5 articles Tag tool

13 iOS Apps For Education

iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone) are becoming increasingly popular in the education setting. Due to their prices, easy accessible for students of all ages and their versatile uses, I see them as a great tool for teaching and learning.

I have been using them for two years now, purely as a tool for learning. I find the utilities such as the still camera, video cameras, the sound recordings, etc. great tools for classroom use. I think when people start to see the apps as a silver bullet, magic pieces of software that are going to replace something they do in their classroom as naive. The apps you want developed are only going to be made if there is demand and if someone can profit from it, just like a website. Like all technology, the iOS devices need to be used as tools for learning, not replacements for teaching.

In saying that, here is a list of the apps I would make sure are on any iOS device I used to help me utilize the technology as a tool for teaching and learning.

 

Evernote

USE: Taking notes and saving files

PRICE: Free

Essential for staying organizing. The great part is that you can also sync the account with any other device you own. So if your using iPads/iPods/iPhones you can easily access notes, PDF’s, videos, photos and anything you have stored in Evernote on all devices. You can read more about it in one of my former posts.

 

Instagram

USE: Taking and sharing photos

PRICE: Free

Not an essential app for education, but one that has so much opportunity in the classroom. Instagram is a simple photo taking app that adds filters to give it a vintage look to your photos. The other part of Instagram is the social network. It has it’s own social network, which is a stream of photos that you see from people you follow. The other great feature is it’s so straight forward to share on other social networks like facebook, Twitter, etc. This app could have many applications. It could be used in an art class to provide opportunity to practice photography skills. Or students could sync their account with their own or a class Twitter account or blog to update parents about the work they are doing in class. A great way to show the learning that is taking place in the classrooms.

 

WiFi Photo Transfer

USE: Transferring photos from device to computer

PRICE: Free

A simple app that makes your device into a wireless server so that you can access the photos or videos you have taken wirelessly. No more lost cables. No more forgotten cables. It’s free and makes your workflow that much quicker.

 

Vimeo

USE: Recording, editing and uploading videos

PRICE: Free

Not only record, but edit and upload straight to Vimeo from this amazing free app. This bring so many possibilities for the classroom.

 

Pocket

USE: Saving pages to be read later offline

PRICE: Free

Formerly called Read It Later, this is a great app that allows you to flag web pages in a browser and access them later. When the pages are viewed in Pocket, it takes out all adds, images, etc. and just leaves the text. It also downloads the pages so they can be viewed offline. So if you are in a subway or if you in the park and you don’t have WIFI access, you can still read the pages you have flagged. This would be perfect for students that have to read from sites or Wikipedia entries. It helps take away the distraction and they can read the articles anywhere, anytime. In the park on the weekend, on the bus on the way home from school, at lunch time in the playground, etc.

 

Twitter

USE: Twitter client

PRICE: Free

Personally I used HootSuite as my Twitter client, but the official Twitter app is easy to use and manage. In the classroom, with younger classes I’d have one class account and have the students follow people related to the field they are studying. I’d also have them post about things they are learning, questions, etc. Parents could follow the account and see what was happening in the classroom. For older students, they could create their own account and tweet out to the world. The other great thing about this is that you can set up the Twitter account on the device in the System Preferences and be able to use Twitter integrated into all other aspects if iOS5. If you don’t have iOS5, you will have to update first, it’s free and awesome.

 

Posterous

USE: Blogging

PRICE: Free

Posterous is a blogging platform. The app is an easy way to compose and publish posts to your blog. Personally, I use my own hosted version of WordPress and I have my students use Blog.com but Posterous could be used quickly and easily from an iOS device to publish blog post. To see why I think students should be blogging, read this post.

 

Keynote

USE: Creating presentations

PRICE: US$9.99

Just like Keynote on a Mac, Keynote for iOS is a quick and easy way to create presentations. With the use of iCloud, these presentations can be accessed on a Mac wirelessly. Another option is to buy a VCA adapter and have the students/teachers present straight from their device.

The results of this app are amazing, here is just one great presentation composed entirely on the iOS Keynote app, from pictures to text to slides.

