As an Itinerant Technology Resource Teacher I am always asked for insight into apps apps that would be beneficial for students to use. With so many developers, and with new apps being introduced to the market on a daily basis, it is difficult to stay current and informed.
I have always wanted a reputable site to go to where apps have been reviewed by educational professionals, so I could lead teachers to the right app for their particular class or student. At SXSWEdu I was introduced to bridgingapps.org. They have professionals from all areas of the educational system that vet and review apps. They take the review process seriously, and base their advice on use that goes beyond a couple uses. It is an American organization so some apps may not be available in Canada.
My Top 3
Explain Everything – The uses of this app are so diverse and effective that – even though it isn’t free – it is worth the purchase. I have seen teachers use this as a whiteboard to teach from, lead their class in Bansho, or as a way for students to document their process as they work through a problem. Spend the $3.99!
Google Drive – The fact that files can be accessible anywhere that there is internet service makes this wonderful. But when you add the fact that students can collaborate anywhere by sharing and commenting on files, well then you just transformed your classroom.
Raz Kids – I know, I know… not necessarily a free app because students need to have an existing account in order to use it. But,have you seen what this app can do? It is gamiefied in the sense that students get stars for completing different activities. They can then use those stars to personalize their own avatar; my son absolutely loves this part. The text level can be set for each student so that they are reading texts that are challenging enough for them, which helps promote gains in fluency and decoding. They can also record themselves as they read, and then play it back so they can self-evaluate their own fluency and expression.
But that ain’t all! Pull your socks up; I’m about to blow them off. If students send their recording, the teacher can access it via their online account. On the teacher account, teachers can use this to complete an online running record. Teachers can take the time to analyze and look at the root cause of student errors (meaning, structural, or visual), so that appropriate strategies and interventions can be put in place.
New and Promising Apps
Seesaw – Essentially, Seesaw is a way to curate your students work into a portfolio and be able to give them feedback that they can access anywhere, at anytime. This can be used in student-parent-teacher interviews, or even to show grandma and grandpa when they come to visit. More importantly it can be used for students to reflect upon their work. Often times the teacher can be using Seesaw to record the feedback, while the student is right there.
One neat feature is that parents can have a parent account where they can check in on their child’s work. Teachers can make text, graphic, or even voice annotations on children’s work. A variety of file types can be uploaded (check to see if a particular platform is supported) including picture and video files.
One of the teachers I work with – Jason Boyce, the teacher who introduced me to it – is using this app in his class (grade 4). While implementing the apps use, he has been in regular contact with the company. Seesaw is willing to take teacher feedback and improve their product. This sort of customer service and customer voice will only make their product better.
ToDo Math – Teachers always ask me for good math apps. I haven’t found many I like. Too many math apps focus on speed and rote memorization. At SXSWEdu I was introduced to ToDo Math. It is free – at least to start – and has a wide variety of math games that tackle a variety of the strands. The developer has a solid foundation in math education and strives to progress students from representations of math concepts from the concrete, to representational, to the abstract. I haven’t played with this enough to give it two thumbs up, and I will write another blog posting once I have.
If you have time to comment, please put down your favourite educational app.
If you disagree with me, please take the time to tell me why.