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.


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.

The Collaborative iPad Classroom at #iPadU – Slide to Unlock Learning

iPadU Logo

So, our first iPadU conference has come and gone, but it was a great couple of days with around 200 educators from Iowa and beyond gathering together to discover and share the best ways that they have found to integrate the iPad into a K-12 classroom. My third and final presentation at this conference was on The Collaborative iPad Classroom, and you can learn more about that below.

Collaboration is key in a modern classroom. Students need to be able to work in small teams or groups to complete tasks because it is an important life skill that they will all use at one point or another when the leave the education system. However, collaboration on an iPad, is not always as obvious as you might think.

There are lots of apps out there that let you collaborate. My intention was not to cover them all – no time for that – but instead to show the ones that had the most variety, the ones that were cross-curricular, and the ones that had the greatest potential to help encourage authentic collaborative learning experiences.

So, if you are looking for more ways that your students can collaborate in an iPad classroom, feel free to take a look at my slides below, and leave a comment with your own favorite collaboration apps below.

[slideshare id=24206535&doc=collaborationintheipadclassroom-130713140927-phpapp01]

60 FREE Apps in 60 Minutes at #iPadU – Slide to Unlock Learning

iPadU Logo

Yesterday I shared the first of three presentations I am doing at iPadU: Slide to Unlock Learning, and today I am happy to share presentation number two – 60 FREE Apps in 60 Minutes…or less! I have done a lot of presentations over the last two years or so, but I have always wanted to do a “60 in 60”, and although I did co-present one recently, I am glad I had the chance to do one on my own this time.

This is a very different type of presentation that I normally give. There is not a great deal of time to talk about integration strategies because you only have around 60 seconds per app. This is more about a rapid dissemination of information, a list that you can refer back to at a later date, or a quick and snappy way to introduce new apps. All the apps can be shown to have great classroom applications with students.

I know that the iPad is about more than just the apps. It has to be. It is the application of these apps that is most important and the ways that they can be used to meet your classroom objectives. I try to make that as clear as I can when giving this presentation, but the pace of it is such that I sometimes forget to repeat enough. So, use it as you see fit! 🙂

The Slideshare version is below, but if I make any changes after the conference, you can see those immediately on the Google Presentation version:

[slideshare id=24124479&doc=60freeappsin60minutes-130710225516-phpapp01]

Here’s Looking at You PreK-2 from #iPadU – Slide to Unlock Learning

iPadU Logo

This week, my esteemed employers, Grant Wood AEA, are hosting their first iPad conference – iPadU: Slide to Unlock Learning. Our keynote speaker and VIP presenter is Kathy Schrock, but we have a number of other talented educators who have kindly volunteered their time to present their own take on iPad integration in K-12 classrooms. I will be presenting three times, so I thought I would share my slides here for anyone that was interested.

My first session is titled “Here’s Looking at You PreK-2” and is geared at highlighting some of the important work being done with iPads in PreK-2 classrooms. I don’t get into these classrooms as much as I might like, but any elementary teacher will tell you that these are some of the most important years for children who are developing skills and finding new ways to explore the world.

As much as I endorse the importance of technology in the classroom, and strive to find new ways to be creative with it, I do believe that it is important to have a balance, especially in PreK-2 where there is so much new learning and discovery going on. As such, many of the examples you will see in the slideshow below were included for just that reason. They blend technology with more traditional learning methods like writing, group work, class discussions and so forth, because these are important skills that it would be foolish to overlook at this stage of a child’s development.

So, the slides are embedded below. Take from them what you want, and feel free to share them with anyone you think might benefit from them. I will post the other presentations over the next couple of days, but this has been a busy month, so bear with me! 🙂 I was presenting at ISTE a couple of weeks ago, I have iPadU this week, and in a couple more weeks I will be presenting at the Iowa Google Summit.

[slideshare id=24113922&doc=hereslookingatyouprek-2-130710151806-phpapp01]

Is Google Play for Education a Superior Version of Apple’s VPP Store?


