The Best Free K-12 iPad Apps You Might Never Have Heard Of!

Looking for some new iPad apps to use in your classroom this year? New apps are released every week, but which ones are really worth your time? Which ones could truly push the boundaries of teaching and learning in your classroom? Sometime I am surprised at what apps people have not discovered yet, but often I am equally surprised at what I see other teachers using.  So here is a quick rundown of the best free K-12 iPad apps you might never have heard of!

StageTellagamiOur StoryToDo MathThinglink

Stage Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera – While it may win the prize for the longest app title in the App Store, it is also a genuinely useful app that helps add yet another useful feature to your iPad. It turns it into a document camera, complete with annotation tools for your to mark up objects over a live view camera. The app is free, but there is an optional $1.99 in-app purchase if you would like to record your live session as a video.

Tellagami – If you haven’t tried Tellagami yet, you have got to give this free app a try. It lets you create a Voki-esque talking avatar video. Videos are limited to 30 seconds, but are highly customizable. You can type the text for your audio and have it read by a voice of your choice, or use your own voice. Backgrounds, facial expressions, and gender can also be changed. Videos can be saved to the camera roll for use later in apps like iMovie.

Our Story (for iPad) – This excellent digital storytelling app is simple to use and easy to achieve great results with. Created by the Open University, it allows you to add photos from your camera roll and add text and/or audio to them. It’s perfect for elementary teachers who are looking to introduce their students to digital storytelling for the first time. A good alternative app here is 30 Hands.

ToDo K-2 Math Practice – With activities that are aligned with Common Core State Standards, ToDo Math may be a great option for early years teachers looking to help their student practice some basic math facts. Skills include counting, writing numerals, addition and subtraction, but it has some nice additional touches. For instance, at the end of each level, students are also asked as to whether the questions were too easy, just right, or too hard, and subsequent questions are then adjusted accordingly depending on how they answer.

Thinglink – Welcome to the future of images, proclaim Thinglink, and I think they might be right! With Thinglink, you can add interactive elements to a picture. Web links, YouTube videos, camera roll videos, and text can all be hidden under hotspot targets on an image so that students can give multimedia description of their images.

showbieTouchCastDuolingoMoldivCargo-bot

Showbie – Still struggling with getting student assignments from their iPad to yours? Revolutionize your iPad workflow with Showbie, a (mostly) free service that was built for just that purpose. It is slick, easy to manage, and works  effortlessly. It’s the kind of app that Apple should have built for teachers a long time ago, but they didn’t. It can be used at all grade levels because students do not need an email address to sign up.

TouchCast – With Thinglink, you add interactive elements over a picture. With TouchCast, you add interactive elements over a video! They are called vApps, or video apps, and include the likes of Twitter feeds, web pages, photos, news tickers, polls and more. You can also add filters to your video or experiment with the green screen effect. TouchCasts are shared online.

Duolingo – Looking to introduce a second language to your students? Duolingo might be a good place to start. This popular app starts with the basics, but soon has you translating more and more difficult texts. It might not replace Rosetta Stone yet, but it has a clean, fresh look, and includes gamification elements to boot. Most importantly, it makes learning fun. With Duolingo you can learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English.

Moldiv – This photo collage editor may have in-app purchases, but it offers so much for free that you may as well forget that they are there. Choose from around 80 frame layouts for your photos, and add stylish fonts or labels to your collage. You can change the background color of your collage and even adjust the spacing, margins and roundness of your collage corners. Finished collages can be saved back to the camera roll or send to other apps for sharing or further edits.

Cargo-bot – Interested in teaching your students about programming, but not sure where to start? Cargo-bot may be just what you need. The premise is simple. Move crates from one side of the screen to the other. The execution, however, is less simple. It starts off easy with some in-app prompts, but soon gets more complicated and requires you to think like a programmer to complete your task in hand. Alternative free programming apps include Hopscotch and Daisy the Dinosaur.

Is your favorite on this list? Do you have an app which you like that most teachers don’t know about it? Feel free to share your comments below.

iWork for iCloud Beta: Hands on With Apple’s Answer to Google Drive

iCloud Home

This week I got an email from Apple inviting me to try out the Beta version of iWork for iCloud. I was keen to see how useful this could be for educators in the classroom, and whether or not it could be a serious contender to my current favorite online productivity suite – Google Drive. So, I logged in to iCloud with Chrome on my Mac and there they were – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – complete with all the documents I had created on my Mac and iPads.

Keynote Slide

The interface is familiar, yet different. The menus are a hybrid of the desktop and iOS version of iWork, but they are intuitive enough that you can almost always find what you are looking for without too much trouble. You won’t find all the features you are used to in the desktop (or even iOS) versions, but more functionality will doubtless come in time, and most of the essentials are included in the beta version.

iWork for iCloud runs on Mac or PC and is compatible with the latest versions of Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. For some reason, Firefox is not a supported browser right now, but if you click past the warning messages it does seem to run as you would expect it to in other browsers, so it will likely be supported once it leaves the beta stage of development. iWork for iCloud is an HTML5 environment which Firefox is obviously more than capable of running.

Syncing has worked great, but I have never really had a problem in the past moving between documents on my iPad and my Mac, so that didn’t surprise me too much. Changes made on the web, my Mac, and my iPad were all quickly synced to the other devices.

Pages

Does it beat Google Drive? Not yet, for me at least. iWork for iCloud works well, but right now it still lacks some collaboration and sharing options that I have come to enjoy with Google. For instance, real-time collaboration can be a great boon for teachers and students, as can the ability to leave comments on a document. There are no signs of either appearing in iWork any time soon. That said, the ability to share a link to your document is listed as “coming soon” so the potential for improvements in this area does exist.

Numbers

If you are curious to check out more about what iWork for iCloud can and can’t do, you can check out the newly created Apple online help guides, even if you don’t have access to the Beta program at this time. The links for those are below:

UPDATE: Another important support page to read is Opening iWork for iOS and iWork ’09 documents in iWork for iCloud Beta. This gives more information on what to do if you try to open a document that has features that are unsupported in the current version of iWork for iCloud. Thanks to Kathy Schrock for the heads up on this one.

Have you been playing with the new iWork for iCloud Beta? What do you most like about it and how do you think it could fit into your classroom workflow?