With a recent emphasis being placed on teaching methodologies such as gamification and flipped classrooms, the foreseeable future of education is obviously heading in a more technology-driven direction. Some schools are even delving into the beginning years of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Teachers are expected to know more and do more with technology. One very useful (and fun!) tool that can easily be implemented into the classroom is the tablet, whether it is made by Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, or any other company. The tablet has opened the gate to a world of paperless and effortless classroom management, as well as a ton of engaging learning tools and activities for students. Whether you have only one tablet for yourself, a few tablets to use with groups, or a class set (luck you!), there are apps and uses for each setting.
Setting Up Rosters, Policies, and Procedures
No matter which way you are able to use your tablets, one thing is for sure – there is a bit of set-up required before you can frolic through the fields of technological glory. If you are setting up your own tablet for management purposes, you need to enter your class rosters at the beginning of the year for a variety of apps, which can take some time. Some apps also allow you to insert any notes or parent information for quick and easy communication. If you are setting up tablets for classroom use, you need to make sure you have a strong wireless connection, load any apps you will be using onto all of the tablets, and define tablet policies and procedures. Some of my classroom policies and procedures (for sixth graders) included how to hold the tablet while walking to your seat (two hands, against your chest, like a snuggly teddybear), closing down all apps after use, locking the screen when a teacher is instructing, and staying focused on the instructed app (rather than playing games). If a rule was broken, the student would get one warning, if there was a second offense, the student was suspended from using the tablet for the rest of the period and would receive a lunch detention with the teacher. Once you get through the initial stages of setting up policies and procedures and instructing students how to navigate the tablet, the real fun and learning can begin! Below are some of my favorite apps that I use on the iPad (though many of them are compatible with Google Play and Android).
Synonyms (Apple) – Free! – A simple game in which students receive a word and it’s definition. The object of the game is to figure out the synonym using the set of letters provided. Students practice and learn synonyms, definitions, and spelling.
4 Pics 1 Word (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – Students receive four pictures that have a common thread or theme. With the letters that are provided, students have unlimited time to guess the word. There is also a “cheat” button that helps narrow down the answer. Students practice problem-solving, higher order thinking skills, and spelling.
NearPod (Apple) – Free! – An interactive slideshow platform. Upload your pre-made powerpoint presentations and add interactive slides that receive real-time feedback from your students such as quizzes, polls, short-answer questions, and even drawings. After the lesson is over, you will receive a detailed data report of your students’ responses.
Socrative (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – Basically, a student clicker system. You create the quiz ahead of time, or ask questions verbally, and students input their answers on their tablets (short answer or multiple choice). After the assessment is over, you will receive a detailed data report of your students’ responses and their final scores. Yay for no grading (unless you have short answer questions, which you must grade yourself)!
Pick Me Buzzer (Apple – BigRedBuzzer on GooglePlay) – Free! – Perfect for playing a trivia review game or jeopardy style game with students. Each student or group uses their tablet to press the big red button. On your tablet, you will see which group buzzed first to give their answer.
Edmodo (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – Edmodo is excellent for creating a social network within and outside of your classroom. You can provide copies of worksheets, give quizzes, create discussion boards, and even post grades. The app is an easy way to stay connected.
Show Me (Apple) – Free! – Turn your tablet into an interactive whiteboard! Not only can this be used on the projector screen, but it can also be helpful working one-on-one with a student.
GoodNotes (Apple) – $5.99 – This is a great tool to use when annotating a picture, a page in a book, or a PDF. You can highlight in various colors, circle, underline, and make notes. Documents can then be exported, copied, or printed, in order to save or collaborate with others.
SnapGuide (Apple) – Free! – While snapguides can only be created using the app, they can be viewed on the Snapguide website. Snapguides are a visual way to provide step-by-step instructions. This can be used to guide students how to use technology tools or they can be used in a flipped classroom to model a specific skill. Students can also create their own snapguides to practice sequential writing and word choice (since each slide has a letter/character limitation).
Animoto (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – Students can create free 5 minute videos using images, text, and music, which can then be embedded into other forms of media such as Glogs or Prezis. Very useful for quick book trailers.
ClassDojo (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – A digital rewards and punishments system that keeps track of students’ (represented as little monsters) accomplishments and wrongdoings through positive and negative points. You can display on your projector while students are working to keep them on task and every time points are rewarded or deducted, a noise alerts the students.
TeacherKit (Apple) – Free! – Make your life 100x easier. TeacherKit is a tool that manages everything in your classroom. You can create and modify digital seating charts, take attendance, input grades, make notes on behaviors, and contact parents all through this one app. All absences, notes, and grades are saved and can be exported or printed.
StickPick (Apple, GooglePlay) – $2.99 – No need to write out students’ names on popsicle sticks because StickPick does it for you! Enter your rosters and with a shake of your tablet or a tap on the screen, students will be selected at random and then can either be placed back in the mix or moved to the “used” pile.
Confer (Apple) – $14.99 – The ultimate app for reading and writing conferencing with students. It provides a basic template of Tag (such as the skill being taught), Strength, Teaching Point, and Next Step and saves all of your notes for each student. Though it is a bit pricey, you can download ConferLite which allows you to try it out for free with only ten students.
Evernote (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – Evernote is the ultimate organizational tool for taking notes, as well as capturing images of student work. In addition, you can also organize any PDFs, handouts, and websites using the Evernote Clipper (an add-on to your web browser). Evernote also provides you with an email address so you can forward and organize emails from administration, parents, and colleagues.
Flipboard (Apple, GooglePlay) – Free! – My personal favorite tool for staying up-to-date with news, professional development, and social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). You subscribe to various boards, some reader-generated and some company-created, as well as your own social networks and Fliboard displays up-to-date tweets, posts, and articles in a beautiful, easy-to-view arrangement (check out the board Education, Technology, and Mindfulness for great edtech professional development). You can even create your own board for others to follow.
Zite (Apple, Google Play) – Free! – Basically, it is a more student-friendly version of Flipboard. You cannot access social networking sites but you can still choose topics/companies/magazines you are interested in following. This would be particularly useful in researching or just getting students to read more real-world nonfiction texts.
Obviously, not all of these apps are available for every tablet, though most tablets do offer similar apps. For example, although TeacherKit is only available for Apple products, there are similar teaching management tools that work just as well! These are simply the tools that I have used and found successful. There are also many content-specific apps available for those of you who teach multiple subjects. Similarly, there are apps that are geared toward or work particularly well with students who are struggling from learning disabilities.
In addition to these apps, there are many ways that teachers have used tablets just by taking advantage of what comes standard. At the end of this past year, my students created online writing portfolios using Weebly. We used the internet on the tablets to display our Weebly writing portfolios and students played musical chairs (with the iPads) to explore and read writing by their peers. Students also used the camera to document the time spent in our school’s learning garden where we planted, maintained, harvested, and ate radishes. Some of my colleagues have had students film presentations or act out historical/literary scenes as an assessment. During book club, I also use my tablet to record groups discussing so that I can assess their ability to discuss, and so that students can hear their discussion afterwards to critique and gain feedback for improvement. The possibilities of what tablets can do for your classroom are literally endless since there are new apps being created and updated every day.
How have tablets and apps changed your way of teaching?