mobile device, Dropbox uses the cloud to store files and pictures. Set up a free account and have 2GB of free storage- which is quite a bit for files. Also, Dropbox is great to share files to others via e-mail that may be too large to send as attachments. It’s versatile, multi-platform, easy to set up and use.

Teachers could use dropbox by having students send their work to the teacher’s dropbox. Or they could set up their own Dropbox account and share the assignment (file) to their teacher via e-mail. Teachers could then download the work, mark it, and share back to the student.

I use Dropbox all the time for files that I want to use between devices or need access to on multiple devices. It has been a lifesaver in keeping me organized for school and work.

2. Evernote

Evernote is another cloud-based app that can be installed on any computer or mobile device. It offers the same syncing features as Dropbox, but for notes that are taken within the app. However, Evernote is more than just a note taking app. Users can add photos and record audio to create a multi-media note that can be shared and/or viewed on any computer or device that it’s synced to.

There are a multitude of practical applications for Evernote in the classroom. Create a notebook for each student and upload students work to their notebook for a digital portfolio. Use the audio recording feature to record reading fluency. Take a picture of the student reading the book, and have the student answer questions by typing or recording their answers  right in the app.  Lastly, teachers can also use Evernote to observe the learning environment by taking pictures of students in group work, record observations by typing into the app, and record audio of students engaged in dialogue. There is not limit to the uses of Evernote in the classroom.

I use Evernote for evaluations, as well as for taking notes in meetings and observations. It’s great to be able to go to another device and have the note right there where I can access it when I need to.

3. Haiku Deck for iPad

Haiku Deck for iPad is an app to create visual presentations. Select a theme, insert photos and text- viola! A presentation that can be shared via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter. The interface is simple to use, and there is enough variety within the app to make a spectacular presentation.

Teachers could use Haiku Deck with their students for projects, for book reports, to show mathematical processes and thinking, science experiments, all about me activities, and more. It’s up to the user’s imagination, really on how to incorporate Haiku Deck into the learning environment.

I used Haiku Deck to make a presentation of my learnings from a recent conference, then shared it with others. It was a visually powerful way to demonstrate understanding- which could be done with students as well.

4. Videolicious

Videolicious is a super easy way to narrate photographs. In the free version, there is a 10 photograph limit, but  I don’t see that as a negative. Record as you swipe the picture, and it all syncs together so seamlessly! There’s no timing to worry about, no cues other than your swiping the picture into the narration frame.

Once the narration is complete, it’s a slick video slide show with crisp narration and music. Teachers could use Videolicious for lessons, but for student use in an infinite number of ways. Students could narrate about themselves, or about their cumulative artwork for a “Virtual Art Gallery” walk that can be shared with parents.

5. Tiny Tap, Moments Into Games – Create Free Educational Books and Games for Kids

Tiny Tap allows teachers to make interactive games for students. First, select the pictures you want to use. Then,  record your questions by tapping on each picture and then tapping the record button. Then select the portion of the picture that’s your answer. It’s that simple! Not sure what to make? Check out their store for free and paid games that are available for download.

The potential for this app is intriguing, particularly for Early Childhood, Dual Language Learners, and for students Autism. For any student that is working on vocabulary identification, this is a great app to use! What a fun and engaging way to teach concepts from the natural environment (i.e. familiar objects). While I haven’t tried this one yet, I’m eager to share this app with others.


ACTEM Reflections

19 10 2012

October 11-12, 2012 marked the 25th annual ACTEM conference in Augusta, Maine. ACTEM is the Association of Computer Technology Educators in Maine. The sessions were varied, but the theme was the same- leveraging technology in schools to improve student learning outcomes.

Overall, I found the conference to be a great experience. I particularly enjoyed Christopher Tully‘s talk on Thursday, where he spoke of the importance of creating classroom cultures that show students that learning is fun. This is something that I fundamentally believe in. Learning can, is, and should be fun. Technology can help in a lot of ways. Students can show mastery of concepts via multimedia presentations, for example, which can connect to real-world experiences.

I found the below video from Wired Educator, and it speaks rather nicely to the themes Chris was speaking of at the session.

Another highlight was a session put on by the folks at Teq. They went over 10 cool things to do with a SMARTBoard, as well as some features of Edmodo. One of the things I enjoyed was using the SMARTBoard with some free programs. Rather than write about it, this video will help:

The other highlight was Friday’s Keynote speaker. David Warlick, who I follow on Twitter, was our featured speaker. He is equally witty and curious about how technology can influence and positively impact our students. He spoke of many things that were reminiscent of Tully’s earlier workshop session, but he also spoke of the relevance of gaming in education. However, what was happening behind the scenes was what I found to be really interesting. As he was speaking, people (including myself) were actively tweeting themes, ideas, and parts of David’s speech that resonated with them. Not only that, but they were connecting what he was saying with their own practice. So, if David wanted to see if participants were understanding his message, a cool way to do that would be to look at the posts from Twitter about his presentation.

Here’s what he thinks of us techies and teachers in Maine-which is wicked cool.

