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8 new apps to test drive in your classroom

By Team ISTE
August 17, 2015
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Kids tend to embrace apps, and thanks to initiatives and grants that bring mobile devices into the classroom, there are plenty of opportunities to use these mini-programs to amplify learning.

For educators, however, the challenge is finding apps that go beyond the cool factor to also enhance curriculum, engage students at or beyond their grade level, and fit into the budget.

You might already be using the basics, like Google Docs, Google Translate, Twitter, Pinterest and Dictionary. But why not build on that foundation with a few new apps this year?

We talked to some ISTE members with serious mobile learning cred to find out which apps they are excited about using when school starts.

Adam Bellow, ISTE 2013 keynote speaker and the founder of the ed tech resource sites eduTecher and eduClipper, recommends:

Tickle. Got coding? This amazing iPad app allows users to wirelessly program real-world objects, like Arduinos and robots, using a simple drag-and-drop interface. “It’s kind of like Scratch, but it can program drones, spheros, lights and more,” Bellow explains.
Zaption. A must for any flipped classroom instructor, this online tool and accompanying app helps you make your videos interactive with images, text, questions and sketching. It works with YouTube and other video sites, and it offers analytics so you can figure out what’s engaging your students and what’s not.

Shannon McClintock Miller, educational consultant, tech integration specialist and teacher-librarian extraordinaire, suggests:

Plickers. Perhaps one of the most transformative applications of ed tech for teachers is the ability to collect student data on the fly to make formative assessment a practical reality. This online tool and app lets you get around the need for individual student devices by scanning paper cards to conduct classroom polls, do instant understanding checks, collect exit tickets and more. “I am loving this and hearing so many success stories,” McClintock Miller says. 

Canva. A favorite of both McClintock Miller and Bellow, the new app for this popular and easy-to-use online graphic design tool gives students everything they need to create professional-looking infographics, posters, social images and presentation slides. “This great design tool keeps on getting better and has added new features like design school for teachers to learn some great design principles,” says Bellow.

Buncee Edu. This site and its accompanying app lets you easily drag multimedia onto a page. Students can use it to create presentations, digital stories and other creations, and educators can tap into its features to flip lessons and differentiate instruction with various types of media. “They have a new digital canvas concept that is out of this world!” McClintock Miller says.  

Jenn Scheffer, mobile learning coach and instructional technology specialist for Burlington Public Schools, says to try:

NoteLedge. Now offered at a special low price for a limited time, the latest version of this app serves as an all-in-one multimedia notebook. Use it to create and organize mixed-media content, sketch notes or draw works of art, and manage your schedule as well as your files. “This is something I definitely plan to investigate this upcoming school year,” Scheffer says.

Voxer. This “walkie-talkie” app offers a full slate of communication and collaboration features, including the ability to send text, photos, and live or recorded voice to individuals or groups. Teachers can use it to connect instantly with peers down the hall, at other schools in the district or across the globe. “I plan to continue to expose teachers to creative ways Voxer can be integrated into their content areas,” Scheffer reveals. “It is ideal for foreign language classes but could also be used for discussions in virtually any discipline.”

Paper 53. Another goal Scheffer has for this school year is to help students and teachers understand the concept of sketch noting. One of the best apps she has found for this so far is Paper 53, which has won a number of accolades, including Apple App of the Year. The latest version of this easy-to-use lets you and your students not only freehand draw and color, but also mix and share sketches, inspiring even art-phobic kids to exercise their creativity and have fun with visual note taking.

Most of these apps are free or low cost, so you don’t have much to lose by downloading any that look interesting to your mobile device now. Take them for a test drive and see how they might spark creativity or make learning easier in your classroom.