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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Reflections on ISTE 2013

Dynamic SerenityI am still gathering my notes on the ISTE conference last week. You can see them in this public Evernote notebook I’ve shared. Sometimes it’s not the most helpful thing to try to parse someone else’s cryptic notes, but for what it’s worth, feel free to have a look.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference, but I have two pieces of advice for anyone who is using a slidedeck to present at a large conference like ISTE.

  1. Don’t put text on the bottom of the slide. If the room is really crowded, some of the people in the room will not see the text. They will stand up a little to see better, which only makes the view worse for people behind them. I know lots of templates have text on the bottom, and it looks pretty. I have done it, too. You just never know what the room will look like, however, and text on the top is more accessible.
  2. Why not share your presentation via Google Presentation or SlideShare? If you do that, seeing it in the front is a moot point, and you can put text wherever you want. The presentation is now in the hands of your audience, and they can more easily annotate it, download it, and (dare I suggest it?) remix it.

Invent to LearnI came away from the conference excited about the possibilities of maker spaces, and after an energizing presentation by Sylvia Martinez, I downloaded her new book, co-written with Gary Stager,  Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. I can’t wait to learn more about making and engineering. One statement she made, which I will share here, is that we wouldn’t be talking about how to integrate the arts into schools and turning STEM into STEAM if schools hadn’t artificially removed art. She said you cannot stop kids from being artists. She shared the example of her daughter going through art school and how she learned that artists are on the cutting edge of technology.

One focus of the conference was gamification, and I am interested in exploring that topic further, as well. You have probably heard of the Mozilla Open Badges project (if not, check it out). I am excited to see how this project develops, particularly after Bill Clinton endorsed the idea. To be dead honest, my instructional technology masters was almost completely useless in terms of preparing me for what I do. And don’t get me started again on the test I had to take to add technology instruction to my certificate. It helps to have the degree on your résumé, I guess, but I hope, in light of how expensive education is (and it’s getting more expensive) that we can consider alternative credentials. Put together with endorsements, similar to LinkedIn, and I think badges could be more valuable than wasting money on classes with content you never use again. I’m just thinking out loud, and I don’t have the answer. Certainly some attention to personalized learning is in order.

photo by: papalars

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My Favorite Tools

Day 79/365: ToolboxIf you’re looking to try out some tools to make teaching, sharing, discussing ideas, and planning easier, you might want to check out some of these tools.

Twitter

I you want to ask a quick question or have a conversation, there’s nothing as efficient as Twitter. It’s also a quick way to get the word out about blog posts or other projects. Many people have it running in the background using a client such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Nambu, or Seesmic. I was skeptical about Twitter until I tried it. I think it’s one of those things you will have to try out for yourself in order to see its potential. It can be as useful as the people you follow. I have a great personal learning network on Twitter.

Diigo

I first started using Delicious a few years ago because Firefox kept losing my bookmarks. I became so aggravated by this bug that I decided at least with Delicious, I could have my bookmarks with added benefit that they are available on any computer. A couple of years ago, I switched to Diigo for two reasons: 1) it has the added capabilities of annotation, groups, and easy integration with my blog; and 2) I can integrate it with my Delicious account, so there’s no need to leave any of my Delicious subscribers high and dry.

Firefox

Though Firefox is perhaps not the fastest browser, its array of plugins enable me to customize my browsing.

WordPress

I use WordPress to manage the content on all of my blogs. Elegant theme designs and plugins add functionality. I’ve tried Blogger and Movable Type, and I found WordPress superior to both.

iPhone

As the commercials proclaim, if you can think of something you want to do, there’s an app for that. My iPhone helps me manage my to-do list, my Diigo bookmarks, and my Goodreads account. I also have the complete works of Shakespeare and a great many other books in my pocket. I can keep track of gas expenses and find the cheapest gas nearby. I can manage my grocery list or look up first aid information. I can check TV listings, listen to music, or take pictures. The two most recent apps I downloaded enable me to create packing lists and see what’s down the road at the next few exits.

Evernote

I haven’t used Evernote very long, but I recently planned my entire trip to Salem using it, and I found it incredibly handy. You can clip and save websites and take notes. I am only beginning to explore Evernote’s capabilities. Be sure to check out their blog post on the Evernote trunk and see how a former student of mine uses Evernote.

Google Reader

Google Reader helps me keep up with all the blogs I read. I would never be able to keep track of my favorite blogs without it.

Facebook

Despite some bad press from what I believe are some poor decisions about privacy on the part of Facebook, I still use it to stay connected to my family and friends. Most of my friends and family are not on Twitter, but they are all pretty much on Facebook. It’s an easy way to share news, photos, and videos.

Wikispaces

I haven’t found another wiki service that’s friendlier to educators or easier to use than Wikispaces. I use it for all the wikis I create now.

Ning

I won’t use Ning for my classes anymore because of the changes to their pricing scheme, but I very much enjoy the English Companion Ning and the Making Curriculum Pop Ning as tools to help me share and learn.

What are your favorite tools?

Creative Commons License photo credit: fran.pregernik

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Evernote

Arches / BinderI registered for Evernote and have had the app on my iPhone for a long time now, but I admit I really didn’t know what to do with it. It seemed perfect for students who needed to organize their notebooks. I was excited that Curio had Evernote support, but again, I wasn’t sure how that might help me. It was a case of being excited about the potential of a product but not really knowing how it can benefit me.

Until Jillian Ratti gave me an idea. When Jim Burke described his new organizational method, and I posted my own response, Jillian commented on my Facebook profile that she wondered if one could use Evernote to make a digital version of the notebooks (which I’m sure take up a lot of storage). Ding! I have a use for Evernote. I can organize my unit plans with all the resources and documents I might need for the unit. What’s more, I can access the notebooks anywhere.

I’m sure other resources exist that will do essentially the same thing, but I’m going to try this out and see how it goes. Thanks Jim, and thanks Jillian!

I have begun creating my Wuthering Heights notebook. You can check it out here.

Creative Commons License photo credit: t0omuchfun

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