Monday, August 4, 2014

14 Great Apps for Teaching and Learning Anything

As I said in my last post, there are many apps out there for teaching specific subjects.  I think when people get iPads, the initial temptation is to find the subject-specific things.  For me, I downloaded a lot of periodic table apps and chemistry reference apps.  I dreamed of apps to drill concepts and show reactions.  I didn't - at first - think about the things that students could do or create, or the things that I could do or create - with an iPad.  Tonight's list will be some apps I love for teaching and learning anything.  There are so many that this list could go on for days.  Instead, I am going to stick with 14 I wouldn't want to do without.

14 Apps that are great for Teaching and Learning Anything:

Apps Gone Free (free):  Every day there are apps that are free for one day in the App Store.  Download this free app and find some that are chosen by experts.  A free app that finds you free apps.  I have found some great stuff with this one.

Aurasma (free):  Aurasma is an augmented reality app that allows the user to take a video and lay it, virtually, on top of a still image.  When the image is viewed through the camera with this app open, the video plays.  This one has so much potential.  

Book Creator ($4.99):  The app is just what the name says.  Drag and drop images, write text, insert audio or video, and more to create a book about whatever you want.  Export it many different ways, including as a video on your camera roll.  Once it's there, you can use aurasma to attach it to a still image (that's called app smashing!).

Explain Everything ($2.99):  This is a powerful whiteboard app that can be used to record lessons about whatever you want.  You can insert images, write an draw in any color, type text (including subscripts and superscripts in the recent update!), create multiple pages, and so much more.  The videos that users make can be exported in a variety of ways, including to the camera roll.

Keynote ($9.99 if you don't have it, comes standard on new iPads):  This is the apple presentation platform.  It's easy to use and create beautiful presentations.  I use Keynote to make presentations, but, instead of standing in front of the class, I share them with the iPads and the students work through the presentation at their own speed.  The animations in Keynote make it easy to show a math problem in chunks.  As a student taps, more of the problem appears.

Nearpod (free):  Nearpod is one part presentation platform and one part student response system.  Take any presentation you already use -- from a PowerPoint or whatever -- and export it as a PDF.  Drag the PDF into Nearpod and slides are created.  Then add interactive features -- quizzes, polls, websites, drawings, videos, and so on -- so you can get feedback from your audience as the lesson is happening.

ShowMe (free):  A very easy whiteboard app to use.  Tap record, talk and write or draw, tap record to pause or stop.  Images can be added, including excellent backgrounds as of the most recent update.  Record a lesson where you solve a problem.  Ask students to introduce themselves to the class.  Put together a presentation about your genius hour project.  The videos get stored at where teachers can have accounts for their students and monitor their work.

Socrative (free):  A great app to use as a student response system during a lesson, as an exit ticket after a lesson, or as an assessment.  Create a free account at and create your "quizzes" with this very easy platform.  There is even a very cute game, space race, that students can play as they answer questions.

Sonic Pics ($1.99):  Sonic pics is a digital storytelling app.  Import photos and arrange them in order.  Decide what to say about each picture.  Then record your story.  Export your movie to youtube or your computer to share with family and friends.  It's so easy that my 7 year old made a sonic pic during one of our many snow days last year.

Strip Designer ($2.99):  Create your own comic strip.  Add images, text, and comic elements.  Export as a PDF.  My students use this app to create comic strip versions of the history of the atom.  What was once a dull video (that had once been a filmstrip!) because a fun and creative lesson where students drop in pictures of Dalton and Thomson with images of their atoms and critical details.  They export the PDFs and print them as their notes.

Subtext (free):  Read almost anything together.  Share a reading with your students through the app.  Embed instruction, assessment items, discussion questions right in the electronic version of the reading and students can respond in the app.  Teachers see the results in real time.  Help students meet the challenges of the Common Core by using this app to help them read closely and cite evidence.  Very cool app!

TapIt Free (free):  Use this app one of two ways:  1) Create selected-response answer sheets that can be used with paper and pencil tests and quizzes or 2) Use it interactively "on the fly" as a student response system.  The free account is very generous and kids like using it.  The app accompanies the web service 

Toontastic (free with in-app purchases available):  The best puppet show app I have seen for iPad.  Students choose characters and backgrounds and then tells and record a story.  The app combines intuitive ease for creating with cute graphics and lots of options, including draw your own characters and props.  

ZipGrade (free to try, $6.99/year):  Download answer sheets from  Scan them with this app.  Makes grading selected-response items a cinch to grade.  The app gives great item analysis -- how many students chose each answer -- and if you made a mistake on the key, you can fix it and it regrades all the papers instantly.

I have created a separate page in my blog about apps (What's App 'ning?) and will post much of this there too.  I will be updating that page as I find other apps that I cannot do without.

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