Recommended iPad Apps for Administrators

My team of elementary principals has agreed to purchase iPads. If we expect teachers to use technology with the purpose of improving pedagogy and learning, we need to model it. The fact that I discovered through Twitter that there is an iPad 4 only emphasizes our need to be connected learners. Without this knowledge, iPad 3s would be getting shipped to us as I write.

One of the first steps we are taking is deciding what apps to have preloaded on our devices. Here are a few that I am recommending to my technology director, Phil Bickelhaupt (@WRtechdirector). Many of these may be familiar to you, and I suppose there is a reason for that.

Free

  • Evernote – Excellent way to record and document gatherings (not “meetings”). Just this week, I held an impromptu staff gathering about some decisions made in our leadership team. Because of the short notice, not everyone could make it. I used Evernote to write down notes and record our conversation. Afterwards, I emailed the combined content to the rest of the staff. I am aware of at least two teachers who did listen to the audio while reviewing the notes.
  • Skitch – This app allows me to annotate over any photo or screenshot. I can then email that photo to a colleague, save it on my Camera Roll, export it to Evernote (this app is part of the Evernote Trunk), or create a public link as a final product. In the past, I have mostly used Skitch to email annotated photos of students to staff, but it seems like there is much potential with this tool.
  • Chrome – I had this app a while ago and didn’t like it. As people are want to say, Google doesn’t play with Apple. Since then, Chrome must have been improved. I can now check my school email account, modify my Google Site, work on Docs and use it as the browser that it is.
  • Dropbox – While Google Drive is nice for storing many kinds of documents, Dropbox does the rest. If I have photos or video I took in a classroom on my iPad, I can use this storage application to directly upload this content to my account. Once I have downloaded Dropbox to my computer and my phone, I can view these items wherever and whenever I want. Other perks include sharing folders with colleagues as well the iWorks Suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote – all essential apps as well) now allowing uploading of files to Dropbox.
  • Flipboard – There is so much information out there. It is hard to wade through everything online without some type of reader app that delivers your favorite educational information to you. Flipboard subscribes to blogs and online news providers and puts the content into a magazine-style format. Content that you like can easily be shared via Twitter and email, or saved to read later. Zite is a similar reader app that is popular with educators.

Paid

  • GoodReader – This tool has been described as the Swiss Army Knife of apps and for good reason. As a principal, I have many files and documents I need to read, but I don’t always have time to do it. With GoodReader, I can save and organize this information into folders. I can also retrieve files from Dropbox or Google Drive by linking these accounts to the app. One of the best parts of GoodReader is being able to annotate and highlight a PDF, then save it and email it to a colleague later.
  • Notability – If the interface of GoodReader is a bit too busy, check out this app. It has a much cleaner look and is somewhat easier to organize files. Although I cannot connect with Google Drive, I can upload content from Dropbox. I use both apps for different purposes. While GoodReader is excellent for reading (hence the title), Notability is great for jotting notes with the handwriting tool. I can also import photos into the document as well as record audio. I think there is a lot of potential for using this tool with instructional walkthroughs. So why not use Notability instead of Evernote? Even though the former allows me to handwrite, the latter embeds the audio within my notes when sharing the content online.
  • Instapaper – When you think about it, the majority of our days are spent reading, much of it online. Viewing this much web content can be hard on the eyes. Instapaper is an app that allows me to bookmark text online and read it later in a plain, Kindle-like format.
  • Grafio – This app allows me to create diagrams and flow charts for my ideas and plans. It is very intuitive in that when I attempt to make certain shapes, it autocorrects the circle or square so it is perfect. Dragging a finger from one shape to another creates an instant arrow link. I have used this app to create a visual for my building’s professional development plan and to assign lunch supervisors to specific parts of the building.
  • iMovie – Creating videos using photos, video and audio is a cinch with this app. In my humble opinion, it is better than the Mac version because it is simpler. I can stretch out the audio or photo in the timeline by spreading the file out with two fingers. Uploading the finished movie to YouTube or Vimeo allows me to share the final product through a web link. I have used this app for recognizing student achievement and recording student book talks.

As an elementary principal, these apps are what I use the most. What are your favorites? Please share in the comments.

Reflections After Introducing Writing ePortfolios to Staff

(This is a communication I sent to my faculty this afternoon. Last night they were all trained on how to use iPads to develop writing ePortfolios.)

Staff,

Thanks again for your willingness to take a step forward in integrating the iPad and Dropbox technology into your instruction and assessment. Just like the students, we need to extend ourselves sometimes and feel some “uncomfortableness” to become better at our profession.

Vertical teams for writing start tomorrow. Please communicate with your team where you will be meeting at 8 A.M before tomorrow arrives. If you can communicate these locations I will post them. The team assignments can be found on our Howe Teacher Site: https://sites.google.com/a/wrps.net/howe-elementary-bulldogs/pd/contact

What will you do tomorrow and at future vertical team collaborations? Our goal for all of our collaboration time is to improve student learning. Here are some possibilities:

– Develop norms, like you did as grade level teams.
– Discuss best practices in writing instruction.
– Use the ePortfolios, take one sample from each grade level, and compare across the building K-5 to analyze levels of academic expectations.
– Support each other in learning these new technologies.
– Celebrate your successes.
– Watch Regie videos and discuss samples/examples of exemplary student writing found at http://www.regieroutman.com.
– Use the writing rubric resource books and develop common assessments to share with the rest of building.

I am very proud of everyone for continuing to open your doors to your colleagues. Revealing our needs and identifying where we could improve our instruction collectively is the best way to increasing student achievement and learning. Remember: “Good schools are collections of good classrooms” (Richard Allington). This definitely describes us. We all do excellent things in our classrooms. You are the greatest learning resource for your colleagues.

-Matt

Getting Started with ePortfolios

In a recent post, I laid out my school’s long-term plan for implementing ePortfolios.

Portfolios in my district have been more of a chore for teachers, instead of a powerful tool for reflection and to show growth over time. Even when I was teaching, it seemed like a hoop we had to jump through. There are a variety of reasons for this: Lack of professional development for staff, no easy way to periodically share student work with parents, and (seemingly) never enough time during the school day. Our hope is that technology and time to collaborate will help change this for the better.

The screenshot below is a draft of my agenda for my staff’s first technology training night. What is not listed in the agenda is the research, rationale and process to support student portfolios; it will be covered prior to using the technology.

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It is important that I allocate enough time during the training for staff to practice using the technology with colleagues. The goal is that they leave our session with not only the what and the how but also the why we use ePortfolios. We will continue learning together during future technology nights this school year.

Have I covered everything? Are my instructions clear enough that all staff will be successful? If you have any suggestions or feedback for us, please share with a comment.