One of the reasons I wanted to start blogging, aside from having an outlet for writing, which I never considered myself good at, was that I wanted a way to show other teachers in my district specifically (and if anybody else jumped on board, that’s just a bonus), some of the things they can be doing with technology in their classrooms. Even in the few years that I’ve been teaching, we all know that there’s been an incredible advancement in things teachers use to teach. An iPad can be your one-stop-shop to engage students and create a learning environment that is exciting for you AND your students. These are a few that I’ve found that work great:
Nearpod allows you, the teacher, to create a lesson, control the pace, and get worthwhile feedback. Ideally, this works best with a classroom set of iPads. Have students open up the app. The teacher logs in on their iPad. By giving the students a unique code, the students can access your lesson from their iPads. You take complete control; as you swipe through your slides, you control what the students see. Think of it as a beefed up PowerPoint presentation. Within your lesson, you can connect students to websites you want them to see for more information, insert pictures or graphs for them to analyze, and even ask them questions. Poll your students. Have them draw a picture. When they submit their assessments to you, you have quick access to all of their responses and you can anonymously share students work with the entire class.
From personal experience, I’ve used an example lesson on the animal kingdom with a small group of third graders and kept them engaged for over an hour. They absolutely loved it and didn’t want to go back to class.
Educreations is an interactive whiteboard app. It works best with an Apple TV (or, if you’re like me, I use the VGA adapter and rig several extension cables together so that I can move around), but it not only allows you to draw in multiple colors, you can add text and pictures to your screen. What’s even cooler, is that you can record your voice and drawing, making this perfect in a flipped classroom environment. Export your recordings to post on your website as homework, or to keep students updated on material while they are absent. I’ve also given this to students to use as an assessment. They would have to record themselves detailing the water cycle. It’s a different way to present information to the class and show creativity.
Stage is very similar to Educreations, only instead of giving you a whiteboard, it turns your iPad into a document camera. Again, it works great with an Apple TV so that you are not tethered and can move around the room. Our second graders had chicks hatch and instead of all of the students going up in pairs to observe the chicks, we were able to focus the iPad on them so that the whole class could see them. One almost has a sense of feeling like John Madden using this app because you still have your pen functions to draw on what you’re documenting. “This chick really knows how to break through an egg shell. ::circles chick with pen on the app:: Look at him go, he’s almost there! BOOM! The chick is through! ::draws arrow to hole punched through:: That chick really had a great exit strategy…” Not only can you take a picture of what you’re documenting, you can record it as a video as well. If one of your students is working really well on a project, project it for the whole class to see.
Looking to show a little mind mapping to brainstorm a story? SimpleMind+ helps you create great looking web charts that look a LOT nicer than just drawing it on a SmartBoard and scribbling inside. This app gives you the ability to link several bubbles together to create an incredible spider web of topics and sub-topics. Students can brainstorm for their language arts narratives or even take notes to write a research paper. It also gives you the ability to export your maps to post to your websites for any kids who were out sick. Check it out and play!
No teacher’s iPad is complete without this app. There are SO many apps out there, that it’s nice to have something to aggregate them for you and say, “Hey, these apps are free today!” Most of the apps are hit and miss, but sometimes they give you a gem of an app. I’ve found a lot of primary education apps that great for Kindergarten and pre-school, including my two year old son. They put interactive storybooks on there every once in a while as well. Most of the time, there are productivity apps, games, or photography apps, but like I said, every once in a while you find something really good.
As is always my mantra, the more you play with these apps and others, the more you’ll be able to feel that it will work for you. I once read somewhere that if you can’t think of how you’ll effectively use an app in under 5 minutes, you’ll never use it. So don’t bother with those. There is so much out there that at some point, you’re going to find something that works for you, and when you do, play with it. Try it out. Then figure out how you can infuse it into your everyday lessons.