iPad Apps for School

A teacher on the English Companion Ning recently posed a question about which apps to buy with the $50 her school was giving her to outfit her iPad. You can find these sorts of posts all over the edublogosphere, so perhaps my contribution isn’t worth much, but for what it’s worth, these are the apps I think an English teacher should have, along with their current prices.

notability_iconNotability ($1.99). Notability is a note-taking app that allows you to type your notes or write them with your finger or stylus. You can import PDF’s, annotate them, and export them out again, which is great for literary analysis and annotating texts. It has a fairly intuitive interface with several kinds of editing tools, including a pencil, highlighter, eraser, and scissors for cut/paste. You can record and play back audio and incorporate other media. It does a lot more than the Notes app that comes with your iPad, though that is the app I frequently see people use when they are taking notes on the iPad. It’s an incredibly useful note-taking app.

imovie_iconiMovie ($4.99). iMovie is a great movie-making app. The iPad app is a scaled-down version of the iMovie app for Macs, but it still has a lot of options. You can use the app to create tutorials for students or presentations, and students can use it to demonstrate their learning of a concept through digital storytelling. One of our teachers reported that he liked it better than the Mac version because it was more intuitive on the iPad.

explaineverything_iconExplain Everything ($2.99). This app is great for demonstrating concepts, similar to Khan Academy-type videos. One of our teachers uses apps like this to have students explain their learning. The videos can then be exported and posted in a place where others can view them. If you are looking for lighter apps, Educreations (free) and ShowMe (free) are also good, but they don’t have all of the features that Explain Everything has. If you teach younger students, you might also look at ScreenChomp (free).

evernote_iconEvernote (free). Evernote is fabulous. I take almost all my notes on the computer in Evernote. Be sure to check out Nick Provenzano’s Epic Evernote Experiment to learn more about using this app. It is so easy to clip websites and insert images into this app, and what makes it nice is that you can use it on all your devices, and it will sync so that your notes are available everywhere you go. You can even log in to your account on the web and access your notes from a computer that doesn’t have the program installed.

flipboard_iconFlipboard (free). You can use Flipboard to create personalized magazines full of content you are interested in. What makes Flipboard a game-changer and nudges Zite, a similar app, out of the way is Flipboard’s ability for you to follow Twitter hashtags using the app. One I would recommend you follow right now is #engchat. A few others, particularly if you are integrating iPads are #ipadchat, #ettipad, #ipadedu, and #ipaded. You can also integrate the app with Facebook, and there are several suggested topics if you don’t know how to start. Browsing on Flipboard is as much like browsing through a print magazine as is possible on an iPad. I love it.

sonnets_iconShakespeare’s Sonnets ($13.99). This app is expensive, but it is so worth it if you spend any time teaching Shakespeare’s sonnets in your classes. It includes all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, both in print and read by actors and scholars such as Sir Patrick Stewart, David Tennant, Stephen Fry, and James Shapiro. In addition, it includes the Arden Shakespeare notes and commentary by David Paterson. It’s a fairly large app, as you might imagine with all that media. I am continually having to remove it to free up space when I’m desperate, but I always wind up adding it again. It is the 800-pound gorilla of Shakespeare apps.

shakespearepro_iconShakespeare Pro ($9.99). Shakespeare Pro has all of Shakespeare’s plays, all of the sonnets, other poems, and Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, as well as a concordance and a glossary. It also includes, if you care about that sort of thing, a collection of portraits and quotes. I find I don’t use them that much. Through the app, you can also create an account with Shakespeare Passport, which will give you discounts at all kinds of Shakespeare venues.

bookcreator_iconBook Creator ($4.99). Book Creator allows you to create multimedia books on the iPad. You can send them to friends, submit them to the iBookstore, or read them in iBooks. Students of all ages can use it, from pre-K to college. Teachers can use it to create their own books, too. It has an intuitive interface and allows for importing pictures, video, music, and even recording your voice.

haikudeck_iconHaiku Deck (free). Haiku Deck is a presentation app that allows you to create beautiful presentations. It finds images that match your words, or you can personalize it with your own photos and screenshots. You can share it via the web to be viewed on any device capable of surfing the web.

blogsy_iconBlogsy (if you blog, $4.99). Blogsy is great for blogging on your iPad. It connects to WordPress (.com and self-hosted), Blogger, TypePad, Movable Type, Joomla, Drupal, and Tumblr, among others. You can drag and drop images into the post using Picasa, Flickr, Facebook, or Instagram, and you can even pull videos from YouTube and Vimeo into your posts. Text formatting is easy.

googledrive_iconGoogle Drive (free). Using Google Docs used to be painful on the iPad if it even worked at all, but Google Drive’s app is really easy to use and WORKS. It does not have all the features that Google Drive on the web has… yet. For instance, you can’t see the revision history, and it doesn’t allow access to multiple Google Drive accounts, which makes it harder to use in schools when you have students continually signing out and signing back in, but you can get around these issues with an app called GoDocs ($4.99) if these are features you need right now. My advice would be to wait because I have a hunch that Google Drive will include at least revision history in a future update.

