Tag: apps

Tech Tip #167–How to Evaluate Apps

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: How to Evaluate Apps

Category: Pedagogy

Here are thirteen tips to evaluate the apps you’ll find useful in your classroom:

  1. free or small fee
  2. stand the test of time
  3. positive parent reports
  4. rated ‘for everyone’ or ‘low maturity’
  5. no in-app purchases or billing
  6. support the ‘4 C’s’–creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration
  7. offer compelling content (this is subjective: ‘Compelling’ varies teacher-to-teacher and student-to-student)
  8. are not distracting or overwhelming in colors, music, or activity
  9. offer levels that become increasingly more difficult, providing differentiation for student needs
  10. few ads–and those that are there do not take up a significant portion of the screen
  11. intuitive to use with a shallow learning curve that encourages independence
  12. easily applied to a variety of educational environments
  13. doesn’t collect personal information other than user credentials or data required to operate the app

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What’s your favorite tech tip in your classroom? Share it in the comments below.

Copyright ©2022 askatechteacher.com – All rights reserved.


The Easiest No-coding Way to Build an Education App

What could be more organic during Hour of Code than creating your own app? There are a lot of ways to do that, often expensive, time-consuming, and coding-intensive. There’s a new online option available that’s none of those. In fact, it’s intuitive, uses tools you already know, and–dare I say?–fun. Check out Jotform Apps:


You may know Jotform as one of the most popular tools in the form builder category, recognized for its versatility, ease-of-use, and sophistication in what could otherwise be the complicated process of collecting and analyzing data. Jotform works on all platforms (including tablets, desktop computers, and smartphones) and can be shared via a link, QR Code, and embed (as well as other options).

Over the past several years, JotForm has released many apps designed to simplify and automate teaching’s more mundane tasks (Smart PDF Forms, a PDF Editor, Cards, Tables, Approvals, and Reports–click for my reviews).  I’m excited to partner with them for their latest release, Jotform Apps.

Jotform Apps is a web-based tool that enables you to create a professional-looking cross-platform app quickly and with no knowledge of coding. It can include forms, links, widgets, text, images, videos, a photo gallery, PDFs, calendars, maps, interactive pieces, and more. Thanks to drag-and-drop modality, it can be customized to your needs and branded to fit your class or school. Once you’ve completed the app, it can be downloaded onto any smartphone, tablet, or computer, shared to your social media, or pushed out via a link or QR code.

Best of all, Jotform Apps is free with any JotForm account.

If you already have a Jotform account, you will find Jotform Apps in the grid on the upper left corner where you find your other Jotform tools–My Forms, My Tables, My Reports, My Approvals. It has been automatically added for you–no need to do anything. If you don’t have an account, click here and sign up for free.

Creating an app is as simple as three easy steps:

You can start from scratch or pick from over 200 thematic templates organized by category and topic. Here are some of the education selections:

Once you select your layout, the app can be personalized with a massive number of elements including forms, links, buttons, maps, reports, and image sliders. Most allow for additional tweaking such as these below:

Education templates include a parent portal, request forms for tutoring, classroom management, class sign-up forms, a reading log, teacher observations, homework management, and more. Here’s a Classroom Management app I created in about ten minutes (well, maybe a few minutes more because I checked out most of the widgets):

When done, you can share the link or publish a QR code for easy access:

QR Code for Classroom Management App

The web offers a wide variety of app builders so why choose this one from Jotform? Most teachers say it is the multitude of options and features. Here are the most popular ones:

  1. It’s drag-and-drop, a process you’re familiar with that means no coding required.
  2. Over 200 Jotform Apps templates are available–all you do is replace the placesavers with your pieces.
  3. It includes popular elements that supply most of what you want in an education app.
  4. Besides the elements, there are over seventy additional widgets that provide more flexibility to meet your needs–options like videos, social media links, PDFs, tables, reports, and QR codes.
  5. Templates are customizable which makes building an app for your specific purpose easy.
  6. You can create an app with a form you’ve already created in Jotform.
  7. Multiple pages are easy to add.
  8. You can receive payments from any device. This is great for class registrations, summer programs, afterschool classes, tutoring, and much more.

There are so many ways Jotform Apps can streamline school activities. Here are some favorites, many of them easily created with the free templates on the Jotform Apps website:

To stay in touch with parents–provide them with an easy place to find all of the important information, forms, links, resources they’ll require during the school year

To sign parents up for conferences–schedule yearly parent-teacher or individual meetings

For tutoring–track students involved in afterschool tutoring, their schedules, requests, and more

For school scheduling–create a personalized schedule of classes, sports, group meetings, and more; great for students

For classroom management–track classroom attendance, report incidents, monitor student progress, and more

For a reading Log–track student reading during the school year either in-class or for fun; monitor and review assigned reading, take questions; it even includes a digital signature form for parent sign off 

For teacher observations–make it easy to evaluate teachers, mentor, and provide feedback 

To manage homework–submit homework, upload documents, and see which assignments may be missing

Respond to student help requests–request help, schedule time, explain what is needed, and more

Place QR codes outside the classroom when class may be in session, completed for the day, or the teacher isn’t available–a quick way for parents to sign up for conferences, students for tutoring, helpers for class events, and more

Curious? Here’s an under-five-minute video:


Hard to believe? Check out Jotform Apps to create a customized app that requires no coding or prior experience. Find out what everyone is talking about.

