Educational App Reviews

As we begin to incorporate more mobile devices into our classrooms to engage our students, the question becomes, “What apps will be appropriate for the needs of my students?”  Sorting through the apps available on sites such as iTunes in the Education category can be very time-consuming.  In the past few weeks, I have come across some websites that try to make the job of finding meaningful apps for children easier for teachers and families.
Proshas 4 different platforms to choose from: App Store, Android, YouTube and Computer, allows users to add app reviews, can filter categories, levels, price, and language, can sort by new, recommended, review, or alphabetic
Consmust register (for free) to suggest apps, does not have a large selection yet
Pros:  can choose App Store, Android, or both, can filter by free, paid, highest rated, most popular, or APProved, can browse by category or age group, seems to have a large catalogue, gives a lot of information – both objective and subjective – about each app
Cons: not specifically designed for educators, although it does have an Education category, does not appear to have any teachers as reviewers (the site is designed for families rather than educators)
Pros: can choose category, can choose specific grade level, trying to work with developers to increase the quantity and quality of educational apps
Cons:  seems to be mostly App Store offerings (I didn’t see any Android apps), does not allow to filter for platform or sort by ratings, price, or popularity (though these should be coming soon), still limited on number of reviews (just starting out)
Pros: lots of meaty suggestions for using apps in the classroom with examples and links, written by an Instructional Technology Specialist in N.E.I.S.D. (shout out!) in San Antonio who was a former classroom teacher, very creative ideas for integration, most ideas have been teacher-tested
Cons: due to the high quality of each post, there is a lower volume of reviews than you will find on the other sites, limited to App store

60 Graphic Organizers

This is a great resource for differentiating.  Many teachers use graphic organizers, but there are a few here that I’ve never seen – such as the jigsaw puzzle.  Changing things up always grabs the students’ attention.  To apply this to different abilities in your classroom you could try the following levels, in order from least ability to greatest ability:

  • organizer that is pre-filled
  • organizer that is attached to a worksheet with the different words or phrases for the students to cut out and apply
  • blank organizer with no word bank
  • select your own organizer and fill out

I have tried the last one in my classroom, and the students love being given the option to choose.  It is interesting to see how they can apply the same information in several different types of diagrams.

Six-Word Memoirs

A couple of years ago, a fellow Gifted and Talented teacher, Michelle A., introduced me to these brief biographies by showing me the book Not Quite What I Was Planning.  I was immediately intrigued, and went out to buy my own copy.  There is something deeply moving about the power of six words to tell an entire life story, and I looked for ways to incorporate it into my classroom.  Apparently, Michelle and I weren’t the only ones who saw the potential of this writing technique.  It has taken classrooms by storm.  On this site, a teacher explains how she used the idea with her second graders, and gives instructions for the classroom activities. (Be sure to click on “Expand to Read More”.)  And at Smith Mag, there are lots of examples and ideas – even 6-word questions.  And Daniel Pink has a variation on this idea, as well, with “What’s Your Sentence?”.   I would not recommend that you set younger students loose on any of these resources, as there are some mature topics discussed, but you can gather plenty of appropriate ideas to jumpstart their creativity.

Make Beliefs Comix

Apparently, I really like this site.  I keep coming across it in my Bookmarks and Favorites on several different computers, as well as my online bookmarking site.  One reason I like this site is because my students like it.  They enjoy the different comic templates and the choices of characters and scenes.  Another reason that this site is appealing is because it offers alternatives for those who may not have access to many computers.  If you don’t want to have your students create the comics online, there are many printables offered by the site, which could also be used for planning out the cartoons.  In addition, there are Teacher Resources (I like that the page is titled “How to Play) with 20 suggestions for using comics in the classroom, and there is a link to Writer Prompts.

Kids Philosophy Slam

Kids Philosophy Slam has just announced its new topic for this year’s contest.  It is, “What is the meaning of life?”  Visit the site for more information on this contest for students in K-12.  And if you have any students who figure out the meaning of life, please be sure to at least give me a clue by commenting on this blog post…

Weird, or Just Different

This short (less than 3 minutes) TED talk by Derek Sivers would make a nice follow-up to any discussions you may have had recently with your students about Steve Jobs and the Apple “Think Different” campaign.  It reminds us to think globally and to try to look at things from other perspectives.  Before showing the video, it might be nice to ask your students if they had ever witnessed something they thought was “weird”.  After the video, you could revisit the pre-discussion, and see if the students can think of reasonable explanations for those “weird” sights or behaviors.  Alternatively, have them develop a list of their own behaviors that others might perceive as “weird”.