At the Google I/O developers conference today, Google announced plans for the new Google Play for Education. In many ways, it sounds a lot like what Apple do with their Volume Purchasing Program for iPads, but Google are looking to take it to a whole new level with some very interesting features for educators looking to manage Android tablets in a school environment. Here’s what they have to say:

Schools will enjoy the ease and portability of tablets together with highly engaging educational resources. And whether it’s one classroom or one thousand, schools can easily manage tablets, and discover, purchase, and distribute content and apps with ease.

Now, I appreciate all that Apple have done with the VPP Store and their efforts to provide management software for iPads with Apple Configurator, but how many school districts can say that this is a process that they manage “with ease”. Critics may well point to the fact that this has yet to be proven, but if you have had any experience with managing Chromebooks in a school setting, you already know that Google has already shown that it has the knowledge and expertize to break down the barriers of device management and make it a seamless, user-friendly experience.

In their information for Android developers looking to add their apps to the new Google Play for Education, Google offers some insight into what else we can expect from the new education storefront.

Google Play for Education provides a simple and secure environment in which educators can buy apps in a way that’s easy for schools — through purchase orders. Your apps must support this environment by ensuring that they:

  • Sell all content and services through Google Play for Education
  • Permit Google Play to offer teachers limited free trials before purchase (through business terms only, no development work is needed)

In addition, it’s highly recommended that your apps:

  • Disable in-app purchase in any UI accessible to students.

More information is included in their “safety first” section:

To participate, your apps must be designed to be usable and appropriate for the K-12 market. The basic requirements that your apps must meet are:

  1. Apps and the ads they contain must not collect personally identifiable information other than user credentials or data required to operate and improve the app.
  2. Apps must not use student data for purposes unrelated to its educational function.
  3. Apps must have a content rating of “Everyone” or “Low Maturity” (apps with a “Medium Maturity” rating are allowed, if they have that rating solely because they allow communication between students).
  4. App content, including ads displayed by the app, must be consistent with the app’s maturity rating. The app must not display any “offensive” content, as described in the Google Play Developer Program Policies and content-rating guidelines.

Apple undoubtedly has some of the same kind of requirements for iOS developers, but one or two of the recommendations above stand out as being somewhat unique to Google. For instance, the chance for teachers to get a free trial before they buy, or the recommendation to disable in-app purchases. I am sure there are many iPad schools that would love to have those options.

I’m a fan of the iPad. I love its potential for the classroom and I know first hand that it is one of the most versatile devices a school could buy. However, managing these devices is in no way as easy as it could be. Without a dedicated IT dept, it can be very frustrating for schools who are looking to push out apps and update devices.

So, the new Google Play for Education might be the best thing that happens to the Apple Education program, because for the first time in a long time, Apple has some competition, and may just be forced to raise the stakes further in order to compete. Let the games begin!

30 Hands: A Versatile, Free Storytelling App for the iPad

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 10.00.30 PM

Have you tried 30 Hands yet? This free iOS app is a great storytelling or presentation app that has lots of potential for the classroom. I first learned about it from the TCEA iPad site, and my head has been spinning with classroom applications ever since.

Presentations can be made with or without audio, but using audio will be more effective in most situations. Once you create your presentation, you can add images from your Camera Roll, from Dropbox, or you can take a picture with the camera on your device. Multiple images may be selected at once, and can be rearranged in the same way you rearrange apps on your iPad homescreen – press and hold until they wiggle, then drag and drop them to the order you need.

30 Hands App Slides

Tap on the slide you want to record your audio for, and hit the red record button to begin and end the recording. Playback your audio when you are done, and re-record if necessary. After all your slides are recorded and you have them in the order that you want them, hit the arrow to publish your video and save it to your Camera Roll for sharing to YouTube or uploading to Drive, Dropbox, etc.

With a little imagination, you could create some very creative video projects with the 30 Hands app, but it’s the simplicity and ease of use that makes it a winner for me. This app could be just at home in an elementary classroom as it could in a middle school classroom, and that versatility, for free, is hard to match.