Here is one way you can use Twitter to leverage learning for your students:

The other reason I was at ACTEM was to co-present with two fellow educators who focus on Early Childhood and technology. Together with two other educators in Maine, the five of us co-authored an article that was featured in the newest issue of Teaching Young Children.  Our presentation was an extension of the article, and stressed the importance of the intentional use of technology. Right before we presented, we received the print version of the article:

The session was well-attended, and I hope that participants got a lot out of it.

However, during the whole time at ACTEM, I just kept thinking that it would be great if more teachers came to events like this.

Devices and Flight- Not Just Playing Angry Birds

26 08 2012

Flying can be fun. It can also be scary for some. But for an individual with a disability, it may be difficult, and sometimes, it may just be less than a positive experience.

Recently, Carly Fleischmann, who is a 16 year old girl with Autism, was travelling. She was told to shut off her iPad, which happens to be her communication device.  Fortunately, the pilot allowed her to keep her device on, in airplane mode so that she could use it to communicate.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between the disability community and the general public. Assistive Technology is all around us. We use it in our everyday lives, and don’t realize it. Your iPad, iPhone, even a pencil, can be considered a piece of Assistive Technology. If I were on a flight, and were told to not speak during takeoff and landing, I guess I’d be able to do so. However, to literally take away someone’s “voice”- whether it be an iPad or a dedicated AAC device- is akin to removing an individual’s wheelchair, or not allowing an individual who is deaf to sign.

I think what bothers me the most is that the assumption was made that Carly had her iPad to play games, to watch videos, of whatever. However, like many individuals with disabilities that rely on Assistive Technology to integrate into their environment, this was clearly not the case. The lack of understanding is what bothers me. It doesn’t take much time to try to understand. We have become increasingly self-involved, and I fear that by doing this, we’ve lost some of our compassion, our ability to understand and accept differences – and make accommodations when it’s needed.

While I cannot speak to how Carly felt, I am hopeful that this will spark some real change in how the airlines view technology – particularly for students with disabilities. I have no issue turning off my phone, laptop, or iPad during takeoff or landing, but I sure would if it were my only means to communicate.

Maybe someday, children like Carly and others with disabilities won’t have to deal with this kind of thing.

Back to School App Specials

14 08 2011

Back to School already? It’s coming closer than you think!

My friend Siva over at Techinspecial ed has a killer blog post called Apps by IEP Goal.  This is part of a collaborative effort between equally dedicated educators and app developers to offer some of the best apps out there at a discounted rate!

Since I just returned from Apple Academy with a $25 iTunes gift card that’s burning a hole in my pocket, I am eager to expand the app library here at school. While I have most of the apps that are featured, there are a few that I am clamoring to get my hands on. Below is a short list:

Speech With Milo

Skills: Sequencing, Storybuilding

*Note- I would take ANY of the Speech With Milo apps, but this one is my favorite.

Story Builder

Skills: Storytelling, Reading, Sequencing

I am a HUGE fan of any of Mobile for Education Store’s apps, and desperately need to expand the libraries in them. I am so glad to see their library on sale for $2.99. If you don’t have this app- you are missing out on a great one!

Measurement HD

Skills: Measurement, Math

Punflay apps doesn’t disappoint with another fun and engaging app for measurement. I’m eager to try this one out.

Reading for Details

Skills: Reading, Comprehension

I have been looking for a reading comprehension app and it’s here- and it’s .99 cents! Bonus-they have more apps- including one for Cloze passages! I am really eager to try this one out!

This is a VERY short list of apps that I would purchase from the list featured in Techined’s blog. Make sure you check out this great resource. If you’re on Facebook, you can like his page here.

If you’re on the Twitter, make sure to use the hashtag #B2SAppSpecials.Thanks to the facilitators of this event- Jeremy BrownPatrick BlackSiva “Techined” ,  and Carisa Kluver. Also a HUGE thank you to the many developers who go above and beyond to help students with special needs by giving promo codes to promotions like this one.  Look for the next featured event to be coming soon!

Twitter-more than meets the tweet.

12 04 2011

I’ve had a Twitter account for a while now. For the longest time I wasn’t sure what to do with it. What is a “tweet?” Who would see it? Who would even care to see it? Who would follow the antics of Charlie Sheen? (Oh..right…me..)
What I have discovered since using Twitter for work is that there is a community of like-minded people out there like myself that is sharing information at it’s core. I have made some connections with people in other parts of the world I wouldn’t normally have. It’s nice to know what’s going on across the pond, or in Australia, or even in Canada. If I don’t want to go on and click on their link, I don’t. If I find it worthwhile, I click on it. Often times, the information is useful, relevant, and current to what we all are doing in education.

Then, this got me thinking to how teachers can use Twitter to enhance the educational experience of their students, or to stay connected to other educators. For example, a teacher can create a Twitter account that is set to “private”.

Privacy setting for Twitter account management

Teachers can then approve students who have a similarly set up Twitter account, and could tweet a link to a quiz, question of the day, video, assignment. Teachers could also post and protect posted student work-the possibilities are merely left to one’s imagination!

I am not saying that we should give 5 year olds a twitter account, but it’s a great way to communicate with our older students, and quite possibly our parents and community members.

Do you have any ideas for how you can use Twitter in your classroom? Interested in learning more?

6 examples of using Twitter in the Classroom

Top 100 Tools for the Twittering Teacher

Twitter Handbook for Teachers