–JotForm is an AATT partner but the opinions are my own.

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, webmaster for four blogs, 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.

Hour of Code: How Students Can Build Their Own Apps

In my high school teacher forums, as part of the discussion on preparing kids for college and career, we talk a lot about the huge shortfall in applicants for a growing list of tech jobs. Despite robust pay, excellent work conditions, and the value they place on creativity, jobs sit open. How do we get kids excited about careers that traditionally sound boring and math-oriented? Websites like Code.org have a great approach to making coding accessible to all kids but still, too few students think they are smart enough to do these jobs.

Time to reveal a secret I learned over the years. When I let students play Minecraft, Scratch, or a handful of other top-notch games, they eagerly — even happily — complete the programming and coding parts without ever considering it “math” or “smart”. I’ve seen them spend hours building a virtual world exactly the way they want it without getting bored or distracted.

By High School, the choice between college and career is foremost with life-changing consequences based on what the student decides. Often the choice depends upon the student’s goals. This topic could fill volumes but today, I want to focus on the job of building apps. App Developer is listed as number three on ThinkAdvisor’s list of the best jobs of the future, with a projected growth of 57% through 2020 (according to the BLS). You can also check Andromo which is an excellent platform to build a no code application. There aren’t a lot of jobs where people can make money doing what they love.

Aside from future jobs, there are great reasons why even kids who want to become doctors or lawyers (or farmers) would benefit from learning the lesson of app building:

  • Apps teach real-world skills like design, marketing, video production, project management, presentation skills, and special media use.
  • The app building process requires creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving — all fundamental to success in lots of jobs.
  • Good app developers are collaborators, willing to work with others to ensure the app is accomplished on time and according to specs.
  • Good app developers are decision makers, not afraid to be risk-takers in building something no one has done before.

As I dug into the background of “app building” to prepare this article, I found that it doesn’t just refer to the little buttons you click to see about today’s weather or add numbers or find your friends (well, find their phones). App developers are the first ones who try out the latest trendy devices. Wouldn’t you love to experiment with 5G on your smartphone or play with Samsung’s foldable phone? Or how about wearable devices like the embedded chips intended to replace employee cards? An app developer used all of these before they ever went on sale. App developers can work for software companies, retailers, in healthcare, in the travel industry, for the entertainment industry, or in financial services. CNN Money has called “app developer” the best job in America.

Once you’ve explained to students what it really means to be on the cutting edge of the high-tech world, let them try one (or more) of these six great app creation tools:

  • App Inventor (from MIT)
  • Code HS (an app building curriculum)
  • Glide (how to create apps from spreadsheets)
  • MAD-learn (a beginning to end app development program for K-12)
  • Thunkable (a curriculum)
  • TinyTap (geared for teachers but fine for the right student group)



52 Resources for Read Across America Day

stone-figure-10542_640Many people in the United States, particularly students, parents and teachers, join forces on Read Across America Day, annually held on March 2. This nationwide observance coincides with the birthday of Dr Seuss.

Here are some great reading websites for students K-5:

  1. Aesop Fables—no ads
  2. Aesop’s Fables
  3. Audio stories
  4. Childhood Stories
  5. Classic Fairy Tales
  6. Fairy Tales and Fables
  7. Interactive storybook collection
  8. Listen/read–Free non-fic audio books
  9. Magic Keys–stories for youngers
  10. Mighty Book
  11. PBS Stories–Between the Lions
  12. Signed stories
  13. Starfall
  14. Stories read by actors
  15. Stories to read for youngsters
  16. Stories to read from PBS kids
  17. Stories to read–II
  18. Stories—MeeGenius—read/to me
  19. Stories—non-text
  20. Story Scramble
  21. Storytime for me
  22. Teach your monster to read (free)
  23. Ziggity Zoom Stories


3 Apps That Encourage Students to Read

readingReading is defined as “the action or skill of absorbing written or printed matter silently or aloud.” Sounds dry, maybe even boring, but once a child learns to read, they get much more than an understanding of words, sentences, paragraphs, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. It has been credited with providing an escape from reality, exercising the mind, saving lives, bringing people together, answering problems, and predicting success in school. It alleviates boredom in the bits of free time that pop up between soccer and dinner and it can be done alone or in a group.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends…”
― Charles William Eliot

According to Early Moments, reading is associated with the following traits:



5 Favorite Classroom Apps

appsApps are out of control. When you think you have just the right one for your classroom, a better/faster/snazzier version pops up. Often for free. It’s not like a decade ago when every teachers’ favorite tech tools were MS Office, KidPix, Reader Rabbit, and the internet.  Apps changed all that. Suddenly, the list exploded to include names like Voki, Tellagami, Wordle, ScreenChomp, Evernote and scores more that are weekly pushed aside by a new generation.