It would be a great digital storytelling app, but it is an equally capable presentation app – not in the same way that Keynote is – but in terms of having students present their content and share their ideas, this is a useful option to have and could make a nice change from screencasting apps once in a while. You can get some more ideas and see real student projects by visiting the 30 Hands community site.

A video tutorial is embedded below, but if you are already using the 30 Hands app, and want to share some ways that you have used it with your students, feel free to leave a comment below.

Show Me the Showbie! An Easy iPad Workflow Solution

ShowbieHave you tried Showbie yet? If you have iPads in the classroom, and you’re struggling with how to have students submit assignments, you need to take a look at it. This free service lets students submit assignments to the teacher, who can then grade them and return them to the student all on the iPad. Here’s how.

Start by downloading the free Showbie app, and create a teacher account. Next, add a class, and take note of the class code. Teachers can create as many classes as they need. Tell students what your individual class code is so that when they sign up, they can join your class and be able to submit assignments to you. (Note: no email addresses are required for students to sign up and use the Showbie service).

Once everybody is signed up, the teacher adds an assignment to the shared folder in their chosen class. This automatically populates it in the student’s account. The assignment can be a text note, an image, a recorded voice message, a 1 minute video, or something that you have created in another app and sent to Showbie via the “Open in another app” function. Need to show a longer video? Host it on YouTube (or add it to Dropbox) and paste the link to the video in the text box for students. Some have even added the video to a Keynote file (100 MB max size) and uploaded that.

Showbie Media

Students submit their assignments by logging in to the Showbie app and selecting the class, and then the assignment they were sent by their teacher. They can turn it in via a text note, image, recorded voice message, a 1 minute video or again something that they created in another app.

When the teacher next logs in, they will see how many assignments have been turned in for each class and they can choose which ones to grade. Their comments can be left in one of the multimedia elements discussed above, or by opening the file into another app like a PDF annotator and then sending it back to Showbie.

Currently, there are three levels of Showbie accounts, all of which are free. But, be aware that the standard teacher account will limit you to 100 assignments. If you need more than that, and you surely will over time, you should encourage your school to sign up for a school or district account which has unlimited assignments.

Premium features are on the way, and will be an additional cost, but Showbie has said that everything that is currently free will remain free, and that these paid extras will be something over and above what they already offer. It might not be the perfect solution for all scenarios, but for most of the time it will work just fine.

Do you use Showbie? If so, and you have any experiences to share (good or bad) feel free to share them in the comments below.

The 5 Best Presentation Apps for the iPad

Teachers often turn to presentation software to help deliver the content they choose to meet their lesson objectives, but what is the best way to do this on an iPad? Well, there is no PowerPoint for the iPad, (yet),  but don’t let that put you off. There’s an app for that!


1. Keynote – A “best of” list like this would not be complete without Apple’s own venerable presentation app. In many ways it sets the standard for all the others, but its sheer simplicity and ease of use continues to surprise new users of this very capable app. Everything is optimized for a touch screen device, and presentations sync effortlessly between your Mac and iOS devices via iCloud. There are only 12 built-in themes, but a recent update to the app means you can now add your own themes without too much effort. Keynote is by far the most complete and most versatile presentation app for the iPad, but it is not your only option.

2. Haiku Deck – All the cool kids are using it, so isn’t it time you started too? Haiku Deck emphasizes minimalism. It forbids you from overloading the audience with too much information by limiting the amount of text you can add to one slide. This is great for students who may be prone to reading you their presentation, as opposed to delivering you a presentation. There is a built-in library of creative commons images that can be used for creating your slideshow, but be careful what you search for, because these images are not filtered for the classroom. However, it is hard not to impress when using Haiku Deck. The app is free, as are your first five themes, and others can be bought via in-app purchases.

