There are lots of things to look for in a good classroom app. It needs to be engaging, fun, and user friendly. But above all, a good app pushes students to reach higher levels of thinking.
I’ve sifted through the good and the bad, and came up with a list of “old-standbys” I find myself using with my students over and over again.
Apps for brainstorming and planning
Listing, planning, brainstorming, and organizing are important components of daily classroom activity, no matter what grade you teach. There are dozens of apps that make these processes more engaging and interactive for students, and these are some of my favorites:
Grafio ($6.99) and Idea Sketch (free) are the best apps for clean and colorful flowcharts or thinking maps. Both provide quick, interactive tutorials that make teaching students how to use the apps painless.
For comparing and contrasting, my students gravitate toward Draw Venn for iPad ($4.99), which provides basic features that make the concept quick and easy to learn.
For auditory support, try QuickVoice Recorder (free). While there are other voice recorders on the market, the simplicity of this one makes it my first choice. Use it to record collaboration occurring between student groups and to assess their use of academic language. Students can even e-mail you their sound recordings directly from the app.
The mantra for the Educreations app is “Teach what you know. Learn what you don’t.” This app allows you to write, add graphics or video, and record audio all within one presentation. I’ve used Educreations to deliver short, interactive lessons to my students.
It also allows my students to create lessons to present to their classmates. Students can even search an online library of presentations created by people all over the world.
Apple’s apps are among my students’ favorite and most frequented. As a MacBook user, I love that their apps are easily synced to iCloud, making documents and multimedia easy to access and edit from any of my devices.
Keynote, Pages, and Numbers each comes with a heftier price tag ($9.99 for the iPad and $19.99 for Mac). There is no doubt, however, that they are top of the line as far as word processing, data crunching, and presentation making go.
Video production has never been so easy with the iMovie app ($4.99). As a teacher who loves project-based learning, I appreciate the fact that students can now create professional, creative videos using only the iPad. If you have a VGA cord, your students can create, edit, and present a video without ever using a computer.
Reading has become incredibly interactive since the start of iBooks. If you have a Mac, download the free computer-based app iBooks Author. You and your students can create beautiful books to view through iBooks and even make them available for download from the iBookstore.
Although I’m new to iBooks Author, I already have plans to create a student magazine and show students how to create e-portfolios of their work.
Games for the brain
There are thousands of games in the app store. However, some market themselves as “educational” even though they aren’t! I’ve sifted through the good and the bad, and these five are my favorite:
- SpellTower ($1.99): Scrabble, Boggle, and Tetris, all in one. This challenging word game will stretch student vocabulary.
- Super 7 ($0.99): Super-addictive basic skills math game where the player combines moving discs containing integers and multipliers to make the number 7.
- Futaba (free): A basic word game for up to four players. Geared towards young children, but fun for older kids too!
- Math Matrix ($1.99): Practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with this simple math game, designed for all ages.
- W.E.L.D.E.R. ($2.99): A strategic and very addictive word-building game. One of the App Stores’ highest rated apps.
iPads are an incredible classroom resource! For more information and tips on apps and their uses in the classroom, check out my past blogs on setting up classroom iPads, apps for teachers, and back-to-school uses for the iPad.
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