15 Engaging and Creative Ways to Use iPads in a K-12 Classroom

If you are looking for unique and innovative ways to use the iPad in your classroom, then you have come to the right place. In this post I teamed up with Stephen Lai and Meg Wilson to bring you 15 ideas that will help you think outside the box and bring new levels of creativity to your iPad classroom.

1. Use your iPad as a document camera! – @jonathanwylie

With the Stage Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera app, and the help of a dedicated, or DIY, mount you can easily use your iPad as a document camera. Better still, you can annotate over anything you set under the camera, and even record what you show. Got another $10? Make your own microscope attachment for up to x175 magnification! It is a great way to use iPads in the classroom.

Stage Interactive iPad app

2. Review academic topics! – @sly111

Quizlet is a completely free app that allows you to create flashcards for your students. Interactive games can also be done on the web. Project them over Airplay for a great review opportunity as a class! An optional Teacher account with extra features is available. Students can also practice individually at home for review for upcoming tests. You do not necessarily need the app, as it is a web-based service as well. Run it on your browser.

3. Collaborate with other classrooms! – @iPodsibilities

We should never let our students think that their classroom is just the four walls around them. It is essential that students know that the world is their classroom, and the iPad is a great way for students to connect and collaborate with students anywhere in the world. Whether students video conference with FaceTime or Skype (both free) to discuss a book in they read together in Subtext (a social reading app), or to do a Mystery Skype, the iPad opens doors to collaborative learning experiences for students of all ages.

4. Create a special effects movie!  – @jonathanwylie

One of my favorite new apps is the Doink green screen app. Recreate your favorite Sci-Fi movies or your own mini blockbuster with the aid of a green sheet and this innovative app. Film your scene in front of a green screen, then layer your background on top if it to create an awesome special effect! Export your video to the Camera Roll and it is ready to be edited further or combined with more clips in iMovie. You might also want to take a look at the Action Movie FX app.

green screen app

5. Use your iPad as a “game show” style soundboard! – @sly111

Play review games (with the aide of technology or without) and use special sound effects in your classroom using iPad apps such as the Game Show Sound Board. Younger students will love these special audio effects.

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Create Great HTML Classroom Newsletters for FREE with Google Sites

Recently, I came across a great Google script by Romain Vialard on how to create nice looking email newsletters from a Google Sites page. It is simple to do, requires no programming skills, and could be a great way to go paperless in the classroom. So, if you are an elementary teacher that sends home newsletters every week, or you are an administrator or a coach who needs to keep communication lines open with parents, read on.

The premise is simple. You build your newsletter by creating a page on a Google Site. If you already have a classroom website that is a Google Site, all the better, but otherwise, you can create a Google Site for free with a Google Account. Then edit the page like you would with any other page, but consider some creative layouts like the three column layout with a header and footer.

Google Sites Newsletter

You can insert images and hyperlinks with ease. Embedded videos do not work when delivered as email, but you can take a screenshot of the video and link that image to the online version of the video, or add a link to say watch the video here. Of course, you can add as much text as you want, and rich text formatting will be retained.

Once your page is complete, it is time to send it to your readers. Install the free Chrome Newsletter Creator app, or visit Romain’s website, and paste the link to your page into the newsletter script. Add the email addresses of the recipients, choose whether or not you want to add a record of your email to a Google Spreadsheet, and click Send.

Initially I had some issues with adding recipients to the text box, because it did not deliver the newsletter to all the email address I added. However, if you click the spreadsheet icon to the right of the text box (see below) you can select a Google Spreadsheet that you have pasted the email addresses into, and use that as your mailing list. This worked much better for me with larger numbers of recipients.

newsletter creator

In no time at all, you can check your email to find the finished product. It looks great in Gmail and most other clients. The page title is used for the subject title of the email, and the rest is neatly packaged into a professional looking HTML newsletter that you created with little effort and no cost.

gmail classroom newsletter

Of course, you could take this one step further and use a freely available HTML newsletter template from the web, paste the code into the HTML box in  a Google Site, and use that as a template for an even nicer looking custom newsletter. I tried it, and it worked pretty well. You don’t need to know any HTML code to edit the content, but if you want to tweak any of the colors or design, it would be useful. You can see a video demo of Romain’s script below.

If, like me, you spend a lot of your time using Google Apps, you may well have forgotten most of the intricacies of how to use Publisher or Word for newsletters, but Google Sites is easy to learn. So, why not give it a try? Feel free to leave your thoughts on this tool below.

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.

A Chromebook 101 for Teachers: What’s All the Fuss About?

iowa-mini-summit

Considering Chromebooks? You’re not the only one! The Chromebook in Education revolution is finding its way into more and more schools across the country.  So, in my third presentation at the Iowa Mini Google Summit I decided to do a session that outlined the basic pros and cons of Chromebooks in schools in order to help answer any lingering questions.

People have strong opinions on Chromebooks. Some dismiss them as nothing more than a browser, others herald it as a fast, low cost, easy to manage device of the future. But I think it is important we don’t get too bogged down with pitting one device against another (as I often see in Chromebook vs iPad Twitter or blog posts).