So before I unfold my favorites, here are guidelines to what I expected, culled from top education sites like Edutopia, Google Education, Educational Technology, and EdWeek:

  • free or small fee
  • support the ‘4 C’s’–creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration
  • offer compelling content (although this is subjective; ‘compelling’ varies teacher-to-teacher and student-to-student)
  • are not distracting or overwhelming in colors, music, or activity
  • offer levels that become increasingly more difficult, providing differentiation for student needs
  • stand the test of time
  • positive parent reports
  • few ads–and those that are there do not take up a significant portion of the screen
  • intuitive to use with a short learning curve, encourage independence
  • easily applied to a variety of educational environments
  • doesn’t collect personal information other than user credentials or data required to operate the app
  • rated ‘for everyone’ or ‘low maturity’
  • no in-app purchases or billing

Based on these criteria, here are my top five:


TurboScan–Great Class Management Tool

scan appTurboScan

Scanning app

A teacher friend is already stressed–and the year is only half over. Her school is putting together digital portfolios for every student which will include representative work monthly in each subject. That means posters, math papers, art projects, tests, summatives must be scanned into the server and filed in each student’s digital portfolio. Not so bad if there are enough scanners and computers to get it done. Which there aren’t. My friend has to wait in line, squeeze this work into breaks, or stay late or come early to try to get her portion of the work done.

One $2.99 iPad/iPHone/Android app would take care of the problem. It’s called TurboScan. Using the iPad (or Smartphone) camera, you take one-three pictures of a single- or multi-page document, tweak it so it’s the way you want it, email it to wherever you need it or save it to the camera roll and transfer it that way. Instead of hours, she’d be done in minutes.

Here’s what you do. Open the app. Select either SureScan for documents or Camera for a picture (top of next image):


Follow the directions:

scan app

After the first picture, the app prompts you to attach more pages or click ‘done’. When you’re done, the app helps you adjust it for quality, then you send it out as an text message, email:


I will say, the word ‘scan’ is somewhat misleading. The app has two options: 1) take a picture that is saved to the camera roll, or 2) take three pictures of a document and the app merges them as a mash-up. Once the image is settled, you select lightness for ease of reading and decide where to publish it. Admittedly, the result isn’t as good as my flatbed scanner, but it’s always good enough. I’ve used it for legal documents like W9s and contractual agreements (with a signature) without a problem.

How to use it in your classroom:

Even without the requirement for digital portfolios, this is a useful app for teachers. Consider how much classwork is still done with pencil and paper–tests, posters, reports, pop quizzes. Simply scan these in, store them in the student digital portfolio, and never again worry about losing them. Think of the art teacher: Scan pictures of student work directly to the computer where it’s easily accessed by any stakeholder and preserved for eternity. Kind of a digital refrigerator.

Good idea: Assign this task to students. Make it their responsibility to scan their work into their digital portfolio with the class iPad. They’ll think that’s fun while you’d see it as hours added to your day.

One change I would make: While TurboScan is easy to learn, getting an authentic-looking image takes some effort and maybe a few retakes. I’d like an auto-focus widget, similar to what cameras have because no one can hold a camera steady for more than a nanosecond.

Overall: TurboScan is a huge plus in every classroom. It turns any student work into a digital document (even audio recordings), which means it can be available online, in class blogs and websites, or emailed and texted to stakeholders.

More classroom management apps:

3 Classroom Management Apps You’ll Love

252 Favorite IPad Apps for your Classroom

5 Apps to Help You Reach Your Zen

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of dozens of tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and dozens of books on how to integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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Read Across America Day

stone-figure-10542_640Many people in the United States, particularly students, parents and teachers, join forces on Read Across America Day, annually held on March 2. This nationwide observance coincides with the birthday of Dr Seuss.

Here are some great reading websites for students K-5:

  1. Aesop Fables—no ads
  2. Aesop’s Fables
  3. Audio stories
  4. Childhood Stories
  5. Classic Fairy Tales
  6. Edutainment games and stories
  7. Fables—Aesop—nicely done
  8. Fairy Tales and Fables
  9. Interactive storybook collection
  10. Listen/read–Free non-fic audio books
  11. Magic Keys–stories for youngers
  12. Mighty Book
  13. Open Library
  14. PBS Stories–Between the Lions
  15. RAZ Kids–wide variety of reading levels, age groups, with teacher dashboards
  16. Signed stories
  17. Starfall
  18. Stories read by actors
  19. Stories to read
  20. Stories to read for youngsters
  21. Stories to read from PBS kids
  22. Stories to read–II
  23. Stories to read—International Library
  24. Stories—MeeGenius—read/to me
  25. Stories—non-text
  26. Story Scramble
  27. Story time–visual
  28. Storytime for me
  29. Teach your monster to read (free)
  30. Tumblebooks (fee)
  31. Ziggity Zoom Stories