Haiku Deck

3. SlideShark – This app started as a simple PowerPoint viewer for the iPad, but has since grown into so much more. It only supports PowerPoint files right now, but so long as you are okay with that, you will be able to quickly take advantage of this useful iPad presentation app. Start by uploading your PowerPoint to the SlideShark website, or use the Open In feature to send it there from another app. It plays embedded videos, and lets you read your notes. A timer keeps you on track for finishing on time, while the laser pointer and annotation tools let you draw your audience’s attention to exactly what you want them to focus on.The iPhone app can even act as a remote for your iPad to help you advance the presentation over Bluetooth.

The free account comes with 100MB of storage, but you can easily remove presentations that are taking up too much space if you don’t want to upgrade to the Pro account. To date, the only issues I have had with SlideShark is when you try to import a Keynote file that you exported as a PowerPoint. The formatting was not good, but this is more to do with Keynote’s export abilities than SlideShark’s ability to present it.


4. Nearpod – This stalwart of the classroom has been around for a while now, but it terms of interactivity, there are few better ways to deliver your presentation. This is one of my favorite apps to show teachers if they have never seen it before. The look on their faces when everybody’s iPad advances to the next slide simultaneously is priceless! 🙂 Nearpod stands out from the others in terms of audience participation. Although you can use it solely as a content delivery tool, the ability to throw in a short quiz, a poll or even a live website, means that this app is a truly immersive multimedia presentation tool.

Again, the standard account is free, but further options that include more storage, or the ability to have students log in from any web browser, are available. As a word of caution though, Nearpod works best on a strong Wi-Fi network. Presentations can quickly get out of sync or grind to a halt if you are often maxing out your available bandwidth.

5. PDF Expert – Ok, so this is one is a wildcard, but it is better than you might think. If you can export your Keynote or PowerPoint as a PDF, you have some nice presentation options for showing it with PDF Expert. This app was originally created as a PDF annotator, and it does this exceedingly well, but recent updates added a presentation mode. Simply connect your iPad to a projector via VGA/HDMI or through AirPlay, and you will automatically have the option of entering the new presentation mode.

PDF Expert

There are four options. Screen mirroring lets your participants see exactly what you see, and gives you a gamut of annotation tools with which to annotate your presentation. Document view shows them a full page document, regardless of whether you as the presenter need to scroll, zoom or pan on your screen. Again, annotation tools are available, but the toolbar is hidden from the viewer. Then there is the Screenshot mode, which freezes the curent slide for the viewer, letting you flick ahead to future slides to see what is coming up. Best of all in my opinion is the Focus mode. Simply draw a circle around an area you want to draw the audience’s attention to and PDF Expert will highlight it and dim the rest of the screen. If Readdle would add support for presenter notes, I would be a very happy man! 🙂

If you need more ideas for what to use as a presentation app on the iPad, check out my iPad Apps page for a more extensive list. Meanwhile, if you have any comments about any of the apps above, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Why Wunderlist is Wonderful for Teachers, Students, and Me!


Wunderlist 2

I’m big into to-do lists. As such, I have tried a whole plethora of apps to try and organize the chaos that is my life most days, but only one has truly met my specific criteria. I need something that works on every platform, something that syncs seamlessly, and something that is quick and easy to use. It has to be easy on the eye, offer sub-tasks, and give me the option of setting reminders and repeating events. Oh, and it had to be free. Enter Wunderlist.

I’m a fan of Getting Things Done, so I have a lot of lists. These lists keep me productive and stop me going insane over the little things that I fret and worry about on a daily basis. However, once it is on my list, I can relax because I know I will get to it. Yesterday, Wunderlist released a new browser extension that will increase my productivity even more, and it could be a great tool for the classroom.

Add to Wunderlist is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari that lets you add a whole lot more to your Wunderlists quickly and easily, just like you can with Evernote, Diigo and sites like that. Need to bookmark a website to read it later? No problem. Once installed you simply click the Wunderlist icon in your toolbar and add it to a list of your choice. Tired of using your email as your to-do list? Click the custom “Add to Wunderlist” button inside Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or Outlook and you can add an email to your task list so that you can streamline your workflow, clean up your inbox, and barrel headlong towards inbox zero. You can see more of these custom buttons at Amazon, Etsy, YouTube and even Wikipedia, but the toolbar button is always there for adding almost any other site to your Wunderlist.