 

SoundCloud

USE: Recording and sharing audio

PRICE: Free

Create a SoundCloud account, take a recording of anything (a voice, an instrument, a speech, etc.) and upload it directly to the SoundCloud account. There are so many educational possibilities!

 

iWriteWords

USE: Handwriting practice

PRICE: US$2.99

This is a great way to teach old things in new ways. It would be perfect for kindergarten students up to Grade 1 or 2 and the great thing about it is that it helps students form correct sequencing of the letter development. Students must write their letters in the correct sequence (E.g. top to bottom) or they can’t move on to the next letter. If your a stickler for hand grips, then you could always get a stylus.

 

Maps

USE: Mapping

PRICE: Free (pre installed)

Whatever you would use Google Maps for, you can use this app for. The bonus of this app is that depending how you connect to the internet, you can have access to your current GPS data in real time. A world of education possibilities, from treasure hunts and orienteering to a range of geography lessons.

 

Compass

USE: Finding directions

PRICE: Free (pre installed)

Just like a regular compass but based on GPS not magnetism.

 

Calculator

USE: Making calculations

PRICE: Free (pre installed)

Everyone needs a calculator every now and then.

Tech Integration VS Tech Classes

Currently I teach at a school where we have dedicated technology lessons for all students from kindergarten through to Grade 7. Each class gets 40 minutes a week in a lab with a technology teacher, me!I know of other schools that address technology the same way. Some schools have this approach and I guess it’s down to the schools philosophy on education as well as it’s philosophy on technology as to how technology is used in and out of the classroom.

Another way to approach technology, that I see a lot of the leading institutions now doing, is to give every student a laptop. Running a 1:1 programs means students have their own computer that is used by students not only at school, but also at home. A lot of these schools see technology as a tool for learning and as a result, don’t have any specific technology lessons. The technology is embedded and integrated into the curriculum and used when appropriate. They employ technology coaches to help the teachers implement this across the curriculum. I see this is a much more meaningful way to use technology. But it is not without flaw.

I believe in using technology as a tool, but I think the stand alone classes are great at making sure that all students are receiving access to technology, no matter their homeroom/subject teachers ability with technology or what technology they have at home. With a 100% integration model, the students use is limited to their teachers willingness to use technology. You could argue that time should be mandated for each class to use technology, or say that each class must do at least one project incorporating technology per unit of work. And I’m sure that some schools do place expectations on how much technology should be used, but this would go against the ‘technology as a tool’ philosophy. It would be used for the sake of it, which I don’t think is how it should be approached.

I can see other positive aspects of standalone technology lessons too. One would be that the same (hopefully correct) message is being expressed to all students about technology or it’s use. Be it about Copyright or being a responsible online citizen or how to organize your email account. All students are actually taught these concepts explicitly so a student can’t simply ‘slip through the cracks’ and not get the important lessons on technology and it’s use.

On the other hand, the benefits I see of an integration approach is that with the use of a coach to guide the teachers learning, teachers are developing their own ability instead of ignoring technology and passing on that responsibility to the person teaching the stand alone class. With an integration approach, technology needs to be taught by all teachers and therefore needs to be used by all teachers. At least used enough to meet their professional responsibilities. Some teachers might take this freedom and run with it, developing outstanding, interactive, engaging lessons that incorporate technology. Some might do the bare minimum. But at the end of the day, the teacher is learning along with the students. And with the integration approach, the technology is being used as a tool, not a subject, which I think is the most important aspect.

In weighing up these pros and cons, I don’t think any one approach is ‘correct’, it is simply a different approach. There are upsides and downsides to both models. I think the model that needs to be chosen comes down to how the school sees technology and it’s educational vision.

Ideally, I see a combination of both models as the best approach. An integration model where students and teachers use technology as a tool and are guided by a tech coach. There is a shared responsibility with all teachers to embed technology into the curriculum. As well as some time with a specialty technology teacher touching on responsible online citizenship, organization, how to make their workflow more productive, etc.

Obviously this is my opinion at this point in my career, I’m very excited to see if it will change in the future and what experiences will make me change my mind. The future seems bright!

