Starting Out…Which Apps to Use in My English Classroom?

After a summer of researching and digging deeper into this world of the iPad and the gazillion apps that are available for education (overwhelming to say the least), I had to narrow down what I would use in my English classroom. This was an extremely difficult task to say the least. Fortunately, part of the iPad Pilot Program involves five other fantastic teachers and a great media specialist who are all willing to share their ideas with the rest of us. If I have learned anything in my over ten years of teaching, it’s that without collaboration and sharing with colleagues, no one is at their best in the classroom. An open line of communication is necessary in order to learn, vent and challenge ourselves to grow professionally. So, with the help of these other teachers, I was able to make some decisions about the apps I felt would work best with my class and my teaching style. I’ve listed most of them below:

*Noterize – To use for notetaking. Honestly, I liked Evernote better since it’s more aesthetically pleasing because of its ability to clip images and websites directly to the app. However, it does not upload to Google Docs, which is what I’ll have the kids using for file storage. So I’ll start out with Noterize with high hopes that Evernote will jump on the Google Docs bandwagon (maybe an email from me is in order?).

*NPR – To use for current events and class discussions. Love, love this app! So many author interviews, podcasts, etc. and bonus – it’s free! What’s not to love?

*Flipboard – To use for current events and class discussions. It’s a news magazine but the pictures and types of articles will easily keep students’ attention.

*HitPad – Again, to use for current events and class discussions. But the really cool aspect of this app is that it researches a topic for you. For example, it lists a topic and shows all the websites, videos and Twitter posts related to that topic and all on one app. Great to help cure “information overload” when students are browsing the web for information about a topic. One-stop internet shopping! It’s like the Wal-Mart of the internet – a shopper can buy waffles, shampoo, tires and guns all at the same store…one-stop shopping!

*Literary Analysis – This really is a useful app which gives definitions of literary analysis terms and examples of their uses in text. One goal I have is to have the students add these literary terms into their lexicon and I think this app will help in this.

*iMovie – I’m still pretty new to iMovie and how it works, but from what I’ve learned so far – wow! My idea with iMovie is to separate the students into groups and have each group create one news segment which will be shown on the large-screen TV’s in our school. This will make it so easy for them to complete and I’m looking forward to learning more about what it can do. Interested? Check out this great website which teachers can use to get the students started using iMovie: www.speedofcreativity.org

*iTalk – To help prepare students for oral presentations. What better way to self-assess their public speaking skills than to have them actually listen to themselves?

*iBooks – I’ve tried the Nook app on my iPad, but wasn’t crazy about the way it looked on the screen. I also figured using iBooks for my online books would make more sense since it’s on an iPad and would be most compatible. Also, students can open many documents in iBooks and save them on their shelves, which I thought was a neat option.

*Prezi Viewer – I didn’t realize the iPad requires this app to watch Prezis made on the Prezi website. Now I know and got the app!

*Dictionary Word Book – How nice to be able to say to students, “Look it up on your iPad”, when they ask me what a word means. I think this will invoke much less groaning and eyeball rolling than when they have to use an actual dictionary.

I’m sure there are a couple that I’m leaving out, but this is the vast majority. Like I mentioned before, we will be using Google Docs for writing, sharing and saving. My hope is that this will eliminate the myriad of excuses that always accompany the writing and completion of papers in the computer lab when using flashdrives or saving on the network server (“I lost my flashdrive”, “I couldn’t finish my paper at home because it was saved on the server at school”, etc.). As long as students have access to the internet, they will have access to their work. I think this will make my life and their lives so much easier.

We’ll see how these initial apps go! I’m sure there will be some that will not work out and others that I need to have on the iPads. I’m open to any suggestions of apps that others have used and have really liked, so please feel free to comment if you have any opinions on this. One thing I need to remember is to take it slowly and I will try not to use all these apps at once; the kids need to learn how to use them one at a time…

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