You will notice that most of these apps are not English/literature/language arts-specific. You are better off establishing use of a series of apps that allow you to work and create on your iPad rather than focusing on subject-specific apps, which too often are simply drill-and-kill and lower quality.

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Ten Technology Integration Apps

I regularly see blog posts sharing 10, 50, 100 apps for educators, and I haven’t written one before mainly because it seems to be well-trodden ground, but last night I decided perhaps it couldn’t hurt to share my list. After all, these other blog posts still regularly introduce me to apps I’ve never heard of, so perhaps a few of you haven’t heard of any of these apps either. I use all of these apps to help me with my role as a technology integration specialist working with colleagues both online and off and with students.

  1. Twitter. Seems like an obvious one perhaps, and I am probably not sharing anything you haven’t heard of, but I love to use Twitter to see what other folks are talking about, what apps they’ve found, and to bookmark links (more on that in a moment). I talk with other folks in my field and also keep up with what is going on in the world of books. I follow along with #engchat discussions on the Mondays when I have time and the topic at hand is something that intrigues me. I often also use the hashtag #edtech if I want something I tweet to catch the eye of educational technology folks, but as far as I know, they don’t have a regular chat set up.
  2. Diigo. I was an early adopter of Firefox, and early on it was kind of buggy and kept losing my bookmarks. I liked pretty much everything else about it, so I decided to search for bookmarking alternatives. Back then, the major player was Delicious. Then Diigo came along. It’s a wonderful service. Teachers can have added features for free. I can set up Diigo to automatically post my saved links to my blog either twice a day, daily, or weekly. I can also connect my Twitter account to Diigo so that any tweets I favorite will automatically be saved links in my Diigo account. This has become my preferred method of saving links because most of the good things I bookmark I find via Twitter. Diigo also has groups. You can share bookmarks with a class of students and give them access to share bookmarks, too, so that everyone is contributing to the pool of resources, and you can also create groups for colleagues. I regularly share Diigo bookmarks with folks on the English Companion Ning because we have a Diigo group. You can also tweet links as you save them. Also, Diigo has browser extensions you can use to easily save bookmarks. I can also have Diigo sync with my Delicious account so that I don’t have to add bookmarks in two places, and folks who subscribed to my Delicious bookmarks can still see my new bookmarks.
  3. LiveBinders. I have not begun to tap the potential of LiveBinders, but it’s a tool I’m excited about. LiveBinders is the digital equivalent of the three-ring notebook. You can save resources and organize them. Links you save will be a collection of pages instead of lists of links, which can give you a better idea of what is in the resource collections. You can use them to go paperless or create your own digital textbooks. You don’t need to know anything about coding to use them. You can also upload your own files like documents, presentations, and interactive whiteboard files. You can essentially create a collection of resources on virtually any topic. An added bonus: LiveBinders shares their favorite collections on Twitter, so if you follow them, you’ll regularly come across great collections of resources.
  4. Evernote. Evernote is one of those tools I wish had been around when I was in high school and college. Of course there wasn’t really such a thing as the Internet back then, but I digress. Evernote is a great note-taking tool. You can clip web pages and save them. You can create online notebooks that sync with your iPhone, iPad, or Android apps so you have your notebooks wherever you go. You can also use tags to make your notes easy to find and collect your notes in notebooks (different ones for each subject or topic). Evernote also connects with a series of other apps you can get in their “Trunk,” their version of an app store. The Trunk has so many cool apps that work with Evernote that it would be hard to begin to discuss them, and perhaps that is fodder for another blog post. You can use Evernote as a web app or download it on your Mac, PC, or mobile device and sync it across all your devices.
  5. Dropbox. I don’t carry around flash drives anymore because I can save everything in my Dropbox. Users have access to their Dropboxes via Mac, PC, the Dropbox website, and mobile apps. Like Evernote, Dropbox syncs across devices. The amount of storage space is generous, and you can obtain more space with referrals or you can purchase it. You can also associate Dropbox with other apps (similar to Evernote’s Trunk). One of my favorites is DropItTo.Me, which I use to collect student work digitally. They can upload their work to my Dropbox without having access to any of the other content. You can also easily share documents with others via Dropbox without having email them attachments. I shamelessly used my referral link here, but if you do sign up for an account using that link, both of us get extra space.