The important thing, with any device that a school chooses, is whether or not it will support and enhance student learning in your school district? Will it do what you want your students to do on it? Can it help move teacher instruction beyond its current limits? In the right environment, and with good professional development, Chromebooks are an awesome device for schools, of that I have no doubt. But there are a number of other devices that can be just as good, or better, given the climate and circumstances of your school district.

So, feel free to take a look at the slideshow below, and the resources that it has for using Chromebooks in education. If you have any questions, feel free to add them to the comments below and I will do my best to answer them in any way I can.

The NEW Animoto for Education

Animoto, the popular online video creation service, been around for a while now. In fact it has been “in the works” since 2005. I first used it almost four years ago, and I have revisited it many times since that first experience. Why? Because there are few tools that are quicker, easier to use, and capable of producing such a high quality finished product. I love showing it to teachers.

The site is updated regularly with new features, and it even has its own mobile app for iOS and Android. Best of all, Animoto has a free account for Educators. Today, they relaunched their site with a great new look and a new logo too, so I thought now would be as good a time as any to take another look at how useful this tool can be in the classroom.

Animoto.com

Making an Animoto video is a very simple process. You start by choosing a style for your video. There are plenty to choose from, and each will add its own personality to your finished product. Next, choose some music. You can upload music of your own that you or your students created in something like Garageband, or you can browse through the library of songs that are built-in to the Animoto editor. Photos and videos can be uploaded directly to the site, or imported from a variety of social media sites. Lastly, you can add text slides, to help tell your story and give context to your media.

Animoto video editor

At this point, if you wanted, you could render your video and download or share it with others. However, there are a number of tweaks you can make to enhance your video. For instance, the spotlight tool will give more prominence to images you deem worthy of it. You can duplicate slides, rotate them, and change the order of them by dragging and dropping them. You can choose a starting point for your music, and pace your slides to the length of music you chose. After you are done with all the tweaking, you can preview the video to see if it is all that you hoped it would be. If not, simply return to the editing screen and change your style, music, or media until it is perfect. Videos can be downloaded, embedded and shared on social media sites.

Animoto Education

So, if you have not tried Animoto recently, or at all, you should definitely take a look to see what is there. Just be sure to sign up for the educator account (a $30 value) because this will remove the 30 second video limit you get with the free accounts. Once signed up, you will be given a class code that you can share with students. When students register for an account, they use this code to get the upgraded education edition of Animoto. Want to create your own student accounts? Animoto has a solution for that too.

Do you use Animoto in your classroom? What do you (or your students) like about it? Feel free to leave a comment below with your experiences.

Apple Configurator and VPP Resource Links

I recently attended an Apple workshop on using Apple Configurator and managing a Volume Purchase Program in schools. I am doing both already, but I i picked up a few useful tips. Participants were also sent some links to Apple resources on both Configurator and the VPP, and I don’t think that some of them are all that well known, so I am listing those below for anyone that might be interested.

Another useful thing I found recently was the US phone number for the Apple Enterprise team, who have been very helpful answering questions I had on problems with Apple Configurator. You can call them on 1-866-752-7753. I can’t say enough good things about the people I have dealt with in that team, so I am sure they could be a great resource too.

I realize that these may be a little technical for some people, but please forward them to your IT team to let them take a look at all that Apple has to support educators in the classroom with iOS devices.

Happi Papi App Evaluation Program for Schools

Educators looking for a way to discover new iPad apps…for free…might want to take a look at the Happi Papi App Evaluation Program for Schools.

Teachers who sign up get to test drive Happi Papi’s and other developer’s apps for free, in return for filling out a short evaluation survey that takes your feedback as an educator to help revise or improve further app development.

Once enrolled, you will get an email about once a week, offering you the chance to try a specific app. If you like the look of it, you simply click the link in the email to register your interest. You will then be send another email that gives you a redemption code that you can use in the App Store to get a free copy of the app.

After about two weeks you will be sent a link to a survey for the app you received. Completing the survey is not mandatory, but I think it is a great way of informing developers about the kind of features that educators like or dislike in an iPad app, and I am all for improving apps that are designed for the classroom.

I have had several apps since I signed up for the program. Some I thought were great, others less so, but that I always enjoy seeing what new ideas developers are coming out with and how they are looking to market their apps for the classroom. So, if you are interested, and have not already signed up, head on over to the Happi Papi Evaluation Program and give them your email address to get started.

Digital Storytelling Apps for the iPad

The second of my two presentations at ITEC 2012 this year was Digital Storytelling Apps for the iPad. I love the potential that the iPad has as a multimedia device for creating and sharing digital stories, so I wanted to try and encapsulate some of the best ways to do that in this presentation.

The apps I chose will not necessarily be new to everyone, but I chose these apps because each is just that little bit different in their own way. Each one either pertains to a different strand of digital storytelling, or was built for a specific age level to help make digital storytelling relevant and meaningful to all ages of students.

So, if you are looking for a collection of digital storytelling apps to use in your classroom, take a look at the slides below. There are many more I would have added if I were not restricted to a 50-minute session, but these apps are a great start for K-12 educators who are looking to explore digital literacy with the iPad.

Are your favorites included in this slideshow? If not, leave a comment below with a list of your own favorite storytelling apps for the iPad.