Are Standards Needed If Technology Is Used As A Tool?

In 1998 the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) released National Education Technology (NET) standards “for the purpose of leveraging the use of technology in K-12 education to enable students to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital society.” Today the standards are widely accepted as the benchmark for educational technology. There are standards for students, teachers, administrators, coaches and computer science educators, which makes them very broad and encompassing. These standards are excellent for when you have a stand alone model of technology education, much the same as at my current school. I see every class from kindergarten to grade seven for their own technology lesson once a week. In this session, I can spend time creating learning experiences for my students that help them meet the NET standards. However, what happens if your school has an integration approach to technology education? Maybe your school has a coach and that person works with teachers to integrate technology into the class. So who is responsibility for the NET standards in a circumstance like that? Is it all the teachers of a specific grade? Is it the coaches role to make sure each class is meeting the standards?

A Swiss Army Knife, like a computer is a versatile tool for many applications. So should it have it's own learning standards? Or should we use this tool to helps us meet other goals?

To answer these questions, I think you have to think about the school and it’s philosophy regarding technology. If technology is seen as a set of skills that each student must learn before they progress onto the more complex skills, with each skill requiring the previous to succeed and progress, then I guess you will need to rely on a detailed map of where, how and when each skills is taught. This could be compared to a senior Mathematics class, you can’t learn algebra if you don’t know basic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This style of addressing technology education is much more suited to stand alone technology lessons as there is one teacher that is responsible for the teaching of the skills and standards. The problem I find with this model is that modern computer skills are rarely the type of ‘build upon’ skills that they used to be. Sometimes you need to know how to use a mouse and keyboard, but sometimes you don’t. You may have a trackpad or a touch screen device which makes the mouse lessons taught earlier on irrelevant. The same thing applies to software. One example is keyboard shortcuts, what you learn in one piece of software may not work in another. And these two examples, hardware and software, are constantly changing. Skills we learn are usually stand alone, or need to be modified significantly to be transferred over into other applications. Or these skills change with a new software update or the integration of a new tool. So I believe teaching specific ‘skills’ and not seeing technology as a tool make the use of technology irrelevant to the 21st century learner.

If, like many schools, technology is expect to be integrated and used as something to supplement lessons and the curriculum, then chances are you have a tech coach that helps teachers develop learning experiences that incorporate technology into their classrooms. Some would say this person should be responsible for students meeting the NET standards. However, I think if your philosophy is that technology is used as a tool, then possibly the idea of technology standards needs to be rethought. We don’t have curricular for other tools we use at school such as pencils, base ten blocks, books, etc. We use those tools to help us help the students meet other standards. Isn’t technology supposed to be a tool that we use to help students learn content in other areas of the education? Just because it is an expensive, sometimes daunting tool, highly sophisticated tool, doesn’t mean it should have it’s own curriculum does it? Or am I way off?

What are your thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Report Proof Reading: Have Your Reports Read To You!

Me, like everyone else in my profession, hate writing reports. I am also terrible at proof reading, so it’s always embarrassing when I send my reports off for a friend to proof read for me and it comes back with red marks all through it (thanks for your patience Cindy!). I was talking about this with some colleagues the other day and they said to help them find mistakes, they read their reports out loud. I was going to try this myself, when I found a tool that took it one step further. In Apple’s Pages, their equivalent to Microsoft Word, you can highlight a passage and have it read back to you! So while proof reading, I have my computer reading my reports out loud to me. Hopefully it’s successful in cutting down the amount of red marks I have in my report drafts, I’ll let you know how I go. For instructions on how to do this, watch the video below:

So what techniques do you use to help you proof read your work? Leave a comment below.

Translate A Picture

I just stumbled upon this video and was blown away!

I downloaded the app and had a play. It’s not perfect, but really gives us an insight of what is possible with augmented reality technology. The free version simply reverses the words on the screen, so you can see how it works. It costs AU$6 to make it support Spanish to English translation and another $6 to support English to Spanish. It seems to only work in portrait view, once you tip your phone sideways it struggles.

I’m looking forward to Japanese language support, once that is available I’m sure I will use it extensively!

Download it for free here.