  6. Mac’s Dictionary app. Sorry PC folks, but you are missing out on a great app. Mac’s native Dictionary app has been in my dock since I have had my Mac, and as a matter of fact, just yesterday, I was teaching my students with Macs how to use this app. We are talking about word choice, and all of you English teachers have read an essay in which it was clear a student looked up a word in a thesaurus and used it without making sure they understood what the word meant, leading to unintended and often humorous consequences. I showed them that this app allows them to look up a word in the thesaurus, and all the synonyms are hyperlinked, which allows you to click on the synonyms and see the dictionary definition so you can be sure you know what the word means. On a related note, I was pleased to discover that Merriam-Webster’s dictionary app is now free for iPhone/iPad with ads. You can get a premium version with no ads for $3.99. Ads don’t bother me much. A few of the students in my class whipped out their phones and downloaded that app yesterday when I brought that up in class. The Merriam-Webster app has a hyperlinked list of synonyms after the word definitions. Dictionary apps like these should be seamless parts of our workflow now because they add the hyperlink functionality to the traditional dictionary.
  7. iCal and Google Calendar. I group these apps together because I use them together. I sync my Google Calendars with my iCal app, which also syncs with my iPhone’s calendar. I find that copying and pasting events is much easier in iCal, so I created my teaching schedule (we have a weird rotating schedule at my school) using iCal, but I add appointment slots to my calendar using Google Calendar. Folks can sign up for time to meet with me, which ensures they have my full attention for one-on-one training. I wouldn’t know where I was supposed to be at any given time without these two apps working in sync with one another. Google Calendars can also be shared so that folks can collaborate.
  8. Things. Things is not free, but I like it. It’s a good to-do app that I used all through grad school to keep track of due dates. Most recently, I set up a project using Things to keep track of all the things I need to do as part of my relocation to Massachusetts. As I think of more things, I add them to my to-do list. Things also has an iPhone/iPad app that syncs over wireless with Things on my Mac. Everyone probably has their favorite to-do app, and different apps work for different folks, but Things works for my own particular workflow. Things makes sure I do what I need to do when I need to do it, and it feels great to check items off that list.
  9. Wix. Wix is a great website builder that has flash and HTML 5 templates, many of them free. I think it would be great for creating student portfolios. It has a drag-and-drop user interface. You can use it for free, but premium accounts allow you to use Wix on your own domain, eliminate ads, and also come with unlimited bandwidth, extra storage, Google Analytics site stats, and other goodies (depending on the premium level you choose).
  10. WordPress. I have been using WordPress for years after trying other platforms such as Movable Type and Blogger. WordPress is great. You can install it in a flash, and you can add plugins that give you more options. For instance, I have plugins that automatically post my blog posts to Twitter so my Twitter followers know when I’ve updated, and I also have a plugin that helps me find great Creative Commons-licensed images on Flickr to use in my posts. The sky is the limit with WordPress. In fact, I recently learned from Wes Fryer via Twitter that WordPress powers nearly 15% of the world’s top million websites. In fact, 22% of new active domains are using WordPress. Students and faculty can both use it to blog or manage content on their websites.

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Question: Google Apps for Education Contact Lists

WhyMy school is using Google Apps for Education.

We are looking for a solution to a problem that is proving rather sticky. We have several contact lists that we maintain. For example, we have lists for all 9th grade parents, all 10th grade parents, and so on. All of the students, faculty and staff have email addresses in our domain, and they appear automatically in our contact, but we can easily make groups or contact lists from those emails. The parents do not appear in our domain as they are not given addresses on our school’s domain.

Does anyone know of a solution that allows Google Apps for Education users to create contact lists that could be updated globally so that each user in the system would not have to update every single change? We are trying to minimize the number of people who make global changes (such as when we add a transfer student’s parental emails or when a parent changes their email). CSV files are proving to be rather cumbersome, and they also do not allow for quick global changes.

