Let’s face it. Teachers juggle an exhausting schedule of parent conferences, administrative tasks, and specialized student needs. They take work home evenings and weekends and often are forced to choose between family and job when it comes to allocating a finite quantity of time over what surely seems to be infinite needs.
The teachers I know want to be more organized, work more efficiently, use available tools to complete tasks faster, and prioritize needs. Knowing this, I look for tools to energize my teaching, do stuff like:
- save time
- accomplish common tasks more quickly
- make access from digital devices easy and intuitive
- are simple to use so even when my mind is somewhere else (like on the child across the room or the admin peeking in my door), the tool performs flawlessly
Here are three apps I love that meet these qualifications:
Flipgrid is a freemium discussion app where teachers (or even students) pose a discussion topic (via video) and students respond with a short video. The post may include a recording, an attachment, decorations, or any number of other tools to share their knowledge. Responses show up in a grid format that’s easy to view and fun to read for students and teachers.
This app is a wonderful method of differentiating for varied student needs. Here are just a few ways to use it in your class:
- ask questions about reading material or the lesson plan as a formative assessment to measure student understanding of the topic.
- let students pose questions about material that classmates can answer–a backchannel approach to learning
- have students share a quick video about themselves at the start of a new school year
- extend a classroom discussion so all students can offer their ideas, even the shy members
- brainstorm on a topic to collect lots of ideas before drawing a conclusion
The free app, IFTTT (If This Then That), allows users to automate web-based functions for a huge variety of tasks using what IFTTT calls ‘recipes’—an if-then statement that causes something to happen if something else happens first:
if this happens
then that happens.
While it may sound a bit geeky, it’s not. IFTTT is intuitive, friendly, and will quickly become one of your favorite time-saving, life-organizing, classroom management apps.
I polled my teacher friends and trolled Twitter to find out the most popular ways educators use IFTTT. Here’s what I found:
- IF I post a photo on Instagram THEN share it on Twitter
- IF it’s going to snow tomorrow THEN text me
- IF I am near home THEN turn on my house lights
- IF I can’t find my phone THEN find it for me
- IF I have homework THEN remind me to complete it.
- IF my iPad (laptop, phone) battery is low THEN remind me to recharge it
- IF I’m in class THEN mute my phone (or iPad)
- IF I cross a certain intersection THEN tell my mom (husband, dad) that I’m on my way
- IF a student sends homework via email THEN automatically file it in the right place
But the most popular use of all is to teach coding. Students learn to apply if-then statements (and conditional formatting) to the real world, not just math class. Without knowing they are doing so, they learn sequencing, problem-solving, and editing. If one of your goals is to create lifelong learners, IFTTT should be a must-have app for you.
The freemium Screencast-o-matic is one of the easiest to use and most popular screencasting programs in classrooms. Its free version is available online, requires no registration, and records up to fifteen minutes. The fee version allows longer videos, more options for saving, and the ability to store videos on Screencast-o-matic’s server.
Educators love screencasting for themselves and students. Here are popular uses:
- Record procedures and answer common questions.
- Give students audio-visual feedback.
- Record lessons that students can access anytime, anywhere.
- Make a video to help the substitute teacher.
- Communicate via a media students love — videos.
- Provide video evidence of class activities in a flipped classroom.
- Create a live recording during a class activity or a student presentation.
- Share student-created content as part of homework or a class activity.
- Provide training videos for both faculty and students.
- Offer a fun, unique approach to digital storytelling.
There you have it—three great apps that will energize your teaching and make a difference in how students see your lessons. What’s your experience with these?
–published first on NEA Today
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.