8 for 8: Eight iOS Apps You Can Learn to Use with Students in Under Eight Minutes

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photo credit: iOS7 Homescreen blurred (DSC_0719) via photopin (license)

1. Nutshell Camera (Prezi)

This app is like Vine, in that you can take a quick video of a subject or action. The difference is that Nutshell is a whole lot easier to use. With your iPhone, take three shots of any scene while the camera rolls. Add text and clip art, and Nutshell creates a professional-looking video clip to share. Great for creating visual summaries of learning.

2. My Story – Storybook and Ebook Maker for Kids by Teachers (HiDef Web Solutions)

After Naomi Harm tweeted out that this app was free, I let my entire staff know about it. Students can draw pictures and words, add clip art, type text, and insert audio of themselves reading their own writing. In just a few minutes, I was able to show a student how to use this app. He was able to create an original book independently.

3. Scannable (Evernote)

This app has been the best thing to come to Evernote since…well, Evernote. Scannable allows you to scan in several documents at one time, and then create one PDF of the content saved. This is really nice for students that have a multiple page story to put in their digital portfolio in Evernote. Educators can use this for saving lengthy meeting handouts.

4. Decide Now! (CafForce Studio)

Formative assessment is easy to talk about, but harder to apply in the classroom. One way to check for understanding during a lesson is to cold call on students. Decide Now! gives the teacher an easy way to do this. Input all of the students’ names, and then push the button in the middle. This way, every student is expected to respond to a question.

5. YouTube Capture (Google, Inc.)

Want to capture video, edit it, and upload that content right away? This app by Google will allow you to do that. It certainly isn’t a replacement for iMovie, but if you are a teacher looking to share student learning via a private classroom YouTube channel, this app seems to be the best way to accomplish that.

6. Canva (Canva)

If you need to mix things up when teaching students how to summarize their thinking, check out this app. Canva is built to allow users to create visual posts for Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Images, text, and templates are provided. Using this graphic design app in the classroom can be a way to integrate art concepts into content.

7. Animoto (Animoto, Inc.)

Put together a 30 second video that includes your images and/or video, a sound track, and text, and then publish for the world to see. Animoto has been around for awhile (relatively), yet still remains as an essential digital tool to consider when students want to represent their learning in dynamic and visual ways.

8. Marble Math and Marble Math Jr (Artgig)

These apps are more about consumption than creation, but the Marble Math series is worth mentioning. Kids take a marble around a maze and touch the numbers that complete the equation posted. Every problem posed changes in operation, which causes the student to think before solving it. Concepts covered are tied to the Common Core.

Moonlighting as a Teacher

After seven years, I am back in the classroom. Well, sort of.

At a recent mass, our priest made an appeal to the congregation asking for volunteers to teach religious education on Wednesday nights, also known as CCD. I would already be there, dropping of and picking up my son, so I volunteered to be a catechist.

I had everything I needed: A teacher’s manual, textbooks and activity books for the kids, a roster, and a template for preparing lessons. The lesson plan framework was pretty specific. It was suggested that we detail the pages to be read, activities to design, what types of discussions to facilitate, and any assignments I might want to have my students do as homework.

As a beginning teacher, these would be very helpful. I was appreciative of having all of the material ready for me ahead of time. But prior to becoming a principal, I was an intermediate teacher for seven years. As an observer and evaluator of instruction in classrooms for an equal amount of time, I have come to the belief that the lesson plan is more than a series of steps. There is a flow to a great lesson. It considers how to engage the learners. An excellent plan of instruction considers what should happen, but also considers what might. The plan always is steering toward that essential understanding or skill, but is able to change directions or provide multiple pathways to get there.

That is why I use the simplest framework I could think of: BME, or “Beginning-Middle-End”.

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I have no idea if someone came up with this before me, so if I have replicated anyone’s work, my apologies.

When I prepared my lesson (the concept was “faith”), I thought about how I would want to begin. What would capture their hearts and minds – a question, a quote, or maybe sharing an interesting piece of information? How I did elect to start was directly related to the concept. However, I did not post the learning target on the board and point my finger at it, saying, “In today’s lesson, we are going to…”

As I developed the meat of the lesson – the middle – I described the activities I wanted the students to participate in, but not too specifically. I wasn’t 100% sure how the beginning was going to play out, so I wrote a few instructional strategies to consider once we got started. It was during this time that I specifically pointed out what we were learning.

In the end, my plan was to have the students motivated enough to find the answers to their questions that they couldn’t help but share with the class with the help of the text. I modeled how to organize our information around the concept of faith using a Frayer model. I demonstrated this first, and then stood by and wrote their responses on the easel paper where the organizer was drawn out. Students who felt comfortable writing their responses independently were handed the marker. I closed out the lesson by commending everyone for such thoughtful responses and being active learners. We went through each response together to review our thinking before we left for the night.

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To be honest, we didn’t respond to every question in the activity book, nor did I take their workbooks home to check their answers. If I gave my students a test on the content from the textbook, they may not pass. I guess that is something to be aware of for next week. On the bright side, I felt like we had a better understanding of the concept of “faith”, and how it applies to our own lives. I also feel good about giving the students a few learning strategies while attempting to understand the content. I’d like to think it was integrated, authentic, and meaningful.

I hope through my experience as a teacher again, however limited, that I will keep my instructional skills sharp, develop a better perspective about the role of the teacher in today’s educational climate, and try out some of the great strategies I see my own staff using every day.