Friday, November 9, 2012

11 Best Elementary Apps

So often I see amazing examples of how students are using tech while learning.  Sadly, most of these examples are high school or middle school kiddos.  Rarely do I see examples of how elementary kiddos are using tech in creative ways.  Although it does happen.  I may sound like a broken record, but lets get beyond the kiddos using iPads as $500 worksheets (or toys).  They can do so much more than practice their addition facts, watch videos, or handwriting practice.  

While it is important to provide kiddos with some practice, if all we do is use the iPads for that then we are 1) wasting money and 2) doing our kiddos a disservice.  There are some apps that I absolutely love and think that the elementary classroom just can not do with out.  So many of them are perfect for the portfolio process, but can absolutely be used for other purposes!  My top ten(ish) follow.

    Weebly is one of my favorite tools.  Hands down.  It had me at 'drag and drop' when I first began using it back in 2008.  Weebly is a great application for kiddos to create their own portfolios in the form of a blog or website.  They can also create informational websites and multi-media e-Books.  As soon as Weebly came out with their app, it made it even easier for kiddos to create these items!  With just a few clicks they are uploading content that includes, text, pictures, and video!
    Another absolute favorite is Evernote!  The app, particularly since they've come out with Evernote 5.0, makes it quite simple for kiddos to maintain an e-folio. They can take pictures or record audio while in the app, or they can upload pictures and other files from the iPad. They can include examples of their work in a variety of formats: picture, audio, text, and live links.  They can also include their reflections via audio or text.  This app, if you are fortunate enough to have a 1:1 format or need to meet the needs of a kiddo, would be perfect for workshop notebooks.  Kiddos could have notebooks for Readers', Writers', Math, Inquiry Workshop, and Word Study.  Imagine a kiddo using Evernote for Writers' Workshop: they can use different colors for different parts of the process and you can easily leave them feedback in their notebooks!

    Skitch is an Evernote app.  One of the great things about Skitch is how you can turn pictures into diagrams or kiddos can create their own images!  What's nice is how the pictures you create in Skitch are easily saved to your Evernote notebooks.  Imagine a kiddo using Evernote throughout the writing process and then using Skitch to illustrate their writing!  Or a kiddo using Skitch to solve complex math problems and then sending that image right into their math notebook or e-folio.  You can leave them a note and they can include a reflection on the learning experience.

    Since I brought up Skitch...I have to talk about Doodle Buddy. Doodle Buddy can do the same things Skitch does.  And more.  For one, it can be used as a dry-erase board.  Doodle Buddy provides more color options and a variety of backgrounds.  One of the most useful backgrounds for Math Workshop is the dot paper; kiddos can work with fractions, geometric concepts, area, and more.  But the 'stamps' that Doodle Buddy has in the app allows kiddos to create arrays or posters.  Once the kiddos are finished creating, the image can be saved to the camera roll (and then uploaded to Weebly), emailed (to the teacher or Evernote notebook), or sent to Twitter and Facebook.

    An app I've recently stumbled upon is Creative Book Builder.  This is a great app for creating iBooks (or e-Pubs).  The kiddos can include images, videos, text, html, PowerPoint, documents, PDFs and more into their books!  Once they've created the book they can email it, post it online, save it to their iBooks, or publish it to the iBookstore.  Although you can obviously create books with this app and this would be perfect for Writers' Workshop or as an option for students to share content/concept specific related learning, it could also be used for an e-folio.  Most of the apps I suggest here are free, but this one costs $3.99.

    Educreations is known fairly well for a place for teachers to create videos for their students; to flip their classroom.  But this app is also great for students.  They can create their own video tutorials as a way to demonstrate their understanding.  They could also use Edcucreations to created recorded diagrams.  An absolutely great tool for Math or Inquiry Workshop.  

    Talking Tom is a favorite app of mine to use with the kiddos!  It is such a fun way for them to create videos.  Most of them are familiar with the app, as a toy.  Being able to use it in a novel way in the classroom brings joy to their learning.  Talking Tom can be used to create brief videos that share their responses to reading, pose mathematical problems, share brief research reports or stories, and more.  I've written more about Talking Tom here

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    Songify is another app I enjoy using with kiddos!  It is a fun way for kiddos to create songs.  I also like that it is a fun app that most of them have not heard of before.  Songify can be used similarly to how Talking Tom is used.  They really enjoy personalizing the songs; the music/beat their words get turned into. Although some of the 'songs' are free, most of them cost money.  That's okay, because they really enjoy it.  I've written more about Songify here

    An app I've just discovered is called Word Collage.  If you are familiar with Wordle or Tagxedo then you will enjoy Word Collage.  This app costs $.99, but if you want Wordle for your iPad (or iPod) then the money is worth it.  There are so many great ways to use word clouds.  One that is fairly common and helpful for younger readers is to paste in text of documents and see what words are repeated to determine important ideas.  Kiddos can also use this as a visual way to represent their own writing.  Another word cloud app is Word Salad.  It is free, too! 

    Easy Chart is a great app for its graphing abilities.  Kiddos can create bar graphs, pie graphs, or line graphs.  It also allows them to personalize the graphs with color.  Because it is a graphing app you can immediately connect the app to Math Workshop or Inquiry Workshop.  Kiddos could collect data, input it into the app and choose the best graph style to display the data.  It's also a great way for kiddos to set goals in other academic areas.  Possibly the number of hours or books they plan to read each week, their fact fluency, etc.

    If you've clicked on any of the images above then you may have noticed my slight obsession with Pinterest.  Pinterest has incredible untapped classroom potential.  Being the e-folio fan that I am, it can absolutely be used as an e-folio.  Kiddos could have different boards with examples of their learning accompanied by a written reflection.  (What a great way for parents, classmates, and teachers to comment as well!)  They can also use Pinterest as a place to keep a record of books they read or want to read, accompanied with book recommendations or reviews.  Think about how primary kiddos could use Pinterest as a writing tool or Writers' Notebook (maybe with some help from YouTube?)

    For more inspiring ideas be sure to check out Lisa Johnson and Matt Gomez.