Right now, we don’t know of a way for a single user to add a contact and share it with everyone on our domain using native Google Apps tools, which means we would have to continue to load CSV files or keep some separate list. This solution is not ideal mainly because of the support we would need to provide faculty and staff as well as the increased opportunity for errors to creep in.

If you have a solution, can you brief me on it in the comments and provide any relevant links as well as personal experience with the tool(s)?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tintin44 – Sylvain Masson

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Cool iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad Apps for Your Students

AppsaurusI recently downloaded an app on my iPhone called Appsaurus. What this app does is recommend other apps based on your interests—a little bit like Apple’s Genius. I think it might be a bit buggy because I keep blocking some types of games apps, and I even turned off those types of app recommendations in my preferences, but I’m still seeing them. An app reviewer noted the same issue in her review. However, that issue aside, I have learned about some great apps through this app. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is a pretty good list of apps that your students who have iPod Touches, iPhones, or iPads might find useful. Prices are accurate as of June 30, 2010, but are subject to change.

Homework and Planning

iHomeworkiHomework. iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Max OS X. This app bills itself as “the only app you need in order to stay organized in school.” iHomework allows users to add assignments, courses, and teachers. An interesting feature of this app is that it allows users to visit the course website or email the teacher. It allows students to keep track of grades, add repeating assignments (such as weekly quizzes), create to-do lists that can be used for non-educational activities, too, and sync between the OS X and the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. $1.99.

myHomeworkmyHomework. iPhone, iPod Touch, and Mac OS X. This app is described as “a simple and easy to use iPhone and Mac application that allows you to keep track of your homework, classes, projects and tests while interacting with a really cool design.” It does indeed, have an attractive design. This app also has a sharing feature that allows students to “transfer homework or class entries to friends and email homework reminders.” I can’t tell from the website whether the iPhone/iPod Touch app will sync with the Mac OS X app. Free.

ThingsThings. iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Mac OS X. I use this app as a to-do list and grad school planner. It enables users to create repeating events and specify when they end. It syncs with the Mac OS X app. Things also allows users to create projects with multiple to-do steps, file goals as “Someday” items, which is handy if you want to do it but aren’t sure when you’ll get to it, and allows you to specify the number of days before the due date that the reminder will appear in Things. $9.99.

iStudiez ProiStudiez Pro. iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad. This app allows users to input flexible schedules and keep track of their grades. The app has a nice design. The calendar feature resembles Apple’s iCal app. You can try out a “lite” version of the app for free. $2.99.

Notetaking

EvernoteEvernote. Mac OS X, Windows, Web, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry, Android, Palm Pre/Palm Pixi, Windows Mobile. This app “to save your ideas, things you see, and things you like. Then find them all on any computer, phone or device you use. For free.” The granddaddy of useful applications, Evernote allows users to take notes, clip web pages, take photos, take screen shots, and organize and tag items into different notebooks. Free.

SpringpadSpringpad. iPhone, iPad, Android, Web. This app allows users to bookmark sites, take notes, take pictures, and scan bar codes. You can integrate it with Twitter or Facebook, and email. Free.

Stick ItStick It. This sticky notes app allows users to take notes and put sticky notes on their lock screens and bump phones to transfer notes to other phones. $0.99.

I know there are a lot of wonderful iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad apps for education, and this list only discusses a few useful apps. Do you have a favorite? Please share in the comments.

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I Have a Blog Problem

I definitely have a problem. Do you know I have been telling myself for about a week now that I do not need to start a blog about apps and products for Apple’s Mac and iPhone? I mean, first of all, The Unofficial Apple Weblog and other sites do a much better, more thorough job than I would. Second, I already have several blogs, and I don’t update any of them with any regularity. And yet, I find that I do occasionally want to discuss some of the apps I’m using, even if they’re not education-related. To that end, I have decided that I will occasionally use this space to discuss education-related apps or products, but I will not, and I repeat will not respond to requests to review products unless I am interested. I have received quite a few requests from companies to review books or Web sites, and even been asked if I would link to products or allow advertising on this site. I want complete control over the content, and I want you to know that if I am discussing something here, it’s because I wanted to—because I either really liked it or because I didn’t—and not because I was paid to do so.

Because you perhaps are not as interested (if you’re reading this blog) in apps not related in some way to education, you understandably might not want to read posts about those apps. Therefore, I won’t subject you to them here. However, if you would like to read them, you might want to check out my book blog. I do allow myself to go off topic over there. In the sidebar to the right, you’ll see an RSS feed for that blog.

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