Add to Wunderlist

At school I can see a lot of creative uses for Wunderlist. Teachers can use it to help organize the multitude of tasks they complete on a daily basis. Ideas for lessons, interesting articles, and a list of things that have to get done can all be put into Wunderlist. Teaching in a team? No problem. Lists can be shared with other Wunderlist users, or emailed to anyone. You can also set a recurring reminder to yourself about that team meeting you always forget every second Wednesday. Smart Lists can show you what is due today, or reveal all the starred tasks across all of your lists.

If you use Wunderlist on a mobile device you don’t have access to the Add to Wunderlist extension yet, but you can get close to the same functionality  You can email URLs or forward emails to, and it will quickly arrive in your Wunderlist inbox for sorting, so long as you email it from the same account you use for your Wunderlist account. Clever, eh?

Students can use Wunderlist as a homework planner because tasks can have a due date, and reminders can be set for upcoming assignments. They can even have lists for every class that they attend so that they can keep track of all that they want to get done. Students can gather research for school projects by sending links to articles or YouTube videos to pre-defined lists in Wunderlist, and again share these lists with others if they need to. The built-in Activity Monitor will notify you if someone has added something to a shared list, or completed a shared task. Planning a project? Wunderlist lets you have up to 25 sub tasks, so it is easy to plan a step-by-step action plan.

There are lots of task list managers out there, but if you haven’t tried Wunderlist, you should. It might look simple, but it can do a lot for you if you take advantage of all the features it has. In my opinion, there really are very few free options that compare as favorably. Do you have a favorite task manager? Feel free to add it to the comments below and tell us why you like it so much.


Can the Amplify Tablet Make Some Noise in the Mobile Learning Market?

Amplify Tablets

There’s a new tablet in town – courtesy of Amplify, an educational media company backed by News Corp. The Amplify Tablet, unlike a lot of popular slates, has been designed exclusively for the education market, and now goes head to head with devices like the LearnPad and the Kuno.

A tablet tailored specifically for the schools is an appealing prospect for a lot of educators. Apple’s iPad is the dominant player in this sector, but it is not without its drawbacks. Managing apps and imaging devices, for instance, requires a dedicated techspert, and Apple haven’t done a whole lot to make that easier.

The device itself looks to be based on the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300TL, and it runs Android’s Jelly Bean software. It has a 10-inch screen, a 5MP camera, and an NVIDIA® Tegra® 3 quad-core CPU with 4-Plus 1™ architecture and 12-core GPU. The battery life is rated at 8.5 hours, and it comes with headphones and a protective case.

teacher featrues amplify tablet

Teacher features include the ability to block apps on student tablets, conduct quick polls, spot check understanding, see what a given student is using on their tablet, or even send a message to all students to move their eyes to the teacher. They can also build and share lessons with students. The tablet comes preloaded with Encyclopaedia Britannica, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Google Apps for Education, Desmos graphing calculator, EverFi’s digital literacy curriculum, Project Noah science tools, Common Sense Media and education-specific tools that allow teachers and students to take advantage of millions of multimedia resources aligned to the Common Core Standards. However, you can of course add to this software selection.

Perhaps most interesting of all, is the ability to manage all of your school’s Amplify tablets from a secure online dashboard. From here you can manage devices and configure them en masse or on an individual student basis. Devices can be tracked, locked or wiped from this online management console.

So, how much does it cost? Maybe less than you might think. The Wi-Fi tablet is being priced at an introductory rate  of $299, (from now until June 30, 2013), plus a $99 per year subscription fee for two years. Over a two-year period, that puts it right up into the same price category as an iPad, so it will be interesting to see if it can stand out enough to sway schools away from Apple’s tablet, which is already well established in schools. I am trying to schedule a demonstration of the Amplify tablet next month, so if I get that confirmed, I will return with more thoughts after I get some hands-on time with the device.

You can find out more by visiting or by watching the video below.