APPS IN THE CLASSROOM
Tools to Streamline Study Time
As a career educator, I’ve witnessed the rapid shift in attitude toward the role of mobile technology in the classroom. Less than five years ago, I remember insisting that my students put away their phones while in class. Today, I’m asking kids to take them out of their backpacks to help with schoolwork. The iPhone is a teacher’s disruptive technology—an innovation that completely changes an ecosystem—and that’s a good thing.
The iPhone, even more than the iPad, has improved the way teachers and students communicate, helping educators create more interactive, accessible, and personalized curriculums. Why the iPhone over the iPad? Not every school district has the means to supply an iPad to each student, and in my experience, when given a choice, most teenagers prefer owning an iPhone to an iPad.
If you’re the parent of a high school student, I highly suggest getting him or her an iPhone the next time you’re able to upgrade—or, if cost is a concern, consider purchasing a secondhand model or another inexpensive Internet-enabled device that your teen can use to connect to the secure Wi-Fi
at school. My goal is to get students to see their devices as tools for classwork during school hours. Here are just a few apps that not only help students in the classroom, but that also help teachers prepare their students for future success in the workplace. Evernote (Free) Evernote is a wonderful note-taking app that allows students to type or dictate notes, as well as save photos and web clippings in one place. Since Evernote stores information in the cloud, students will always have access to the documents they need for class. Shared folders among students, classmates, and teachers allow for collaboration, making it easy for teachers to share handouts and articles with the entire class, as well as add comments and suggestions to assignments.
Evernote helps bridge the gap between the former statespecific standards and the new Common Core standards for math and English language arts. Because some textbooks are outdated and do not address the types of reading assignments required by Common Core standards, teachers can find news articles and classic literature in the public domain to share with their students in Evernote. In fact, I’m currently using Evernote to study Shakespeare with my sophomores, who use the app to import the text, take notes, highlight passages, and receive worksheets from me.
Evernote is, in essence, each student’s digitalized portfolio. At the end of the school year, I encourage my 10th-grade students to share their folders with the 11th-grade Language Arts teacher, so that he or she gets a sense of each student’s skill level and learning style in advance. iBooks (Free) We all want our teens to read more, and Apple's iBooks makes it easy for students to read on the go. Along with offering the convenience of having your text handy at all times, the app also allows readers to manipulate the font in order to accommodate individual preferences. Although the app is free, most books have an additional cost—though those in the public domain (as well as all e-books that meet ePub standards) are free to download. This means most of the classics normally covered in the classroom will be free of charge.
The app allows students to mark up and highlight text, add comments, and email copies of reading notes to teachers and classmates. Some books also include auditory support and a built-in dictionary for struggling readers or ESL students. Pocket (Free) Pocket is a web-clipping app that allows students offline access to information saved from the Internet. It’s perfect for storing articles to cite later when writing a report or essay. Sometimes, when students have a difficult time determining what makes a source reliable, I have them save the source material to their Pocket account and share it with me for approval. The process is quick and easy, and doesn’t require printing—meaning students can’t use the excuse, “Uh…I forgot it at home.”
Like iBooks, Pocket lets students manipulate text size according to their eyesight. The app can also be used in conjunction with Evernote. Zite (Free) One of the challenges of writing a good research paper is backing up your thesis with information from reliable sources. Zite, a magazine-like app, assembles web postings from credible sources in one convenient place. It works well with both Pocket and Evernote to make researching easy. Students can build comprehensive lists on various topics, then scroll through the articles to compare and contrast potential evidence before including their findings in their essays. Notability ($4.99) Sometimes you just need to be able to write. Not type, not tap, but write. That’s where Notability comes into play. The app allows students to take handwritten notes with their fingers or a stylus, as well as type notes, import photos, and record audio. This is a great app for annotating digital texts for classroom discussions or for filling in worksheets. Students can import PDFs, write on them, and then send them back to their teacher, either in person or remotely. CamScanner Free (Free) Through CamScanner, students can scan handouts, textbooks, and articles using their smartphone cameras. This comes in handy when a student doesn’t want to lug several heavy textbooks home, or when a substitute teacher collects work and students fear that it won’t get back to their teacher. Once you’ve scanned a document, you can edit and email it. Students with special needs can zoom in and highlight text for easier reading.